Cloud (クラウド, Cloud) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. He was officially announced during the November 12th, 2015 Nintendo Direct, and made available as DLC on December 15th, 2015. Cloud is the fifth third-party character to be introduced in the game, joining Capcom's Mega Man and Ryu, Sega's Sonic and Bayonetta, and Bandai Namco's Pac-Man.
Despite having an official English language voice actor, Steve Burton, all regional versions of SSB4 feature Cloud voiced only in Japanese by Takahiro Sakurai, his recurring Japanese voice actor from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children onward, due to Burton's status as a union-based voice actor.
Cloud is currently ranked 3rd out of 58 on the tier list, placing him in the S tier. Cloud's high tier standing primarily stems from his powerful zoning, spacing, and neutral games; in addition to commanding one of the longest disjointed hitboxes in the game as part of his Buster Sword, Cloud is extremely mobile both in the air and on the ground, due to his high jumps, fast dashing speed, and surprisingly fast frame data relative to his range and power. Cloud's fast, yet powerful aerials also give him one of the most effective aerial games in Smash 4, especially when combined with his high aerial mobility. Cloud's unique Limit Break mechanic also grants him further bonuses, such as forcing an approach, boosting his already high maneuverability, and significantly enhancing his special moves.
Cloud's primary flaw is his poor recovery; despite his high air speed, high jumps and effective wall jump, Climhazzard grants very little height and aerial mobility, and notably cannot sweetspot ledges until the end or at the beginning, making him susceptible to being gimped. Furthermore, Cloud's KO ability is significantly weaker if his Limit Break is not fully charged, with many of his smash attacks and special attacks becoming too risky to use due to their high cooldown lag; his powerful aerial game also requires precise spacing and positioning to be safe on shield and KO effectively, especially off-stage. Cloud's ground-based approach is also below-average when considering his grounded attack speed and mediocre projectile in Blade Beam, while many of his aerial attacks start from behind him. Finally, Cloud's above-average weight, modestly large hurtbox, and above-average falling speed also make him rather susceptible to combos, further exacerbated by a lack of reliable escape options.
Despite his flaws and a number of nerfs in updates, Cloud's fundamentally sound advantages have allowed him to maintain excellent tournament standings, with a large playerbase that either use him as a main or as a fallback pocket character.
Cloud is a semi-heavyweight swordsman with surprisingly quick mobility overall. He has average walking speed, the tenth fastest dashing speed, above average air speed, average air acceleration, and a fast jumpsquat, granting him both quick ground and aerial mobility. However, he has above average falling speed and high gravity, making his aerial mobility quite polarized and unrewarding. Under Limit Break status, his mobility is even better, where his walking speed becomes the eleventh fastest, his dashing speed becomes the fifth fastest, his falling speed becomes the fourth fastest, while his air speed becomes one of the fastest among the cast (only being slower than the lightest possible Mii Brawler, Wario-Man, and Giga Mac), and his traction slightly improves. However, his falling speed and gravity are also increased, the latter slightly decreasing his jump height to the point where he loses the ability to air dodge in a short hop or double jump from the ledge without suffering its landing lag, as well as the ability to autocancel his back aerial with a short hop, and up aerial in a short hop fast fall. As a result, his Limit Break status only marginally benefits his aerial mobility, but it can nevertheless help him move along the ground better.
Cloud's greatest asset is the overall range throughout his moveset, courtesy of his Buster Sword: it grants Cloud's attacks the overall second longest disjointed range in the game, surpassed only by Shulk. Thanks to this trait and his aforementioned attributes, Cloud can space out the opponent quite easily, stuff out opposing approach and adeptly punish most careless attacks, all while fighting from a safe distance. A prime example of this trait is Cloud's aerial moveset: his neutral aerial covers a very wide area, similarly to Shulk's neutral aerial, making it a go-to option for spacing or air-to-ground transition movement. It can also autocancel from a short hop, has low ending lag and a low launching angle, all of which make it great at edgeguarding despite its low power and recover stage control when landing with it. His up aerial deals good damage, has decent power, high speed, a long duration, a very generous autocancel window, and an enormous overall hitbox, making it an all-purpose attack and discouraging most opponents from trying to attack Cloud from overhead. His down aerial is not only a very strong meteor smash when sweetspotted, but it also possesses one of the most active late hitboxes in the entire game, which grants it good anti-juggling potential and allows him to follow up into another move if it connects while he is falling. Like up aerial, it also has an extremely generous autocancel window, being able to autocancel from a jump regardless of his Limit Break status. Back aerial has tremendous range, decent power, and the lowest landing lag among Cloud's aerials, and also autocancels from a short hop, allowing him to edgeguard and space effectively, though it can often miss to hit low opponents. Forward aerial is very strong when hit clean, and is also a meteor smash on aerial opponents when sweetspotted. Like down aerial, it autocancels from a full jump, and has somewhat low landing lag on relation to its range and power, however, it has the slowest startup of his aerials, making it his riskiest aerial to use regardless.
