Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Remake are anime series, right? Okay, good.
I don’t usually spoiler tag anything because I make the assumption that readers are coming with the knowledge that there will be spoilers but just in case: major plot spoilers for all compilation Final Fantasy VII material including the original game, Remake, and related games/media like Dirge of Cerberus.
Here is way too many words about Reeve Tuesti. If you actually make it to the end of this, thank you. Also, wow.
My favorite Final Fantasy VII character is Reeve Tuesti. It was before Remake was released, and since Remake, my assertion of Reeve as one of the better characters in the game has only grown.
When I tell people that my favorite character is Reeve Tuesti, the responses are usually as follows:
Cait Sith sucks!
If I’m making an esports comparison (the first and last one of this rambling Reeve manifesto) these are similar reactions to the ones I received when I said that Go “Score” Dong-bin was my favorite League of Legends pro long before he was was briefly known as the best jungler in the world.
Why Score when there are so many better (read: less boring) players?
So why Reeve when there are so many better (more interesting/hotter/insert positive adjective and/or description here) characters. He’s not even (technically) a playable character in Final Fantasy VII. He works for Shinra. He sits in an office all day. He spies on the main party through a weird cat robot.
Yet, Reeve is a man of our time. I’d argue that he is, in fact, interesting and a prime example of some of the more nuanced parts of Final Fantasy VII scattered among very heavy-handed ideologies that clash between many of the main characters. He’s important to me. Here’s how he could also be important to you or, at the very least, a character that is more than a suit in passing, especially after the events of Remake.
Who in heck is Reeve Tuesti?
In the game Final Fantasy VII and its various compilations, Reeve Tuesti is an executive of the Shinra Electric Power Company. He is on the board of directors and is the department head of the Urban Development and Planning Division.
Later in the game, it’s revealed that he created Cait Sith, a fortune-telling robot cat who joins protagonist Cloud Strife’s party the first time they visit the half amusement park-half casino called The Gold Saucer. How does he control Cait Sith? The game doesn’t explain that. Is he listening the entire time from his office in the Shinra tower? The game doesn’t explain that either. It also doesn’t explain why Shinra would choose to employ a toy cat that tells fortunes and rides a giant mog around as a party member. Why does Cloud immediately accept the excuse of “I want to see how my fortune turns out so I’m joining your party” (paraphrased) as a legitimate reason to join their eco-terrorist group without any proper vetting?
Seriously Cloud, what were you thinking?
That isn’t to say that the compilation of Final Fantasy VII doesn’t provide some of these answers, especially around who Reeve actually is, but the original game decidedly does not.
Within the scope of Final Fantasy VII alone, Reeve is the only Shinra executive who isn’t actively terrible or a cartoon villain. Scarlet is petty, mean, and abusive. Heidegger physically assaults whoever’s in front of him. Hojo is behind all of the awful human experiments in the game, coolly suggests that they breed Aerith in order to give her a longer lifetime as a research specimen, and has no qualms about sacrificing Midgar or the planet for the sake of science. Palmer is a buffoon who is later hit by a company truck in a scene that I wish I could say I didn’t laugh at, but it makes me laugh out loud every time I play the game.
And then there’s Reeve.
When President Shinra suggests the Final Fantasy VII equivalent of a Gundam colony drop — purposefully dropping an entire sector of the city onto another sector of the city, murdering approximately 50,000 people for no other reason than to send a message — Reeve is the only person who thinks that maybe, just maybe, this is a bad idea. To which Public Safety (the cop division of Shinra, not to be confused with the mafia-like men-for-hire of Shinra’s Administrative Research division) executive Heidegger replies in the original translation,
“Reeve, flush your personal problems with the rest of your crap!”
Imagine thinking that the lives of tens of thousands of people are “a personal problem” rather than something everyone should care about, especially when their deaths are easily preventable by not doing this one terrible thing. Just, you know, stew on that for a minute. And maybe think of current events while doing so.
Heidegger’s response marks the first point in Reeve’s favor — he cares about people enough to clear the remarkably low bar of not wanting them to die to Shinra’s whims — and the first step towards understanding how or why Reeve is an important character. This is a world where the rest of the corporate higher-ups think the deaths of tens of thousands of people are a personal problem, and in this same world, there is a man on the Shinra executive board who does not believe that.
