North Crater, also known as the Northern Cave Crater (大空洞火口, Dai Kūdō Kakō?, lit. Large Crater Cavity), or simply Crater (クレーター, Kurētā?), is a geographical location in Final Fantasy VII. It appears in the Icicle Area on the Northern Continent of the Planet. It was created when an asteroid or meteorite fell thousands of years ago. This, in tandem with the continent's titular proximity to the Planet's North Pole, makes most of the Northern Continent a frozen desert. An enormous wound to the Planet, a mass of Spirit Energy is brought around the crater to heal it. Because of the near-extinction of the Cetra, and thus little to no life being cultivated and no new Spirit Energy being created, the wound heals very slowly and still exists 2,000 years later.
When the party first approaches the crater they do not realize what it is as the cliffs that make up the crater's circumference are known as Gaea's Cliff. After descending into the crater, the Whirlwind Maze lies at the bottom. Beneath the crater lies a cavern system known as the Northern Cave, which leads down to the Planet's core. It is suggested in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- that the Great Cavern of Wonders is also in the crater, indicating it is "a second subterranean den near the northern cave". It is explored in the ninth set of missions titled Great Cavern of Wonders.
In Final Fantasy VII, when the party gains access to the Highwind, they cannot access the crater as an energy barrier forms over it. Gaea's Cliff also becomes inaccessible and therefore all areas of the crater become inaccessible apart from the Northern Cave that can be visited after the barrier is destroyed.
There are three areas of the North Crater not technically belonging to other areas. The first two areas are referred to as "Crater" and are traversed as the party descends into the crater after reaching Gaea's Cliff's peak. The other area is known as "Northern Cave Crater" and is the area before the party descends into the Northern Cave.
The North Crater was created when the asteroid or meteorite that contained Jenova crashed into the Planet thousands of years ago. Jenova began to destroy the Planet's lifeforms until the Cetra sealed her within the crater. The Planet placed its guardians, the Weapons, to lie in the crater in case another threat as great as Jenova would appear. Jenova was left dormant until Gast Faremis, working for Shinra Electric Power Company, unearthed her, thinking Jenova to be an Ancient.
Later, when Sephiroth was defeated by Cloud Strife at the Nibelheim mako reactor during the Nibelheim Incident, he traveled through the Lifestream to the Northern Cave to recuperate. Five years later, Sephiroth, controlling Jenova and making her use his form, leads the Sephiroth Clones to the crater.
Cloud and his party follow Sephiroth north after the events of the Forgotten City. The party travels through the Great Glacier and are confronted by Gaea's Cliff. After conversing with Mr. Holzoff, a climber who never reached the cliff's peak, they climb up and discover the crater. They run down the descent into the Whirlwind Maze where they discover the Sephiroth Clones fall from exhaustion, or be killed by Sephiroth. Upon reaching Sephiroth the party fights Jenova∙DEATH, after which Sephiroth is gone and they find the Black Materia on the ground. Cloud leaves the Black Materia with a remaining party member. Sephiroth shows Cloud and his party Nibelheim back before the incident, and shows Cloud he was never in Nibelheim five years ago, rather, it was Zack Fair.
Cloud is confident it is just an illusion, but Tifa, the only other party member to be in Nibelheim during the incident, does not refute Sephiroth's claims. Sephiroth tells Cloud he is just another drone like all the other mindless Sephiroth Clones. Cloud breaks down and Sephiroth tricks the party member with the Black Materia to give it up into the enemy hands. Rufus Shinra and his group of Shinra Executives land in the Whirlwind Maze with the airship Highwind.
Seeing the abundant Mako, Rufus thinks the Northern Cave to be the fabled Promised Land of Cetra legends. Cloud appears and pleads Professor Hojo to tell his number in the Jenova Project. Hojo laughs off how a specimen he considered a "failure" turned out to be the only successful Sephiroth Clone, but cannot recall much about Cloud.
Cloud hands the Black Materia to Sephiroth whose true form is residing within a cocoon of crystallized Mako. Sephiroth summons Meteor and the Planet summons its protectors, the Weapons, to defeat the threat creating a massive explosion of energy. Rufus and his entourage flee the chaos on the Highwind taking Tifa and Barret Wallace with them. Cloud is flushed into the Lifestream, and leaves the party temporarily.
Sephiroth seals the crater's entry with a forcefield and continues to remake his body to prepare for his ascension into godhood, his plan being to absorb the Spirit Energy that would well up to treat the wound created by his Meteor. Shinra uses the Sister Ray cannon to destroy the Diamond Weapon and blast through Sephiroth's forcefield. With the crater's defense down, Cloud and his party enter the crater to access the Northern Cave to defeat Sephiroth. Defeating Sephiroth releases Holy, an ultimate White Magic spell, and it bursts from the crater to destroy Meteor while the party escapes on the Highwind.
The North Crater is located to the North on Gaia's Northern continent.
Behind the scenes
In Final Fantasy VII, if the player rides the Highwind backwards into the barrier around the crater they can pass through it, but trying to land the Highwind within the crater will result in being be knocked out by the barrier.
The original Japanese version of Final Fantasy VII where Ruby Weapon and Emerald Weapon did not exist as optional superbosses, the FMV sequence where the Highwind leaves the North Crater as the Weapons awaken is different. No Weapons emerge from the crater but merely a white light shines from its depths, and there is no close-up of Tifa and Barret on the deck of the Highwind.