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 released as the fifth downloadable character on December 15th, 2015. He is one of six third-party characters in the game, alongside Capcom's Mega Man and Ryu, Sega's Sonic and Bayonetta, and Bandai Namco's Pac-Man.
In all regions, Cloud is voiced by Takahiro Sakurai, his official Japanese voice actor from Kingdom Hearts onward. This is most likely because his original English voice actor, Steve Burton is a union-based voice actor.
Cloud is ranked 2nd out of 55 on the current tier list, placing him in the S tier and making him the second highest ranked newcomer, DLC and third party character (behind Bayonetta). The Buster Sword grants him some of the greatest reach and longest disjointed hitboxes of any character; furthermore, he is highly mobile both in the air and on the ground, with quick, high jumps and a fast dash. This, together with surprisingly fast frame data for a character of his range and power, grants Cloud potent zoning, spacing, and neutral games. The speed and utility of his aerial attacks make him dangerous in the air, and his attacks flow together well, letting him combo with ease. Cloud can also force approaches by using Limit Charge, while a full charge boosts his mobility even further and significantly strengthens his special moves.
Despite his strengths, Cloud has his fair share of flaws. Cloud's primary flaw is his poor recovery. Despite his aerial maneuverability and an effective wall jump, Climhazzard gains very little height and no horizontal distance; its inability to sweetspot edges for most of its duration also leaves him vulnerable to gimping. His KO ability is weaker if Limit Break is not fully charged, as many of his strongest attacks are risky to use due to their punishability if missed. Furthermore, his attacks require precise spacing to be safely and effectively landed, especially off-stage. Cloud also has difficulty approaching from the ground, due to his unsafe ground attacks, and Blade Beam, his only projectile, is slow and punishable when not under the effects of Limit; additionally, his grab is one of the shortest of the cast, and his throws generally have low damage output and combo potential. Finally, Cloud's height and above-average weight and falling speed make him somewhat susceptible to combos.
Despite his flaws and risks, Cloud's innate strengths 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 middleweight 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. He has above average falling speed and high gravity, however, preventing him from staying in the air for long despite his good aerial maneuverability. Under Limit Break status, his mobility is even better; his traction slightly improves, his walking speed becomes the eleventh fastest, his dashing speed the fifth fastest, his falling speed the fourth fastest, and his air speed becomes the fastest in the game under normal circumstances (only being slower than the lightest possible Mii Brawler, Wario-Man, and Giga Mac). His increased gravity and falling speed, however, make his jumps slightly lower and prevent him from auto-cancelling some of his aerial attacks (notably back aerial and up aerial) as easily. 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 his range and speed, Cloud can space out the opponent quite easily, stuff out opposing approaches and adeptly punish most careless attacks. A prime example of this trait is Cloud's aerial attacks: his neutral aerial covers a very wide area, making it a go-to option for spacing or air-to-ground transition movement. It is also very fast on both ends, can autocancel from a short hop, and has a low launching angle, all of which make it a great edgeguarding tool despite its low knockback.
His up aerial has good damage output, decent knockback, 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 also possesses one of the most active late hitboxes in the 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 a long 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 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 low landing lag in relation to its range and power, however, it has the slowest startup of his aerials, making it his riskiest aerial to use regardless.
His grounded moveset is not quite as overwhelming. His neutral attack is his fastest attack, and the third hit can force a tech-chase. His down tilt is a low-profile slide, 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 high knockback despite its surprisingly low damage, 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 as a quick punish, or being used as a KOing option at extreme percentages. His dash attack is a fast punishing tool from a distance and, due to its power, can put opponents in a bad position. It is easily punished when shielded or avoided, however. Cloud's forward smash is his most powerful non-Limit Break move, 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 do 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. His combo game and KOing ability, while unique and powerful, can sometimes be inconsistent. Even though Cloud has many playstyles applicable to him, the combination of all of the traits above make him a fundamentals-oriented character most of the time. His weaknesses, however, are still offset by his amazing strengths in his great range, quick frame data in proportion to his range, high damage output and power, and amazing mobility (especially under Limit Break status), with most smashers agreeing he has few losing matchups (the most prominent one being Sheik). Much like Mario, Cloud has a relatively low learning curve and skill floor that makes 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 one of the most viable characters in high-level play. His tournament representation and results are strong, with notable players like Javi, komorikiri, MkLeo, Ned and Tweek all having placed high in national tournaments, and he 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, Cloud's doubles representation is much stronger in comparison to his singles results, with smashers like MVD and Nairo using him to great success.
Cloud was slightly nerfed in 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, as forward smash, down smash, Limit Break Cross Slash, and most notably aerial Finishing Touch received nerfs to their knockback scaling. These nerfs, however, have not significantly impacted Cloud's viability, compared to the more severe nerfs to fellow top tiers Meta Knight, Sheik and Bayonetta in updates 1.1.5 and 1.1.6. As a result, while Cloud is slightly worse individually than he was at his release, he is considered to be overall better relative to the cast, and remains a viable character in the metagame.
In competitive play
Tier placement, history and bans in double tournaments
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 by the 4BR, thanks to professionals like komorikiri, Mew2King and Tweek. This led him to be ranked 12th on the first 4BR 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 consistently winning almost every major doubles event at 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; 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 consistently 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, Cloud's singles results became 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 saw a very slight drop to 3rd place on the third tier list, his status as a very viable choice in competitive play remains firmly intact and, as of recently, he has achieved even more consistent results from the likes of komorikiri, Leo and Tweek, which has seen him rise to 2nd on the fourth and current tier list.
Recently however, many smashers have questioned Cloud's tier placement as his results, despite being very impressive, have never been as impressive compared to other characters as a solo main as other characters such as Diddy Kong, Sheik, Zero Suit Samus, Fox, and Rosalina have won majors in the past without the use of a secondary while Cloud has failed to do so. Many top smashers have also talked about Cloud's exploitable recovery and how many top players have become better at gimping him. Due to this, a few top smashers such as Mr.R and MkLeo claim that Cloud is overrated and that he should be ranked slightly lower while other smashers claim that his polarizing strengths are too strong for him to be ranked any lower. To this day, Cloud's true tier placement is greatly debated on.
Banned in Doubles
Due to several controversies regarding doubles in tournament, Cloud was considered broken enough to be banned from certain matches listed. The community has received critical attention to his play style along with extreme advantages which allowed Cloud to consistently win throughout doubles. This was evident with Cloud being more dominant than Meta Knight in Brawl singles.
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 replaces the Buster Sword with the Fusion Sword. It has two minor variants: one with a long sleeve covering Cloud's left arm to hide the visible signs of his Geostigma, and the other revealing 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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