Lightning Returns’ Cloud Costume – Should Fans Be Angry at Homages?

Sorry for Tuesday, internet. I had cleared the entirety of my Muramasa Rebirth review, and then my computer froze and my usual backups apparently didn’t work. Today I want to talk about Square Enix’s decision to include free DLC for those who preorder Lightning Returns. These people will get a costume puts the eponymous protagonist Lightning into Final Fantasy VII’s darling, Cloud’s clothes, complete with Buster Sword and victory fanfare. It should have been a nice bonus and nothing more, but, as usual, there was a backlash from the fanbase, claiming that its a cheap attempt to garner sales. It seems ridiculous to me, but it got me thinking. Final Fantasy has been paying homage to itself from a really early time, and even charging people for it isn’t new. At what point is it a cheap ripoff? Is there a line, or are do all homages fit into this cash-grabbing mindset? It’s worth looking at past examples to really see what fans are in an uproar about concerning Lightning’s new threads.

It’s a good promotion. I know I’m excited. 

I thought it would be a good idea to firstly talk about why I don’t think the Cloud costume is insulting or even a bad idea. As I’ve mentioned before, there is such extreme hatred for Final Fantasy XIII from a segment of the fanbase, that you’d think it murdered children. This leads to people not treating anything from the XIII series with respect and a certain level of frustration has been born out of XIII even becoming a series. There is also some hard feelings on Square’s refusal to remake Final Fantasy VII (No matter how much of a bad idea it would be), and an HD version of Cloud’s costume has been seen as twisting the knife. However, the costume fits quite well into the game. It was said during XIII’s development that Lightning was designed to look like a female Cloud. In many ways, this preorder bonus is acting as a reference to this development. It also isn’t completely out of place, as Lightning has to change clothes to change attack patterns such as in Final Fantasy X-2, and a Yuna costume has already been shown. It seems to me that this is overall a pretty nifty bonus that fits with the game perfectly, and is something that fans should enjoy, but maybe I’m missing something.

Not similar at all.
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The earliest time Final Fantasy paid homage to itself, if I’m not mistaken is in Final Fantasy III with Cid, Chocobos, and Bahamut. It was the start of several Final Fantasy traditions. Prior to this, these characters/names had only existed in a single game. Since then, they’ve practically become household names. A big difference from these characters and the new costume, however, is that Square wasn’t using them to sell a product. That’s where the problems arise. After all, isn’t Square doing exactly what I complained about with the new Killer Instinct: using nostalgia to sucker people in? If Square had slipped it into the game and not made a big deal about it, fewer people would be having an issue with this. Also, Cloud’s costume has become quite iconic, and, aside from Zack’s sanctioned use of it during Crisis Core, it is tethered heavily to the character. This isn’t to say that Square isn’t free to adapt it as they see fit, but it adds another level of pause.

Crisis Core – Where you had to look like a Kingdom Hearts character to enter.
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I think it might be worth looking at everyone’s favourite void-crossing fiend, Gilgamesh. He was a character introduced in Final Fantasy V and has shown up sporadically every since. Importantly, he has been used in promotional materials to sell games, particularly the Gameboy Advance versions of Final Fantasy I+II and VI. He has also been used to sell DLC in Final Fantasy XIII-2. His appearance in promotional materials was never a problem in the past, and, in fact, has enticed gamers to buy the product. Of course, no matter how funky Gilgamesh is, he’s not as iconic as Cloud and Cloud’s garb, but I’d hardly say Cloud’s sacred. Cloud has been used in other games, principally Final Fantasy Tactics. Tactics may avoid a backlash because the game itself is so revered. People don’t look at it in the same light as Lightning Returns, which is fair.

This right here is worth playing XIII-2 for… not that it’s the only reason.
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The only aspect of Final Fantasy I can say is definitively more iconic than Cloud is the previously mentioned Chocobos. These fluffy little mounts have been used to sell an enormous amount of merchandize, games, and DLC. We’ve gotten several iterations of Chocobo’s Dungeon, and Racing as well as other spinoffs such as Final Fantasy Fables Chocobo Tales. They’ve also been used as one of the first bits of promotional material for the relaunch of Final Fantasy XIV. However, I’ve never seen any backlash against these practices. Maybe it’s because people have grown used to it, and they haven’t with Cloud. This doesn’t make a lot of sense because parts of Cloud’s outfit, particularly the Buster Sword have been circulating around the series for awhile now. Final Fantasy VII itself along with Cloud has been used to sell average or otherwise subpar games such as Dirge of Cerberus and Before Crisis. I would hardly call Cloud sacred at this point.

Yeah, the adorableness will win out in the end.
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Finally, I’d like to make a brief look at an example of Square Enix using the Final Fantasy brand to rip people off. I am, of course, talking about Final Fantasy All the Bravest, which is one of the most despicable cash grabs there is. Riding entirely on nostalgia and nothing else, Square has sold thousands of this awful game, which has encouraged them to keep pumping out mobile garbage. This is the kind of nostalgia grab that I cannot support and it is of a markedly different character than what we see here in Lightning Returns. The big difference is that a game has to have substance; it needs to be able to stand entirely on its own without the nostalgia flavour. If you got rid of the Cloud costume in Lightning Returns, the game wouldn’t change in the slightest. In reality, this is a pretty standard preorder bonus in the same vein as any costume, from Cole’s Reaper costume in InFamous 2, to the Amazon box costume available for preorder in Shin Megami Tensei IV.

There’s Cloud again!
For more All the Bravest Hate – Here’s the review.
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My conclusion isn’t that this costume is an affront, a slap in the face to Final Fantasy fans, but rather that it is simply an homage, one that fits very well in the game. I hate to do so, but I’m prepared to dismiss the bulk of the complaints. The main reason I see for hating this announcement is because some people despised Final Fantasy XIII, and will use any opportunity to attack it relentlessly. After all is said and done, it’s a preorder costume. Exactly how can a preorder costume drag your childhood through the mud? There are plenty of great examples of nostalgia whoring in the Final Fantasy metaseries and beyond, but this isn’t one of them, or if it is, it is to such a small extent that it isn’t worth anyone’s attention.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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2 thoughts on “Lightning Returns’ Cloud Costume – Should Fans Be Angry at Homages?

  1. Awesome article as always! It's really interesting to see the amount of hate that this spawned, especially since it actually looks cool. I mean, the fanbase has a lot of other things to hate currently…like FF XV apparently. (Seriously, that GFaqs forum is despicable.), but they hate the preorder bonus, because it's Cloud. I don't think a single argument was about exclusivity or if it'll be DLC later on. Anyway, glad to have a post to read, and have a wonderful 4th of July!

  2. Thanks, and you too. On Saturday, I'm writing a post on the Wii U's Miiverse since I've been experimenting with it a bit lately. I'm going to be particularly comparing it to the hostility you find on the GameFAQs forum. It's strange. I thought it would be a useless little thing, but it is strangely enjoyable.

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