This is expanded upon further in Remake, where Reeve begs President Shinra not to go through with it, tells his administrative assistant that the situation was “beyond the pale,” and argues with his direct superior (the president of the entire company, no less) when Shinra refuses to rebuild the sector.
In the original, Reeve’s role as Cait Sith (or Cait Sith’s creator, again, this is not explained at all) isn’t revealed until the end of the game. As Cait Sith, he works on behalf of the Shinra company several times — most notably, stealing the Keystone away from Cloud and company while blackmailing them with audio of Barrett’s daughter Marlene. He later blows his cover to the AVALANCHE crew and the Shinra executive board when trying to save the city of Midgar.
Why is Reeve Tuesti important (and what other information can we glean from the compilation material and Remake?)
Digging deeper into what has been said about a variety of Final Fantasy VII characters from other games in the compilation and media released around Final Fantasy VII, Reeve becomes a slightly more important character to the overall fabric of the game. In terms of being a socially-relevant character to current events, there is no one more prescient than Reeve.
If the official timeline is as stated, Reeve would have had to design Shinra’s Mako reactors between the ages of approximately 15-17, making him a prodigious teenager who went on to become an adult, trapped in an office at 35 years-old with little to no agency. Even if you’re giving the ages some leeway and saying that he perfected the Mako reactor, he would still only be about 20 at the time he created it.
Reeve was responsible for how Shinra collects Mako efficiently as an energy source because he designed that system. Mako as an energy source, and the lifeblood of their planet, is the central conflict of Final Fantasy VII. Reeve’s success begat Shinra’s success. They would not have reached their ubiquitous status on this planet were it not for Reeve Tuesti’s brain.
In joining the executive board, he would have easily been the youngest executive at the company. We can only infer that Reeve was brought on to the board following the success of the Mako reactors he designed, and was pushed up through the system thanks to his own dedication and a helpful hand from the Shinra company itself. In doing so, Shinra keeps Reeve close while continuing to profit off of him far more than he likely makes monetarily and, as his duties and position are further revealed, are certainly not worth the emotional abuse he suffers from his peers and superiors.
Reeve is trapped, quite literally, in a situation and location of his making.
Supplementary material also tells us these fun Reeve facts:
-He grew up in the country and Cait Sith’s accent is an homage to his parents. He does not have this accent himself.*
-He likely bought them a vacation to the Honeybee Inn during the events of Final Fantasy VII and we have no idea why he would think that this would be a good idea.
-His mom sends him handkerchiefs and reads books to try and keep up with what he’s doing as an engineer/city planner/architect before she dies when Meteor falls on Midgar.
-He once used Cait Sith to help the Turks in a mission that went against the company line before the events of Final Fantasy VII.
-He later becomes the head of the World Regenesis Organization, which is effectively an interim government after the Shinra company collapses, and is dedicated to finding alternative energy sources to Mako.
-He’s the type of person who builds a robot of himself to full scale so that his other robot, Cait Sith, can pilot it into battle.
-In Remake, his division icon is a heart. You can almost hear Scarlet and Heidegger taunting him with a line like, “Wow Reeve, they made your department logo a heart because you’re so lame and stupid” (likely with more expetives). The heart emblem also hints at his character.
-Also in Remake, he’s the only division head that takes his museum hologram filming seriously, going as far to apologize to the citizens of Midgar for their slowness in addressing city projects.
-Cait Sith appears in Remake moments after the plate falls and reacts with despair when he realizes that he was too late to stop it. Any player who knows that Cait Sith is controlled by/was created by Reeve, realizes that Reeve tried to save the plate from falling but was too late. This is his first act of true defiance within the scope of Remake.
*As a person who took painstaking attempts to erase their own Boston accent growing up after they were made fun of by other kids — this was before Boston accents became somewhat cooler after the Red Sox broke their World Series drought in 2004 — the accent notation affects me on an emotional level. It probably shouldn’t, but hey, this is all about reading too much into and having emotional responses to video games.
What is it about Reeve Tuesti in Remake that makes him important?
Digging a bit further into how Reeve is presented in Remake, it’s clear that the game designers want you to feel for him. Here is a guy who is just trying to do his job and in the process makes the mistake of saying, “Hey maybe let’s not murder these people.” He is then ridiculed by his peers for making said statement.
There’s a lot of nuance in the difference between actively murdering people and being complicit in their deaths due to an existing power structure. More on that later.
