|Final Fantasy character|
|First appearance||Final Fantasy VII (1997)|
|Created by||Yoshinori Kitase, Kazushige Nojima, Tetsuya Nomura, Hironobu Sakaguchi|
Cloud Strife (Japanese: ?, Hepburn: Kuraudo Sutoraifu) is a fictional character and the main protagonist of Square's (now Square Enix's) 1997 role-playing video game Final Fantasy VII and several of its sequels and spin-offs. In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud is a mercenary claiming to be formerly of SOLDIER, a group of elite supersoldiers employed by the Shinra Electric Power Company, a megacorporation responsible for draining the life from the planet. Fighting against Shinra in the resistance group AVALANCHE, and driven by a feud with the primary antagonist, Sephiroth, Cloud learns to accept his troubled past and adapts to his role as a leader. Cloud reappears as the protagonist in the 2005 computer-animated sequel film, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, in which he fights a new threat to the world while dealing with a sickness that infected his body. He acts in a supporting role in other Compilation of Final Fantasy VII titles and is featured in several other games outside the Final Fantasy VII continuity. Additionally, he has been featured in Kingdom Hearts series by Square Enix and in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series.
Cloud was designed by Tetsuya Nomura, a character artist for the Final Fantasy series, whose role expanded during the title's development to include supervision over Cloud's personality. Yoshinori Kitase, director of VII, and Kazushige Nojima, one of the game's events planners, developed the story and wanted to create a mysterious character who acted atypically for a hero. After VII, Nomura assumed greater responsibility for Cloud's development, and his design was revised to better conform with the series' shift to a more realistic style.
Cloud has garnered a primarily positive reception from critics. Described as "iconic", Cloud has been cited favorably as an example of complex character writing in video games and as one of its first unreliable narrators. He has ranked highly in various character lists compiled by video game publications, and remains popular among fans, continuing to place highly in popularity polls conducted by Famitsu, Guinness, and other organizations. His characterization and design have also served as a trope for other characters, most notably Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. He has also become the basis for a variety of merchandise, such as action figures and jewelry.
Cloud's character was made to contrast the cast of the previous game, Final Fantasy VI, which had no main character. As result Yoshinori Kitase commented Cloud was designed to be the game's protagonist during early development of the game. Conceptualized as one of only three playable characters in early planning stages for the game, Cloud was one of the first two characters designed for Final Fantasy VII by Tetsuya Nomura. Nomura worked to strike an orthodox balance of varied designs for the game. Because he only started receiving character profiles prior to composing their appearances during later game productions, Nomura thought of the characters' stories first before tackling their designs. Nomura's first draft of Cloud featured slicked-back, black hair. The depiction served both as a contrast to the long silver hair of the game's chief antagonist, Sephiroth, and to minimize the model's polygon count. However, to make Cloud stand out more and emphasize his role as the game's lead protagonist, Nomura altered Cloud's design to give him spiky, bright blond hair. and in particular influenced the look of their swords. Early renditions of Cloud's weapon, the Buster Sword (?, Basut? S?do), depicted a smaller blade. Its size grew over the course of several revisions, and Nomura called it "the Giant Kitchen Knife", envisioning it as unrefined steel. Nomura stated the Buster Sword was originally going to look like a Western sword while body was more built. The sword at one point featured a small chain connected to the pommel, while magnets would secure the blade to Cloud's back. Finally, Cloud's appearance is marked by spiky blond hair, striking blue eyes and dark clothing. He stands 173 cm (5 ft 8 in) tall. His massive sword previously belonged to his friend, Zack Fair. More deeply involved with Cloud's creation than with other characters' from previous Final Fantasy projects, Nomura also provided supervision over Cloud's personality traits.
Yoshinori Kitase and Kazushige Nojima developed Cloud's backstory and his relationship to Sephiroth. The idea for Cloud's false persona arose after Nojima saw event planner Motomu Toriyama's standing animation depicting "Cloud showing off", which impressed him and inspired the basis for the scenario. Nojima created the character of Zack so as to expand upon the mysteries in Cloud's backstory. Kitase remained unaware of the addition's significance until playtesting, as Nojima left the unfolding of events concerning Cloud's identity unwritten. In emphasizing Cloud's individuality, the staff made repeated use of elements that they believed made the character interesting, such as Cloud's phrase "not interested" and Toriyama's standing animation. Kitase felt Cloud's character was fresh in reviewing Nojima's scenario, observing that he possessed an atypical personality for a hero by being neither single-minded nor righteous. The love triangle between Cloud, Tifa and Aerith was also viewed as a novel for the series, and Nojima likened Cloud's relationship to Tifa as one of the childhood friends since nursery school, whereas Aerith was akin to a transfer student arriving mid-term.
In early drafts, Cloud would act as an alter ego for Sephiroth, influenced to believe he was a creation of Sephiroth's will. As in the finished game, Cloud would later realize that he is the real Cloud and that the reason Sephiroth could control his mind and body was because of his weakened will and Shinra's experiments. Additionally, Cloud would have scarred Tifa prior to the game's events, although the reasons for as to why were unknown. Early materials listed Cloud's job as magic swordsman (?, mah? kenshi) and berserker (, b?s?k?).Masato Kato, one of the event planners, proposed a scene involving Cloud walking out of the Highwind's Chocobo stable followed by Tifa the morning before the final battle. Kitase rejected it as too extreme, but maintained a scene written by Kato depicting the night before, in which a risqué line is spoken by Tifa followed by a fade to black. In an interview, Nojima stated that none of the staff thought it would become an important issue at the time.
