This is an opinion article. You are allowed to disagree.
Cloud Strife, one of the most iconic and popular characters from the Final Fantasy series storms into battle. Since Cloud’s announcement comes as a shock for us in the speculation community, I wanted to look at the several factors that led to Cloud’s inclusion, and in particular his inclusion over other Square-Enix characters.
1.Third party characters DO NOT need to be associated with Nintendo.
This has been a common misconception in the speculation community. During Brawl’s development, Sakurai wrote a reader response in which he stated that it might be something like a courtesy to appear on a Nintendo hardware. Nowhere in other interviews, or in other responses did he ever say that it was a requirement. With Cloud’s representation mostly based on FFVII, I think it’s safe to say this fan rule is finally dead. Heihachi being considered for Smash arguably should have killed it, but people were/are still in denial. I feel like I’m going to be saying this for a long time as it’s so ingrained in the community. The whole logic that “Final Fantasy has its roots in Nintendo, so it’s okay that Cloud got in, the rule still stands!” is based on twisted logic. Look at the reveal trailer…nowhere did they ever reference the older Final Fantasy games. In fact they used the title card for Final Fantasy VII.
2. When people think of Square-Enix, they think of Final Fantasy and Cloud. He is popular.
Searching “Final Fantasy” on Google’s image search brings up a ton of pictures of Cloud and Lightning. In Guinness Book of World Records, 2010 edition…Cloud Strife was voted as the #5 most iconic character. Cloud was also the top 20 in my own Perception of Smash DLC in Japan, Redux. Black Mage has been elevated within the Smash community due to the false pretense of characters needed to having a strong relation to Nintendo. Sure, he was in Mario Sports Mix, but that doesn’t mean he’s super iconic. His entry in the Super Smash: Flash has solidified this among many but he actually has a lot of issues which may prevent his representation. Essentially, Black Mage has not been the face of the franchise, especially moving forward. This brings me into my next point.
3. Cloud has personality.
Cloud Strife is NOT a generic avatar. He is a character with a backstory and emotions. His reveal trailer shows this with the incredible amount of references that were jam packed into it. Sakurai has stated a personality is important for consideration. Cloud Strife also follows the tradition of characters in Smash either being a main protagonist of a game, or a recurring enemy (with the sole exception of Sheik, who has been a part of Zelda’s moveset). This is why Black Mage probably wasn’t even on the table for consideration. Consider this (originally made by MaskedMan!): Cloud is not a “generic” character. Instead, he is what other games are trying to imitate with their own characters. He defined the genre, and has made a lasting impact on gaming.
4.Cloud is favorable to development.
Chocobo’s have been requested since Melee, but they might be difficult to add as a fighter. Therefore, they got in as the second best thing — a Mii Costume. Chocobo’s might not have had a clear moveset, or other issues holding them back. For more information about being favorable to development, check out the 2008 GDC slide translation.
5. Cloud has a bright future.
Cloud is relevant to gaming today. He will be the star of a remake (which I will remind the audience, is going to be on a rival console), and has a cameo in Final Fantasy Explorers. He will continue to serve as a gaming icon, and represent the best of what gaming has to offer. Truly “worthy” of representation in Smash Bros. For more information check out I Answer Some Questions.
What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below!
Also, if you have something that you would like the Source Gaming team and Ash Paulsen answer tomorrow on the upcoming SourceCast, please let us know in the comments before November 15th, 2015 (US Eastern).