The Impossible is Possible
Masahiro Sakurai and his Smash development team have done the impossible. Having Cloud Strife in Smash Bros. was already a difficult task but Nintendo’s repeat performance stunned everyone during the opening hours of the Video Game Awards. From the discordant strings of his iconic theme to shot-for-shot recreations of Advent Children, bringing in the pinnacle video game anime edgy swordsman Sephiroth caught everyone off guard, given how restrictive Square Enix is with its intellectual property.
From a pipe dream to a reality, Sephiroth is now in Smash to bring despair, with an otherworldly moveset to match. Poor Cloud. Even running away to Smash, he isn’t safe from Sephiroth hounding him.
The Love is All There
Cloud’s inclusion in Smash 4 was a resounding success, fulfilling many fans’ dreams of finally having the hero of Final Fantasy VII join the fray. However, his overall representation in Ultimate left more to be desired. For such an iconic character, Cloud missed out on the fanservice treatment that so many other fighters received, lacking music, spirits, and potential other stages.
Sephiroth is here to change all that.
Gracing Ultimate in true villainous fashion, Sephiroth brings a new stage that spoils the entire final act of Final Fantasy VII. His Final Smash, Supernova, is also a big spoiler. He exceeds Cloud’s own entrance into Smash by bringing not just two measly tracks but a whopping nine, including new Smash remixes.
Sakurai explained the lack of Final Fantasy VII music in the Sephiroth Character Showcase broadcast, detailing how certain tracks have multiple copyright holders, making the process of obtaining the rights to use them a difficult task when multiple holders are involved. It’s a miracle that Smash is able to have tracks from the Advent Children movie. Too bad there aren’t any tracks from FFVII: Remake. Still, One-Winged Angel in Smash is a good compromise.
On top of this, Sephiroth was given even more special treatment. Because of his notoriety as a supreme villain, one of the few pure evil characters in Smash, Sephiroth received a limited-time boss fight challenge event, where players who purchased him were allowed to fight him before his release date on 12/22, complete with the Final Fantasy VII interface aesthetic. If players were able to beat him, they would unlock him early. It just goes to show how much Sakurai and his team appreciate the legacy Sephiroth carries. Also, Sephiroth’s classic mode is the only one in the game that gets to fight in-game bosses instead of other fighters.
This is only the beginning of Sephiroth’s special treatment.
Moves Befitting the Supreme SOLDIER First-Class
Many who saw Sephiroth’s trailer were worried that he would fall into a very specific fighter archetype: strong sword fighter with incredible reach but poor frame data. Thankfully, Sephiroth isn’t just a Byleth tune-up.
Sephiroth moves swiftly. Nothing on the levels of Sonic or Captain Falcon, but for a swordfighter whose main gimmick is insane reach, Sephiroth has great speed. When combined with decent jumps and air maneuverability, Sephiroth’s mobility alone is a game changer. His neutral attacks and neutral aerials are also fast and good combo starters to open up hefty damage chains.
His main attacks are predictably slow. Swinging his signature blade Masamune is no easy task and the recovery period between attacks is telling. Though his smash attacks are powerful and cover lots of space, they leave him vulnerable upon whiffing. Majority of Sephiroth’s sword attacks act in this way, both aerials and tilts. Players will have to be precise and deliberate when using these moves. They must use the sword’s massive range to their advantage and avoid fighting close quarters. Masamune’s hitbox is long enough to penetrate platforms and even go below ledges, leading to cheeky edgeguard kills.
However, performing any of these moves will leave Sephiroth wide open. One misstep and he will be paying for it with hefty amounts of percent or even stocks. It’s a relatively balanced trade-off for the ridiculous range Masamune has over any other sword user in Ultimate.
However, Sephiroth more than just long reach with his sword.
Along with Masamune, Sephiroth brings powerful magic to the battlefield. Using the Flare line of magic, Sephiroth’s magic has two distinct features: sheer firepower and unpredictability.
His neutral special, Flare, and its subsequent charged variants, are Sephiroth’s main source of ranged offense. The more charged it is, the more powerful the Flare becomes. For balance, each level of charge travels different distances and speeds, with the most powerful Gigaflare barely going more than a few meters before exploding. Still, the damage and knockback the upper variants offer cannot be overstated. They are hideously powerful and cover a wide space when exploding. Good for Sephiroth, bad for literally everyone else.
His side-special is also a Flare spell but acts completely different when held next to his neutral Flares. Named Shadow Flare, this type of magic clings onto enemy fighters in the form of flaming purple orbs, and can be stacked up to five times. After a set amount of time, the orbs will hone in on the enemy fighter and explode on contact, dealing a moderate amount of damage. Though Shadow Flare can be blocked by shielding, doing so will grant Sephiroth free reign to deal massive shield damage courtesy of his down-smash.
Scintilla, his down-special, is a stereotypical swordsman counter, reminiscent of the Fire Emblem characters. It negates all incoming damage and reflects it back at the attacker. However, Sephiroth’s is unique amongst counters. Namely, Scintilla can still attack opponents even if no attack was countered and it will break when countering against a powerful move, like Ganondorf’s reverse Warlock Punch, though damage is still completely negated. Using it off-stage against hitbox oriented enemy recoveries is an excellent way to net stocks.
Last of his special moves, Blade Dash, is a recovery that operates similar to Fox’s Fire Fox recovery. It’s a quick dash that can be angled in a myriad of different directions that is hard to intercept. However, it can be charged to unleash Octoslash, a slower-moving but multi-hitting variation of Blade Dash that deals a whopping 40+% to anyone caught in all of its slashes.
Sephiroth is a ranged swordsman who needs good spacing against opponents to do well. His excellent mobility, tools, and range can help create the space he needs to keep him out of harm’s way and keep enemies in his reach. However, should players find themselves on their back foot, Sephiroth has one more trick up his sleeve.
The One-Winged Angel Descends
In true endgame boss fashion, Sephiroth comes with an awakened form if he is behind in percentage and stock. In Winged Angel Form, Sephiroth gains increased speed and an extra jump to aid in his overall combat prowess and survivability. All of his Smash attacks gain super armor, making them uninterruptible, which is an absolute necessity, given how slow they are and how light Sephiroth is, making him easier to kill. Sephiroth’s towering height does him no favors in the hurtbox department but his improved speed helps alleviate this.
Angel Form’s activation requirements are unique for a fighter with an awakened form. Rather than being tied to a meter or pure percentage, Angel Form activates based on how badly Sephiroth is losing the battle. If the player is ahead in percentage and stocks, Angel Form takes way longer to unleash, whereas being behind has it activate much earlier. How generous.
Angel Form is also the only awakened form in-game that deactivates upon netting a kill with a Smash attack. If an opponent SD’s or dies in some other fashion, Angel Form stays. Tough luck to all opponents.
The Sephiroth Experience
Sephiroth is a testament to the love Sakurai and his team have for the character and the legacy he brings. From how detailed his reveal trailer was, the attention to detail his stage has, and the sheer scope of a fighter he is, Sephiroth is a love letter to all fans of FFVII new and old. He is a guest character done right.
Sephiroth comes with the right amount of tools and weaknesses to make him a formidable fighter, resting on the cusp of being overpowered, but lacking in enough areas to be countered.
It will be a long time before any guest character can rival the impact and scope Sephiroth brings to Smash.
However, knowing Sakurai, the next character just may blow off everyone’s socks in equal measure.