After spending most of Tuesday playing the demo as Cloud, I'll say that I'm completely satisfied of his new setup in Duodecim. What shocked me the most is how versatile he has become now ; the aerial department in DFF was hell for him, as all you could hope to do was punish your opponent's dodges and anticipated blocks with Braver or a delayed Slashing Blow/Rising Fang/etc. Needless to say, going on the offensive for him was nearly impossible for most matchups. DDFF, on the other hand, allows Cloud to unleash his moves without feeling as much pressure as before mostly thanks to the addition of Aerial Double Cut and Aerial Fang's faster execution, as well as an aerial version of Meteorain.
As Rei stated initially in his TGS thread, Aerial Double Cut was the aerial poke he desperately needed. It's safe, has a fast execution and recovery, allows you to enter into Chase Mode, it also fills the assist gauge quite decently and works as an excellent assist combo attack. It also seems to be fast enough to counter other characters' fast pokes such as Beat Fang, Sudden Cruelty and such, thus allowing Cloud to go on the offensive and put some pressure on his opponent while being in the air.
Aerial Fang's basic purpose in DFF is mostly a mindgaming tool ; slow startup, rather predictable (which could work at your own advantage if you delay its execution when your opponent anticipates you will use it), decent vertical tracking, it also allows you to enter into Chase Mode and gain some supplementary EX Force in the process. DDFF's Aerial Fang is quite different ; its startup animation is fast (about twice as fast, maybe even more than in DFF), still rather predictable but much harder to block on reaction, its vertical tracking was greatly reduced, it also doesn't allow the player to enter into Chase Mode and it now causes Wall Rush. I kind of see it as a punishing/mindgaming tool still, however it also works as a very potent assist combo attack thanks to the addition of the WR effect.
Cloud has also gained access to an aerial version of Meteorain this time around, but its setup is different from the ground version. While Ground Meteorain now constantly tracks the opponent, aerial Meteorain bombards a single stationary spot, similarly to the DFF version. Amphoric stated that with the addition of Assists in DDFF, the use of Meteorain has become much more risky as it renders Cloud completely open for retaliation, although the opposite it also true. If you unleash your own assist while casting Meteorain, you're adding supplementary pressure on your opponent especially if he is on the ground thanks to ground Meteorain's new tracking feature, increasing your chances of landing it.
Some other notable changes:
- Double Cut has the same range and execution as in DFF, however it is *not* possible to jump cancel into Slashing Blow to Omnislash Version 5 anymore. You can still execute the DB to Cross Slash combo on unfloaty characters if you hit them while they're in midair, but the timing is extremely strict.
- Slashing Blow received a slight absorbing buff, although not as great as Sonic Break. The third hit (downward and upward) still wall rushes enemies, creating opportunities for Assist combos, however it is also very possible to do it with Omnislash Version 5.
- Climhazzard's range and tracking seem to have been increased slightly, and it is *not* possible to do the Climhazzard to SB combo anymore (you can still do it thanks to an assist attack though.) It is possible to combo Climhazzard with aerial Double Cut (Climhazzard - Delay - Double Cut), allowing you to enter into Chase Mode. It also punishes backward dodges more effectively.
- Braver's range was reduced comparatively to the American version, but it seems to hit with a better accuracy if your enemy tries to dodge out of it (sometimes we were simply one inch away from our opponent after a dodge in the NA version, this doesn't seem to happen anymore.)
- Fire's hitstun was increased, creating more combo opportunities with Assists or dash in for a Slashing Blow to Omnislash Version 5. Its casting animation is also much shorter now, allowing the player to spawn many fireballs without fearing of being countered by HP attacks such as Squall's Rough Divide from a distance.
-Sonic Break has received quite a nice absorbing buff, allowing Cloud to land his attack after blocking an airborne opponent (blocking Squall's Beat Fang, Zidane's Swift Attack, etc.) Finishing Touch's almost constant WR creates great Assist combo opportunities, get into Assist/Chase and chain in an Omnislash V.5 afterwards. It is also a much better dodge punisher and mindgaming tool overall thanks to this addition.
- Blade Beam's range has increased, and its properties are similar to its Japanese counterpart in DFF, meaning the opponent needs to remain stationary if he wants to block the whole impact of the beam. The melee blow guard staggers now (it also penetrates shield-property attacks such as WoL's Shield of Light and Firion's Shield Bash), making it safer to use at point blank range, and it stills allows Cloud to enter into Chase Mode.
- Cross Slash's range was greatly improved ; your opponent needs to dodge into the air if he wants to evade the blows, for even if he dodges backwards Cloud will instantly move forward and hit him to land the attack successfully.
- Rising Fang's properties seem to have remained the same as in DFF, but that is mere speculation on my part as we can't equip it and I'm only basing my thoughts on how it looked like when the CPU used it against me. Its vertical range, however, was almost doubled.
This is a rather short summary of it all, but I'm definitely thrilled to see how Cloud will fare in Duodecim thanks to these changes. The most appealing aspect to me is how he can finally go on the offensive while in Non-EX Mode, which was nearly unthinkable in DFF especially in the air.