Cloud Strife is the main character of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, being the main protagonist in both Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. He also appears in the spin-off games Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus and Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- as a support character. In addition, he makes an appearance in Final Fantasy Tactics as a playable character earned through completing a series of side quests. Like other heroes of the Final Fantasy series, he appears in Dissidia Final Fantasy on the side of Cosmos, representing Final Fantasy VII.
An arrogant swordsman at first, Cloud must come to terms with the fact his memories are false and rediscover who he truly is. In a theme that has carried over to many of his other appearances since Final Fantasy VII, Cloud attempts to leave his dark and tortured past behind. His archrival Sephiroth, having killed many of Cloud's friends, is the metaphorical embodiment of Cloud's dark memories, and the two have done battle several times to finish their conflict.
In Final Fantasy VII, due to the combined effect of mako poisoning and the influence of Jenova's cells in his body, Cloud unknowingly holds a fake persona created by the Jenova cells mixing his memories of Zack's personality with the somewhat cocky and selfish attitude he believes a SOLDIER 1st Class would have. However, during the events of the game he eventually restores his original personality, and shows genuine concern for the fate of the planet, a sharp contrast to his persona at the start of the game where he claimed he didn't care about the planet and only agreed to help AVALANCHE for the right price. Once his true memories are restored, Cloud holds the same personality, although his guilt over the events that he allowed to occur as a result of his false memories never left him.
In Advent Children and many related appearances, Cloud is a much more somber and dark character, tormented by his past, including the deaths of Aerith and Zack. The final straw broke when he suddenly contracted the fatal, incurable plague Geostigma, which added to his feelings of helplessness. Cloud decided to distance himself from his friends and live alone as he tries to keep his affliction secret and seek forgiveness so that he might find a cure. However, during the film Cloud faces his past both metaphorically and literally, with the rebirth of Sephiroth, his visions of Aerith and shows of loyalty from his allies. These events allow him to forgive himself for the death of Zack and Aerith and move on, although as his appearances post-film are limited to Dirge of Cerberus, it is unclear what this ultimately means in terms of his personality and lifestyle. However, the mere fact that he is present to aid his old allies (and even cracks a slight joke), whereas in Advent Children, he would still have tried to avoid responsibility, shows that he has indeed moved on in his life.
In Crisis Core, Cloud is depicted as a rather shy but slightly more upbeat person who idolizes both Zack and Sephiroth. However, when Sephiroth has burned down Nibelheim and badly wounded his friends Zack and Tifa, Cloud does not hesitate to avenge them by hurling the madman to his apparent death whilst impaled with the Masamune.
Despite the dark feelings he may have, Cloud remains steadfastly loyal and true to those he cares about and is always driven to protect them, even going as far as to hide his pain and emotions so he could not worry them. Ultimately, it is his selfless and kind nature that gives him the ability to overcome Sephiroth time and again. His compassion is explored further when he brings Denzel back to Seventh Heaven and shares with Tifa an obligation to take care of the boy because of the guilt they felt for destroying Sector 7. In addition, Cloud vows to find a cure for the Geostigma that has infected Denzel and many others. Because Cloud saved him, Denzel looks up to him as an idol (much in contrast to Cloud's more fatal idolization for Sephiroth) and both share a strong bond as a result. This is further depicted when Denzel is the first Geostigma victim Cloud heals in Aerith's old church. It is highly possible that Denzel would be next to carry out the hero legacy.
He also has a lighter side, willingly deciding to cross-dress as a woman for a special mission at one point in Final Fantasy VII. He also has a dry, ironic wit in Dirge of Cerberus, when he cracks a joke with some of his allies. Overall, while he has a rather moody demeanor, his personality is not as brooding as that of Vincent Valentine, and does have a sense of humor when in a lighter mood.
In The Reunion Files for Advent Children, Nomura explained that while Cloud was initially depicted as a more upbeat character at the end of VII, he chose to have Cloud be a character that fans would find more familiar, and the script was written to explain why Cloud had returned to such a frame of mind. Nomura also said that a great deal of care was taken to animate Cloud's face and expressions, and over thirty different models of his face were made. His face was modeled to keep "a stiff upper lip", with his emotions and thoughts being expressed through his eyes.
Cloud is of short height with a slim build. His blond hair is spiked, and in Final Fantasy VII featured one particularly large spike emerging into the air. For this reason, Cloud's spiked hair has become one of the trademarks of his appearance, although in later appearances the spikes have been toned down. Cloud was originally conceptualized with black hair, but this was changed, and his hair is meant to serve as a contrast to Sephiroth's silver hair. Cloud has blue eyes, which glow due to the Mako flowing through his body. Because "Mako eyes" are an icon of SOLDIER, Cloud is often mistaken as one. Presumably it is this Mako that allows him to wield his iconic Buster Sword, which is seemingly too heavy for non-SOLDIER members to use. Cloud was, however, capable of using it to great effect as a Shinra guard with no special abilities. He actually used it with such strength that he was even able to overpower Sephiroth in the Nibelheim Reactor.
Cloud's outfit in Final Fantasy VII, is the standard uniform for 1st Class SOLDIERs. The clothing consists of simple pants with a no-sleeved shirt, which are indigo in color, and a belt. Cloud also wears brown boots and gauntlets with a single pauldron over his left shoulder. This is also the uniform he wears for most of his other appearances, with slight variations. In Crisis Core, Cloud wears the uniform of a Shinra guard, consisting of blue clothing with several belts and straps and a gray-green piece of cloth around the collar. He also wears his helmet to hide his identity at times.
In Advent Children, Cloud's clothing design was made with fighting in mind, and the concept began with a black robe and was restructured into the final product seen in the film. Cloud's hair in particular was changed both to show the passage of time since the game, and to be more realistic. His clothing consists of a high collar indigo shirt with no sleeves, black pants and boots, and black cloth covering his left leg and arm; the cloth on his arm seems to mainly be to hide his Geostigma symptoms. Cloud also gains an entirely new pauldron, and his chest is covered by two straps, held in place by a badge representing Fenrir, the animal that has come to be associated with Cloud.
In Kingdom Hearts, Cloud's costume was designed to resemble the outfit of Vincent Valentine. Cloud wears a tattered red cloak with dark blue pants and a shirt and brown boots. He wears gloves, the left of which has golden trimmings, almost like a claw. His costume also features many crossing belts. Cloud's most distinctive trait in this appearance is a demonic black wing protruding from his left shoulder, meant to symbolize both his connection to Sephiroth, and the dark powers he is using. In Kingdom Hearts II, Cloud appears identical to his Advent Children self, save that his new sword is loosely bound as the Buster sword was in Kingdom Hearts.