Cloud Strife, main hero of Final Fantasy VII, is indisputably the most popular character in the entire Final Fantasy franchise and one of the most recognizable video game icons of all time. Compared to other famous characters, Cloud is unique in that he doesn’t fall into one of the two most common classifications of characters: the cartoonish non-human types such as Sonic the Hedgehog or Kirby, and the more realistic (and often Western-created) “dudebro” characters like Master Chief or Kratos. Despite being a human, Mario would technically fit into the former category.
Being a JRPG protagonist with an absurd hairstyle, Cloud would fit in better with the most popular anime heroes (in fact, Dragon Ball’s bevy of blonde-haired superheroes was reportedly a big inspiration for Cloud’s final design). Yet his spiky hair, massive sword, and stone-faced expression have also influenced an entire generation of RPG heroes with burned-down villages and short-term amnesia. Not to mention no less than two gorgeous heroines pining for his affection throughout the journey.
There is plenty to analyze with Cloud’s design, from his “still cool even past the 90s” gear and weapons to his “how is he even lifting that thing?” physical frame. This list takes a look at some of the most known and not-so-known factoids surrounding the Jack-Of-All-Trades former 1st class SOLDIER (but not really because, well… it’s a JRPG plot, it would take a whole lot of pages to explain). Who knows how many more lists like these will be published before the Final Fantasy VII Remake finally comes out?
25 He Could Have Looked Really Different
As synonymous as he is with Final Fantasy VII, Cloud wasn’t the original pick for main character. In fact, the game originally had a completely different setting that was closer to real life.
Originally, FFVII would have taken place in modern day New York, with the main character being a detective (literally called “Detective Joe”) who would solve mysteries within the city. This idea was later reworked into the cult PlayStation classic Parasite Eve, which shares many of FFVII’s staff.
24 The Meaning Behind His Belt Buckle
JRPG characters tend to have a history of wearing nonsensical or made-up accessories on their person. Cloud is no different, though his belt buckle does have an in-universe importance.
The logo represents SOLDIER, the elite unit created by Shinra.
The logo is present on all members of SOLDIER, including Sephiroth and Zack, although Sephiroth had an unrelated symbol for his belt that was later changed in subsequent appearances. As for why Cloud wears a SOLDIER uniform despite not actually being one, it was a spare uniform given to him by Zack during his amnesiac phase, leading him to believe he actually owned the garment.
23 His Thin Arms
Anyone who takes an initial look at Cloud’s design will no doubt notice the giant sword he’s effortlessly hefting over his shoulder. This is usually followed by questioning how such a skinny guy can wield such a huge slab of metal.
If the explanation “it’s called Final Fantasy” doesn’t suffice, it’s because the Mako infusion in Cloud’s blood gives him near-superhuman strength, allowing him to carry the Buster Sword without issue as well as perform other feats of exaggerated JRPG abilities.
22 The Buster Sword's Tragic Legacy
Speaking of Cloud’s iconic weapon, the Buster Sword carries a sad history behind it. Originally, it was forged by the father of Zack’s mentor Angeal, who perished from exhaustion scrounging up the funds for his son’s weapon. When Angeal also passed away, he passed the sword onto Zack.
Shortly after, Zack repeated history giving the sword to Cloud, after also dealing with fatal injuries. Cloud eventually returned the sword to his friend by leaving it as a permanent grave marker.
21 His Remake Redesign
When Square Enix showed off Cloud’s new look for the highly anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake, there was some fan criticism over how thin and sickly Cloud looked. The original intention was to showcase the effects of Jenova’s cells on Cloud’s body.
After some criticism, Cloud was given a revised look, but only shown to a select few people in a private showing.
Those who caught a glimpse remarked that he was now closer to his original appearance, including more defined muscles.
20 His Kingdom Hearts Look
This wasn’t the first time Cloud was given a drastic makeover. In the Disney meets Final Fantasy crossover epic Kingdom Hearts, Cloud made his crossover appearance with a brand new outfit that bears a striking similarity to Vincent’s, including a red cape and metal gauntlet.
The reason for this is that director Tetsuya Nomura couldn’t decide whether to put Vincent or Cloud in the game, so he chose the latter to wear the former’s outfit, noting the similarities to both characters’ story and personality.
19 His Personality Was Lost In Translation
Though Cloud is commonly known to be an aloof, super serious character, he wasn’t always such a sourpuss. Due to Final Fantasy VII’s infamously bad English translation, the nuances of Cloud’s character were lost in the translation.
