The characters that make it into Super Smash Bros. are a major part of the franchise’s appeal. That being said, the criteria for new Smash characters used to seem tight-knit, with very few exceptions being characters from companies that Nintendo was close with. As time went on, more and more iconic characters would be added that made people stop and think, “okay, the sky’s the limit now.” For many, that was Smash 4’s revealing of Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII.
While many were happy to see Cloud initially, he was very busted in Smash 4 (to the point that using two of him was banned in Doubles). The development team toned him down in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but he remained a major threat in the right hands. Here’s what he’s capable of and how you can gain the upper hand against him.
You can’t talk about Cloud without mentioning his Buster Sword, which brings us to his first strength: range and pressure. Most of his moves that use his sword, especially his aerials, have largely disjointed hitboxes. His BAir is a notable example, being one of his best pressuring tools and even something he can combo with at times. His Up-Air is a great juggling option due to the large hitbox, as well as how quick and lingering it is. He can even pressure from a distance with his Blade Beam, a projectile that travels ahead of him, albeit slowly. This elevates his potential over other sword characters, as most of them don’t have a projectile that can be used as often.
His other strength is his overall mobility — whether he’s on the ground or in the air, he can get around really well. This is thanks to his dashing speed being great, allowing him to cover ground really well. However, his mobility shines the most in the air, with high air speed to complement his good air acceleration and fast fall speed. This mobility compliments his ability to apply pressure with his excellent range really well.
Finally, there’s his Limit. Cloud has a meter that fills up as he takes damage, receives damage, or uses his Down-B to charge it. Once it’s full, Cloud will be in a Limit State that makes him move faster in the air and on the ground. It also provides a one-time buff to all of his specials, greatly increasing their kill potential.
Cloud’s biggest weakness is his recovery. While his aerial mobility is great for applying pressure, the gravity and falling speed make returning to the stage a bit difficult for him. His Up-B also isn’t great for recovering, with it being very linear with no horizontal movement. It’s also very easy to two-frame and punish at the ledge if Cloud ends up rising above it, leaving himself defenseless until he falls back down. His recovery can be very good with Limit, but obtaining it can be very circumstantial and leaves him even more defenseless if he needs to charge it.
Next is his poor grab game. Cloud’s grab range is very bad. On top of that, his throws aren’t very useful at all due to sending at inconvenient angles and lacking any killing power in them. On the topic of kill power, his overall moveset is lacking in it as well. This is partly due to his kill moves being hard to hit and his specials not being suited for the job. This means Cloud usually needs to rely on Limit to get kills, but that’s if he can land any of the specials for the 15 seconds it lasts.
Strategy & Counterplay
Cloud will usually try to play a mixed game of smothering you with pressure and staying away to charge his Limit. This makes things very difficult for his opponent, as they’ll have to switch between defense and offense on a whim. You should try to dictate the pace without giving him the chance to do so, which usually involves staying close and making sure he doesn’t feel safe enough to charge Limit.
If he does manage to get his Limit meter full, the best course of action is to get him offstage. He won’t want to waste it on recovering unless he really needs to, opting for an air dodge instead of Up-B. Make sure to keep this in mind as he’s trying to return to the stage, and punish accordingly. That being said though, getting him offstage is a good rule for fighting him in general since his recovery is pretty bad. If your character has a good two-frame option, that’ll be your safest bet since he can go for a suicide kill with his Up-B if he can risk losing the stock in order to win.
Cloud’s best matchups are those that he can outrange with his disjoints. This typically includes characters with a small normal range, like Mario, Ness, Kirby, Wario, and Lucario. He also does well against characters that either can’t deal with out-of-shield options very well or can easily be kept at a disadvantage. Characters that fit this include Fox, Sora, Ridley, Bowser, and Zelda.
Characters that he performs worst against are those that are hard to hit due to high mobility or being too small to be massively affected by his pressuring tools. Consider using characters like Inkling, Squirtle, Sonic, and Pichu. He also does badly against characters that can gimp him really well or have means of pressuring him from a distance. All the previously mentioned characters, except for Sonic, fit this description. Joker, Min Min, Palutena, and Wolf can achieve this as well.
NEXT: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: How To Counter Kazuya