Nojima has explained that the relationship between the player and the main character in a Final Fantasy title is a dynamic he has always been concerned about. With VII, Cloud's subdued nature led him to write scenes with the character in such a way that the players would be placed in the position of deciding for themselves what the character was thinking. Cloud's foggy memories served both to help players "become" the character, and to introduce them to a world which other inhabitants would otherwise share common knowledge of. Nomura believes that the reason Cloud has become so popular with audiences is due to the impact his personality made in Nojima's scenario.
In retrospective, the Square Enix staff commented that Cloud is a "dorky" person in contrast to being a serious character. As a result, the former will be more focused on in the remake of Final Fantasy VII. His design was briefly altered but Square Enix stated it will be close to the original design Nomura created for him. In an early event from Final Fantasy VII, Cloud crossdresses in order to find Tifa. Nomura noted fans found this event was popular within the fans and reassured the remake will keep this part. On the other hand, the character designer stated that their final design was not decided yet. Kazushige Nojima is working into making Cloud's interactions with Tifa and Barret natural. Despite fear of the possible end result, Nojima also wants the players to connect with the character once again.
Nomura redesigned Cloud for his appearance in Kingdom Hearts. He is depicted with a claw and a crimson cape, and the blade of his sword is wrapped in bandages. Stating that Cloud's left arm was inspired by Vincent Valentine, Nomura explained that he wanted to give the character a more demon-like appearance due to his ties to the dark side in the game. Nomura stated that he wanted to leave the question of whether Cloud was searching for Aerith open to the player's interpretation. Teruaki Sugawara, the game's voice director, recommended Takahiro Sakurai, Cloud's Japanese voice actor, to Nomura for the role. Nomura had originally asked Sakurai to play the protagonist of video game The Bouncer, Sion Barzahd, but found that his voice best suited Cloud after hearing him speak. Sakurai received the script without any accompanying visuals, and first arrived for recording under the impression that he would be voicing a different character than the one featured in Final Fantasy VII.
For Advent Children, Nomura agreed to direct the project largely because of his attachment to the character of Cloud. Although Nomura stated that Cloud was a more positive character in Final Fantasy VII than in Advent Children, he did not believe that such an "'upbeat' image of him is what stuck in the minds of the fans", and the script was written to explain why Cloud returned to a state of mind "consistent with the fans' view of him." Nomura describes Cloud's life as peaceful but, hurt by the losses he experienced during the original game, one which he grew scared of losing. Blaming himself for things outside of his control, Cloud, Nomura elaborated, needed to overcome himself. In contrast to other heroes, who, in Nomura's view, typically possess character defects amounting only to quirks, Nomura believed Cloud's weakness to be humanizing. Nojima viewed the theme of the story as one of forgiveness, which he believed required hardship. Cloud, by taking up his sword and fighting, struggles to achieve it. Nojima sought to establish Cloud's withdrawn personality by depicting him with a cell phone, but never answering any calls. He originally intended for Aerith's name to be the last of those displayed while the backlog of ignored messages appears as Cloud's cell phone sinks into the water, but Nojima altered the scene because it "sounded too creepy". The wolf which Cloud imagines "represents the deepest part of Cloud's psyche" and "appears in response to some burden that Cloud is carrying deep in his heart", vanishing at the film's end. Nomura cites one of the film's final scenes, in which Cloud smiles, as his favorite, highlighting the lack of dialogue and Cloud's embarrassment. The scene influenced composer Nobuo Uematsu's score, who grew excited after coming across it in his review of the script, commenting on the difficulty players who had finished Final Fantasy VII would have had imagining Cloud's smile.
Nomura sought to make Cloud's design "distinctly different from the other characters." About thirty different designs were made for Cloud's face, and his hair was altered both to give it a more realistic look and to illustrate that two years had passed since the game's conclusion. The staff attempted rendering Cloud based on the game's original illustrations, but concluded that doing so left his eyes unrealistically big, which "looked gross." Further revisions were made to Cloud's face after completion of the pilot film, which featured a more realistic style. In contrast to his hair, Cloud's clothes were difficult to make in the film. Deciding to give Cloud a simple costume consistent with the concept of "clothes designed for action", the staff began with the idea of a black robe, eventually parring it down to a "long apron" shifted to one side. Cloud's weaponry was based on the joking observation that because his sword in the original game was already enormously tall, in the sequel, he should use sheer numbers. Referred to as "The Fusion Swords" (, Gattai Ken) during the film's development, early storyboard concepts included Cloud carrying six swords on his back, although the idea was later modified to six interlocking swords. While the idea wasn't "logically thought out" and the staff didn't think that they could "make it work physically", it was believed to provide "an interesting accent to the story." Cloud's new motorcycle, Fenrir (), was designed by Takayuki Takeya, who was asked by the staff to design an upgraded version of Cloud's "Hardy-Daytona" motorcycle from Final Fantasy VII. As development continued, the bike got bigger, with Takeya feeling its heaviness provided an impact that worked well within the film.
Themes expanded in the director's cut Advent Children Complete include Cloud's development with links to other Final Fantasy VII related media where he appeared. In order to further focus on Cloud's growth, Square decided to give him more scenes when he interacts with children. Additionally, the fight between Cloud and Sephiroth was expanded by several minutes, and includes a scene in which Sephiroth impales Cloud on his sword and holds him in the air, mirroring the scene in the game where he performs the same action. The decision to feature Cloud suffering from blood loss in the fight was made in order to make the character's pain feel realistic.
