SOLDIER is like a den of monsters, don't go inside.
- —Zack Fair
SOLDIER (ソルジャー, Sorujā?) is the elite fighting force of Shinra Electric Power Company in Final Fantasy VII. Its members are advanced super-soldiers with superhuman strength, speed, and agility. Much stronger than the Shinra Peacekeeping Troops and the Turks, Shinra uses SOLDIER for special missions that require the greatest use of strength.
SOLDIER members are divided in three classes: 1st Class, 2nd Class, and 3rd Class. 1st Class SOLDIERs are responsible for the most important (and usually most dangerous) missions, while 2nd and 3rd Classes mostly assist Shinra Troops or 1st Class SOLDIERs, or are in charge of less important missions. New units are recruited as 3rd Class and the best are later promoted to 2nd Class, and only distinguished 2nd Class SOLDIERs reach 1st Class.
1st Class SOLDIERs are given special privileges, such as the use of personal items, clothing, and equipment, as well as the right to deny orders assuming any responsibilities from their decisions. According to the Crisis Core Complete Guide SOLDIERs in and of themselves are Shinra industrial secrets, and to prevent information from leaking outside company walls, it is difficult for SOLDIER members to retire, and even if they are allowed to quit Shinra, the company will monitor their subsequent actions. Even if people believe they have evaded surveillance, Shinra will follow them for the remainder of their lives, and, in a worst case scenario, the company will have them killed.
Children around the Planet dream of joining SOLDIER and becoming 1st Class like the hero Sephiroth. SOLDIER operatives are recognizable by the "glow" their eyes take. To further increase the organization's popularity, and for use as a propaganda tool, Shinra has created fan clubs for many of the 1st Class SOLDIERs.
You see, someone in SOLDIER isn't simply exposed to Mako energy. Their bodies are actually injected with Jenova cells...... For better or for worse, only the strong can enter SOLDIER.
- —Cloud Strife
Approximately 30 years before the beginning of Final Fantasy VII, the Jenova Project was initiated to produce a human-Cetra hybrid using the cells from Jenova (mistaken to be a Cetra) and Mako Energy from the Planet. The result was Sephiroth, who, although not having the powers of a Cetra as originally intended, was a child with exceptional abilities. Shinra recognized his potential and a method was planned to mass produce more fighters of his type.
Using similar processes, Shinra exposed promising warriors to raw Mako giving their eyes the unique "glow". Although eclipsed by Sephiroth, the new warriors, called SOLDIER, gained powers surpassing those of a normal combatant. They were sent on the more dangerous or important missions, had access to more equipment and information, and were higher ranked than other members of the army and would be used to great effectiveness during the Wutai War.
- See also: AVALANCHE Insurgency
During the battles with the first AVALANCHE in Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-, the data on SOLDIER operatives are stolen. Fuhito, expanding on the SOLDIER idea, creates his own brand of super soldiers, the Ravens, who are without will and mere mindless killing machines. Using the SOLDIER data, AVALANCHE predicts SOLDIER movements and captures several members to transform into Ravens. SOLDIER never successfully defeats AVALANCHE, with most of the battles being fought by the Turks.
- See also: Genesis War
Headed by the SOLDIER Union Executive, Lazard Deusericus, at the time of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, SOLDIER acts from the Shinra Headquarters in Midgar, from floor 49, that contains a training room, briefing room, and lounge area for off-duty members. Materia Fusion is also available for its members, as the room where Materia is made from crystallized MAKO Stones, is also on the SOLDIER Floor.
Many 2nd and 3rd Class SOLDIERs disappear along with 1st class SOLDIER Genesis Rhapsodos. Shortly after the desertion Angeal Hewley, also product of the Jenova Project like Sephiroth and Genesis, leaves the organization. Angeal was the SOLDIER's emotional heart, acting as a mentor to the younger members inspiring them to hold on to their "SOLDIER honor". Once the two are gone, Zack Fair, Angeal's protégé, is promoted to 1st Class and takes up Angeal's role as the heart of SOLDIER. Later Lazard defects to join Genesis in causing chaos across the Planet.
