I like that Zach is a goofy jock and I think that’s an important element to his relationship with Cloud. Cloud’s character is that he’s a sensitive and neurotic person as soon as his we get past his facade. Zach also has a facade given his bluster with Aerith, but behind it he’s still an authentic dorky himbo and that’s a good thing! He has character that happens to manifest in being loyal and ethical in a world where he doesn’t understand most of what is happening and can’t give it the deep serious thought it is worthy of. It’s no wonder that the reflexive and insecure teenage Cloud gets fixated on this. For Cloud, to whom nothing comes easily and his rich inner life is a burden to him, meeting a charismatic guy who has everything Cloud wants and more, the career, the girl, the certainty and sense of justice, is what leads to him ultimately donning the high res sweaters himself.
His puppydog personality also makes Zach a good foil for the self-concerned fallen angels who just spend their time being hot and reading poetry to each other. Angeal and Genesis’s tit for tat is supposed to be somewhat meandering while those who take action (Sephiroth & Zach) are actually affecting the material world. The point is not that Zach is anti-intellectual by not engaging in high level ideas, it’s that he manages to externalize and act upon the world with his unearned confidence and still be morally righteous.
Sephiroth is an all time great villain because he has reasoned and actioned his way into summoning meteor. To stop someone who is so effective and morally determined to bring destruction feels like an impossible task given Cloud’s undiagnosed anxiety disorder and identity crisis (a crisis which is core to his being). Zach gives Cloud license to reinvent himself, even if he can’t completely escape his demons, it gives him a place to start healing and asserting himself in the world.
It’s been a long time since I played Crisis Core, and its not the deepest or best written thing in the world, but I don’t think that’s Zach’s character’s fault. I have no idea how they’re going to incorporate him into Rebirth and I’m a little apprehensive but I have faith.
Cloud = Goth
Zach = Jock
Sephiroth = Prep
Red XIII = Nerd