In the making of the fighting game Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Nomura stated that Cloud's appearance was sightly slimmer than in Final Fantasy VII due to the amount of detail that the 3D could the PlayStation Portable game could give him. While also retaining his original design and his Advent Children appearance, Cloud was given a more distinct look based on his Final Fantasy VII persona.
For Advent Children, Nomura wanted to contrast Cloud and Vincent's voices given their similar personalities. As a sequel to the highly popular Final Fantasy VII, Sakurai felt greater pressure performing the role than he did when he voiced Cloud for Kingdom Hearts. Sakurai received comments from colleagues revealing their love of the game, some of them jokingly threatening that they would not forgive Sakurai if he did not meet their expectations. During recording, Sakurai was told that "[n]o matter what kind of odds are stacked against him, Cloud won't be shaken." Sakurai says that while he recorded most of his work individually, he performed alongside Ayumi Ito, who voiced Tifa, for a few scenes. These recordings left him feeling "deflated", as the "exchanges he has with Tifa can be pretty painful", Sakurai commenting that Cloud--whom he empathized with as his voice actor--has a hard time dealing with straight talk. Sakurai says that there were scenes that took over a year to complete, with very precise directions being given requiring multiple takes.
According to Sakurai, Cloud's silence conveys more about the character than when he speaks. While possessing heroic characteristics, Sakurai describes Cloud's outlook as negative, and says that he is delicate in some respects. A fan of VII, Sakurai had believed Cloud to be a colder character based on his original impression of him, but later came to view him as more sentimental. After the final product was released, Sakurai was anxious to hear the fans' response, whether positive or negative, and says that most of the feedback he received praised him. While recording Crisis Core, Sakurai felt that Cloud, though still introverted, acted more like a normal teenager, and modified his approach accordingly. Cloud's scream over Zack's death left a major impression on Sakurai, who says that he worked hard to convey the emotional tone of the ending. Sakurai has come to regard Cloud as an important role, commenting that Cloud reminds him of his own past, and that, as a Final Fantasy VII fan himself, he is happy to contribute.
In English adaptations, Cloud is voiced by Steve Burton. Burton was first hired to voice Cloud once a man behind Square saw his work in the 2001 movie The Last Castle. Burton's work as Cloud in Advent Children served as his first feature length role, an experience he enjoyed. Calling the character a rare opportunity for him as an actor, Burton describes Cloud as having a "heaviness about him". Burton says he is surprised when fans recognize him for his work as Cloud, whom he has referred to as "[one of the] coolest characters there is," and he too considers himself lucky for having voiced him. Although in the original Final Fantasy VII Cloud was a silent character, Burton confirmed he will be voicing him for the remake of the game.
In June 2019, it was announced Burton would be replaced by Cody Christian in the remake, with the first voice actor wishing thanking Square for his work and wishing luck to his replacement. Christian appreciated the role, finding the character iconic due to his personality and thus looked forward to give his best performance. Christian commented on him being Burton's replacement stating "Steve, you paved the way. You made this character what it is and have contributed in shaping a legacy" and thus the actor wanted him not let him down with his take on the character.
Cloud is introduced as a mercenary employed by AVALANCHE, an eco-terrorist group opposed to the Shinra Company. Beginning the game with the placeholder name "Ex-SOLDIER" (, Moto Soruj?), Cloud assists AVALANCHE's leader, Barret Wallace, in bombing a Mako reactor, power plants which drain the planet's "Lifestream". Cloud claims to be formerly of SOLDIER 1st Class, an elite Shinra fighting unit. Despite appearing detached, Cloud demonstrates moments of camaraderie, Players can choose to interact in a friendlier manner with AVALANCHE's members. When approached by his childhood friend and AVALANCHE member, Tifa Lockhart, Cloud agrees to continue helping AVALANCHE. Cloud encounters Aerith Gainsborough, a resident of Midgar's slums. Agreeing to serve as her bodyguard in exchange for a date, Cloud helps Aerith evade Shinra, who pursue her because she is the sole survivor of a race known as the Cetra. During the course of their travels, a love triangle develops between Cloud, Tifa and Aerith.
Following the player's departure from Midgar, Cloud narrates his history with Sephiroth, a legendary member of SOLDIER and the game's primary antagonist, and the events that led to Sephiroth's disappearance five years prior. Joining SOLDIER to emulate Sephiroth, Cloud explains that he would sign up for a "big mission" whenever they became available, as the conclusion of Shinra's war with the people of Wutai ended his chances for military fame. Sephiroth started questioning his humanity after accompanying him on a job to Cloud's hometown of Nibelheim. Discovering documents concerning Jenova, an extraterrestrial lifeform and Sephiroth's "mother".
However, numerous visual and audio clues suggest the unreliability of Cloud's memory. Cloud will spontaneously remember words or scenes from his past, sometimes collapsing to the ground while cradling his head, and appears not to remember things that he should remember, such as the existence of a SOLDIER First Class named Zack. As Sephiroth starts manipulating his mind, he takes advantage of it by telling him that his past is merely a fiction and that Shinra created Cloud in an attempt to clone Sephiroth. Cloud learns he cannot remember things like how or when he joined SOLDIER. Cloud, resigning himself as a "failed experiment", goes missing. The party later discovers a comatose Cloud suffering from Mako poisoning. It is revealed that Cloud never qualified for SOLDIER, and instead enlisted as an infantryman in Shinra's army. During the mission to Nibelheim, Cloud served under Sephiroth and Zack, hiding his identity from the townspeople out of embarrassment. Following Sephiroth's defeat of Zack at the Mt. Nibel Mako reactor, Cloud managed to ambush him and throw him into the Lifestream, and believed him dead. Both he and Zack are then imprisoned by Shinra's lead scientist, Hojo, for experimentation. Zack later escapes with Cloud, bringing him to the outskirts of Midgar before Shinra soldiers gun Zack down. Due to exposure to Mako radiation and the injection of Jenova's cells,, Cloud's mind creates a false personality largely based on Zack's, inadvertently erasing the latter from his memory. After piecing back together his identity, Cloud resumes his role as leader. At the game's conclusion, Sephiroth reappears in Cloud's mind a final time, but he is defeated in a one-on-one fight.