Zack and Sephiroth are sent to Nibelheim to fix the local Mako Reactor and during the mission a series of events results in Sephiroth denouncing his humanity and destroying the town. After Sephiroth defeats Zack, a young Shinra guard, Cloud Strife, hurls him into the Mako pit below the reactor. Professor Hojo takes Zack and Cloud and the rest of Nibelheim's survivors as test subjects in the next round of experiments in the Jenova Project. Though Zack later escapes, taking a Mako-poisoned Cloud with him, the Shinra army guns him down before he reaches his destination.
The Fall of SOLDIEREdit
In Final Fantasy VII, while SOLDIER itself plays an important role, actual members are few and far between. This could be attributed to the loss of personnel after the mass desertion, the disappearance of the director of SOLDIER, and the loss of SOLDIER's four most prominent members. The appearances of SOLDIER members are limited to the 3rd Class members guarding the Shinra Science Department area on floors 68 and 69 of the Shinra Building, 2nd Class members stationed in Junon after Meteor is summoned, and 1st Class members guarding the Sister Ray in Midgar.
Cloud claims to have been a member, but this is a false memory created by the psychological damage Hojo's experiments caused him, as well as the trauma he experienced from his hometown's destruction and the death of his friend, Zack. Even though Cloud was never a member of SOLDIER, he becomes strong enough to be mistaken for a 1st Class member. Due to the effects of the experiments Cloud's eyes have the "glow" that makes people believe he is a former member.
After Shinra collapses SOLDIER seems to have fallen with it. However, during the events of Dirge of Cerberus -Final Fantasy VII-, Vincent Valentine encounters remnants of SOLDIER hiding out in the Shinra Mansion and the Midgar ruins.
SOLDIER members are equipped with a set of combat fatigues colored to distinguish rank, though the highest ranking members forgo this formality. The SOLDIER outfits are composed of sleeveless turtle-neck sweaters and baggy pants with leather accents that hold their armor and weapon in place when not in use. In Final Fantasy VII they are colored blue for 3rd Class, red for 2nd Class, and purple for 1st Class. Members wear body armor on the chest, head, and shoulders, and wield wide two-handed swords, along with several types of Materia and extra weapons, depending on class. They also wear a belt with the logo as the buckle.
In Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, SOLDIER members are given slightly different uniforms. 1st Class traditionally wears black (although Sephiroth and Genesis modify their uniforms by wearing long coats, Genesis's being red), and do not wear the helmets other SOLDIER members wear. Unlike 2nd and 3rd Class, 1st Class SOLDIER members are given the privilege to choose whether to wear their own clothes instead of standard 1st Class uniforms. 2nd Class wears a purple uniform, and 3rd Class wears light blue uniforms. Their chest armor has disappeared, and the only torso-covering they have over their sleeveless turtle-necks is a leather belt-like wrapping with a new version of the SOLDIER logo embedded on the front that covers the lower stomach.
Zack Fair wears neither red nor purple but rather a dark blue, nor does he wear a helmet (most likely to distinguish him from other SOLDIER members). Another distinctive mark is the "SOLDIER Sword", a longsword with a curved guard with a small SOLDIER logo engraved in the middle. It is the default weapon for 3rd and 2nd Class members, but most known 1st Classes use their own swords.
It is likely that SOLDIER equipment also depends on the situation. According to Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- SOLDIER members acquire Materia on missions, and get new equipment from the company through a hatch on the SOLDIER Floor.
1st Class privileges informally include the use of personal equipment, the use of rationed supplies outside of missions, and the right to veto orders. This is most obviously shown with Sephiroth's choice of clothing and his use of the Masamune sword. 1st Class SOLDIER members also have the option to fuse Materia to use more powerful magic and abilities.
