Update: Here at Push Square, we're more than happy to admit when we got something wrong. This is one of those rare occasions. It has become clear that Cloud was instead trying to spur the old man on to do something with his life, so let's discuss how I, a newcomer to the game, didn't pick up on that. Does Final Fantasy VII Remake do a good enough job of developing Cloud Strife throughout the experience to the point where motivations such as this become obvious? Or am I not alone in this, and you too failed to pick up on the subtext? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Original article: While I wouldn't consider myself nostalgic for Final Fantasy VII in the slightest, I did at least manage to leave Midgar when I first gave the Square Enix classic a shot upon its PlayStation 4 rerelease. Final Fantasy VII Remake won't take me that far, with this first instalment signing off as the team plans to leave the Mako-infested city. However, at the grand age of 25, I'd like to consider this reimagining to be my first proper taste of the Japanese franchise's seventh entry. The character of Cloud Strife hasn't eluded me quite as much as the 1997 masterpiece though. The selfish ex-solider only ever takes on a job in exchange for money, but nothing could prepare me for his actions during one certain side quest.
Taking place in chapter eight, Paying Respects is the optional task I'm talking about. An elderly gentleman has asked Cloud and Aerith to clear out a nearby graveyard of monsters so that someone can visit his wife's grave on the anniversary of her death. It's not a problem whatsoever as the duo speeds over to the site and quickly slaughters the beasts with ease before paying their respects to the lady in question. It's when Cloud returns to the old man to inform him that the job has been completed that things take a turn for the worse, however.
Upon breaking the good news and receiving payment, Cloud learns that the widower was prepared to die trying to see his wife's burial site one more time despite his bad back and legs. Luckily, the ex-solider in question came along at just the right time. In response to that, Cloud tells the ageing fellow to return the graveyard key to the seller we purchased it off. That's not going to happen, however, due to the gentleman's tiring legs, so Cloud says that he'll do it in in exchange for 5000 Gil. For those who haven't played Final Fantasy VII Remake just yet, that's quite a lot of money.
I was truly taken aback by this retort. Not only can Cloud quite clearly not read the room, but his request for cash also doesn't make any sense in the first place. Why does the graveyard key need to be returned? Didn't we buy it fair and square with Moogle Medals? It belongs to us now, but if anything, it should be given to the old man anyway so that he can visit his wife's grave as and when he feels up to it.
Look, I get it. As I've already mentioned, Cloud will only ever do anything for someone else if there's some sort of reward for him at the end of it. He does actually receive a new piece of equipment from the quest giver, but to then go on and demand more money in exchange for doing something as simple as returning a key is borderline insulting. It also feels like it flies in the face of any character development he received up to that point.
I could understand if this side quest took place back in chapter three when Cloud was attempting to build up his reputation and accrue some of the money that Tifa and Barret had promised him. However, in the time since then, Mr Strife has proved that he can open up to the likes of Jessie, Tifa, and Aerith. He's a very tough nut to crack, but there is something in that egotistical skull of his.
As such, this interaction felt supremely out of place. There is absolutely a time and place to barter for extra payment, but this most certainly was not one of them. You've just made an old man's day by ensuring his wife isn't forgotten about on the day of her death so many years later -- isn't that enough Cloud? To be clear, I've thoroughly enjoyed Final Fantasy VII Remake up to now, but the conclusion to this particular side quest doesn't sit well with me. The gentleman's friend sums it up best in the aftermath: "You're a real dick, you know that?" Yes, I most certainly do.
Have you encountered the Paying Respects side quest in Final Fantasy VII Remake? Did you have the same reaction as Liam? Don't demand further payment in the comments below.