It turns out that Cloud was more of a sarcastic punk than a withdrawn sad sack, often making semi-witty retorts and insults to anyone who rubbed him the wrong way. The depressed persona didn’t occur until the film Advent Children, where the events of the game led to him wallowing in misery.
18 He Developed A Problem
Many fans felt taken back by Cloud’s sudden mood swing in Advent Children. The short story novel Case of Tifa actually goes a long way to explain how Cloud reached that point, revealing that his guilt over failing to protect Aerith and Zack resulted in a downward spiral of misery.
In fact, there is a brief moment in the story where he resorts to consuming beverages, which results in an argument between him and Tifa, the latter trying desperately to snap him out of his funk.
17 He Originally Had Black Hair
After the Detective Joe idea fell through, the creators of Final Fantasy VII got to work on finalizing Cloud’s design.
Originally, Cloud was going to have spiky black hair, as the color was often synonymous with JRPG protagonists at the time.
Ultimately, it was decided that his look was too bland, though the design did pass over to Cloud’s best friend Zack, also inspiring the mistaken identity storyline where Cloud inherited much of Zack’s personality and memories due to his mental instability.
16 His Hair Was Based On A Chocobo
One would assume that Cloud’s iconic blonde hair came directly from another iconic blonde hero, Goku and his fellow Super Saiyans from Dragon Ball Z.
But the influence is much closer associated with the Final Fantasy franchise itself, as Cloud’s hair was inspired by the series mascot, the Chocobo. Tifa even remarks on the similarity within the game itself, when the group runs into a nest filled with Chocobo chicks. This also explains why Cloud has a natural affinity with Chocobos and can ride them like a pro during Chocobo Races.
15 His Original (Blocky) Model
The first PlayStation was a powerhouse console back in the day, but it still had its share of technical limitations. While Final Fantasy VII is often remembered for its groundbreaking FMV cinematics, there is also an ironic fondness for the low polygon character models.
Cloud’s Popeye-armed polygonal model is a retro favorite among fans. Even with the upcoming Remake, many are hoping Cloud’s janky model will be available as a silly alternate costume, much like how Super Mario and Metal Gear Solid have paid similar lip service.
14 His Permanent Scar
Considering the number of life-threatening battles he has faced, it’s a miracle Cloud has managed to remain mostly unscathed.
The key word is “mostly,” because eagle-eyed viewers of Advent Children would notice a small faded scar above Cloud’s eyebrow. This scar is actually carried over from the ending FMV of the original game, where a bruised Cloud stands victorious after his final one-on-one battle with Sephiroth. It’s a nice detail that was carried over to the film, which is filled to the brim with nods and Easter eggs throughout.
13 His Unique Model In The Final Battle
Speaking of Cloud’s final battle with Sephiroth (which was largely implied to take place in his mind, as the last lingering spirit of Sephiroth seemingly tried to take Cloud with him following his defeat by the party), another neat visual fact is that the in-game model for Cloud is actually different from the one normally used for battle.
The model for Cloud in the final fight actually has more polygons and detail, because the battle takes place on a plain black background. This was done so that the final battle would benefit from some extra visual flair.
12 His Unique Portrait In The Flashback
This wasn’t the only time in the game Cloud was given a unique visual representation. During the flashback sequence in Nibelheim which tells the tale of Sephiroth’s downfall, Cloud actually has a different illustration for his portrait in the in-game menu.
This portrait was a holdover from an earlier version of the game, where it was his default menu picture.
Having a different picture clues players in that Cloud’s narrative of past events may not be entirely accurate (his level and stats are also inconsistent).
11 His Japanese Voice Actor Favors Tifa
There is no longer-standing debate among FFVII fans than the question of who should be Cloud’s romantic partner, Tifa or Aerith (or Yuffie and Barret, for the weirdos who saw their respective dates in the Gold Saucer).
Proving himself to be a man of good taste, Cloud’s Japanese voice actor Takahiro Sakurai openly stated that he personally favors Tifa. In fact, Sakurai was able to fulfill many a fan’s dream and go out on a date with Tifa’s Japanese voice actress, Ayumi Ito.
10 His English Voice Actor Was A Soap Opera Star
As for the English side, Cloud’s English voice actor Steve Burton has been supplying the voice for the spiky protagonist in every single voiced appearance by the character, going as far back as the first Kingdom Hearts.
His other contribution was being a recurring actor in the hit soap opera General Hospital as well as The Young and the Restless. A minor but still amusing bit of trivia, considering the amount of amnesia-based drama that Cloud deals through on a regular basis.