Regardless of ranks, because of their treatment, genetic reinforcement, and Mako infusion, all SOLDIERs inherit the ability to access the use of gathered external Mako that accumulates in their bodies, which is shown in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- to be responsible as a catalyst for Materia Fusion and unleashing Limit Breaks to higher levels. This power is measured in a statistic named a SOLDIER Point.
Final Fantasy VII and Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- present wildly different versions of how SOLDIER is organized and how they are equipped. It is possible that with the loss of personnel, including their four most powerful members, Shinra has reorganized SOLDIER. The uniforms and standard equipment could have been changed, explaining the differences and with the weaker and more abundant members SOLDIER becomes less of an elite operative based organization, but more of a force that serves as elite guards and shock troops. The lack of any notable SOLDIER members in Final Fantasy VII who still serve Shinra could be evidence of this.
- Sephiroth: Known as Shinra's greatest SOLDIER. Wields the Masamune with ease, moves incredibly fast, has unbelievable strength, and is deployed to only the most dangerous and important assignments. Abandons SOLDIER and Shinra when he discovers the experiments that created him.
- Genesis Rhapsodos: A 1st Class SOLDIER who possesses combat abilities that rank on-par to Sephiroth's. Genesis envies Sephiroth's fame and status and wishes to surpass him. Abandons Shinra, taking with him many other SOLDIER members, who then create an army of "Genesis Copies". Wields the rapier and uses powerful magic that can hinder even Sephiroth.
- Angeal Hewley: A noble and honorable 1st Class SOLDIER, he puts his dreams and honor above all. He is best friends with Genesis and Sephiroth and forced to choose between his SOLDIER honor and his friendship. Wields the Buster Sword as well as the classic SOLDIER broadsword.
- Zack Fair: Angeal's dedicated follower and friend. Zack knows little at first of the dark secrets behind Shinra. At the start of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Zack is a 2nd Class SOLDIER member, but gets promoted to 1st. He obtains the Buster Sword from Angeal and is a subject to Hojo's experiments following the Nibelheim Incident.
- Kunsel: A 2nd Class SOLDIER member who is best friends with Zack. He is a helpful source of information, and seems to know more than anyone about the workings of Shinra and the actions of other SOLDIER members.
- Luxiere: A 2nd Class SOLDIER member who looks up to Zack as an idol, even suggesting he should take over control of SOLDIER.
- Nero the Sable and Weiss the Immaculate: The two brothers who show up at the end of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- wearing 1st Class SOLDIER outfits, but despite Deepground being part of SOLDIER, it is unknown whether or not they are truly members, because their belts have a different symbol.
- Essai and Sebastian: Two members of SOLDIER appearing only in Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-. Fuhito experiments on them, and they must be eliminated with some help from Zack. A scene on the DMW in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- for Tseng shows him and Zack walking up to a memorial for the two near Modeoheim; both their swords are stuck into the ground, crossing over each other.
- Recall Missions 3rd Class SOLDIER: Zack first encounters him being berated by his superior and he considers leaving SOLDIER. With some support (and a lot of help) from Zack he finds his courage to stay and even rises in rank.
- Spy-Hunting 2nd Class SOLDIER: This SOLDIER is spends most of his time in the streets of Midgar hunting for Wutai spies who seek to strike back against Shinra after the war. He gains tips from an unknown source where to look for these spies, and shares the information with Zack who helps him capture them and rout their bases.
- Restrictors: Four specially picked members of SOLDIER trained through the methods of Deepground, and comprise the confidential 14th Unit, Lost Force. Their roles were that of generals, to enact the orders of President Shinra and maintain rigid order among Deepground's inhabitants.
- 13th Unit Ragnarok: Once was SOLDIER's most decorated and strongest forces, hailed as the strongest in the world. Discovering the experiments and purpose of Deepground, they reacted in revulsion. They were wiped out in a single night by Lost Force.
