Don Corneo is a supporting character in the Final Fantasy VII series, serving as a supporting antagonist in Final Fantasy VII and the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and mentioned in Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-, and Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-.
Corneo is a mafioso-style crime lord, the ruler of the Wall Market district in Sector 6, and the proprietor of the Corneo Colosseum. Shinra Electric Power Company cut a deal with him, willing to overlook his criminal lifestyle and offering him a piece of Neo Midgar should he provide them with slum knowledge. As such, he serves as the judge, jury, and executioner of his small empire. Corneo's lackeys scout out beautiful women and bring them to him for auditions, where he selects a nightly "bride". He also keeps monsters as pets, feeding his enemies and resistant "brides" to them.
Don Corneo is a middle-aged man with a short and portly build. He has fair skin, sports a thin mustache, and blond hair shaved on the sides. He has the word "Love" tattooed on the side of his head. Corneo wears a red, three-quarter length coat with fur trim on the collar and cuffs, an open white pocketed-buttoned shirt, blue jeans (brown in Remake), a dark brown buckled belt, and white dress shoes. He also wears an assortment of jewelry, including stud earrings, a medallion necklace, and several rings on his fingers. In Final Fantasy VII, he smokes a cigar.
Corneo is a lecherous crime lord with a foul mouth. He has his lackeys conduct his dirty work, gaining him a feared and respected reputation. He always gets what he wants and is quick to anger when things don't go his way, going as far as to feed his enemies to his monstrous pets, or discard them to his henchmen.
Corneo is a highly perverted, uncanny, and manipulative man who negatively loves beautiful women. He takes any chance given to assert dominance and fear into his victimized candidates, forcing them to do things against their will. He seems to be drawn to those who challenge his dominance, as shown in the Remake when a cross-dressing Cloud insults him during the audition causing the Don to change his mind, and as seen when he enjoys Cloud's insults later. According to his lackey Chocobo Sam, Tifa best fits his taste in women in terms of appearance, and prior to changing his mind by Cloud, Corneo was about to choose her. She was also the only one visibly uncomfortable while he inspected the candidates, suggesting he is also drawn to weaker prey.
Despite Corneo's reputation, most of his lackeys dislike him, with the exception of Kotch and Scotch—two high-ranking henchmen— who are very obedient and follow the don's orders without question. Madam M—a member of the esteemed Trio—greatly despises him and his ways, as shown when he tacked on another match during the Corneo Cup, which led to her screaming obscenities about him. Andrea Rhodea—another member of the Trio—who is more reserved about his feelings, also seems to dislike him, helping Cloud and Aerith's plan of infiltrating the Don's audition. Despite holding a high rank for a henchmen, Leslie Kyle secretly loathes Corneo for what he did to his fiancée; though Corneo seemed to have thought highly of Leslie, Leslie sought revenge. Chocobo Sam—another of the Trio—has neutrally ambiguous feelings toward Corneo, and didn't stop Cloud and Aerith from opposing him and rescuing Tifa.
Before Final Fantasy VII
Don Corneo was the ruler and overseer of criminal activity of Wall Market. He has hidden cameras installed in his mansion so he can take compromising photos of individuals he would then exploit. About a decade ago, as told in Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-, Ruluf was a high ranking enforcer of his organization and top bodyguard before leaving the criminal underworld behind for a career in the Turks. Not taking his desertion well, Ruluf escaped before Corneo could locate him and bring him back to punish his actions.
Six months prior to the events of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Corneo auditioned Merle, Leslie's fiancée, and chose her to be his bride of the night. However, that same night she vanished without a trace. At some point, Corneo was hired by Heidegger of Shinra to collect intel about Avalanche. He was promised that his racketeering and "legitimate" services would be overlooked, and was also offered a place in the Neo Midgar project where he would lead a new and improved Wall Market.
During "To Corneo Hall", when Cloud and Aerith witnessed Tifa being escorted into the estate through a chocobo carriage, they assumed the worst and tried to rescue her. Cloud and Aerith visited the local clothes store where Aerith chose a dress for Cloud, and the dressmaker becomes inspired to create a dress for Cloud as well. Now suitably disguised, the two infiltrated Corneo's palace where they meet up with Tifa.
