Cloud fighting Sephiroth

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25 years ago, Final Fantasy’s greatest hero redefined video game bad boys

Happy birthday, Cloud.

Square Enix

It’s Cloud Strife’s birthday. Well, to be more exact, it was August 11. It could also be August 19, depending on who you ask. So we’re right on time.

In case you don’t know, Cloud Strife is the protagonist of the critically acclaimed Final Fantasy VII and its remake. He’s known for his no-nonsense attitude, spiky blond hair, and giant Buster Sword that he carries on his back. He’s also one of the earliest JRPG antiheroes with an emotionally compelling story that still stands out to fans of the original game.

One does not simply forget Cloud Strife, even if they have trouble remembering his birthday. So why is he such an icon? Let’s look back on the facts.

Cloud and his childhood friend Tifa are one of the most popular Final Fantasy VII ships.Square Enix

Final Fantasy VII came out during a time when the average RPG protagonist was a friendly, energetic, and selfless hero. Cloud was the opposite. You could argue that he was passionate in his own way. However, he wasn’t the kind of hero that his counterpart, the more typical Zack Fair, was.

Cloud redefined the antihero trope as his own brand of “anime bad boy.” He was a troubled yet hot young adult who had a hard time opening up to others and conveniently had a soft spot for the pretty ladies in his life. TV Tropes might call him a Jerk with a Heart of Gold or Troubled but Cute. That socially awkward yet aloof attitude charmed players from Japan to the United States.

His character development also left a mark. It’s a repeating trend across social media: people love Cloud and his story. He’s often seen as a “deconstruction” of the typical antihero, where he seems like a familiar trope at first before the writing fleshes him out to be his own person with unique ideals and insecurities.

Square Enix

“At first, you see him as this standoffish guy who's kind of a jerk, only to realize how horribly broken he is as the game goes on. Dealing with that pretty mind-shattering information, then coming out the other side stronger for it, is a large part of why I like him so much,” one Redditor wrote. “Most other protagonists have a similar moment, but I don't think any of their moments are as impactful as Cloud's.”

Another Redditor agrees with the part about Cloud starting as a “generic idealized golden-boy protagonist” before “shit gets extremely real.” However, there’s also a part of the story that portrays him as a real human and not just a soldier.

“You see that Cloud had a lot in common with what many of the people who were playing the game probably went through in their childhoods/early teen years. Difficulty making friends, talking to girls, feeling like he's not the same, and being separate from most other people. Cloud is depressingly human, more so than any other FF character before or since,” they wrote.

Cloud in Final Fantasy VII Intergrade.Square Enix

It’s not a happy accident, either. Director Yoshinori Kitase said (via shmuplations) that Final Fantasy VII was supposed to be Cloud’s story.

“Our development concept for the story in FF6 was to have over 10 main characters, any of which could be called ‘the protagonist.’ We challenged ourselves to create a world without someone you could point to and say, ‘this is the main character,’” Kitase said in an interview about the original Final Fantasy VII.

“This time, with FF7, we knew from the beginning that we wanted Cloud to be the main character, and we were going to tell his story.”

Cloud’s birthday sometimes shows up as August 19 in the older Final Fantasy books. However, the most recent Ultimania book confirmed it as August 11. He was apparently born in 1986, so he would be 36 if he was a real person. These Final Fantasy encyclopedias also confirm that Cloud is 21 years old and 5’7” as per the original game. So he’s old enough to drink and a short king.

Cheers, Cloud.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is available for PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. The upcoming Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is currently in development.

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