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 downloadable content 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.
Similarly to Marth and Roy, Cloud in all regions of Super Smash Bros. 4 is voiced only in Japanese by Takahiro Sakurai, his recurring Japanese voice actor from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children onward, in spite of having Steve Burton as his English voice actor as of Advent Children.
Cloud is currently ranked 2nd out of 58 on the tier list, placing him in the S tier. This makes him the highest ranking downloadable character, newcomer, and third-party character. Cloud possesses one of the longest overall disjointed ranges in the game, along with Shulk and Ike. When combined with his impressive movement speed, high jumps, the ability to wall jump (making him and Toon Link the only sword-wielding characters capable of doing so), and surprisingly fast frame data relative to his range and overall power, Cloud is one of the most effective characters at spacing, approaching, and zoning. His aerials, combined with his air mobility, also grant him a particularly dangerous air game, as most of them are relatively safe on shield with proper spacing; back aerial possesses tremendous reach and decent damage output, and up aerial and down aerial are noteworthy for having large initial hitboxes, long-lasting lingering hitboxes, and very generous autocancel windows.
Cloud also possesses a unique Limit Break mechanic, which, when fully charged either manually or by dealing and/or receiving damage, bolsters Cloud's maneuverability further and gives him more powerful, single-use versions of his special moves, making him one of the most dangerous characters in the game once he has reached Limit Break.
However, Cloud does have notable drawbacks. His Limit Break mechanic makes his playstyle fluctuate constantly, as the gauge takes some time to charge. His recovery is notoriously weak without a full Limit Gauge despite his high second jump and decent air speed, due to Climhazzard's below average height gain, its inability to edge sweetspot like most up special moves and the fact he will get efficiently gimped if he gets hit by a powerful single hit blow at the apex of the move. Cloud's moveset is also inconsistent at KOing without the Limit Break specials or edgeguarding, with his more powerful attacks being risky to use due to their ending lag and his aerials requiring good positioning to KO effectively, especially off-stage, as he might not be able to get back if he goes too far off the stage.
Cloud's grab game is also poor: his grabs have very short ranges and his forward, back and up throws grant little reward due to their ending lag preventing them from being used as combo starters and their knockback scaling being unfavorable for KOing. His ground attacks are also unsafe on shield, rendering him unable to effectively pressure shielding opponents, while also leaving him fewer options to escape shield pressure himself. Finally, his above average weight and falling speed are both a blessing and a curse, as his decent survivability is offset by a glaring susceptibility to combos and juggles, which can be exacerbated due to his tall frame and lack of escape options.
Regardless, Cloud's potent Limit Break specials and fundamentally sound attributes outweigh his cons and have resulted in him being regarded highly on the tier list due to his popularity as a pocket character and perceived ease of use. While Cloud has been somewhat nerfed since the first tier list was created, several characters perceived as top-tier have undergone more severe nerfs, which positively affects his matchups against said characters. As such, many professionals believe him to be one of the best characters in the game and deserving of his current placing on the tier list. Although it is uncommon for Cloud to achieve top 16 placings at super national tournaments, his overall results are nonetheless very strong in both singles and doubles play, as shown with Komorikiri and Tweek placing 3rd and 13th, respectively, at The Big House 6.
Cloud is a swordsman with surprisingly quick mobility overall, even in spite of him being the lightest heavyweight in the game. He has average walking speed, the tenth fastest dashing speed, above average air speed, average air acceleration, and high jumps, 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, Cloud can fight from a safe distance and space out his opponents quite easily and, when combined with his aforementioned attributes, he can approach opponents almost noncommittally and adeptly punish careless attacks. His neutral attack, forward tilt, down tilt, dash attack and forward smash also make Cloud slide slightly forward, with his down tilt granting about equal distance to Mega Man's down tilt. His up tilt is also a reliable combo starter until medium percentages, chaining into itself, up smash or up aerial. Overall, Cloud's ground game can cover a variety of options and can give him multiple moments of breathing space, all while being able to punish careless and/or short-ranged attacks due to his spectacular range and attack speed.
In comparison, Cloud's aerial moveset benefits even more from these attributes, which makes his air game very threatening. His neutral aerial covers a very large 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 with a short hop, has low ending lag and a low launching angle, all of which make it great at edgeguarding despite its low power. Forward aerial is very strong when hit clean, and is also a meteor smash on aerial opponents when sweetspotted. Back aerial has tremendous range, decent power, and the lowest landing lag among Cloud's aerials, allowing him to edgeguard and space effectively. Like neutral aerial, it can also autocancel with a short hop, though at this height, it cannot hit small characters (such as Kirby or Pikachu) or characters with low crouches (such as Little Mac or Wii Fit Trainer). Up aerial 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. Down aerial is not only a very strong meteor smash when sweetspotted, it also possesses one of the most active late hitboxes in the entire game, which can be autocanceled from a jump regardless of his Limit Break status. It also has fantastic anti-juggling potential and it can even easily string into another move if it connects while he is falling.
Cloud's special moveset also offers very interesting options. Blade Beam is a projectile with good range and high activity, making it useful for forcing approaches and good at edgeguarding, though it gets weakened over duration and has high endlag, which somewhat hampers its otherwise useful utility. It also stalls Cloud in the air, giving it additional 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. It has wider input windows and more damage, 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. 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, as it hits on frame 7. Lastly, Limit Charge is solely a charging method for his Limit Breaks, but 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, making the Limit Break a mechanic opponents should not take lightly when up against a competent player.
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. However, as mentioned before, Cloud can charge Limit Break with the down special button input, unlike Little Mac. After it is full, Cloud gets a boost in all of his movement attributes except for attack speed, allowing him to move even more quickly across the stage and in the air. 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, with Blade Beam being faster and having transcendent priority, Cross Slash striking five times immediately, having very low ending lag, and stalling him completely in the air, and Climhazzard granting 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.
