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 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 typical of a lightweight: while he is tied with Kirby, Pikachu, Mewtwo, and Olimar as the 7th-lightest fighter in the game, he boasts an above-average run speed (narrowly outrunning his fellow Square Enix rep, Hero) and the 11th-fastest falling speed. However, unlike his fellow lightweights, he notably sports among the longest range in Ultimate thanks to his signature weapon, Masamune, along with equally strong KO power. Altogether, these traits grant Sephiroth a strong ranged melee playstyle.
One of Sephiroth's most important traits is his "high-risk, high-reward" Winged Form, which can only be activated when Sephiroth has taken enough damage (which in turn depends on how many stocks he has compared to his opponent(s)). When active, his wing unfurls and grants him a third jump, a 1.3× damage multiplier, and higher overall mobility, and his smash attacks gain damage-based armor that can withstand up to 20% damage. However, this form dissipates when he is KO'ed, which means that compared to other "high-risk, high-reward" attributes, such as Lucario's Aura, Little Mac's Power Meter, or Joker's Rebellion Gauge, more careful attack planning is usually necessary to take stocks easily.
Unlike other swordfighters, Sephiroth's sweetspots 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), while his slash attacks (forward tilt, forward smash, up smash, back aerial, and up aerial) have sweetspots along the upper center of its blade (similar to Roy's inverse tipper mechanic, but with better range overall). This mechanic gives Sephiroth plenty of ranged options if opponents are reasonably within range of him. Another key trait of Masamune is that all of Sephiroth's smash attacks have some varying degrees of utility: forward smash is a very long-ranged punishment and spacing option, up smash is a wide swing much like Ganondorf's own up smash (slower and weaker, but with more range overall), and down smash only hits in front of him, but deals immense shield damage that can break shields in one hit if spaced correctly.
While Sephiroth's ground game is useful due to his range, smash attacks, and power, his aerial game also offers some interesting options. His neutral aerial is a short-ranged finger snap that has fast startup and can be used flexibly. His forward and back aerials are good spacing options in the air, with the former coming out faster while the latter is stronger overall. However, of note is that his forward aerial can also 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), which, alongside his recovery options gives him a strong vertical recovery. His up aerial, despite its overall poor frame data, covers a very wide arc around him, and his down aerial is a powerful stall-then-fall meteor smash if landed in the first few frames with its massive reach allowing it to reliably 2-frame opponents.
Lastly, Sephiroth has a strong set of special moves. His neutral special can be charged between three different projectiles of different properties: Flare can be used the most flexibly, Megaflare charges from Flare rather fast, 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 strongest knockback. His side special, Shadow Flare, is unique among projectiles in that, while the initial projectile does deal a small amount of damage and cause flinching, its main effect is to generate larger, spherical shadowy projectiles that do not immediately attack the opponent, but instead orbit around them and deal damage by homing in; one to three projectiles can be generated by a single Shadow Flare, depending on how much the attack is charged, and up to five projectiles can be orbiting a single opponent at a time. His up special is a dashing blade attack that depends on if the button was tapped or held: if tapped, it becomes Blade Dash, a single-hitting move that sweetspots edges easily. If held, it instead becomes Octaslash, which deals higher damage and knockback while traveling further, although it loses its ability to sweetspot edges. Lastly, 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 easily pressure shields, and is one of the strongest counters in the game with a 1.5x damage multiplier.
However, for as many strengths Sephiroth has, he has an equal number of weaknesses. Despite Sephiroth's Masamune having among the highest and most effective range of any weapon in Ultimate, attacks involving them are equally sluggish in both startup and end lag, namely for his smash attacks. This also applies to his forward and up tilts as well as his non-neutral aerial attacks, which means that opponents can easily punish Sephiroth if certain moves are spammed or used carelessly. His below average frame data also applies to all variants of his neutral special, as even a standard Flare comes out relatively late for a projectile, while it takes over two seconds (120 frames) to fully charge the move, meaning that Gigaflare is only best used after a shield break or to edgeguard.
Another issue that Sephiroth has is the issues of properly using his special moves. Flare and Shadow Flare can easily be predicted as attacks, while their generally slow startup makes them easy to shield, absorb, or reflect. Blade Dash/Octaslash covers only an average distance on its own, and can potentially leave Sephiroth wide open or even KO himself if the attack misses or is not angled properly. Scintilla will break if the countered attack deals 25% or more damage (though this does not cause damage to Sephiroth, it does briefly stagger Sephiroth and prevent the counterattack), while it cannot reflect projectiles whatsoever (although it can stop them with no effort). Scintilla is also flawed in that it does not protect Sephiroth from behind, making timing of the move crucial if opponents are ready to close in on him. Finally, Scintilla's damaging hitbox is treated as a projectile, making it a double-edged weapon if reflected.
Sephiroth is surprisingly fragile as well. With an identical weight to Mewtwo and a similarly tall hitbox, Sephiroth can easily be both juggled and KOed. This is exacerbated when considering his relative lack of reliable up-close options. His poor endurance also weakens his Winged Form, as he will more often than not be one hit away from being KOed when he finally gets the boost.
Sephiroth's grab game is also lackluster. Despite having a fast, effective pummel and three combo throws (up, back, and down), his grab is among the lowest-ranged in the game, while his throws deal very low damage (in particular, his up throw deals the most damage of his throws, but only a mere 7% damage) and are unsuited for KO's due to low knockback or bad throw angles, or both. Altogether, when combined with his possession of two tipper mechanics, his close-range game is very poor compared to most other swordfighters.
Finally, perhaps Sephiroth's worst flaw is his inconsistent KO ability. He is only able to score KO's reliably when in his Winged Form, while being outside of his Winged Form makes it difficult for him to KO foes reliably due to his stab attacks having narrow range and his slash attacks having hard-to-land sweetspots. As a result, Sephiroth must be careful when it comes to being able to secure KO's despite having a strong damage racking capability.
In the end, Sephiroth is arguably the most unique swordfighter in Ultimate due to his strong range, two tipper mechanics, effective projectiles, and the benefits offered from his Winged Form. However, his relative lack of reliable KO power and poor grab game leaves a much-to-be-desired offensive playstyle. How good Sephiroth is remains to be seen due to most USA players being online due to COVID-19. However Mew2King, Tweek, and MKLeo have shown desire to main the character, with Zackray and Rizeasu using him at offline Japanese tournaments.
For a gallery of Sephiroth's hitboxes, see here.
Note: All numbers are listed as base damage, without the 1v1 multiplier.
Sephiroth possesses a unique fighter ability where he unfurls his single black wing (which takes on a purple glow) and enters his Winged Form while announcing 身の程を知れ ("Know your place.") or 目障りだ ("Annoying." or "Pathetic."). Once Sephiroth's Winged Form is active, he gains a variety of benefits, including a third jump, damage-based armor on all his smash attacks that resists up to 20%, and a wide variety of stat buffs detailed in the table below. Sephiroth loses the form after being KO'd or through a system of points; typically, Sephiroth will lose his wing upon KOing an opponent, though this varies based on this point system. This is inspired by Reunion, his EX Mode from Dissidia Final Fantasy.
As stated by Masahiro Sakurai, Winged Form activates when Sephiroth is "in danger"; specifically, Sephiroth's danger status is determined not only by his current damage percentage, but also the overall state of the match; If he has a stock or score advantage, his Winged Form will activate at later percents, and if he has a stock or score disadvantage, his Winged Form will activate at earlier percents.
Winged Form Stat Buffs
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. 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, he 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 believe his frailty and poor disadvantage 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.