In Remake, Reeve goes one step further; he begs the President to reconsider. This scene was apparently so important that it was featured in Remake trailers. When the plate drop happens anyway, he internally assigns blame to himself as the city’s director, while continuing to marvel at the fact that it happened at all. His assistant warns him about his “beyond the pale” remark, a reminder that Shinra is always watching him at all times. The camera then swaps to Mayor Domino, who is spying on Reeve and his assistant and is later revealed to be an AVALANCHE operative working from inside the Shinra building.
The short cutscene with Reeve in his office is an exercise in how to make a player care about a non-playable character in as little time as possible.
It opens with him demanding that they check all of the reactors for any malfunctions (he doesn’t want more people killed senselessly). Unlike Scarlet and Heidegger, who are again both shown physically abusing and even killing their subordinates, Reeve speaks to his assistant like she’s a human being (again, it’s a low bar, but an important one that he has to be shown clearing immediately). She mentions that he should get some sleep and the implication is that they’ve probably had this conversation more than a few times. In those times, Reeve presumably did not punch her (Heidegger, Scarlet) or use her in an experiment (Scarlet, Hojo). He likely acted as he does in this scene, saying that he has too much work to do to sleep. The work is effectively cleaning up Shinra’s mess — designing a reconstruction plan for the sector that the president decided to destroy.
You get the sense that Reeve has to clean up after Shinra’s messes a lot.
In other scenes showing the Urban Development team, Reeve’s employees are exhausted, but still working while waiting for his direction and, most importantly, are not terrified into submission.
This entire sequence on the 63rd floor into the conference room scene tells us several important things about Reeve. He is a person who is willing to work overtime despite colleagues and higher-ups treating him with active disdain. He vehemently disagrees with several of his company’s policies. And the final, somewhat more speculative piece based on his creation of a reconstruction document following the plate drop: he idealistically believes that he can still “do good” from within the company despite literally everything in his path screaming that no, he cannot.
Reeve also inspires at least a baseline level of respect from his subordinates who are neither cowering in fear nor are they afraid to speak their minds to him (like his assistant). One can only imagine what would happen if one of Scarlet’s subordinates happened to tell her, “Hey you look tired. Why don’t you rest?”
Returning to the idea of not wanting to actively murder people versus being complicit in the deaths of others, Final Fantasy VII Remake touches upon and returns to this key distinction throughout its runtime. Most notably, when they’re in the Shinra building elevator, Barrett (the most gung-ho member of their eco-terrorist group) states,
“A good man who serves a great evil is not without sin. He must recognize and accept his complicity. He must open his eyes to the truth! That his corporate masters are profiting from the planet’s pain. Only then can he redeem himself.”
He may as well be talking about Reeve directly.
Anyone who has ever lived and had a conscience knows that what Barrett espouses isn’t easy. Reeve has been actively complicit in the deaths of numerous people because he’s a Shinra executive and because he designed the Mako reactors. He obviously doesn’t agree with his coworkers and he verbally fights against the idea of dropping an entire plate of the city, but there’s no way he’s “clean” by Barrett’s standards. Reeve’s very existence forces an astute player to think on just how complicit he is while also feeling badly for him given his situation. It also reminds the player that there are varying degrees of complicity and responsibility. This isn’t to say that Reeve should be forgiven immediately — if anything, the Remake makes him too sympathetic — but it’s another challenge to take a look at the effect of the Shinra company as a whole
Somewhere between “Boo-hoo corporate executive feels bad about all the people they screwed” and the mocking “Ahhhh, so you denigrate society but actively participate in it, quite interesting!” there’s Reeve Tuesti: a man who was likely groomed by Shinra adults as a child and honestly cares about people, but is still complicit as long as he toes the company line. And if you don’t think this is at all relevant to what’s going on in current events all around the world, then you haven’t been paying attention. Reeve’s first act of defiance is shown, but it remains to be seen as to how Remake will follow up on this. Already they’re giving him a larger role than he ever played in the Midgar section of the original and have made it very obvious that they want us, the player, to care about him.
Final Fantasy VII and Remake deal in a lot of morally-grey areas. Reeve is but one of these examples, but he’s also the most relatable one due to the current times we live in. Without putting too fine a point on it, a closer look at Reeve forces us to re-evaluate our own actions and just how complicit we are in the machinations of our own superiors and societal structures.