Cloud Strife (クラウド・ストライフ, Cloud Strife) is a character from Square Enix's Final Fantasy series. He is the main protagonist of Final Fantasy VII, its high-definition remake, and its film sequel, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Cloud also appears in a supporting role throughout Final Fantasy VII's related media, the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.
Initially appearing as a proud, yet arrogant and aloof swordsman who claims to be a former member of the elite paramilitary group SOLDIER, Cloud is hired by the insurgency group Avalanche as a mercenary to help them in their cause against the Shinra Electric Power Company. As Cloud's journey unfolds, he rediscovers his past and, alongside his childhood friend Tifa Lockhart and newfound friends within Avalanche, abandons his quest for power and fame in favor of fighting to defend his friends and their home planet Gaia.
Cloud first appears in the game Final Fantasy VII and is the first character the player can control directly. He was born in the mountain village of Nibelheim. During his childhood, his father died and he was raised by his mother. Due to his lack of close friends, Cloud, perhaps as a coping mechanism, considered himself to be superior to all the other village children, and thus did not enjoy their company.
Despite this, Cloud had a crush on his neighbor Tifa Lockhart while growing up, and the two became friends despite not being close during their childhoods. At the age of 14, Cloud, upon learning of the legendary hero Sephiroth's exploits and desiring to impress Tifa, left Nibelheim for Midgar to join SOLDIER, the paramilitary arm of the Shinra Electric Power Company, a megacorporation that effectively ruled the world.
Cloud's dreams were cut short when he was unable to join SOLDIER because he was mentally weak and instead became a mere infantryman. This led to Cloud being ashamed of his failure, and he stopped keeping in contact with the people from his hometown. However, he was one of the few people selected to protect Professor Rayleigh from the insurgency group known as Avalanche during the events of Crisis Core, during which he displayed a great amount of skill with a sword in spite of his ranking. Around this time, Cloud would eventually become best friends with a 1st Class SOLDIER named Zack Fair on their mission to Modeoheim.
Cloud's life was changed forever when he, Zack, and Sephiroth were sent to Nibelheim to investigate a faulty reactor. During the mission, Sephiroth learned the truth about the being Jenova, whom he had believed was his mother, and what his origins were. Jenova then put her desires in his head in order to bring out her will, Which made him go insane, destroyed Nibelheim (which killed Cloud's mother in the process), and wounded Zack and Tifa. Cloud retaliated by ambushing Sephiroth and, despite being impaled by his sword Masamune, managed to defeat him by using Masamune as a lever to hurl Sephiroth into a pit of Mako within the reactor.
Afterwards, Cloud and Zack were captured by Shinra's corrupt head scientist, Professor Hojo, and experimented upon to test Hojo's Reunion Theory, a facet of the Jenova Project. This experimentation resulted in Cloud becoming as powerful as a 1st Class SOLDIER but also rendered him catatonic. Four years after being deemed failures during the experimentation, Zack eventually escaped with a weak and delirious Cloud in his arms and attempted to flee to Midgar.
However, Zack was ambushed by a massive army of Shinra troops; despite his best efforts to protect himself and Cloud, Zack was overrun and gunned down, although the troops didn't deem Cloud as a threat and spare him. In Final Fantasy VII upon regaining some awareness, Cloud finds that Zack was already dying and he crawls over to Zack to take his sword, and then looks over at Midgar in the horizon while in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Cloud manages to have one final conversation with Zack before his death, with Zack bequeathing the Buster Sword to him and saying that his legacy will live on in Cloud. Mourning the loss of his best friend, Cloud took the Buster Sword with him and trudged onward to Midgar.
The trauma of these events, combined with Hojo's experimentation, drove Cloud insane; his memories warped, causing him to believe that he was an ex-SOLDIER and to forget that Zack ever existed. At Tifa's behest, he joined her in allying with the second generation of Avalanche led by Barret Wallace, and aided them in their battles against Shinra and a revived Sephiroth alongside allies including Aerith Gainsborough, Red XIII, Yuffie Kisaragi, Cait Sith, Vincent Valentine and Cid Highwind. Eventually, Cloud discovered that his memories were fake and, with Tifa's aid, came to terms with his past and was able to move on. Despite Sephiroth killing Aerith and Cloud giving him the Black Materia, Cloud and his friends eventually managed to defeat Sephiroth, saving the world.
In the years that follow, Cloud, Tifa, and the party go their separate ways. In the film sequel Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Cloud and Tifa settle down in the city of Edge and set up a delivery business called the Strife Delivery Service. He also takes in two children; Denzel, an orphan suffering from Geostigma, a disease that has started to appear after the defeat of Sephiroth, and Barret's adopted daughter Marlene.
Cloud eventually sets out to find a cure for Geostigma, having been infected himself thanks to Hojo's experimentation. He discovers that Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz, three manifestations of Sephiroth's consciousness, are responsible for the disease and have been kidnapping Geostigma-infected children with the intention of using the Jenova cells within them to revive her. Cloud confronts the trio but is outmatched; he is rescued by Vincent, who reveals that Geostigma is a plague caused by Jenova cells.
Kadaj eventually leads an attack on Edge to find the remains of Jenova. The former members of Avalanche reunite to face him, and Cloud manages to cure his Geostigma using Lifestream-infused water flowing in Aerith's old church. Cloud encounters Kadaj and defeats him in the ruins of Midgar, but Kadaj merges with Jenova's remains to resurrect Sephiroth. The two duel once again and Cloud emerges victorious, resulting in Sephiroth fading away while his manifestations die immediately afterward. Cloud then returns to the church with the infected children and uses the water to cleanse the Geostigma out of them. He then says farewell to the spirits of Zack and Aerith, who had been with him throughout the events of Advent Children.
In Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, set one year after Advent Children, Cloud assists the World Regenesis Organization and Vincent against the threat of Omega and Deepground and leads the ground assault on Midgar, facing Rosso the Crimson, and Cloud and the others help Vincent in defeating Omega.
In Final Fantasy VII Remake, Cloud's role is largely the same. Early on, he is taunted by visions of Sephiroth, being told to abandon his mission and "live to fight for the planet." Cloud was the second character to see the whispers after Aerith unintentionally passed her perception onto him. He would fight them off and eventually help to destroy them. He frequently receives visions of future events he has not experienced yet. He eventually figures out that these visions depict events that are not destined and the timeline can be retroactively changed. One of these altered events is Zack surviving his last stand and bringing the delirious Cloud to Midgar himself. The new fate of Zack in this timeline is unknown. After following Sephiroth and defeating him in battle, both he and Cloud are transported to the edge of creation. Sephiroth initially asks Cloud one more time to "defy destiny" with him. Cloud refuses and the two square off in what appears to be the final battle of the original game, but Sephiroth cuts the battle short and says it is too soon. He spares Cloud and transports him back to Midgar with the rest of the group with a cryptic warning that he has "seven seconds till the end". Cloud vows to defeat Sephiroth as he leaves Midgar with the rest of AVALANCHE.
As Final Fantasy VII became the best-selling and most recognized game in its series, Cloud is widely considered the most famous Final Fantasy character. Despite the unconnected nature of each main game, Cloud is often used to represent the franchise as a whole (much like Marth for Fire Emblem), and frequently shows up in crossovers with other series. In some of his more notable side appearances, Cloud has been playable in every Dissidia Final Fantasy title to date, and has served as a boss, side character, or an ally in multiple Kingdom Hearts titles.
Cloud was originally voiceless in his game of origin; although he is voiced by Kenyu Horiuchi and Nozumu Sasaki in the arcade and PlayStation versions, respectively, of Ehrgeiz, it was not until his appearance in Kingdom Hearts that he was given a consistent voiceover. In Japanese, Cloud is voiced by Takahiro Sakurai in all appearances since Kingdom Hearts. In English, Cloud was voiced by Steve Burton from Kingdom Hearts up until Final Fantasy VII Remake, with Cody Christian replacing Burton as the English voice for Final Fantasy VII Remake. However, Burton was not asked to reprise his role for Super Smash Bros. due to conflicts regarding his contract with Square Enix, so Sakurai's voice is used in all international versions.
As a playable character
Main article: Cloud (SSB4)
Cloud appears as a newcomer in Super Smash Bros. 4, and was formally announced during a Nintendo Direct on November 12, 2015. This makes him the second character to be both downloadable and from a third party developer, the sixth character overall to be from a third party developer, and the first fighter hailing from Square Enix. According to Super Smash Bros. series creator Masahiro Sakurai, Final Fantasy characters were heavily requested to appear in the Super Smash Bros. series, with Cloud receiving the most support out of all of them.
While discussing potential candidates from the Final Fantasy series to include in SSB4, Sakurai stated in an interview with Square Enix veteran Tetsuya Nomura that he could have included characters such as Fusoya from Final Fantasy IV, Bartz Klauser from Final Fantasy V, or Terra Branford from Final Fantasy VI. However, Sakurai ultimately said it was difficult to imagine a Final Fantasy character to include that was not Cloud, primarily owing to his design and iconic status.
Unlike most playable characters, Cloud has two distinct models that comprise his costumes: his classic Final Fantasy VII design (albeit with his slightly modified attire from Dissidia Final Fantasy) is his default costume alongside the Buster Sword, while his "Cloudy Wolf" design from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is an alternate costume alongside the Fusion Sword.
Cloud's strengths include highly disjointed range thanks to his Buster Sword, surprisingly fast attacks relative to his range and power, and quick overall mobility. Despite being a heavyweight, these traits collectively give him a heavily offensive playstyle that is useful for combos and excellent at aerial combat, especially edgeguarding. Additionally, Cloud's unique Limit Break mechanic slightly boosts his attributes and converts his special moves into fast and powerful KOing options once it is full, further improving his offensive presence to the point that he can score KOs even at fairly low percentages.
However, Cloud has a few glaring weaknesses in spite of his tremendous strengths. The most notable of these is his inconsistent KO potential, which is due to his very small number of easy-to-land KOing options outside of his Limit Break special moves. Aside from this, Cloud's polarized aerial movement results in his recovery and off-stage endurance both being lackluster. Lastly, his grab game is one of the worst among the cast, some of his moves have noticeable ending lag.
Overall, Cloud, like Mario, boasts numerous advantages that are supplemented by a relatively low learning curve, which have contributed to him achieving very noticeable tournament results and representation. As a result, Cloud is ranked 2nd out of 55 on the current tier list; this places him in the S tier and positions him as a top tier character.
As a playable character
Main article: Cloud (SSBU)
Cloud returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He was formally announced alongside the rest of the cast via Ultimate's E3 2018 trailer on June 12th, 2018. Although his moveset is largely unchanged in regard to aesthetics, Cloud received noteworthy mechanical changes, particularly to his Limit Breaks. Unlike in Super Smash Bros. 4, the Limit Gauge is now constantly displayed next to his damage meter, and a full Limit Charge must be used within 15 seconds before it depletes entirely. Starting with version 10.1.0, his Advent Children costume has a unique Final Smash called "Omnislash Ver. 5", which is a cosmetic change to his standard Final Smash, Omnislash.
Names in other languages