Sephiroth (セフィロス, Sephiroth) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and the third fighter from Square Enix after Cloud and Hero. He was confirmed as a playable character on December 10th, 2020 at The Game Awards 2020, and was released as part of Challenger Pack 8 on December 22nd, 2020 as the third downloadable character from Fighters Pass Vol. 2; however, he was playable as early as December 17th, 2020 by defeating him in the limited-time Sephiroth Challenge event that ran from December 17th-22nd. Sephiroth is classified as Fighter #78.
Toshiyuki Morikawa, who has voiced Sephiroth since Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, reprises his role as the character in all regions.
Sephiroth's attributes are fairly polarized. He is a rather tall character, but is classified as a lightweight, being tied with Kirby, Mewtwo, Pikachu and Olimar as the 7th-lightest character in the game. He has the fourteenth slowest walking speed but an above average run speed (narrowly outrunning his fellow Square Enix representative, Hero) and above average traction, average jumping force overall, poor air speed and below average air friction but average air acceleration, and the 11th fastest falling speed with above average gravity. For all of this, however, Sephiroth's crouch is decently low, especially for his height, and he has the lowest short hop in the game (tied with Steve), which aids him very well in the neutral game.
Among Sephiroth's two most defining traits is his range. He notably sports among the longest range in Ultimate thanks to his signature weapon, the Masamune. Unlike other swordfighters, Sephiroth's sweetspot hitboxes differ between his stab and slash attacks: his stab moves (up tilt, down smash, forward aerial, and down aerial) have sweetspots positioned along the tip of Masamune (much like Marth's and Simon's own tipper mechanics) with a mediumspot at the center of the blade, while his slash attacks (forward tilt, forward smash, up smash, back aerial, and up aerial) have sweetspots positioned along the upper center of its blade (similar to Roy's inverse tipper mechanic, but with better range overall) with mediumspots at the tip. This gives Sephiroth plenty of ranged options if opponents are reasonably within range of him. On the other hand, the handle of the Masamune also has sourspots, which means Sephiroth needs to be careful when spacing his attacks.
His other most defining trait is his unique fighter ability, Winged Form. It is a unique comeback mechanic that activates when Sephiroth has taken enough damage (similarly to aura or Super Special Moves), but when he activates this form depends on how many stocks and how much percentage he has compared to his opponent(s). When active, his wing unfurls and grants him a third jump, a 1.3× damage multiplier, and much higher mobility overall, notably giving him the 7th fastest running speed and the highest traction, as well as higher air speed, acceleration and friction. His smash attacks also gain damage-based armor that can withstand up to 20% damage, making them incredibly risky to challenge save a few exceptions. However, this form dissipates when he is KO'ed, which means that compared to other comeback mechanics, more careful attack planning is usually necessary to take stocks easily. Still, thanks to the knockback increase his moves receive, even attacks that hit at their mediumspot can be quite deadly under the right percentages.
Sephiroth's grounded moves have some fairly crucial tools and, in the case of his sword attacks, all of them are a prime example of range. Neutral attack, although having the shortest range of his grounded moves, is Sephiroth's fastest move while having decent melee range, making it one of his few reliable tools to give himself some breathing space. Down tilt is slower, but has excellent range as it propels Sephiroth forward and significantly lowers his hurtbox, giving him a way to punish more ranged attacks. Dash attack, while being his slowest melee attack and being fairly punishable, covers a lot of ground and has excellent power, making it a usable burst option. Forward tilt has incredibly long range, comparable to Simon's own, making it a superb spacing option and a usable KO move at high percentages when fresh, especially in Winged Form. All of Sephiroth's smash attacks also boast varying degrees of utility. Forward smash is a very long-ranged punishment and spacing option with excellent KO potential at the middle of the blade and still respectable one at the tip. Up smash is a wide swing much like Ganondorf's own up smash, being slower and weaker but with more range overall, and allowing him to cover a wider area than an entire platform of Town and City, making it his best anti-air. Down smash only hits in front of him, but is faster than his forward smash and has the unique property of becoming even stronger if Sephiroth hits the ground, dealing immense shield damage when spaced well; thus, while being somewhat outclassed by forward smash as a KO move, it has better shield breaking capabilities.