- Main article: Deepground
Deepground is a top-secret military and experimentation group started as a medical division to attend to wounded SOLDIERs, and later became an experimentation ground for more extreme experiments involving the subjects of the Jenova Project. Located beneath Midgar in Sector 0, its existence is known only to President Shinra, as well as executives Scarlet, Heidegger, and Professor Hojo.
In contrast to the SOLDIER program, different Deepground soldiers are subjected to different experiments for their creation, rather than the set procedure that produces normal SOLDIER members. Their attire is different, bearing the original SOLDIER logo from Final Fantasy VII, even though in all subsequent pieces of the Compilation the Crisis Core SOLDIER logo is used.
Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega reveals details of the early ideas the development team had for SOLDIER. SOLDIER were originally intended as warriors bathed in Mako energy who could use magic. In the early drafts SOLDIER was used to suppress oppression against the construction of Mako Reactors. The Planet's original history told of a war between two nations that dragged on due to the countries being equally strong, which was when SOLDIER was formed.
Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega sheds some light in the SOLDIER's tough screening program: selected from the army or civilian population, the candidates had to undergo many examinations. Finally, at the training facility, in addition to training the candidates were exposed to Mako energy and only a handful graduated. Many became physically and mentally ill and dropped out, but this was concealed by disguising the loss in an extraordinary number of accidental deaths and suicides. Some people, though, managed to escape.
The SOLDIER operatives who were sent to the war were an elite few, and the guerilla warfare shifted the advantage to the nation on Shinra's side. SOLDIER's activities were broadcast in detail and the people began to view SOLDIER as heroes. After the war SOLDIER turned towards "maintaining the peace", which included the suppression of rebel elements. At this time people viewed the government as good as worthless; they trusted only Shinra to protect them. This was how the government fell under Shinra's power.
Exposure to Mako energy had more visible symptoms in the early story drafts: Those bathed in Mako would gain superhuman strength, and their dormant "Jenova" element would become easier to awaken. However, as the energy would run out the subject would suffer mental damage, such as rapid weakness, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. Shinra was aware of Mako's addictiveness and that overexposure would turn people into monsters, yet the company would continue infusing SOLDIER members with Mako.
Many of these original ideas were not used in the game.
SOLDIER 3rd class appears as an enemy.
A member of SOLDIER appears as a character card.
Lightning's SOLDIER garb from Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and a SOLDIER 3rd Class from Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- appear with Fire-elemental cards.
Non-Final Fantasy AppearancesEdit
Kingdom Hearts seriesEdit
SOLDIER is alluded to through Cloud and Zack. Cloud's journal entry mentions him as a SOLDIER, and Zack features the SOLDIER logo on his sword and belt. The sword he wields is based on the sword he uses in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- before he receives the Buster Sword, which is the standard issue weapon in SOLDIER.
- SOLDIER has only been seen with male operatives. It is not known if SOLDIER in its entirety is male orientated, but Deepground, which began as a medical division of SOLDIER, has several female members. In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud and Aeris joke about the Turks pursuing her to recruit her for SOLDIER.
- Although members of SOLDIER are shown to use swords, in Final Fantasy VII the SOLDIER enemies look as if they are wielding lances.
- In Junon during Final Fantasy VII the player can talk to an old man in the top floor of a shop who remarks he used to be in SOLDIER. It is unknown what rank or member he was, but later in the game he starts to wear a cape, similar to Sephiroth Clones, stating that he got a sudden urge to dress that way. This hints at SOLDIER members being given Jenova Cells as well as Mako infusion.
- The concept of SOLDIER is similar to the Magitek Knights of Final Fantasy VI: both require candidates to have genetic infusions (Mako for SOLDIER and Magitek for the Magitek Knights) that will enhance their combat capabilities, and the main protagonists are initially believed to be of their ranks. The main antagonists of both games were the progenitors of their respective classes, being born from genetic experiments to create a person with superhuman powers.