Many people believe the deepest place on Earth is the Mariana Trench, but they’re wrong – it’s actually Cloud Strife’s eyes. Final Fantasy 7 Remake has the best eyes I’ve ever seen in a video game, and even amongst Aerith’s and Reno’s, Cloud’s are the clear standout. His bright blue orbs seem to pull you in endlessly, and when the game gets its big update (‘Graphics On PS5!’, remember), I’m not sure I’m ready to get lost in them again.
I love Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s story (even though I barely understand it at times), but whenever there’s a close-up on Cloud, I don’t hear a single word he says. I’d love to speak to the people who made Cloud’s eyes, but then I’d spend two hours getting way too interested and would probably end up being blacklisted by Square Enix for life. Other eyes in the game are gorgeous too, so it’s obviously some magic within the engine, but with Cloud’s fair skin and blond hair, his piercing blues are the clear poster boys for this eye tech.
This brings me on to a more substantial point. Diversity amongst video game protagonists is still an uphill struggle, but amongst the typical male protagonists, we are getting more archetype diversity, at least. It’s probably worth noting that Cloud, like a lot of FF characters, was designed to read as European to Western players, but read as Japanese to Asian players, so while I won’t lump Cloud in with ‘straight white male’ leads, he’s pretty much the closest thing you can get to it without being one.
We’re used to male video game leads as being parodies of masculinity. Big, muscular men that solve all of their problems with violence, save the world, have a dry cool wit, and always get the girl – often despite their sexist or chauvinistic attitude. That was how it worked in the ‘90s and a lot of the ‘00s (even lingering to today in some cases), but the times they are a-becoming quite different. While Cloud is not the first to break this stereotype, he’s one of the most interesting. Kratos is a more contemplative character these days, and Arthur Morgan takes stock of his own consequences more than John Marston did, but both remain designed in the typical ‘video game lead’ appearance. Cloud is not.
It’s important to have characters like Kratos and Morgan. Characters that prove you can be ‘manly men’, whatever that means, while possessing emotions, but it’s also important to have characters like Cloud. Characters that don’t look like they were designed for masculine appeal yet still possess all of the qualities we would associate with this role. His eyes, which feel more like they belong to a pop star than a soldier, underpin this. While Aerith embodies kindness and Barrett rises as the game’s true heart, Cloud reminds us that anyone can be a hero.
Cloud is determined, stoic, and an excellent fighter, but he also cares about his friends, feels pain very deeply, and isn’t afraid to let his guard down around those he truly trusts. It’s not just that he puts a dress on – he’s clearly uncomfortable in that scene, but he’s also secure enough in who he is and what he is to go along with it in order to rescue Tifa. That part gets a little lost in amongst the comedy sometimes; Cloud’s motivation to rescue his friend means he’s willing to put himself in an embarrassing situation, even a situation where his manhood might be questioned, but he goes along with it after only minimal complaints because he knows it’s the right thing to do.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake is also adding a photo mode when it arrives on PS5, which means it will be all closeups all the time. We’ve only seen a glimpse of this mode used in the trailers for some standard long shots, but there were enough tabs – and options within the tabs we saw – to convince me it will rival Spidey and Horizon at the absolute peak of gaming photography. If that’s the case, you know I’ll be snapping way too many shots of Cloud’s eyes, and will probably end up blacklisted by everyone who knows me in real life or online, not just by Square Enix.
Cloud’s softness is his greatest strength, and his bright eyes are the window to a very murky soul. We need more leading men like Cloud, more men less defined by the outward stereotypes of masculinity yet still able to embody its most positive tropes: bravery, leadership, and a desire to protect. His eyes are gorgeous, but they’re not just there for show – they represent Cloud’s sensitivity and heart, all while framing him as a more modern hero. Cloud’s not just pretty, he’s pretty tough too.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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