Sephiroth's aerial game also offers a similar repertoire of long-ranged options. His neutral aerial, in a similar manner to neutral attack, has the shortest range, but is his fastest option in the air, covers his entire body, and its low lag all-around allows it to be used very flexibly, such as a "get off me" tool, out of shield, or for starting or continuing combos. His forward and back aerials serve similar purposes as spacing options in the air. Forward aerial comes out faster and is most useful when the opponent is farthest from Sephiroth, and it has a unique property where it can be used to pierce solid walls and jump up off of them up to three times in a row before landing (a pseudo-wall jump that is very similar to what Byleth can do with their up special). Back aerial, on the other hand, is Sephiroth's strongest aerial, making it incredibly deadly in Winged Form, even if used from a short hop. Down aerial is a powerful stall-then-fall that can meteor smash at the start, which combined with its massive reach allows it to reliably 2-frame punish opponents. Finally, his up aerial covers a wide arc above Sephiroth, though its overall poor frame data means it should be used sparingly.
While swordfighter characters are usually notable for having poor grab games, Sephiroth's own grab game can be surprisingly effective. He holds the distinction of having three combo throws, all of which have their uses. Down throw is Sephiroth's most consistent combo throw until mid-percentages, leading into all of his aerial moves except down aerial, and it becomes even more effective in Winged Form in spite of rage, as Sephiroth's mobility can allow him to catch up to the opponent faster. Up throw, at low percentages, can set the opponent up for a neutral aerial or up tilt, the former of which can lead to longer combos and the latter of which can lead to juggling. While both throws can lose their combo potential quickly after mid-percentages, especially with rage factoring in, back throw sends at a favorable angle while having low endlag, making it notable for leading into followups until high percentages, and it has an infamous KO confirm into Sephiroth's back aerial, which becomes especially dangerous when he's in Winged Form. In stark contrast to his other throws, forward throw is another useful throw. Its low angle can give Sephiroth some breathing space and it can be used to set up an edgeguard or tech chase situations which could potentially get an early kill.
Finally, Sephiroth has a strong set of special moves. His side special, Shadow Flare, is arguably his best special, being unique among chargeable projectiles in that, while the initial projectile deals little damage and cause flinching, it generates larger, darkness projectiles that do not immediately attack the opponent, but instead orbit around them and deal damage by homing in. Depending on how long it is charged, one to three projectiles can be generated by a single Shadow Flare, and up to five projectiles can be orbiting a single opponent at a time. Its range is also comparable to his sword attacks on top of having low lag all around, making it easily spammable and useful for spacing. His neutral special, Flare, is a more traditional projectile that can be charged between three different projectiles of different properties: Flare is the quickest and travels slow but has the best range; Megaflare is stronger overall and has a larger blast radius, at the cost of some range; and Gigaflare has the least range and the most charge time, but has the largest blast radius and deals the most damage (enough to instantly break a shield while in Winged Form) and the strongest knockback, making it an effective way of pressuring at the edge for an edgeguard, or as a way to extend the damage the opponent takes as punishment from a shield break. His up special, Blade Dash, is a dashing blade attack whose functionality depends on if the button was tapped or held - when tapped, Blade Dash is a single-hitting move that sweetspots edges easily. However, when held, it instead becomes Octaslash, which travels slightly further, has huge range and hits multiple times dealing higher damage and knockback, although it loses its ability to sweetspot edges. Octaslash's large range particularly makes it a high-risk, high-reward combat option that can break the opponent's zone. Lastly, his down special, Scintilla, is unique among counterattacks in that it will always produce a hitbox regardless of whether or not any attacks were countered, while its multi-hitting nature allows it to pressure shields, and is one of the strongest counters in the game with a 1.5x damage multiplier; however, it only covers in front of Sephiroth and has a cap of 25%, though breaking the cap will not damage Sephiroth and only cause him to stagger, which can make for an alternative to his shield if it's badly damaged.