Cloud appears in a minor role in the cellphone game Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, a prequel set six years before Final Fantasy VII. The player, a member of the Shinra covert operatives group, the Turks, encounters Cloud during his time as a Shinra infantryman working to join SOLDIER. The game portrays Cloud's natural talent for swordsmanship, and recounts his role during Nibelheim's destruction.
In the computer-animated film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, set two years following the conclusion of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud lives with Tifa in the city of Edge, along with Marlene, Barret's adopted daughter, and Denzel, an orphan afflicted with a rampant and deadly disease called Geostigma. Having given up his life as a mercenary, Cloud works as a courier for the "Strife Delivery Service" that Tifa set up in her new bar. Confronted by Tifa following the disappearance of Denzel and Marlene, it is revealed that he also suffers from the effects of Geostigma, and he responds that he is unfit to protect his friends and new family. However, when urged by Tifa to let go of the past, Cloud sets out for the Forgotten City in search of the children. There, Cloud confronts Kadaj, Loz and Yazoo, genetic remnants of Sephiroth left behind before he diffused into the Lifestream completely. Cloud's battle with Kadaj later takes them back to Aerith's church, where Cloud recovers from his Geostigma with Aerith's help. Kadaj, merging with the remains of Jenova, resurrects Sephiroth. Cloud, having overcome his doubts, defeats Sephiroth once more, leaving a dying Kadaj in his place. At the film's conclusion, Cloud, seeing Aerith and Zack, assures the two that he will be fine and reunites with his friends.
Cloud appears in On the Way to a Smile, a series of short stories set between Final Fantasy VII and Advent Children. "Case of Tifa" serves as an epilogue to VII, and portrays Cloud's life alongside Tifa, Marlene, and Denzel. "Case of Denzel" relates how Cloud first met Denzel, and was later adapted as a short original video animation for the release of Advent Children Complete, On the Way to a Smile - Episode: Denzel.
Cloud acts in a supporting role in the PlayStation 2 game Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. A year after the events of Advent Children, Cloud, working alongside Barret and Tifa, lends his support to the ground forces of the World Regenesis Organization and his ally Vincent Valentine in their siege of Midgar and counterattack against the rogue Shinra military unit, Deepground.
In the PlayStation Portable game Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Cloud is presented as a young Shinra infantryman who befriends Zack. During the game's conclusion, a dying Zack gives Cloud his Buster Sword, telling him that he is his legacy. The game ends with Cloud heading to Midgar, reprising the start of Final Fantasy VII.
The OVA Last Order: Final Fantasy VII serves as an alternate retelling of Nibelheim's destruction and Zack and Cloud's escape from Shinra imprisonment. Animated and produced by Madhouse, based on a script by Kazuhiko Inukai, several scenes diverge from Final Fantasy VII's depiction of events, such as reinterpreting Cloud's rescue of Tifa by having her view his face. Although it is associated with and makes references to the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, Last Order is considered an outside work.
Cloud's character has also appeared in various games outside of the Final Fantasy VII continuity. He is a playable character in the PlayStation version of Ehrgeiz. In Chocobo Racing, Cloud is a hidden character that rides a motorcycle. Cloud is one of several playable Final Fantasy VII characters in Itadaki Street Special for the PlayStation 2 and Itadaki Street Portable for the PlayStation Portable. LittleBigPlanet 2 features Cloud as a downloadable character model. Cloud is a playable character representing Final Fantasy VII in the rhythm game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. Players in Final Fantasy Explorers can briefly transform into Cloud, enabling use of his Omnislash Limit Break from Final Fantasy VII. Cloud is the protagonist of Final Fantasy VII G-Bike, a mobile game for which Nomura designed a new costume for him.
Cloud appears as a playable guest character in the 2014 Nintendo crossover fighting games Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, sporting his character designs from both Final Fantasy VII and Advent Children. According to the games' director Masahiro Sakurai, Final Fantasy characters were heavily requested to appear in the Super Smash Bros. series, with Cloud receiving the most support out of all of them. Reflecting on his inclusion in an interview with Tetsuya Nomura, while other characters from the Final Fantasy series were considered Sakurai ultimately felt that none of them could match Cloud's popularity and he could not imagine including a character that wasn't him. His model was primarily based on his appearance in the Dissidia series, with slight alterations under Nomura's supervision. He was revealed in the November 2015 Nintendo Direct broadcast and was made available as in-game downloadable content alongside a stage based on Midgar, and a Mii Fighter hat based on a Chocobo on December 15, 2015. He returns as a playable character in the 2018 sequel, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and is now playable in the initial release.
Cloud was a candidate guest character for Soulcalibur II but he was replaced by Heihachi Mishima from Tekken, which similarly to Soulcalibur is a Namco fighting game franchise that even shares Yoshimitsu as a regular character for both series.
