- “It is now an undisputed fact that the life form excavated from the Earth is indeed of the ancient race spoken of in legend. Furthermore, history records that these 'Ancients' channeled the power of this planet to tear the earth asunder. Using the cells of the unearthed Ancient, we have begun research on creating and mass-producing a race with comparable abilities. The primary objective of this research is to significantly reduce mako excavation costs.”
- —The Ancients Project - Outline from Crisis Core
The Jenova Project, also known as Ancients Project, refers to a series of experiments performed by the Shinra Electric Power Company in Final Fantasy VII. Shinra conducted the experiments with the ultimate goal to create a human hybrid with the alien creature Jenova, whom Shinra had mistakenly believed to be an Ancient. The Jenova Project's offspring form several of the key antagonists in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.
Thirty years before Final Fantasy VII, Shinra located the frozen remains of the alien creature inside the North Crater. Professor Gast Faremis mistakenly identified the alien as a Cetra, and gave it a name: Jenova. Shinra, seeking a monopoly on Mako energy as a way to dominate the Planet, commissioned the Jenova Project with the intent of creating a new strain of Cetra, which could then lead Shinra to The Promised Land said to be abundant in Mako.
Two branches of the Jenova Project were created, led by Gast's colleagues Professor Hojo and Dr. Hollander. Hojo led Project S, while Hollander led Project G. The two branches competed to produce superior specimens first. Sephiroth was the product of Project S, while Genesis Rhapsodos and Angeal Hewley were the products of Project G.
Eventually Gast learned the truth about Jenova - she was an alien from space who nearly eradicated the Cetra - and left the program. In his absence Sephiroth and Project S proved the superior branches of the Jenova Project. Continued research on Project S lead to the development of SOLDIER, a by-product of Project S achieved by a simplified process of Sephiroth's birth. Sound men of perfect mind and body were injected with Mako and Jenova cells to boost their physical abilities to superhuman, though none came close to the power Sephiroth had. Project G's research would continue in top secret underneath Midgar within Deepground, where testing methods became increasingly extreme and inhuman to produce more varied and unstable creations compared to SOLDIER.
- “Objective: Implant the cells of an Ancient into a human fetus to imbue said fetus with the Ancient's abilities.”
- —Project G - Summary found in Sector 5 Reactor.
Project G's true name is "Project Gillian" for the main test subject, Gillian Hewley. The "G" is often mistaken to stand for "Project Genesis" by many characters in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- including Sephiroth, as Genesis was the first result of the project to expose himself. Run by Hollander, who injected Gillian with Jenova cells, with the intent that those who received her cells in turn would receive Jenova's traits. Genesis was the first test subject to be created this way. Gillian also passed Jenova's abilities on to Angeal when she gave birth to him.
The Crisis Core Complete Guide refers to the results born out of Project G as G-Type SOLDIERs, who include Angeal and Genesis, and Hollander when he applies the same treatment to himself during Crisis Core. G-Type SOLDIERs possess the ability to create copies of themselves by implanting others with their cells, using Jenova's cells as a conduit to transfer the donor's abilities to the host. The host eventually takes on the appearance of the donor and gain some of their abilities. However, as the Jenova cells are not fixed in their bodies, a G-Type SOLDIER will succumb to degradation symptoms as time passes.
Though they seem to be normal humans, eventually the side-effects of Project G begin to manifest. Genesis, who is merely injected with Gillian's cells, slowly begins to degrade. Angeal, who is born directly from Gillian's cells, does not degrade as fast, and thus is considered by Hollander to be the perfect result of his experiment. Genesis can create Genesis Copies, but is only seen doing so on humans, and his copies degrade at accelerated rates. The exact rate of degradation varies depending on the subject's own physical potential.
Angeal can produce Angeal copies as well, but unlike Genesis he does so with both animals and humans. Unlike Genesis, the transfer of abilities between donor and host can go both ways for Angeal - as he can imbue others with his abilities, he can also absorb copies he has created to take on their abilities, as he does when becoming Angeal Penance. Even though Angeal is a successful subject, eventually his copies, too, will degrade - Lazard clearly shows great degradation at the end of Crisis Core, and eventually dies along with the other last Angeal Copy.
Project S, code for Project Sephiroth, was the second and arguably more successful branch of the Jenova Project. It was carried out in Nibelheim in the Shinra Manor. Compared to Project G, the methods of Project S were very direct: Hojo injected Jenova cells directly into a human fetus. This fetus was the child of he and Lucrecia Crescent, a scientist also working in the mansion on her own project. Lucrecia gave birth to Sephiroth, who was eventually deemed a superior subject to Genesis and Angeal, and research on Project S continued into the development of SOLDIER.
The Crisis Core Complete Guide explains Sephiroth is a superior specimen due to the nature of his exposure to Jenova cells - while Genesis was exposed to Gillian's cells which contained Jenova cells and Angeal was born from one of Gillian's eggs after she was injected, Sephiroth was exposed to pure Jenova cells undiluted by human DNA. Because of this, Sephiroth's abilities are stronger than those of Genesis and Angeal. Just as Angeal inherited more of Jenova's abilities than Genesis, Sephiroth has more than either of them. Unlike Genesis and Angeal Copies, Sephiroth never shows any signs of degrading. He is never shown creating copies of himself, but is able to receive and deliver abilities to others, as shown by Cloud inheriting SOLDIER abilities through his cells.
- Main article: Reunion Theory
A later experiment was Hojo's Jenova Reunion Theory. Hojo hypothesized that when Jenova's cells are separated, they will instinctively attempt to join back together, and human hosts carrying Jenova's cells will likewise be compelled to gather together. Hojo had the survivors of the Nibelheim Incident, as well as Cloud Strife and Zack Fair, injected with samples of Sephiroth's cells, turning them into Sephiroth Clones. These "clones" were not direct copies in the same sense as the Genesis and Angeal copies: they received none of Sephiroth's abilities, and due to their weakened mental integrity, pivotal for SOLDIER members to remain sane, most of them became mindless drones devoted to Sephiroth and prone to being telepathically controlled by him.
Cloud was able to maintain his free will unless directly influenced by Sephiroth, in which case he had to fight to remain in control of his body. Zack, on the other hand, had no reaction to the Jenova cells. Through Sephiroth's influence, the clones (including Cloud) were drawn to gather at the North Crater, where they were systematically killed by Sephiroth and their Jenova cells absorbed.
Genesis was cured of his degradation at the end of Crisis Core and isolated himself in a cavern underneath Midgar. Shelke Rui of Deepground survived the organization's destruction, and as one of the Tsviets carries Genesis's cells. Weiss also carries Genesis's cells, but his fate is uncertain as of the secret ending of Dirge of Cerberus where Genesis is seen carrying his body away. Angeal perished, and just prior to the events of Final Fantasy VII Lazard and the final Angeal Copy followed suit, leaving the offspring of Genesis as the only known survivors of Project G and Deepground.
Following Sephiroth's death his influence by means of the Jenova cells in the Lifestream cause the fatal disease Geostigma to infect the Planet. In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the last remaining cells of Jenova are found in the Northern Cave and are absorbed by Kadaj, at which point Sephiroth uses his control over Jenova to shapeshift Kadaj into a new body for himself.
Cloud defeats Sephiroth in battle, and he fades but not before hinting he might return at a later date, leaving Kadaj to die. This makes Cloud the only known product of Project S and SOLDIER left alive. Cloud, Shelke, Genesis and Weiss thus all bear the last known fragments of Jenova's cells, either directly or via the cells of Genesis or Sephiroth.