- “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 deteriorating of body in result of having incomplete powers of Jenova, seen in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-. According to the Crisis Core Complete Guide degradation stems from the ability to create copies of one's self, an ability gained due to the influence of Jenova's abilities to convert its target into a monster by implanting it with a virus it generates within its own body.
However, as the Jenova cells are not fixed in their bodies, the specimens produced via Project G succumb to degradation as time passes. With no known cure for the condition, Genesis Rhapsodos believes his degradation can be healed with the Gift of the Goddess.
Effects and OriginEdit
A person suffering from degradation appears to age, their hair first turning silver, then white. Their skin takes on a grayish hue and large cracks can be observed on the sufferer's face and neck. Suffering from degradation makes the body weak, brittle, and more susceptible to injury. Furthermore, according to the Crisis Core Complete Guide, emotional control, particularly in restraining anger, is also affected due to the process of degradation.
Subjects often lose their ability to prevent themselves from giving into brutal outbursts, increasing their risk of devolving into monsters despite raising their skills in combat. These symptoms could partially explain both the brutality Genesis displays, and the belief he holds about himself being a monster. Subsequently, it is believed that degradation eventually leads to death.
Degradation is observed as the result of the Project G, a Jenova experiment led by Dr. Hollander and funded by Shinra Electric Power Company. In an attempt to create a person with an Ancient's powers, Dr. Hollander injected a fellow scientist, Gillian Hewley, with Jenova's cells. Gillian's cells were later injected to a fetus, Genesis Rhapsodos. The project did not turn out favorable results and Shinra cut its funds. Genesis and Angeal Hewley, Gillian's son who had received his mother's cells and thus the traits of Jenova naturally, ended up joining SOLDIER, never knowing of their past as part of Project G.
During a training session Sephiroth wounds Genesis, and even if the wound is only a surface wound, it will not heal. This starts Genesis's degradation which appears to accelerate the more copies he creates. Genesis finds out about his past as part of Project G and learns of his power to imprint his DNA on others who take on his likeness. Being a "failed" experiment, however, Genesis is unable to absorb others' traits, and thus his body slowly degrades overtime.
Later in the game it is shown his copies also suffer from the same condition, and although the copies' degradation speed varies, it is also largely influenced by the condition of Genesis's cells, and when his cells themselves have degraded, the speed of degradation for all Genesis copies is also sped up.
Angeal, on the other hand, is considered by Dr. Hollander to be a successful experiment, and can absorb others' DNA as well as passing on his own. Thus, Angeal has fully mastered Jenova's shape-shifting ability and his body does not degrade. After Angeal's death, however, his copies, most notably the winged beast that Zack and Aerith see in the church, and Lazard Deusericus, are seen suffering from the same degradation Genesis and his copies are. It might be because they are only copies of the original, and thus do not possess Angeal's full power in absorbing others' DNA to their bodies to prevent degradation.
Seeking a CureEdit
After finding out the truth about his past, and realizing his body is slowly degrading, Genesis teams up with Dr. Hollander in an attempt to find a cure. Despite all their efforts Dr. Hollander is unable to find one, and ends up being made a Genesis copy himself, slowly degrading as well. Disappointed in Dr. Hollander's failed efforts, Genesis sets out to find the cure himself.
Genesis, being an avid fan of the epic LOVELESS, begins to pursue the "Gift of the Goddess", a term the poem uses for divine salvation, and comes to believe this gift can heal him. At first, Genesis pursues Jenova's cells, believing them to be the "gift", but his search comes to nothing. After discovering there was another project, Project S, and that the result of the said project, Sephiroth, has no power to spread his genes and thus he can not degrade, Genesis wishes to obtain his cells believing they could stop his degradation as well.
Genesis confronts Sephiroth in the Mt. Nibel Mako Reactor and tells him the truth. He manages to shock Sephiroth, who by that time had believed Jenova to be a human and his mother. Sephiroth refuses to help Genesis and denies him of his cells and in the Nibelheim Incident's aftermath Sephiroth falls to the Mako pit below the reactor and is presumed dead, losing Genesis the cure by his cells permanently.
Four years later, Zack Fair and Cloud Strife break out of Nibelheim having been detained by Professor Hojo in an attempt to create clones of Sephiroth the way Genesis and Angeal had of themselves. But as Genesis already knows, Sephiroth's traits cannot be imprinted on others, and the project ultimately fails, though it allows Hojo to test another theory he had. After Genesis hears about Zack and Cloud's escape he hunts them down, knowing that the pair possess S Cells in their bodies.
After cornering the two a copy eats a lock of Zack's hair, but instead of curing it, the copy transforms into a monster. Genesis presumes it is because Zack's body survived the experiment and successfully absorbed the S Cells, meaning the cells had already mutated and were thus useless for his purposes. The other victim, Cloud Strife, however, was different and his body was rejecting the S Cells.
After Zack realizes the Genesis clones are after his friend he sets out to protect him and manages to stop Genesis's forces from getting to Cloud. Zack then decides to find Genesis and finish him for good.
In the underground cave below the former village of Banora Genesis has found what he seeks: a gigantic natural Materia he calls the Goddess Materia, which he believes is finally the gift he has been looking for. Genesis fuses the Materia with his sword transforming into Genesis Avatar. Zack defeats him in battle and the Goddess Materia shatters. As Genesis resumes his human form, he finds he has been cured, with no trace of his degradation left. Genesis leaves the cave with Zack and the pair find the last of Angeal's copies outside, both suffering greatly from advanced degradation, who soon die and fade away.