In the PlayStation game Final Fantasy Tactics and its PlayStation Portable update, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, Cloud is accidentally pulled into the world of Ivalice by an ancient machine called "the Celestial Globe", which was activated by Ramza Beoulve. Cloud is disoriented after arriving in Ramza's world, and after a short exchange with Ramza and the others, he leaves. He wanders into Zarghidas Trade City, where he encounters a flower girl named Aerith. As Cloud is leaving the area, Aerith is accosted by a man demanding payment. Cloud returns to help Aerith escape, and Ramza and his party catch up to him. After the battle, he joins Ramza's party as a playable character. Cloud also appears as an enemy unit in the "Brave Story" series of battles as part of Rendezvous, the unlockable cooperative multiplayer mode in The War of the Lions.
In Kingdom Hearts, Cloud appears in the Olympus Coliseum world. Hired by Hades to kill Hercules, Cloud must fight Sora as a prerequisite. After the fight, Hades sends Cerberus to attack Cloud and Sora, who is then saved by Hercules. Cloud meets with Sora afterward and explains that he is searching for someone. In Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix there is an additional scene where he battles Sephiroth. During the credit roll at the end of the game, Cloud is shown reuniting residents of Hollow Bastion. A memory-based version of Cloud appears in the Game Boy Advance sequel Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories as a boss in the Olympus Coliseum and later as a summon card for Sora. Cloud features again in Kingdom Hearts II, depicted in his Advent Children attire. He is searching for Sephiroth, and is himself being sought out by Tifa. Cloud fights alongside Leon's team during the Heartless invasion of Hollow Bastion. Should the player choose to engage Sephiroth and win the battle, Cloud returns and fights Sephiroth, which ends with both of them disappearing in a flash of light after Tifa gives Cloud her support. Sora concludes that Cloud is still fighting with Sephiroth, and will not stop until he is defeated. A digital replica of Cloud also appears in Kingdom Hearts coded in the Olympus Coliseum, helping Sora and Hercules to battle Hades.
Cloud serves as the representative Final Fantasy VII hero in Dissidia Final Fantasy, a fighting game featuring characters from the Final Fantasy series. He is depicted in his Final Fantasy VII outfit, while his Advent Children appearance is also available. His fight against Sephiroth in this game is based on their battles from Final Fantasy VII and Advent Children. Along with the entire cast, Cloud reappears in the prequel Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy as a Warrior of Chaos. Concerned for Tifa, who is on the opposing side, Cloud tries to defeat Chaos alone; after nearly being killed, he is saved by the goddess Cosmos, and becomes one of her warriors. Cloud's main outfit is based on Yoshitaka Amano's original artwork concept, while his Kingdom Hearts outfit is offered as downloadable content. Cloud again appears as a playable character opposite Sephiroth in the series' third entry, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, wearing his Advent Children outfit.
Cloud has been merchandised extensively, in many different forms, including figurines and jewelry. In commemoration of the franchise's 20th anniversary, Square released figurines of him alongside other Final Fantasy protagonists. Square Enix's manager of merchandise, Kanji Tashiro, said at the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con International that Cloud's likeness has produced some of the company's best-selling items, and that fans could look forward to further adaptations of the character in the future. Popular models at the time included Cloud's Advent Children figurine and Final Fantasy VII Hardy-Daytona bike set, both of which sold particularly well in European and North American markets. Square has also released two promotional books primarily focusing on Cloud's character: Cloud vol.1, which was released in 2007, and Cloud message, in 2008. In 2013, a replica of the Buster Sword was created by blacksmith Tony Swatton for the webseries Man at Arms.
Cloud has been mostly well received by critics. In his review of the 1998 PC release of Final Fantasy VII, Ron Dulin of GameSpot commented that "a simple understatement will have to suffice: Cloud is easily the most interesting and complex character ever presented in a game." RPGamer's Abadi Aujang called Cloud "one of the most complex characters Square has created", as well as "the first truly complicated main character". Unicorn Lynx of MobyGames described him as "one of the most complex characters ever seen in a game", citing the struggle Cloud faces in assuming responsibility as a leader while confronting "his own deep psychological problems" and "the truth about his very existence". Kurt Kalata of Gamasutra stated that he is "neither hero nor anti-hero", but rather "somewhat of a weakling" suffering from grandiose delusions and other psychological issues. He also called Cloud one of the first unreliable narrators in a role-playing video game. According to Patrick Holleman, "no RPG has ever deliberately betrayed the connection between protagonist and player like FFVII does." The game's use of the unreliable narrator literary concept has drawn comparisons to films such as Fight Club (1999), The Sixth Sense (1999), American Psycho (2000), and Memento (2000), with Patrick Holleman and Jeremy Parish arguing that the game takes the unreliable narrator concept a step further, by its interactivity establishing a connection between the player and the protagonist.
Chi Kong Lui, writing for GameCritics, stated that while Final Fantasy VII features "some of the most complex characters ever created, by video game standards", their personalities are "paper-thin". He criticized Cloud's "childish motivations", stating that Final Fantasy VII could not "match the depth of screenplay in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane or the complexities of characters exhibited in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver". GamesRadar included his cross-dressing scene in its list of "[g]aming's most piss poor disguises", commenting that "it makes Cloud look so damn feminine, the escort-loving baddie chooses him over ... Aeries [sic] and Tifa". Cloud and Aerith's relationship ranked third in GamesRadar's 2008 list of top Square Enix couples, who called it "a classic love story", while IGN ranked it ninth in their 2006 list of best video game couples overall. Cloud and Aerith have been cited as a well-known star-crossed love story.
