The Shinra Electric Power Company found a way to use the Lifestream as an energy source. Thanks to the Shinra, we were able to lead very comfortable lives. But isn't that because we were taking away from the planet's life?
The mako reactors, called Makoro Plants in a demo release, are giant reactors created by Shinra Electric Power Company in Final Fantasy VII. The reactors are machines built to forcibly extract the lifestream from the earth and process it into mako energy. Because mako energy is efficient in comparison to other fuels used at the time (implied to be coal and oil in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII), and mako reactors can be built almost anywhere, mako allows Shinra to acquire a monopoly on electricity production and almost rule the world.
The mako reactors were designed by Reeve Tuesti several years prior to Final Fantasy VII. It is unknown when the reactors were designed, but in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete, Rufus Shinra mentions mako energy has been in production for over forty years. This coincides with mako being used in the Jenova Project, as Jenova was discovered thirty years prior to the beginning of Final Fantasy VII.
Wildlife dies around the areas where mako reactors operate and an eco-terrorist group called Avalanche rises up to oppose Shinra, but without strong public support. A more radical cell of the organization begins bombing the reactors in Midgar, disrupting electricity services around the metropolis, but unknown to them Shinra is allowing their activities because they want to garner public support and plan to abandon Midgar anyway for the Neo Midgar project. Midgar is eventually destroyed by Meteor.
According to the novella On the Way to a Smile "Episode: Barret", the lifestream's flow has changed since the coming of Meteor, and the reactors can no longer access it and produce mako. The reactors have been shut down since people feel indebted to the lifestream for saving them.
Small bits of mako remain in the reactors, which are used by the Midgar survivors to build Edge near the city's ruins. In Dirge of Cerberus -Final Fantasy VII-, Reeve and the World Regenesis Organization destroy the reactors to prevent Omega from drawing the lifestream through them.
A total of nine reactors were built in Midgar: eight surrounding the city, one for each sector, and one underground to power the Shinra Headquarters and the base of Deepground. In the opening events of Final Fantasy VII, a cell of the ecoterrorist group Avalanche blew up Mako Reactor 1, which caused a brief power cut in Sector 1. Avalanche later bombs Mako Reactor 5 despite learning that Shinra anticipated with the remake depicting the company having allowed Mako Reactor 1's destruction. Despite the bombings, only Mako Reactor 5 continued to function.
Later, the Sister Ray is moved to Midgar. Without Huge Materia from Junon to power the cannon, the Sister Ray is connected to the eight reactors surrounding the city though the Sector 1 Reactor is still in shambles. When then cannon fires, putting Midgar into a temporary blackout, it destroys Diamond Weapon and pierces the barrier Sephiroth has erected over the North Crater. Professor Hojo takes control of the cannon to overload it and fire again to give Sephiroth more mako. Through Avalanche's intervention Hojo is killed and the cannon shut down. The mako reactors continue to be used until Meteor arrives, with the reactors leaking mako in the aftermath.
The numbers of the eight exterior reactors are labeled on the entrance side with the Japanese writing of daiji.
Mako Reactor 0
Reactor 0 is built under the Shinra Building to provide energy for both it and its Deepground facility.
Fort Condor Reactor
A large condor lives atop the reactor. The condor appears dormant, protecting its eggs, and both it and the reactor are protected by rebels living in the fort. The bird's presence interferes with Shinra's attempts to retrieve a Huge Materia from within the reactor, and they repeatedly attempt to remove it and defeat the rebels held up in the fort. In Final Fantasy VII there is a minigame to combat Shinra and save the condor, after which it dies and the egg hatches into a chick, along with the Phoenix Materia.
A Huge Materia is also found here.
The Corel reactor is located near the coal mining town of Corel. Several years before the Final Fantasy VII Shinra executives convinced the townspeople (including Barret Wallace) to sell their coal-mine to the company and allow the reactor's construction. At some point after the construction Shinra burned Corel down in response to a terrorist attack on the reactor. The Gold Saucer theme-park was constructed above the ruins of Corel. With nowhere to go the survivors built a shanty town they named North Corel. This event is critical to several sub-stories in Final Fantasy VII.
A Huge Materia is produced in the reactor and transported by train to North Corel.
The Junon reactor is the only underwater reactor. It has a submarine dock, and can be accessed from ground level by an elevator.
A Huge Materia is taken from here by submarine.
The first reactor created by Shinra, the Mt. Nibel reactor, holds many secrets. It housed a chamber containing subjects of extensive experimentation by Shinra scientists who had tested the effects of injecting mako directly into human beings. The entity Jenova was kept within the reactor, but was moved to Midgar after the village was razed by Sephiroth. The reactor continued to be used to power Nibelheim, and it is likely the test subjects at the reactor were either destroyed or moved as well.
A reactor was originally planned to be built in Modeoheim. The construction had already begun when the project was scrapped. The few resident scientists abandoned the town and it was not visited again until the partial reactor was briefly used as a base by Genesis's forces.
Shinra targeted Wutai to place a reactor at the Materia Cave south of the town, but the ruler of Wutai, Godo Kisaragi, refused. This led to the conflict known as the Wutai War. Although Shinra won the war, for unknown reasons, they abandoned their plans to build a reactor at Wutai.
Whenever the player visits a mako reactor in Final Fantasy VII, the eponymous theme, "Mako Reactor" (魔晄炉, Makō Ro?), plays. The theme also plays in the 1996 and 1997 demo versions, although the earlier demo has a slightly different version of the track.
The mako reactor has been made into a popular zombie escape mod in Counter Strike: Source. The map has achieved so much recognition many clans have been formed in the name of the map.
Behind the scenes
At one point in the development of Final Fantasy VII, Avalanche had to shut down all of reactors to stand a chance at defeating Sephiroth, thus resulting in Reeve betraying Shinra to help them. While this plot-point was cut from the game, a similar plot-point occurs in Dirge of Cerberus -Final Fantasy VII- where Avalanche has to destroy the mako reactors around Midgar to slow down Omega's resurrection.
When the original Final Fantasy VII came out the development team was young and did not give much consideration to the ethics of destroying mako reactors to save the planet. With the remake, because of real world events the developers saw it as their responsibility to show more nuance to the conflict. In the original the Sector 8 is rather empty after the bombing, but in the remake more people were added to show how destroying the Sector 1 reactor affected the populace. The angle that Shinra was using Barret's group to their own ends was also added to soften the image of the player carrying out the terrorism.
- FF7 Remake Walkthrough Team (28 August, 2020). Final Fantasy VII Remake Ultimania Interview with Motomu Toriyama, English Translation. game8. Archived from the original on 23 February, 2021.