Cloud Strife

Cloud Strife
Final Fantasy character
Cloud Strife.png
Cloud Strife artwork by Tetsuya Nomura for Final Fantasy VII
First appearanceFinal Fantasy VII (1997)
Created byYoshinori Kitase, Kazushige Nojima, Tetsuya Nomura, Hironobu Sakaguchi
Voiced by

Cloud Strife (Japanese: クラウド・ストライフ, 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 Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series, and the Kingdom Hearts series by Square Enix.

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.

Concept and creation

There wasn't really much controversy or criticism about having him as the hero from within Square, but he is definitely a mysterious character. That's one of the game's main themes, the fact that the protagonist has all these secrets to unravel. He isn't a straightforward hero like Superman; rather, he has many mysteries, self-doubts, and a real dark side. Mr. Nomura was also very good at designing a character like that.

—Yoshinori Kitase, Electronic Gaming Monthly, October 2005[4]

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.[5] Conceptualized as one of only three playable characters in early planning stages for the game,[4] Cloud was one of the first two characters designed for Final Fantasy VII by Tetsuya Nomura.[6] 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.[6] 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,[7] and to minimize the model's polygon count.[8] 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.[9] and in particular influenced the look of their swords.[8] Early renditions of Cloud's weapon, the Buster Sword (バスターソード, Basutā Sōdo), depicted a smaller blade.[10] Its size grew over the course of several revisions, and Nomura called it "the Giant Kitchen Knife", envisioning it as unrefined steel.[11] Nomura stated the Buster Sword was originally going to look like a Western sword while body was more built.[12] The sword at one point featured a small chain connected to the pommel, while magnets would secure the blade to Cloud's back.[13] 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.[14] More deeply involved with Cloud's creation than with other characters' from previous Final Fantasy projects,[4] Nomura also provided supervision over Cloud's personality traits.[15]

Yoshinori Kitase and Kazushige Nojima developed Cloud's backstory and his relationship to Sephiroth.[16] 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.[6] 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.[17] 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.[6]

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.[18] Additionally, Cloud would have scarred Tifa prior to the game's events, although the reasons for as to why were unknown.[13] Early materials listed Cloud's job as magic swordsman (魔法剣士, mahō kenshi) and berserker (バーサーカー, bāsākā).[13] 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.[6]

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.[19] 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.[20] Nomura believes that the reason Cloud has become so popular with audiences is due to the impact his personality made in Nojima's scenario.[10]

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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

Further development

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.[24] Nomura stated that he wanted to leave the question of whether Cloud was searching for Aerith open to the player's interpretation.[24] Teruaki Sugawara, the game's voice director, recommended Takahiro Sakurai, Cloud's Japanese voice actor, to Nomura for the role.[3] 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.[3] 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.[25]

For Advent Children, Nomura agreed to direct the project largely because of his attachment to the character of Cloud.[15] 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."[26] 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.[27] Blaming himself for things outside of his control, Cloud, Nomura elaborated, needed to overcome himself.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30] 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".[31] 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",[32] 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.[33] 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.[33]

Nomura sought to make Cloud's design "distinctly different from the other characters."[11] 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.[34] 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."[35] Further revisions were made to Cloud's face after completion of the pilot film, which featured a more realistic style.[36] In contrast to his hair, Cloud's clothes were difficult to make in the film.[37] 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.[34] 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.[38] Referred to as "The Fusion Swords" (合体剣, Gattai Ken) during the film's development,[39] early storyboard concepts included Cloud carrying six swords on his back,[38] 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."[40] Cloud's new motorcycle, Fenrir (フェンリル), 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.[41]

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.[42] 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.[43]

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.[44]

Voice actors

Takahiro Sakurai has voiced Cloud ever since Kingdom Hearts in 2002

For Advent Children, Nomura wanted to contrast Cloud and Vincent's voices given their similar personalities.[45] 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.[25] During recording, Sakurai was told that "[n]o matter what kind of odds are stacked against him, Cloud won't be shaken."[46] 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.[47] Sakurai says that there were scenes that took over a year to complete, with very precise directions being given requiring multiple takes.[48]

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.[25] 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.[3] 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.[25] 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.[25] 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.[25]

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.[49] Burton's work as Cloud in Advent Children served as his first feature length role, an experience he enjoyed.[50] Calling the character a rare opportunity for him as an actor, Burton describes Cloud as having a "heaviness about him".[51] 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.[50] 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.[52]

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.[53] Christian appreciated the role, finding the character iconic due to his personality and thus looked forward to give his best performance.[54] 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.[55]

Other Languages
العربية: كلاود سترايف
español: Cloud Strife
français: Cloud Strife
Bahasa Indonesia: Cloud Strife
italiano: Cloud Strife
Nederlands: Cloud Strife
polski: Cloud Strife
português: Cloud Strife
русский: Клауд Страйф
svenska: Cloud Strife