PSXextreme praised Cloud's redesign in Kingdom Hearts as one of the best in the game, describing it is a "hybrid" of his and Vincent Valentine's designs. According to AnimeFringe, Cloud's appearance in Kingdom Hearts was one of the things that excited Final Fantasy VII fans the most. His development in Advent Children was praised by DVD Talk as one of the best parts from the film. James Mielke of 1UP.com commented that Cloud's guilt over Aerith's death was effective enough to move viewers, but regarded such scenes as "manipulative". Michael Beckett, writing for RPGamer, referred to Cloud overcoming Aerith's death as central to the film, and called his fight sequences "the most creative and impressive scenes".Newtype USA also praised Cloud's role in Advent Children due to his heroic traits despite being a reluctant hero. Mielke also described the characters as "beautiful; perfect almost", commenting that Cloud possessed "unbreakably perfect hair". Briana Lawerence of Mania Entertainment, however, listed Cloud second in her article "10 Male Headaches of Anime", criticizing his feeling of guilt about Aerith's death.Joystiq's Andrew Yoon opined that the director's cut version of the film provides more depth to Cloud's development, taking advantage of its longer runtime by better "humanizing [him]". A 2010 GamesRadar article showcasing classic game character redesigns contrasted Cloud's appearances in Advent Children and Final Fantasy VII, stating that the move away from low polygon models necessitated the change, and commenting that Square Enix alters the design with each title he features in. In another article, GamesRadar stated that while Cloud felt like a "miserable" character in the film, his coming on terms with his past was appealing alongside his new swords stored in his bike. Yoshinori Kitase stated that the fight between Cloud and Sephiroth was popular enough to make Japanese gamers do a remake of it for the crossover Dissidia Final Fantasy and expected Western fans also emulate it.
When deciding on using a Final Fantasy representative for Nintendo's Smash fighting game, Nomura and developer Masahiro Sakurai the two quickly agreed with adding Cloud to the cast. This was mostly because of Cloud's high popularity within the series in contrast to other Final Fantasy characters like Bartz or Terra Branford despite having debuted in Nintendo games. Another reason behind Cloud's addition to Smash was due to multiple requests from fans of the character. Cloud's large Buster Sword served as one of the cores when developing Cloud's abilities in the Smash.
During anticipation for the remake of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud's role in the trailers were the focus of multiple journalists. IGN highly praised the design and marketing involving his visual appearance. TechSpot noted fans were interested in Cloud's love interests but warned them that Square Enix would not make changes to the original game. The writer claimed that Cloud's relationship with Aerith was subtle in retrospective but noted looked forward to his interactions with Tifa and the handling of the love triangle. CBR also looked forward to this trio as the early trailers hinted that the event in which Cloud crossdressed to find Tifa seemed to also be covered in the remake. Cody Christian's voice acting earned positive response for his take on the character by WccfTech.
Tasked with creating a "female version of Cloud" for Final Fantasy XIII, Nomura designed Lightning with Cloud's success in mind, stating that he "desired for her to be ... loved for a long time, like Cloud." After Lightning was voted as the most popular female character in the series by Japanese fans, Mollie Patterson of EGMNOW commented: "Some have also brought up that Lightning is kind of the female equivalent to Cloud, which might be why she gets so much love."
IGN stated that Cloud set a trend for role-playing video game heroes, describing his "spiky blond hair" and "gigantic Buster Sword" as "instantly identifiable icons, recognized by gamers around the world".Edge described Cloud as an example of "excellent design and characterization".Famitsu in 2010 published a seven-page tribute to Cloud, showcasing his many appearances throughout the years. In 2014, IGN held a poll for fans to vote for the most favorite Final Fantasy character of all time, as well as individually in each title. Over 2 million votes were cast in. Cloud ranked number one of all the characters. He also took the same place in the Final Fantasy VII title alone as well.
Cloud has appeared in various other lists. These include IGN's "Worst Videogame Haircuts" (2006) and "Top Videogame Sword Masters" (2008), and ScrewAttack's "Top Ten Coolest Characters" (2007).1UP.com featured Cloud in their list of top Final Fantasy character types, citing him as an example of "The Sullen Asshole" alongside Squall Leonhart from Final Fantasy VIII and Cecil from Final Fantasy IV. GameDaily ranked him fifth on their list of top "gaming hunks", praising his design and weapon. GamesRadar included his name among the 50 "most gloriously stupid" in video game history, and featured him in its "RPG Emo-Off", listing Cloud as the second "most emo character of all JRPGs" behind Genesis Rhapsodos from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. GamesRadar also listed Cloud's Buster Sword as one "the most ludicrously impractical RPG weapons". In 2013, Complex ranked Cloud as the eighth greatest soldier in video games.
In 2005, Electronic Gaming Monthly placed Cloud seventh in their list of top video game characters. He was named best character of all time in Dengeki PlayStations 2007 "Den-Play Awards".IGN in 2008 ranked him third in both their lists of top Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy series characters. GameSpot published a video titled "Greatest Game Hero: Cloud Strife" for his inclusion in their 2009 "All Time Greatest Game Hero" poll, showcasing scenes of Cloud as he appears in Advent Children.UGO Networks placed him first in their 2010 list of top Japanese RPG characters, stating "Cloud is the cloth from whom the great majority of JRPG characters were cut." That same year, GamesRadar listed Cloud as the second best Final Fantasy hero of all the time, describing him as "one of the most well-rounded and thought-out characters in the series." He was also ranked as the second best Final Fantasy character in a 2010 list by VideoGamer.com, who called him a "poster boy for the entire JRPG genre". In 2011, Empire ranked Cloud as the 13th greatest video game character, stating: "He is, and always will be, the definitive FF poster child - an enduring axiom of character desgn [sic]." GameZone ranked Cloud second in their 2012 list of top Final Fantasy characters, attributing the success of Final Fantasy VII largely to his character. In 2013, Complex named him the greatest Final Fantasy character of all time, citing his "killer backstory, iconic weaponry, and a great game to the boot."