In contrast, his grounded moveset is a mixed bag: his neutral attack is his fastest attack, and can force a tech-chase if all of its hits connect. His down tilt makes him slide similar to Mega Man's down tilt, and can be a great tool to put the opponent at a disadvantage. His up tilt is a reliable combo starter until high percentages, chaining into itself at low percentages, and comboing into up smash or his neutral, back and up aerials. His up smash, in particular, covers a very large arc, has decent speed and, despite its surprisingly low damage, has good power, making it his best and least risky KOing option out of his standard moveset. His forward tilt has decent power and speed, but has little utility aside from punishing an opponent's move, or being used as a situational, last resort-KOing option. His dash attack is a fast punishing tool from a distance and, due to its power, can reset or take away the neutral game, but is often prone to punishment when avoided. Cloud's forward smash is his most powerful move by default, though to compensate it also takes the longest to start and is very punishable if it whiffs. His down smash is also prone to punishment if the front hit is avoided, but it drags the opponent into the back hit if it connects, the latter being a strong semi-spike.
Cloud's special moveset also offers interesting options. Blade Beam is a projectile with good range and activity, making it useful for forcing approaches, though it gets weakened over duration and has high endlag, which hampers its otherwise useful utility. It also stalls Cloud in the air, giving it additional, if situational, utility in guard breaking. Cross Slash is very similar to Dancing Blade and Double-Edge Dance, requiring additional inputs from the player to initiate the remaining slashes. In contrast, it has wider input windows, but the full move is only allowed to continue if all hits connect. It can also stall Cloud in the air, just like Blade Beam, though much more briefly. Climhazzard is similar to Aether and Final Cutter, as it is an ascending slash, but differs from them in that it can be followed by an optional descending slash. This allows Cloud to mix-up his recovery and enables Climhazzard to function as his fastest out of shield option, though it is very risky to use.
In reference to Final Fantasy VII, Cloud possesses a unique Limit Break mechanic. It manifests itself in the form of a gauge, which becomes visible while charging it to show its progress, similarly to Little Mac's Power Meter. Cloud can charge Limit Break by dealing 250% damage, receiving 100% damage, or by instantly charging it with his down special, Limit Charge. Unlike most other chargeable special moves, it can be canceled with a simple special move button press, or even instantly canceled into an attack, the latter being a trait shared only with Gyro. After it is full, Cloud gets a boost in all of his movement attributes except for attack speed, allowing him to move very quickly across the stage and in the air, with his overall mobility almost rivaling that of Captain Falcon and Sonic. In addition, all of Cloud's special attacks are given a single-use power boost, with all of them dealing more damage and high knockback to the point of KOing reliably around 90%-120%. Limit Charge is also converted to Finishing Touch, a spinning slash with such tremendous knockback that can KO most characters around 60%-70%. It also emits a whirlwind that pushes away opponents, making it harder to punish and providing Cloud a situational method of gimping weak recoveries. With the exception of Finishing Touch, all Limit Break specials are also granted brief intangibility upon start-up, as well as additional properties: Blade Beam is faster, stronger, and has transcendent priority; Cross Slash requires no additional button inputs and strikes five times immediately, has very low ending lag in relation to its immense power, and stalls him completely in the air; and Climhazzard grants more vertical distance and much more horizontal momentum, as well as having the ability to edge sweetspot at any time. With all these benefits underneath the Limit Break status, players must be wary of this, as one small slip-up from the opponent can give Cloud the perfect opportunity to strike and turn the tide of battle instantaneously, making Cloud's Limit Break a mechanic that should not be taken lightly when in the hands of a competent player.