After Corneo made his pick, they revealed their true identities, threatening Corneo with castration to force him into revealing his connections to Shinra. Corneo divulged the company's plan to destroy Sector 7, but distracted the group long enough with a multiple-choice question to send them down a trap door into the sewers where he ushered his "pet", Aps, unto them. After this, Shinra captured Don Corneo for leaking information, escorting him out of his mansion.
With the Turks in pursuit of him, Corneo fled Midgar and went into hiding within Wutai Village. His lust drove him to kidnap the Turks member Elena and a girl named Yuffie who was traveling with Avalanche. The Don took them to the statue of Da-chao, where he pondered whom he desired the most as his bride. After his pet Rapps was killed by Cloud's party when they confronted him, Corneo threatened to kill his hostages in a last-ditch escape attempt. Reno appeared as Rude shot Corneo with a silencer, causing the Don to lose his balance and hang on the precipice's edge for dear life. Reno asked him a multiple-choice question he cannot answer before stepping on his fingers, causing Corneo loses his grip and plummet off Da-chao.
The novel Final Fantasy VII The Kids Are Alright: A Turks Side Story revealed that Corneo survived the fall, although confined to a wheelchair. Now married, Corneo acted as a third party supplier of fuel between the remnants of Shinra and the World Regenesis Organization and agreed to supply the fuel to Evan Townshend. He revealed that among his collection of compromising photos were those of Tifa, Aerith, and Cloud. Leslie later set Corneo's mansion on fire and ransacked his weapons for Evan to bring along on his journey to search for his missing mother.
During "Home Sweet Slum", Don Corneo sent a few lackeys from Wall Market to hunt for Barret Wallace. The group was confronted and defeated by Cloud, but did not reveal that they were working for Corneo. Later, Tifa received audition endorsement from Chocobo Sam and traveled to Wall Market by his carriage to interrogate Corneo. Cloud and Aerith spotted her, and Cloud briefly spoke to her about her plan. She planned to attend the audition in order to get information out of Corneo, who had recently sent his men to Sector 7, who she heard were asking about Avalanche.
In his mansion Corneo, while eyeing up an uncomfortable Tifa, debated aloud who "today's" bride would be, disturbing Aerith and prompting Cloud to insult him. This made Corneo eager to instead choose Cloud, whom he referred to as the "big-boned girl", saying he'd enjoy "breaking her in".
In his bedroom, Corneo was amused by Cloud's insults further, and took photos of Cloud to preserve the moment and prevent him from saying "no". Eventually, Cloud kicked him away after he tried to jump towards him, prompting Corneo to yell for his lackeys to teach him manners. Instead, Tifa and Aerith arrived at the scene, returning Cloud's gear, prompting him to first gawk in excitement before being bewildered to discover Cloud was a man. Tifa interrogated Corneo, threatening him with castration, and asked why he had men in Sector 7 asking about Avalanche. He hesitantly revealed that he was hired by Heidegger of Shinra to find a "man with a gun for an arm" and that they planned to destroy the Sector 7 support pillar to stamp out Avalanche. Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith prepared to leave, but were stopped by Corneo, who asked a multiple-choice question before then dropping them into the sewers below.
Around the time of the Sector 7 plate collapse, Corneo ordered Leslie to track down Avalanche and bring them to him. After the plate dropped, his mansion was raided by Shinra and he was forced to hide in the sewers.
During "In Search of Hope", Leslie was escorted by Cloud, Barret, and Tifa to Corneo's hideaway, where he intended to kill the don out of revenge. Upon arriving, Corneo asked if Leslie came alone and without his "Avalanche kittens". Leslie lied and affirmed that he came to talk about them, being ushered over by him. He withdrew a pistol and held Corneo at gunpoint, threatening to kill him, but was quickly subdued. Corneo spoke of the plate drop stunt and how it was meant to be extremely tragic, but Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith ruined the plan with their evacuation. He informed Leslie of Shinra's secret plans to abandon Midgar and build Neo Midgar, adding that he was to lead a new and improved Wall Market, lamenting that he likely had a week to live. He told Leslie he was going to let him run his own place there, but not any more. Corneo gave Leslie a "pop quiz", asking when villains divulge their evil plans in a certain situation. Leslie answered when they think they've won and Corneo prepared to execute him, but Cloud, Tifa, and Barret intervened. Barret demanded he keep talking about the Sector 7 plan, but he distracted the group by unleashing Abzu on them and fled.