9 He Deals With Three Different Things
It’s safe to say that Cloud popularized the trope of amnesiac main characters in JRPGs, but he also still holds the record for having the most messed-up memory loss anyone has ever seen.
In addition to having selective amnesia that has caused him to forget much of his past, the holes in his memory were filled in with false memories of Zack, the SOLDIER that he looked up to. To add to that, Sephiroth is also able to manipulate Cloud to do his bidding thanks to the Jenova cells in his blood. It’s no wonder that his friends remark what a handful he can be.
8 He Carries Sephiroth's Cells
The prequel game Crisis Core elaborates more on the alien cells that infested Cloud’s bloodstream. Normal members of SOLDIER are infused with Mako energy that enhances their strength, something that Cloud lacked initially since he was never actually part of the SOLDIER program.
Instead, he was injected with “S-Cells,” which are taken directly from Sephiroth’s DNA, which in itself was taken by the alien Jenova.
This puts Cloud uncomfortably close to Sephiroth on a genetic level, which is why the villain is able to manipulate his mind so easily even in the afterlife.
7 He Used To Get Carsick
If it wasn’t for the mutant monster blood permanently infecting his body, Cloud would otherwise lead a normal life, save for one amusing physical impairment.
When consoling the groggy Yuffie over her nausea when traveling on the Airship, Cloud revealed that he used to deal with car sickness during his younger days. He proceeds to tell Yuffie about the various techniques he employed to eventually get over his sickness, which Yuffie would later implement during the time between the original game and Advent Children (to moderate degrees of success).
6 He Was Unfit For SOLDIER
On the subject of Cloud’s physical fitness, one of the more painful revelations following the restoration of his memory is that he was never the strong, dependable 1st class SOLDIER that he thought he was.
Instead, Cloud was a meek young man who lacked the physical aptitude to be considered for SOLDIER. This failure was a chip on his shoulder, as his motivation for joining SOLDIER was so he could gain the strength he desired to protect his childhood crush, Tifa.
5 He Is The Most Playable Final Fantasy Character
It’s no secret that Cloud has appeared in plenty of games besides Final Fantasy VII. Even during the time of the original game’s launch, he was already a playable fighter in Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring and an unlockable racer in Chocobo Racing.
It’s also unsurprising that Cloud holds the record for being the most playable Final Fantasy character of all time, as he still makes guest appearances today including the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (which carries over his previous appearance in the last game on the Nintendo Wii U).
4 He Has The Second Most Number Of Appearances
Even though Cloud’s face is plastered all over the place, especially in other Square Enix titles, he doesn’t actually hold the record for most appearances by a Final Fantasy character.
That honor goes to Gilgamesh, the long-running comic relief villain who likes to hop dimensions to take on new challengers. Ironically enough, Gilgamesh has never actually appeared in Final Fantasy VII or any of its spinoffs. Perhaps the Remake will finally have Cloud and friends clash with the multi-armed sword master.
3 He Was (Briefly) On The Bad Guys' Team
Dissidia: Final Fantasy was the first major Final Fantasy crossover series to take famous heroes and villains from various games in the franchise and pit them against one another.
Despite the two warring factions being predominantly good guys vs bad, Cloud was originally chosen as a warrior of Chaos (the bad guys).
This decision was made against his will, and he would refuse to engage in any fighting until Tifa was thrown into the mix, forcing him to try and put an end to the war before his friend would perish.
2 His Japanese Voice Actor Is Best Friends With Zack's
Another example of a fun reference that is only relevant for the original Japanese language, Takahiro Sakurai isn’t just closely associated with the Japanese voice actress for Tifa, but Zack as well.
Zack’s voice actor, Kenichi Suzumura, is actually real-life friends with Sakurai, which no doubt played a factor in pairing the two off for the emotional story in Crisis Core. Cloud’s heartache in losing his best friend was undoubtedly elevated by Sakurai picturing a similar bad scenario with Suzumura.
1 His New Sword Is Actually Six (Smaller) Swords
As iconic as the Buster Sword is, there’s no denying that Cloud’s replacement sword in Advent Children is also worthy of geekdom.
It turns out that the titular “Fusion Sword” is actually a massive blade made up of six smaller swords, like the ultimate Swiss Army Knife. The swords can actually be separated and wielded individually, allowing for all sorts of fighting styles to suit Cloud’s needs. When not formed together, the swords are all handily stored in the cockpit of Fenrir, his motorcycle.