However, Cloud has some severe flaws, with his most prominent one being his recovery. Despite his aerial mobility and jump height being arguably better than most sword-wielding characters, his diagonal movement is overall very slow, 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, or if he gets hit during the Limit Break variant. These factors make Cloud's recovery comparable to those 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 or possesses a Limit Break.
Another glaring flaw is his grab game: Cloud's grabs' ranges are abysmally short and the third shortest overall in the game (although pivot grabbing can alleviate this flaw to some degree), his pummel is slow despite being among the most damaging in the game, his throws' damage outputs are only average at best and their combo potentials (barring down throw) are poor, so much so that they are comparable to Jigglypuff's throws in regard to inefficiency. His forward throw's decent speed is significantly offset by the problematic combination of its virtual lack of combo potential and low knockback scaling, while his back throw has extremely low knockback scaling and is only a semi-guaranteed follow-up into dash attack at 0%. Additionally, both fail to KO before 300%, unless the opponent is extremely light and Cloud is at the edge upon performing them. His up and down throws both have misleading power, too much ending lag for reliable combos at early percentages, and they cannot KO until around 215%. His down throw also loses all of its combo potential past 20%-30% if the opponent DIs properly.
While Cloud possesses an abundance of strong finishers, his KOing ability is inconsistent. None of his finishers are easy to land in the neutral game, which is further compounded his lack of reliable set-ups into said finishers. All of his smash attacks are unsafe on shield, even when fully charged. Forward smash's immense power is counterbalanced by its slow start-up and surprisingly low duration, as each hit is only active for one frame, and it is possible to dodge all three hits within the intangibility period of any character's roll or sidestep. Up smash's wide range is hindered by a combination of low speed, lag, and mediocre power. Down smash's semi-spike and stage spike capabilities are not particularly powerful, with the move having relatively high ending lag and the first hit being inconsistent with linking into the more powerful second hit. His neutral aerial, despite being able to chain into attacks with ease, has low power, while his back aerial, up aerial, and forward tilt require good positioning to KO before 130%.
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 gravity at full charge, making recovery without the use of Climhazzard deceptively difficult. 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.
Cloud also has no means of escaping pressure. His neutral attack and down tilt are his fastest ground options at frames 4 and 7 respectively, with Climhazzard as an out of shield option also having 7 frames of start-up. 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 juggles that launch Cloud higher, but its otherwise narrow hitbox allows opponents to hit Cloud's sides and deal more damage. Thus, Cloud is fairly easy to combo and juggle, and is just as easily forced on the defensive if his attacks are improperly spaced. 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, Cloud has all the tools required to be successful, yet he is forced to manage his resources to the best of his ability. Even though any playstyle can work with Cloud, he must avoid being launched off the stage at all times, which makes him a fundamentals-oriented character most of the time. His combo game and KOing ability, while unique and powerful, are fairly 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 Link, 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.
Cloud's tournament representation and results early on were strong, with notable players like Komorikiri, Mew2King, and Tweek all having placed high in their respective regions, and other top players like Leo, Nairo, and ZeRo using Cloud as a secondary or a dual main. As time went on, however, Cloud's results in singles play have become generally inconsistent, with few Cloud mains making any appearances in top 8 of most majors and having even fewer tournament wins outside of Komorikiri's success in Japan. Cloud is considered to be a much better character for doubles play, as his Limit Break specials are more reliable and easier to land at the end of a team combo, while a teammate can assist him in recovering easily onto the stage. Thus, his doubles representation is much stronger in comparison to his singles results.
Cloud has been nerfed as of update 1.1.5. His up aerial deals less damage without any changes to knockback, which hinders its damage racking and KO potentials, doing so around 11% later. 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. While the significance of these nerfs have been highly debated (with Mew2King, a Cloud main himself, stating these nerfs have made him worse as a character than most people are led to believe), Cloud remains a viable character in the metagame, with most players believing that even his placing on the 1.1.3 tier list was too low, especially considering Sheik's and Bayonetta's heavy nerfs from updates 1.1.5 and 1.1.6, respectively. 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, which is reflected in his S tier position on the current tier list.
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 reach, mobility and power, topped off by his incredibly versatile Limit Break, with it being able to cancel into any of his moves, and buffing his up, side and up specials to posses KO power disproportionate for and beyond his weight class while being fast and safe, especially Cross Slash, and the Finishing Touch could KO a large portion of the cast at very low percents in appropriate situations. He had achieved strong results at both singles and doubles play before the first tier list was released, thanks to smashers like Komorikiri and Mew2King, which led him to be ranked 12th on the first tier list, placing him at the middle of the B tier and thus confirming 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, leading to more appearances in the top placings of tournaments of all sizes over characters like Sheik and Zero Suit Samus. This positive outlook on Cloud was even more apparent in doubles play, where he can greatly benefit from having a teammate to shore up 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. Since this discovery of his strength in doubles play, Cloud has appeared in almost every single top 8 of doubles events in major tournaments.
As a result of this spike in popularity and tournament placings, Cloud has been ranked 2nd in the second tier list, placing him in the S tier and being widely regarded as one of the best characters in the game. Cloud's tier rise is also tied with Palutena for the fifth highest rise between the first and second tier lists. Despite this, his current placement has received mixed thoughts from the community, as his rather exploitable weaknesses seemed to hold him back from achieving top 8 placings in 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, to start 2017, Tweek placed 9th, Komorikiri placed 7th, and MKLeo won in singles at GENESIS 4, all primarily using Cloud until Top 8.
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.