Thanks to his several ranged attacks, Sephiroth can play at a long range very effectively. By using said range to his advantage, he can gradually deter an opponent an opponent from approaching, and his attacks' various range and sweetspots also mean the opponent has to take care of how they approach Sephiroth. His extremely low short hop also helps him in the neutral game, as it allows Sephiroth to mix up whichever attack he will use, allowing his other attacks to be kept fresh until he's in a prime position to use them. Said tools combined with his grounded mobility can sometimes even help him counterzone opponents with good zoning games, such as Toon Link, Villager, or Simon. Should the opponent be put into the defensive, Sephiroth's range can also allow him to gradually poke at the opponent's defense from afar, until they're eventually put at a disadvantageous position from which he can easily convert into large amounts of damage thanks to his highly damaging moves and his simple, yet effective combo game. Thanks to Shadow Flare, the opponent can also eventually be put into said disadvantage more easily at best, or simply force them to avoid the damage and thus reset the neutral game at worst. His Winged Form helps significantly on both regards, as his increased mobility allows Sephiroth to reposition himself more easily while also increasing the damage he can deal and, unlike other fighter abilities like Limit Gauge or Rebellion Gauge, it will not disappear until Sephiroth is KO'd, which can potentially lead to him turning the tables on the opponent should they try to play around him carelessly.
However, for as many strengths as he has, Sephiroth also possesses a notable amount of weaknesses. Perhaps the most notable of them is his frailty: similarly to Mewtwo, Sephiroth's tall frame results in him being prone to get hit by most attacks. However, Sephiroth is also very light while being a fast-faller, which combined with his weight collectively results in Sephiroth being easy to combo and KO compared to many other characters of his size and/or weight. Adding to this is Sephiroth's recovery - his polarized air physics result in Sephiroth covering a mediocre distance midair, meaning that careless use of his resources can lead Sephiroth to be easily edgeguarded or gimped, in spite of both of his recovery options having their perks. Blade Dash is his quickest recovery option, but it doesn't cover as much distance and doesn't fully protect Sephiroth other than from the front, which can leave him vulnerable to sufficiently disjointed moves. On the other hand, Octaslash offers excellent protection that can deter opponents from edgeguarding Sephiroth because of its range and power resulting in him easy edgeguard breaks, but has the slowest startup, leaving Sephiroth vulnerable to being put at a worse position in the air. Semi-spikes can also be especially deadly for Sephiroth, as his air physics doesn't give him too much airtime.
Furthermore, Sephiroth's overall frame data is unimpressive, with him possessing very few moves that start before frame 10. Even his fastest aerial attack, neutral aerial, has sluggish startup for an attack of its kind. Despite Sephiroth's Masamune having among the highest and most effective range of any weapon in Ultimate, attacks involving his sword are also equally sluggish in both startup and endlag - this is especially present in his smash attacks, up tilt, back aerial, and up aerial. This means that opponents can easily punish Sephiroth if certain moves are spammed or used carelessly. On top of this, Sephiroth's sword moves at the base of the Masamune all deal poor damage, knockback, and pushback, meaning that if badly spaced, Sephiroth's moves can be easily punished at close range. Outside of neutral aerial, his melee-based moves also tend to have high endlag, meaning Sephiroth doesn't have much in the way of mixing up his pressure at close range. Adding to this is Sephiroth's grab game which, while not bad, is polarized; his grab is short-ranged, and while he has a decent pummel and three combo throws, all of them deal low damage (in particular, his up throw deals the most damage of his throws, but only a mere 7% damage) and are unsuited for KOs due to low knockback or bad throw angles, or both. All these issues result in a poor close-quarters game, which when combined with his frailty, collectively culminates in Sephiroth being vulnerable to rushdown-based pressure if the opponent is able to keep up with his defense, such as Captain Falcon or Pikachu.