In an Oricon poll conducted in 2008, Cloud placed second overall for most popular video game character, ranking second among men and third with women. In a 2010 ASCII Media Works poll asking fans which video game or manga character they would like to name their children after, Cloud's name ranked third for male characters. That same year, Famitsu readers voted Cloud as the third best video game character of all time. In one of IGN's 2007 "Hero Showdowns", Cloud was pitted against Link and lost. The character placed similarly in contests by GameFAQs, winning the "Character Battle II" (2003) and finishing second in the "Character Battle III" (2004) and the "Battle Royale" (2006). In the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition of 2011, Cloud was voted as the fifth best video game character.
Cloud: I don't care what your names are. Once this job's over... I'm outta here.
Cloud: Wedge!! You all right!? / Wedge: .......Cloud...... You remembered..... my name. Barret's up top. ...help him....... An' Cloud.... Sorry, I wasn't any help. / Cloud: I'm going up! Aeris, you look after Wedge.
Biggs: What!? you tellin' me you're too good to drink with me? Don't act big-headed jus' because you were in SOLDIER! / Yeah, why not?/ Biggs: Oh!! That's more like it! Even if you were with SOLDIER, you're still a rookie here.
Cloud: But I'm different from all of them. I'm not just going to find a job. I want to join SOLDIER. I'm going to be the best there is, just like Sephiroth. / ... / Tifa: Hey, why don't we make a promise? Umm, if you get really famous and I'm ever in a bind... You came save me, all right? / Cloud: What? / Tifa: Whenever I'm in trouble, my hero will come and rescue me. I want to at least experience that once. / Cloud: What? / Tifa: Come on--! Promise me----! / Cloud: All right... I promise.
Cloud: I'm not a hero and I'm not famous. I can't keep... the promise.
Cloud: This is my pay? Don't make me laugh. \ Tifa: What? Then you'll...!! / Cloud: You got the next mission lined up? I'll do it for 3000. / Tifa: Thanks, Cloud.
Aerith: Then, get me out of here. Take me home. / Cloud: OK, I'll do it... but it'll cost you. / Aerith: Well then, let's see...... How about if I go out with you once? / [Cloud makes an affirmative nod.]
Aeris: I knew that Cloud would come for me. / Cloud: Hey, I'm your bodyguard, right? / Aeris: The deal was for one date, right? / Tifa: ............oh, I get it. / Aeris: ...!? Tifa! Tifa, you're there too! / Tifa: EXCUSE me.
Cloud: I joined SOLDIER so I could be like you. But by the time I made First Class, the war was already over. My big hopes of becoming a hero like you ended with the war. That's why I always sign up whenever there's a big mission. Kind of a way to prove myself.
Cloud: Traitor? / Sephiroth: You ignorant traitor. I'll tell you. This was an itinerant race. They would migrate in, settle the Planet, then move on... At the end of their harsh, hard journey, they would find the Promised Land and supreme happiness. But, those who stopped their migrations built shelters and elected to lead an easier life. They took that which the Cetra and the planet had made without giving back one whit in return! Those are your ancestors. / Cloud: Sephiroth... / Sephiroth: Long ago, disaster struck this planet. Your ancestors escaped... They survived because they hid. The Planet was saved by sacrificing the Cetra. After that, your ancestors continued to increase. Now all that's left of the Cetra is in these reports. / Cloud: What does that have to do with you? / Sephiroth: Don't you get it? An Ancient named Jenova was found in the geological stratum of 2000 years ago. The Jenova Project. The Jenova Project wanted to produce people with the powers of the Ancients......no, the Cetra! ...I am the one that was produced.
It was a great place for you two to see each other again. / Cloud: ...You're right. / Why couldn't you see each other alone? / Cloud: ...I don't know. I can't remember clearly... / Why don't you try asking Tifa?"
Tifa: Zack...... / Cloud: Do you know him? / Tifa: N, no, I don't know him! / Cloud: Your face tells me differently. / Tifa: I told you, I don't!
Cloud: ......I'm afraid to find out the truth...? But...... why?.
Sephiroth: Five years ago you were... ...constructed by Hojo, piece by piece, right after Nibelheim was burnt. A puppet made up of vibrant Jenova cells, her knowledge, and the power of Mako. An incomplete Sephiroth-clone. Not even given a number. ...That is your reality.
"Cloud: Professor Hojo... I don't have a number. You didn't give me one because I was a failed experiment.
Cloud: You see, someone in SOLDIER isn't simply exposed to Mako energy. Their bodies are actually injected with Jenova cells...... For better or for worse, only the strong can enter SOLDIER. It has nothing to do with the Jenova Reunion. But weak people...... like me, get lost in the whole thing. The combination of Jenova cells, Sephiroth's strong will, and my own weaknesses are what created me. Everyone knew that. I'm...... Cloud. ......the master of my own illusionary world. But I can't remain trapped in an illusion any more...... I'm going to live my life without pretending.
