The heightened abilities of SOLDIER members are maintained by a delicate balance of various genetic factors. A change in this balance could only be caused by a 'leak' of genetic information, but this is not possible under normal circumstances. This phenomenon is unique to the SOLDIER type G.
- —Report on the SOLDIER Degradation Phenomenon found in Sector 5 Reactor.
Degradation is a term given to the slow deterioration of the body as a result of having the incomplete powers of Jenova, as seen in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-. According to the Crisis Core Complete Guide, degradation stems from the ability to create copies of oneself; this is an ability that comes from Jenova's powers, which allow her to convert her targets into monsters by implanting their bodies with a virus that she generates inside her body.
As Jenova's cells are not fixed in their bodies, the specimens produced via Project G succumb to degradation as time passes. There is no known cure for this condition, but Genesis Rhapsodos believes his degradation can be halted with the Gift of the Goddess.
Effects and OriginEdit
A person suffering from degradation appears to age; the sufferer's hair first turns silver, then white. The afflicted's skin takes on a grayish hue, and cracks appear on one's face and neck. The degradation process makes the body weak, brittle, and susceptible to injury. Furthermore, according to the Crisis Core Complete Guide, degrading impedes one's ability to control anger.
One who suffers from degradation cannot withhold brutal outbursts, increasing the chance of devolving into a monster. A sufferer's combat potential increases, as well. These symptoms could partially explain the brutality Genesis displays, as well as his belief that he is a monster. It is thought that degradation eventually leads to death. Degradation has only been observed in specimens produced through Project G, a part of the Jenova Project led by Dr. Hollander and funded by the Shinra Electric Power Company.
In an attempt to create a person with the powers of an Ancient, Dr. Hollander injected a fellow scientist, Gillian Hewley, with Jenova's cells. Gillian's cells were then injected into the fetus that eventually grew into Genesis Rhapsodos. In the end, the results of Project G were not favorable, and Shinra cut its funds. Genesis and Gillian's son Angeal, who had received his mother's cells and Jenova's traits naturally, eventually joined SOLDIER. They had no idea about their involvement with Project G.
During a training session, Sephiroth wounded Genesis; while the wound was superficial, it did not heal. Genesis started to degrade and the process appears to accelerate based upon the number of copies he creates. When Genesis learned the truth about his birth and Project G, he discovered he can imprint his DNA on others, causing his victims to take on his appearance. As a "failed" experiment, Genesis cannot absorb others' traits; this causes his body to slowly degrade over time.
Genesis Copies become afflicted with degradation as well, but the copies' rate of degradation varies. This is influenced by the condition of Genesis's cells, as when they begin to degrade, the degradation speed for all of the Genesis Copies also increases.
Unlike Genesis, Angeal Hewley is considered by Dr. Hollander to be a successful experiment, as he can absorb others' DNA and pass on his traits to others. As such, Angeal has mastered Jenova's shape-shifting abilities, and his body does not degrade. Following Angeal's death, however, his copies, most notably the winged beast that Zack Fair and Aerith Gainsborough see in the Sector 5 Church, as well as Lazard Deusericus, suffer from the same degradation as Genesis and his copies. This may be because Lazard and the winged beast are only copies; they do not possess Angeal's full powers, thus they cannot absorb others' DNA to prevent themselves from degrading.
When Genesis Rhapsodos learns the truth about his past and discovers that his body is slowly degrading, he teams up with Dr. Hollander to find a cure for his condition. Dr. Hollander is unable to find one, and he ends up being made a degrading Genesis Copy himself. Disappointed in Dr. Hollander's failed efforts, Genesis sets out to find the cure he desires on his own.
As an avid fan of the epic poem LOVELESS, Genesis begins to pursue the "Gift of the Goddess," a term that refers to divine salvation, as he believes this can heal him. At first, Genesis pursues Jenova's cells, for he believes them to be the "gift," but this search is in vain. When Genesis learns of Project S, which produced his friend Sephiroth, a man who cannot spread his genes or degrade, he begins to seek Sephiroth's cells, as well.
Genesis goes to the Mt. Nibel Mako Reactor, and tells Sephiroth the truth about Jenova and the experiments that made him. This shocks Sephiroth, who thought he and his thought-to-be-deceased mother were ordinary humans. Sephiroth refuses to aid Genesis and in the aftermath of the Nibelheim Incident, Sephiroth's apparent death in the Mako pit below the Mako Reactor on Mt. Nibel leaves Genesis without a cure for his degradation once again.
Four years after his confrontation with Sephiroth in Nibelheim, Genesis learns that Zack and Cloud are on the run after having been detained by Professor Hojo in an attempt to clone Sephiroth in the same way that Genesis and Angeal had done. Genesis hunts the fugitives down, knowing of the S Cells inside their bodies.
Outside Midgar, a Genesis Copy eats a lock of Zack's hair after Genesis corners him. Instead of halting the Genesis Copy's degradation, the S Cells in Zack's hair transform it into a monster. Genesis presumes this is because Zack's body survived Hojo's experiments and absorbed the S Cells; at this point, the S Cells have mutated and are useless to Genesis. Cloud is different, however, as his body is rejecting the S Cells.
When Zack realizes that Genesis Copies are after Cloud, he sets out to protect his friend and repels Genesis's forces. Zack decides to find Genesis and eliminate him. In the caverns below the scorched remains of Banora, Genesis finds what he seeks: a gigantic, natural Materia that he calls the "Goddess Materia." Genesis fuses the Goddess Materia with his rapier and transforms into Genesis Avatar. Zack defeats him in battle and the Goddess Materia shatters. Genesis returns to human form and finds himself healed by the power of the Lifestream. He leaves the Banora Underground with Zack, and the pair discovers the last of the Angeal Copies, a winged beast and a man who was once Lazard Deusericus, suffering from advanced degradation. The two soon die and fade away.