Happy birthday, Cloud!
To celebrate his existence, I figured I’d do my thing and analyze his personality.
Of course, please be aware…
A lot of strange wibbly wobbly science/magic things happen to Cloud at the end of Crisis Core and through FFVII, so the best place to begin is naturally the start.
His friendship with Tifa sheds a lot of light onto who Cloud was growing up and how he differs from the larger personalities found in the FFVII cast.
His father died when he was young and aside from Tifa, he didn’t have any friends. In a discussion Cloud has with her about his childhood, he said, “Later, I began to think I was different… That I was different from those immature kids [her friends]”.
There is a crossroads here for his thoughts behind this sentence – either he really believed them to be immature or he rationalized that he was better than them to cope with his difficulty making friends.
Based on the loss of his father at a young age and his continuing desire to be better throughout the series, I’m inclined to believe it was a rationalization to help himself adjust to his struggles in making friends.
The issue with that being that instead of trying to make friends in his own way, as he did with Tifa, he convinced himself he didn’t need them – that he was better than the rest. This further increased the divide between him and other people, and his ability to socialize and connect to other people took a fairly serious hit.
But it also put greater value in the friendships he did have. So when Tifa’s mother died and she tried to see her by crossing Mt. Nibel, Cloud followed her to keep an eye on her.
This was another formative moment for him because when she misstepped and he tried to catch her, they both fell. He was unharmed and she was in critical condition.
The village believed it was Cloud’s idea to go up the mountain and as a result, her father wouldn’t even let Cloud go near her. The only friend he had.
He tried to be the hero and do the better thing, and it all fell apart. For someone who suffered loss at a young age and coped by thinking he was better than others his age, this was even more devastating.
The harsh realization that he wasn’t as good as he thought (with such severe consequences) combined with the rejection from everyone in the village was sure to wreak havoc on 10-year-old Cloud’s psyche. And so he developed a temper problem and began picking fights with little to no provocation.
Four years later, word of Sephiroth’s reputation reaches Nibelheim and 14-year-old Cloud, who is still in the throes of self-blame and puberty.
Hearing about such a legend re-inspired Cloud to become the superior person he used to think he was, in my opinion, and with so few personal ties to Nibelheim – of course he left for glory in SOLDIER.
To reinforce that theory, Cloud arranged to meet Tifa at the village’s water tower to say he was leaving and promised to save her if she ever found herself in trouble.
It’s strong evidence that he still blamed himself for her injury and that drove his need to be better – so he’d never fail someone he cared about like that again.
Taking a step back and viewing this as a writer, that’s what I love most about Cloud. He’s relatable. Zack is insanely charming, Angeal is dad-wise, Genesis is extra fab, and Sephiroth is actually superhumanly powerful. Cloud is there to aspire to greatness as a Shinra Infantryman.
His honest ambition to improve humanizes the story and makes it more accessible than having the top tier people of Midgar alone.
Return to Nibelheim
After befriending Zack, Cloud sees him about once a year for missions – one of which was when he was 16 and involved an investigation of a reactor on Mt. Nibel.
Cloud still feels ashamed of not being SOLDIER, not being better, and he hides his identity from everyone but his mother… But the most important aspect of this mission is his confrontations with an unstable Sephiroth.
The first time, he’s knocked out by Genesis and becomes angry that he failed again. Everything he wants to be is escaping him, and since he holds himself to such a high standard, he’s bound to frustrate himself.
Cloud is steeped in that bitter anger when Sephiroth burns down his home town, killing his mother, and Cloud finds him with a heavily injured Tifa and barely conscious Zack…
It’s the worst moment of his life that he can’t forgive himself for, only worse, and this is a chance to finally do it right, be the hero he wants to be.
He ambushed Sephiroth, stabbing him with the Buster Sword, and going back for his two friends. This is a proud moment for him, what he’s aspired to be was finally within his grasp. His friends were in danger and he saved them from Sephiroth. The Sephiroth.
So when Sephiroth returns and lifts Cloud up on his sword, ready to kill him, this stepped on years of rage at failure, inadequacy, and a powerful need to protect the ones he cares about.
That’s where the strength came from for Cloud to use the katana as leverage to throw Sephiroth into the Mako pit… Before falling unconscious, of course, because he’s got his limits.
After that point, he spends about a year as a Mako poisoned vegetable, so that’s the end of this analysis… Although I hope you enjoyed the read! Questions, comments, etc., go for it!