However, Cloud has some severe flaws. The most prominent one is his atrocious recovery. Despite his aerial mobility and jump height being arguably better than most sword-wielding characters, his diagonal speed remains slow when compared to them, making him prone to edgeguarding and gimping, and making it mandatory to stay a safe distance within reaching the edge. Climhazzard is also a terrible recovery move for many reasons: it grants below average vertical distance, little horizontal momentum, its ascending hit is completely incapable of edge sweetspotting, and its descending hit cannot edge sweetspot until it covers some prior distance. Additionally, if for any reason Cloud gets hit at the apex of Climhazzard, he is not able to tech a single-hit move regardless of how far or near he is to a wall, although he can still tech if he gets hit by a command grab or a multiple hit move. These factors make Cloud's recovery somewhat comparable to that of Little Mac, Ganondorf and Dr. Mario, in the sense that it is one of the riskiest and most ineffective without use of his wall jump or Limit Break Climhazzard (which loses the active hitbox near the end of his ascent, making it less safe than the regular Climhazzard in some situations). Cloud can stall his descent with Blade Beam and Cross Slash, although they only so after one use. Additionally, the former's slower start-up and ending lag can make its use problematic against opponents already close to the edge or in prime position to reflect it, while the latter slows down his air speed significantly. The last problem about his recovery is that if he gets grabbed near the edge without his double jump and gets air released, he will not be able to return to the stage unless he properly times a Blade Beam to stall towards the edge, uses aerials or air dodges to reset his momentum, or possesses a Limit Break.
Another glaring flaw is his grab game: Cloud's grabs' ranges are abysmally short, having the third shortest overall in the game, his throws' damage outputs are only average at best and, barring down throw, they lack combo potentials, making them comparable to Jigglypuff's throws in regard to inefficiency. His forward and back throws' decent speed are significantly offset by the problematic combination of their virtual lack of combo potential and low knockback scaling. Additionally, both fail to KO before 300%, unless the opponent is light and Cloud is at the edge upon performing them. His up and down throws both have misleading power, failing to KO until well beyond 200%. Up throw has too much ending lag for reliably comboing, while down throw doesn't have reliable combos at low percentages and loses all of its combo potential past low-mid percentages if the opponent DIs properly.
Despite his huge range, projectile and combo options granting him a strong neutral game, Cloud has a below average approach at best. His approach options are linear, with dash attack being easily punishable, neutral aerial having a hitbox that starts from behind, up aerial being very predictable and being surprisingly punishable on shield if not spaced well, and having other attacks that either lack the frame data or the utility to be used as reliable options for approaching such as his poor grab game. Cloud also has no reliable means of escaping pressure. His neutral attack and down tilt are his fastest ground options, while Climhazzard can work as an out of shield option. However, they are noticeably unsafe on shield, while none of his fast aerial attacks start from the front or below him. Down aerial's late hitbox can be used to escape juggling directly from below him, but its otherwise narrow hitbox allows opponents to hit Cloud laterally. Thus, Cloud is fairly easy to combo, and is just as easily forced on the defensive if his attacks are improperly spaced. While Cloud also possesses an abundance of strong finishers, his KOing ability is somewhat inconsistent. None of his strongest finishers are easy to land in the neutral game and they can be easily punished if avoided or shielded, his weaker moves such as his forward tilt and back aerial require good positioning to KO reliably, and he lacks reliable set-ups into his strongest or best finishers.
Aside from Limit Charge, his special moves have some noticeable weaknesses. Blade Beam is relatively slow in regard to start-up and ending lag, as well as depreciating in damage over time or when used in the air. Cross Slash is inconsistent with linking all five of its hits due to SDI or landing different parts of the hitboxes, along with being very prone to stale-move negation due to being a very reliable damage racking option. In addition to its aforementioned weaknesses in regard to recovery, Climhazzard is also very punishable if shielded and easily DI'd out of, while all of his specials only boast KO power when they are boosted by the Limit Break. The Limit Break mechanic itself is also problematic. It acts as a double-edged sword, as it increases Cloud's fall speed and gravity at full charge, making recovery without the use of Climhazzard deceptively difficult, and rendering Cloud even easier to combo at medium percentages. It makes precise use of his special attacks mandatory, as his Limit Break specials are still blockable and possess limited range; while Limit Blade Beam can be used as a ranged KOing option, it can just as easily be reflected or otherwise avoided at the tip of its range, leaving Cloud wide open to punishment. Finishing Touch deals only 1% and has very high ending lag that renders Cloud vulnerable if the slash or whirlwind do not hit. Finally, Cloud lacks custom moves like his fellow DLC characters, and while this does not seem to be a problem considering his Limit Break-boosted specials, the lack of variety for the normal special moves does hinder his matchups against more optimized custom characters.