Marlene: "Sadness was the price to see it end." It's been two years since they told me that.
Reno: You're our buddy, aren't ya? / Rufus: Kadaj and his group are young and violent - as dangerous as they come. That's why we decided that it might be in our best to hire a little muscle. / Cloud: Too bad. I'm a delivery boy now.
Tifa: You have Geostigma, don't you? You're going to give up and die, is that it? So it is. / Cloud: There's no cure. / Tifa: Yeah, but, that's not stopping Denzel, is it? Don't run! Let's fight it together! We can help each other, I know we can. I guess ... that only works for real families. / Cloud: Tifa ... I'm not fit to help anyone - not my family, not my friends. Nobody.
Tifa: Dilly dally, shilly-shally! / Reno: I think she wants you to move on, man.
Kadaj: The stigma. But you know all about that, sir. Mother's memetic legacy lives on in the Lifestream and makes it happen. She does so much for us and we ... we don't even know where to find her. But what can we do? We're just remnants, really remnants of Mother's legacy. Until we find Mother and receive her cells, we can't be whole again! Geostigma and the Legacy aren't enough ... for a true reunion. / Rufus: What do you mean? / Kadaj: But, sir! Surely you've noticed ...
Aerith: Kadaj? / Kadaj: Huh? / Aerith: You don't have to hang on any longer. / Kadaj: Mother is that ... / Aerith: Everyone's waiting if you're ready.
WRO Member: The WRO was originally established three years ago after Meteorfall.
Vincent: Yeah. And what about you? / Cloud: What do you think? / Tifa: Right! You can count on us! / Barret: When I'm through, there won't be a single sucka standing! / Vincent: Right. / Cloud: And as for you... / Vincent: Don't worry. Leave Deepground to me.
Zack: Good news, Tseng! Me and... / Cloud: Cloud / Zack: Me and Cloud here are both backwater experts. Oh yeah!
Zack: Continue living. You are proof that I existed. My dreams and pride, I give it all to you. / Cloud: I am proof that you existed.
Cloud: My name is Cloud. SOLDIER 1st Class.
Summoned young man: What happened? Last thing I remember was getting caught in the current. / Besrodio: Hum, I've read about this before. It could be some forwarding device. / Mustadio: Forwarding device? / Besrodio: You know, to travel to other worlds, different space. / Ramza: So, he came from other space? / Besrodio: Maybe. Look at his clothes, Quite unusual. / Summoned young man: My....name's Cloud. yes...Cloud. / Ramza: I'm Ramza. They're my friends.... / Cloud: I don't care about names. What I need is a battlefield. Yeah... that's it... I'm a member of SOLDIER. / ... / Cloud: I must go...must go to that place...
Flower Girl: Buy a flower? Only 1 gil. Cloud: ...... Flower Girl: Something wrong? Do I resemble someone? / Cloud: No...it's nothing.
Town Knave: I've been looking for you, Aeris... Selling flowers for your mom? Good for you... / Flower Girl: Then more days.... No, just wait a week, please. / Knave: Don't mess with me! It's overdue! I'm gonna get my 30000 gil, one way or another!
Knave: Hmm, pretty good looking! Oughta try sellin' your body instead of flowers. Hee, hee. / Cloud: Get your hand off her! / Knave: What did you say!? / Cloud: Didn't you hear me? Get your dirty hand off her! / Knave: Who the hell are you? Dressed in funny clothes! / Cloud: Go [Aeris]...now...
Cloud: I've lost... a very important thing.../ Ramza: Cloud... ? /Cloud: Ever since, I've been floundering. Who am I? What should I do? What's this pain.../ Ramza: Cloud... there's someone in your world waiting for you, isn't there? We might be able to send you back where you came from using the rest of the holy stones./ Cloud: Let's go, Ramza. I can't be here. I must go... to the Promised Land...
Hades: That little punk is your next opponent, okay? Now, don't blow it. Just take him out. / Cloud: The great god of the Underworld is afraid of a kid? Sorry, but my contract says-- / Hades: I know! You think I don't know? I wrote the contract! I know it says you're only required to kill Hercules in this tournament. But you've gotta fight that kid to get to him. Come on. Hey, it's like that old goat says: Rule 11: It's all just a game, so let loose and have fun with it! I mean, a casualty or two along the way is no big deal, right?
Cloud: I'm looking for someone. Hades promised to help. I tried to exploit the power of darkness, but it backfired. I fell into darkness, and couldn't find the light.
Cloud: I'm not here for the Cup. Just Hercules. Today he loses more than the competition. / Sora: You don't mean... But why?! What did he do to you? / Cloud: This is business. Stay out of it.
Sora: Oh, Cloud! / Donald Duck: Whatcha doing? / Cloud: I'll get him. This time, we settle it. Me, and the one who embodies all the darkness in me. / Donald: I thought you looked kinda different, Cloud. / Cloud: If I do, it's his fault. / Sora: Whose? / Cloud: Sephiroth. Tell me if you see him. / Sora: Okay. What's he look like? / Cloud: Silver hair. Carries a long sword. / Sora: Sure. Well, be seeing you, Cloud. / Cloud: Be careful. He messes with your head, makes you think darkness is the only way.
Tifa: Hey, you! / Tifa: I'm looking for somebody. Have any of you seen a guy with spiky hair?
Goofy: Where'd they go? Do ya think they made it back to their own world? / Sora: They went somewhere else... Cloud went to fight a great battle--to defeat the darkness inside him.