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If you’re anything like me, you had mixed feelings when you saw the reveal trailer for Cloud. Ever since the character speculation first began after the announcement of Super Smash Bros. Brawl–which was nearly a decade ago, in case you weren’t keeping track–Cloud was one of the biggest jokes in the Smash community. A character who strained the limits of plausibility, Cloud’s inclusion was ridiculed as often as it was discussed in earnest.

Now, a year out from the release of Brawl’s successor, the joke got its punchline: Cloud is in Smash. The most hare-brained fever dream has finally come true. At least, that was how I felt when I watched the announcement live. But as I re-watched the trailer one or two or thirty-six more times over the weekend, I sat there and puzzled and puzzled until my puzzler was sore.

And then it hit me: this was a good thing. Leave it to Sakurai bring me around a full 180, but the honest truth is that now I really think Cloud is a fantastic addition to the roster, and there are several reasons why.


5. Square Enix and Nintendo have a long history together

Though these days Square Enix seems to side with the distinguished competition, there was a time that SquareSoft, as it was known back then, and the big N were inseparable. Six Final Fantasy titles (in Japan, at least), not to mention other classics like Chrono Trigger, earned global acclaim and made Nintendo’s systems the go-to place for great RPGs. Ironically, it was Cloud’s own game, Final Fantasy VII, that created the split in the companies’ relationship when the game’s unprecedented scope forced Square to shift develop from the N64 to Sony’s PlayStation.

While the main Final Fantasy series has never graced a Nintendo system in the years since, the franchise’s presence has arguably never been stronger. The first six games have all been ported and remade, sometimes several times over, for everything from the Game Boy Advance to the Wii’s Virtual Console, and the DS and 3DS have more Final Fantasy spinoffs than you can shake a stick at. Remakes and new installments for other series have been plentiful as well, including a steady stream of Dragon Quest games in recent years.

All the stars seem to be aligning for a resurgence in the Square Enix/Nintendo partnership. Earlier this year, Square Enix revealed that Dragon Quest X and XI were both in the planning stages for release on the NX platform, making them not just the first third-party games for the system, but the first games potentially announced for NX at all, beating even Nintendo to the punch. If that’s not a vote of confidence, I don’t know what is.


4. The Final Fantasy series is massively deserving

Very few video game franchises truly stand the test of time, but at twenty-plus years in and still going strong, Final Fantasy has most assuredly earned that distinction. It’s one of the only third-party properties that can go toe-to-toe with Nintendo’s own library in terms of nostalgia, legacy and impact on the industry as a whole.

The RPG genre was around before the first Final Fantasy, but that title essentially created role-playing games as they exist today. That puts it in a very exclusive club of pioneers alongside the likes of Donkey Kong and Street Fighter II–both of which, hey, are already represented in Super Smash Bros. Getting into Smash is hard enough for a Nintendo game, and it’s even harder for a third-party, but there should be little debate that Final Fantasy, as a series, is more than worthy.


3. The potential for great music is limitless

How many rhythm games can you name that have a soundtrack pulled exclusively from a single series of game soundtracks? Final Fantasy has done that. Twice, in fact. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy and its sequel boast a collective soundtrack of over 200 songs, and that’s not including downloadable content. The music of Final Fantasy has something for everyone, from serene symphonic scores to haunting arias to head-bangin’ guitar riffs.

We already know Cloud is coming with a stage of his own, Midgar, in tow. The sky’s the limit now as far as potential background music, and cherry picking the best tunes is no small feat. Of course, it is entirely possible that they’ll draw music exclusively from Final Fantasy VII. On the plus side, Final Fantasy soundtracks are so consistently on point that, even if that is the case, Sakurai and his team would still have their work cut out for them.

Honestly, as long as they don’t pull another Suzaku Castle and give us three renditions of the same two songs, I’ll probably be satisfied.


2. His presence elevates Smash

After Cloud was first revealed, I was reading through a discussion on the Internet (a dangerous pastime, I know) and one person proclaimed that Cloud’s presence “cheapened” Smash. Their reasoning touched on how he’s never appeared on a Nintendo system outside of spinoff titles, and that he’s widely seen as one of the PlayStation’s biggest mascots. And because of this, the person concluded, Cloud doesn’t deserve a spot on the Smash Bros. roster, and giving him one made every other character’s inclusion somehow less meaningful.

And I get that. I get where they’re coming from. Those are valid points. I try to look at it from the opposite perspective. Yes, Cloud is a character whose greatest contributions exist outside the realm of Nintendo. But then again, Sonic is in Smash, and his best work was done on the opposite side of a bitter console war. Pac-Man and Ryu built their fame in the arcades more than they did on the TV at home.

The fact is, regardless of which system he’s associated with, Cloud is one of the most recognizable faces in gaming. His inclusion in Smash doesn’t cheapen a thing. He cements an idea that began with Snake and Sonic in Brawl: Super Smash Bros. has gone from being just a celebration of all things Nintendo, to being a celebration of video games as a whole. Cloud just represents another barrier that’s been broken down, and by doing so, as Sakurai himself once said, “it will clear a path to new horizons.”


1. He’s Shulk’s cousin

Time for a history lesson. Shulk is from the game Xenoblade Chronicles, which was developed by Nintendo second-party studio, Monolith Soft. The game was named as an homage to Monolith’s previous work, the Xenosaga trilogy on PlayStation 2, which they developed prior to their acquisition by Nintendo when they were a second-party studio for Bandai Namco.

Before they split off and formed Monolith Soft, the creators of Xenosaga and Xenoblade were part of an internal team within Square Enix. The larger Xeno series began here with the release of Xenogears on PS1. The interesting part of this is that Tetsuya Takahashi, the director of all the Xeno games and the current head of Monolith Soft, originally pitched the concept for Xenogears to Square Enix as a new installment in a long-running series rather than an original project.

Can you guess what Xenogears was originally pitched as? That’s right. Final Fantasy VII.

But for a shake of the head from some Square Enix bigwigs, Monado Boy could very well be a Final Fantasy character himself. It’s one of those weird what-could-have-been moments in gaming history right alongside Mario’s lack of a jump ability in the original Donkey Kong, but it’s also a revealing insight into how the course of Square Enix’s history has had a direct impact on Nintendo’s own. And, to my eyes at least, it’s proof positive that no discussion on the legacy of Nintendo can be complete without a mention of Final Fantasy–and, by extension, Cloud.

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Written by Kellen McIntyre