Overall, while Cloud has all the tools required to be successful, the player is forced to manage his resources to the best of their ability, and they must avoid being thrown off the stage at all times. Even though any playstyle can work with Cloud, the combination of all of these traits make him a fundamentals-oriented character most of the time. His combo game and KOing ability, while unique and powerful, can be inconsistent, leaving much to be desired. Despite his weaknesses, however, his excellent strengths still outweigh them, and most smashers agree he has few losing matchups, but the ease of gimping Cloud or forcing him to use Limit Break specials defensively have also led some to believe that even at his best, he holds no extreme advantage over any character. Much like Mario and Captain Falcon, Cloud has a relatively low learning curve and skill floor that make him an effective choice for beginners and inexperienced players, though due to the benefits that his most difficult techniques can offer when they are mastered, he continues to be a viable character in high-level play. His tournament representation and results are strong, with notable players like komorikiri, MKLeo, Tweek, Ned and Mew2King all having placed high in their respective regions. However, Cloud's results in singles play are generally inconsistent, with few Cloud mains making any appearances in top 8 of most major tournaments. Cloud is considered to be an even better character for doubles play, as his Limit Break specials are more reliable and easier to land at the end of a team combo, he can provide stage control and wall out the opponents for a teammate, and his teammate can assist him in recovering easily onto the stage. Thus, his doubles representation is much stronger in comparison to his singles results, with smashers like MVD and Nairo using him to great success.
Cloud has been slightly nerfed as of update 1.1.5. His up aerial deals less damage without any changes to knockback, which hinders its KO potential in exchange for racking damage more reliably. His KO potential in general was also slightly toned down: forward smash, down smash and Limit Break Cross Slash had their knockback scaling slightly decreased, while aerial Finishing Touch's knockback scaling was decreased to the point that it now KOs about 24% later (in front) or 36% later (from behind) if landed on a grounded opponent. These nerfs, however, have not significantly impacted Cloud's viability, and he also benefits from the nerfs to Meta Knight, Sheik and Bayonetta in updates 1.1.5 and 1.1.6. As a result, while Cloud is slightly worse as a character, he is considered to be overall better relative to the cast than he was during his debut, and he remains a viable character in the metagame.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Since his release, Cloud was believed to be a high-tier character, thanks to his incredible combination of range, mobility, power, and Limit Break mechanic; the latter in particular was highly valued for its ability to not only grant his special moves KO potential disproportionate for and beyond his weight class but also make them fast and safe, especially Cross Slash. This positive outlook on Cloud was even more apparent in doubles play, where he can greatly benefit from having a teammate to alleviate his weak recovery and helping to land his Limit Break specials as the finisher to team combos, while Cloud himself can provide stage control and wall out his opponents for his teammate. He had achieved strong results at both singles and doubles play right before the first tier list was released, thanks to professionals like komorikiri, Mew2King and Tweek. This led him to be ranked 12th on the first tier list, placing him at the middle of the B tier, which confirmed his high-tier status.
However, with the release of Corrin and Bayonetta, the subsequent nerfs to them and other top-tier characters, and various advancements to his metagame, Cloud became a very popular character in tournaments. His own nerfs did not seriously hinder him, and he remained a fundamentally strong character choice for both newer and professional players, the latter of which saw MKLeo formally picking him up. This was apparent with him appearing more frequently in the top placings of tournaments in comparison to some top-tier characters like Sheik and Zero Suit Samus, and appearing in almost every single top 8 of doubles events in major tournaments. As a result of this spike in popularity and success, Cloud was ranked 2nd on the second tier list, placing him in the S tier. Incidentally, his tier rise was tied with Palutena's for the fifth highest between the first and second tier lists.
Despite this, Cloud's placement received mixed thoughts from the community, as his rather exploitable weaknesses held him back from achieving top 8 placings in singles play for several national tournaments, such as EVO 2016 (the highest ranking Cloud being komorikiri, who placed 17th) and Super Smash Con 2016 (the highest ranking solo Cloud being Tweek, who placed 13th). However, as of recent, his singles results have become considerably more consistent, thanks to komorikiri placing 3rd, Tweek placing 13th, and Mew2King placing 25th, all at The Big House 6, among others. In addition, Leo placed 1st, Tweek placed 9th, and komorikiri placed 7th at GENESIS 4, all while primarily using Cloud until top 8 in the case of komorikiri and Leo. Although Cloud has since seen a very slight drop to 3rd on the third and current tier list, his status as a very viable choice in competitive play remains firmly intact.
Cloud's default costume is based on his appearance in Final Fantasy VII. He has an alternate costume based on his appearance in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, known as "Cloudy Wolf" in Dissidia Final Fantasy, which has two minor variants and replaces the Buster Sword with the Fusion Swords. One variant has a long sleeve covering Cloud's left arm to hide the visible signs of his Geostigma. The other variant reveals Cloud's left arm after he has been cured of Geostigma, as well as a red ribbon wrapped around it, which he and his party wear in memory of Aerith Gainsborough.
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