Over the course of normal play, Cloud charges up his Limit Gauge (invisible in SSB4) while giving or receiving damage. This mechanic is identical to the Power Meter expressed by Little Mac. As much as 250% (150% in Ultimate) in raw damage must be dealt by Cloud to players, or 100% taken by him, to fill the meter by only giving or receiving damage, respectively. If not using Cloud's natural moveset, in-hand Battering items (and not damage caused by effects, such as the Flower ailment from a Lip's Stick) and the Speed Crasher and Shield Exploder equipment effects also count.
His down special is an alternative method of filling this gauge, as it works akin to an auto-charge special. It takes 400 frames (or 6.667 seconds) to fully charge with this down-special alone, and no sustained input is required to continue charging. This is also the only way to see the Gauge's progress in SSB4 (Ultimate places the Limit Gauge over Cloud's Damage Meter). Limit Charge can be charge-canceled by pressing the special button (in addition to all conventional methods of charge-cancelling via rolling and shielding on the ground, or air dodging in the air), which can be used situationally to move or attack quickly out of the charge cancel. In SSB4, even if Cloud is attacked while charging, the meter will visibly fill up in proportion to the sustained damage. However, Ultimate has the opposite effect, where taking damage mid-charge will now drain the meter accordingly (but taking damage while not using Limit Charge still fills the meter).
Regardless of how full charge is obtained, Cloud will undergo a "Limit Break" status, emitting a blue, flame-like aura from his body, accompanied by the sound effect from Final Fantasy VII. If the gauge is fully charged via his down special, Cloud will also announce 「限界を超える」 (localized in Cloud's reveal trailer as "Limits are meant to be broken"). While retaining Limit Break status, all of his attributes change: his gravity, fall speed, fast fall speed, initial dash distance, and running speed are increased by 10%, his walk speed and traction are increased by 15%, and his air speed and acceleration are increased by 20%. It also allows him to use a more powerful version of his special moves for one use, which will fully expend the Limit Gauge once performed. Though Limit Break lasts until Cloud expends the gauge or gets KO'd in SSB4, it lasts only up to fifteen seconds in Ultimate, forcing Cloud to behave more aggressively and charge wisely, lest he run out of limit offstage and be forced to use his drastically inferior Climhazzard.
Limit Charge is one of the only chargeable special moves that can be used to instant charge-cancel, along with Gyro and Needle Storm, and this advanced technique is referred to as Instant Limit canceling for Cloud. It allows him to bypass every conventional charge-cancel method (including the option to cancel Limit Charge with another special button press) and perform either his neutral attack, tilt attacks, or smash attacks almost instantly out of Limit Charge. This technique was removed in Ultimate; additionally, even shielding and dodging out of Limit Charge have the same delay as cancelling the move with the special button.
The Limit Break status has no effect on Omnislash, and vice versa.
If the down-special input is pressed again when the Limit Gauge is full, Cloud will instead perform Finishing Touch (画竜点睛), a large whirlwind slash that deals only 1% damage, but has very high knockback. It is able to KO most fighters before 70%, launching foes too close to Cloud upward, though enemies that approach after the initial damaging hitbox are pushed away by wind. The move has less knockback when hitting opponents behind Cloud, KOing about 10% later, and even less knockback when performed in the air, KOing about 24% to 36% later, depending on the opponent's position. Despite its power, Finishing Touch can be shielded, countered (though safe due to the move's extremely low damage), or armored, negating its huge knockback while leaving Cloud wide open to attack. If used in the air, Cloud will briefly hover in place until the move ends, which can somewhat help his recovery, although a Limit Break Climhazzard is significantly better in this regard. Attempting Finishing Touch counts as using an improved special move, and will reset the Limit Gauge.
A nearly complete list of grounded Finishing Touch KO percentages in Smash 4 can be found here. Because Finishing Touch treats every character as having a weight of 100, the fall speed and gravity of that character is instead the main factor of surviving the move. For example, Bowser, the heaviest character, is KO'd at 59.5%/70% (hitting in front and from behind respectively), while Fox, the fastest faller, is KO'd at 74%/85%, which is the highest percentage required across all characters, barring Shulk with the Shield Art activated. Corrin is KO'd at 64%/74%, while Bayonetta is KO'd at 68%/79%, and Cloud himself survives 3% longer in Limit Break.
In Ultimate, Finishing Touch has a slightly smaller hitbox, but it also comes out slightly faster.
Special Move customization was added in Super Smash Bros. 4. These are the variations:
Like the other DLC characters, Cloud lacks custom move variations.
Limit Breaks are a key feature of fights in Final Fantasy VII. Like in Super Smash Bros. 4, the Limit Gauge (based on how it appeared in Final Fantasy VII) fills whenever a character takes damage from an opponent. Once the Limit Gauge is filled, the character can use a Limit Break, which, in Cloud's case, is any of his Special Moves in SSB4. Unlike in SSB4, however, one cannot manually charge their Limit Gauge without taking damage.
The pose that Cloud does when using his Limit Charge special move is taken from the pose he does before attacking the enemy when he uses Climhazzard in Final Fantasy VII.
The offensive version of this move, Finishing Touch, is a Limit Break skill from the same game that has the ability to instantly kill any lesser monsters while dealing heavy damage to stronger ones. While Finishing Touch is only rendered in Smash as a small scale whirlwind, it is instead rendered as a massive tornado in its game of origin, while in the Dissidia games Cloud assaults his target locked within the very same one (save for in the recent Dissidia arcade title, where it reverts to its projectile-based origins).
The attack's Japanese name, "Garyō Tensei", literally means "to paint in the dragon's pupil", often used as a term for the finishing touches to one's work.