Another prominent issue on Sephiroth's moveset is his inconsistent KO ability. Due to his move's sourspots, Sephiroth must always be at a distance from the opponent in order to KO them. His attack's different sweetspot mechanics can also work against him, due to how varied their locations are; his stab attacks possess narrow range and require the opponent to be at their longest range in order to be effective, which can result in them missing. On the other hand, his slash attacks don't require perfect spacing at long range to be effective, but their sweetspots are harder to land as a result of being located between the weaker sourspots and mediumspots. Outside of his sword moves, Sephiroth also doesn't have many reliable ways to KO an opponent: dash attack's slow startup can render it easily predicted; of his Flare variants, only Megaflare and Gigaflare possess KO potential, which means they have to be charged (Gigaflare, particularly, takes two full seconds to charge); Octaslash's KO potential is mainly limited to his Winged Form; and as mentioned above, none of his throws have KO potential. As a result, Sephiroth must be careful when it comes to being able to secure KOs despite having a strong damage racking capability.
Although his moveset remains solid overall, some of Sephiroth's moves have either high risk or notable flaws. Up tilt has extreme range above him (it can hit opponents above the topmost Battlefield platform) and renders Sephiroth's upper body intangible, allowing it to contest moves that would otherwise be risky, but its range is incredibly narrow and the sourspots have otherwise poor KO potential. Up aerial, on top of being Sephiroth's slowest aerial by a wide margin, sends at an unreliable angle for KOing as it's vulnerable to LSI, is notoriously difficult to properly sweetspot, and cannot autocancel other than from a double jump, making it a lackluster juggling tool if the opponent knows how to deal with it, despite being difficult to avoid. Down aerial, due to being a stall-then-fall, is risky to use offstage, so careful positioning must be had to edgeguard opponents with it onstage to avoid self-destructing. As for his special moves, Flare and Megaflare's generally slow startup and speed makes them easy to shield, absorb, or reflect. Shadow Flare, while having low lag all around, must be used wisely as well, especially if used by a character with a reflector, as it can result in Sephiroth being struck for high damage himself and allow the opponent to capitalize on it. While Octaslash covers a great distance on its own and is risky to edgeguard, characters with counterattacks can easily use this to their advantage, which can leave Sephiroth at an even worse spot for recovering. Finally, despite its animation suggesting otherwise, Scintilla cannot reflect projectiles whatsoever (although it can stop them with no effort); it also doesn't directly protect Sephiroth (especially from behind) and its damaging hitbox is treated as a projectile, making it a double-edged weapon if reflected.
Last but not least, Sephiroth's Winged Form suffers from its own limitations. Activating it does patch up numerous flaws in his moveset, as it alleviates his poor air physics, his third jump potentially improves his recovery mixups and his juggling options, and due to his higher damage output affecting his moves' knockback, it also makes his sword attacks much more dangerous, as even his mediumspotted attacks boast some degree of KO potential. However, it only activates whenever Sephiroth takes damage, and this also depends on how many stocks Sephiroth has compared to the opponent; while it can activate as low as 30% if Sephiroth is two stocks behind the opponent, it can also activate as late as 110% if Sephiroth is two stocks ahead. Thus, Winged Form suffers from consistency issues similarly to Lucario's aura in that Sephiroth will have to play very carefully if he's to keep his advantage, which is easier said than done due to his high frailty, and while the damage-based armor on his smash attacks can definitely help, reckless usage of his smash attacks can render him predictable. Additionally, Sephiroth cannot regain Winged Form until he gets KO'd, meaning that if Sephiroth isn't able to capitalize on its benefits properly, it can become harder for him later on to even the situation up when at a stock deficit, as it forces him to contest with his moveset's flaws. This also means that Sephiroth should actively avoid gaining Winged Form when at a two stock deficit, as he will otherwise have no reliable way of turning the game to his complete favor.