"Don of the Slums" plays in Corneo's mansion in the Wall Market, and when he first appears in Wutai.
In the remake, "Don of the Slums" music disc for jukeboxes can be bought from a vending machine in the basement of Corneo's mansion for 50 gil.
Don Corneo is referenced by a young girl in the slums of Midgar. She claims her uncle dresses nicely, is kind to women, and his profession is a "Don". Later, a series of missions can be unlocked that pit Zack Fair against Corneo's forces in the slums.
The name Corneo makes a brief appearance in the Tale of Nanai, one of the three stories in the Zodiac Brave Story Sound Novels.
Don Corneo appears with an ice-elemental card with his Tetsuya Nomura artwork.
Behind the scenes
An unused dialogue path is found in the game's data for the scene where Cloud is chosen as Don Corneo's "bride." Corneo says Cloud is his number one choice, but the other girls weren't bad either, and asks Cloud who he thinks was prettier, "from a woman's perspective". The player could then have chosen to reply either Aeris or Tifa, or claim that Cloud was the prettiest. There is also an unused end to the scene, where Tifa and Aeris don't run in and bust the two if Cloud goes along with Don's advances, and is about to kiss him; instead, Cloud would jump off the bed and reveal his identity as a man, saying that he needs Don's mouth for something else than kissing, namely, for giving him the info he needs.
Don's mansion interior has a Chinese-inspired design and there are many mysterious kanji phrases scattered around, such as: 古留根尾 ('old remaining root tail' [koruneo = Corneo]) and 業座 ('work seat' [gyouza = Chinese dumplings]). The concept behind the phrases being read one way, yet meaning another, is 'ateji', which means using kanji/Chinese characters based on how they are read, and not what they mean, which means one can't tell the meaning at all by looking at how the characters are written. In Don Corneo's bedroom, his bedspread bears a large 天, which means "heaven" or "sky".
For Final Fantasy VII Remake, the developers wished to portray Don Corneo in the style of a real-life mafia boss who holds power in the underworld. They introduced the characters of Madam M, Sam, and Andrea Rhodea to make this feel believable, giving him henchmen who do his dirty work. In the game, his room has gold stacked on the floor, a karaoke machine , and his habit of photographing his "guests" is made explicit.
Don Corneo is voiced by Youhei Tandano in the Japanese dub of the Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Don Corneo is likely named after, and partially inspired by The Godfather character Don Corleone. It may also be a wordplay on poet Lord Byron's Don Juan, a story about a ladies' man with a dark past.
The name "Corneo" could also be derived from the Spanish word córneo, a slang word that means "horny".
- 『FFVII リメイク』のツォン、コルネオが公開！ 歓楽街ウォール・マーケットには新キャラや闘技場が！ (Accessed: March 16, 2020) at PlayStation.Blog (Japanese)
- Final Fantasy VII Remake script § "The Audition"
- Final Fantasy VII Remake script § "Chasing Tifa"
- Final Fantasy VII Remake script § "Underground Colosseum"
- Final Fantasy VII Remake script § "Fateful Decisions"
- Final Fantasy VII script § "Wall Market optional dialogue"
- Final Fantasy VII Remake script § "Ominous Shadows"
- Final Fantasy VII Remake script § "The Audition"
- Final Fantasy VII Remake script § "Showdown with Corneo"
- "FFVII: The Unused Text – Part 5" arrives! (Accessed: September 15, 2019) at The Lifestream
- Crisis Core Complete Guide Keyword Collection (Accessed: September 15, 2019) at The Lifestream
- Robert Ramsey (n.d.) . Interview: Final Fantasy VII Remake Producer and Co-Director on Development, Launch, and Being Grateful for the Fans. Push Square. Archived from the original on May 25, 2020.