In the end, Sephiroth is arguably the most unique swordfighter in Ultimate, as his hybrid playstyle combines aspects of glass cannon and turtling, resulting in a high learning curve. His great damage output, immense range, varied sweetspots and effective projectiles grant him a respectably solid ranged melee playstyle, as it can become difficult for the opponent to approach Sephiroth should he consistently make the right choices, and it's equally difficult to surmount him should he break through the opponent's zone or defense. However, his relative lack of reliable KO power, polarized grab game and poor close-quarters game can leave a much-to-be-desired offensive playstyle, and he's just as susceptible to pressure as much as he can dish it out himself. The benefits offered from his Winged Form can seriously help him on this regard, as it can help him greatly recover from a deficit should he be able to survive long enough, but his frailty means he also must play carefully in order to retain this advantage. How good Sephiroth is remains to be seen due to the closure of most tournaments worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though general early opinions on Sephiroth have been mostly positive, as most people claim his pros outweigh his cons, and he's commonly considered to rest on a favorable spot. Additionally, smashers such as Mew2King, Tweek, and MKLeo have shown the desire to main the character, and Zackray and Rizeasu have used him at offline Japanese tournaments to great success.
Sephiroth has been slightly buffed via in game updates. Aside from changing the vulnerability when crumpling to be the same length as all other fighters and fixing a glitch where performing Shadow Flare on Pokemon Trainer would cause certain visual effects to not function properly, the hitboxes of Scintilla have been increased so it is harder for opponents to fall out.
For a gallery of Sephiroth's hitboxes, see here.
Note: All numbers are listed as base damage, without the 1v1 multiplier.
All of Sephiroth's victory screens take place in a fiery area instead of the standard area where most of the victory screens take place, a direct reference to the Nibelheim Incident from Final Fantasy VII and Crisis Core. Instead of having a colored background behind him when his name appears, the screen will be tinted red. If Sephiroth is the leader of a winning team, he will use his special victory screens without any of his teammates being seen, similar to Joker.
If Cloud is present during the match, he has a chance of saying 思い出にはならないさ ("I will never be a memory.") in any of his three victory poses, a reference to his final line of dialogue from Advent Children and, by proxy, his reveal trailer for Ultimate.
In competitive play
In the online meta, Sephiroth has seen early success, with Sharp placing in the top 8 of Get Clipped 6 and HABBY Birthday 2020. In an offline format, both Rizeasu and Zackray have done well at some Japanese tournaments with the character, with Zackray winning Kurobra 24 and Rizeasu getting top 8 at Sumabato SP 16. Both MkLeo and Tweek believe the character to be top tier, although others like Marss believe his frailty, poor disadvantage and generally slow frame data could prevent him from being a top tier character.
Classic Mode: The Chosen Ones
Uniquely, Sephiroth's route has him facing off against all bosses in the game (aside from Galeem and Dharkon) in a Boss Rush, referencing his status as a final boss in Final Fantasy VII. The title of his route references his leitmotif from the original game, "Those Chosen by the Planet".
Role in World of Light
Due to his status as downloadable content, Sephiroth does not have a legitimate role in World of Light. Instead, he is unlocked for use in the mode after freeing 10 fighters from Galeem's control. If loading an existing save file that meets this condition before downloading Sephiroth, he is immediately unlocked.
Interestingly, Sephiroth’s trailer takes place during World of Light, where he makes his presence known by slicing Galeem in half and fighting the heroes himself. Additionally, other DLC characters that have no role in World of Light are present fighting Galeem before Sephiroth makes his entrance, including Erdrick, Banjo and Kazooie.
Sephiroth's fighter spirit can be obtained by completing Classic Mode. It is also available periodically for purchase in the shop for 300 coins. Unlocking Sephiroth in World of Light allows the player to preview the first spirit below in the Spirit List under the name "???". As a fighter spirit, it cannot be used in Spirit Battles and is purely aesthetic. Each fighter spirit has an alternate version that replaces them with their artwork in Ultimate.
In Spirit Battles
Sephiroth is not currently featured in any Spirit Battles.
Sephiroth's base design for Ultimate is based on his redesign from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children with some design elements taken from his in-game model from the original Final Fantasy VII such as the brown-colored straps on his shoulder guards, while his Coatless design is from the final cinematic boss fight in the original Final Fantasy VII. The design of his sword the Masamune is based on the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children variant with the blue leather wraps with a golden hilt, and a golden handle guard with loops on two of the four sides.