We've finally released samples into town. They walk all around town, but do not seem to want to leave it. Furthermore, two of them are still in their pods. Again, no explanation is provided to me. Could the procedure have failed? No, impossible! Professor Hojo's experiments don't fail!Researcher's Diary #4, Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-
The Sephiroth-clones (セフィロス・コピー, Sefirosu Kopī?, lit. Sephiroth Copy), also known as Robed Men, are a group of test subjects used in the Project S portion of the Jenova Project in Final Fantasy VII. Cloaked men controlled by Sephiroth also appear in Final Fantasy VII Remake, although not directly being referred to as "clones". The test subjects were injected with Jenova's cells by Professor Hojo to test Jenova's ability to recall her scattered cells into a "Reunion", in what he called the "Jenova Reunion Theory". There are at least fourteen known test subjects, but Hojo rejected many as failures, leading the exact number of people mutilated by this experiment to be unknown.
In the original Japanese script, the clones are known as Sephiroth Copies. "Clone" is a misnomer; subjects were infected with Jenova cells to reproduce a similar effect to that of Sephiroth—who eventually exerts control of the subjects as his puppets—rather than being genetic copies.
In Final Fantasy VII, all clones share a model of a fully robed dark figure, though their size varies, suggesting some of the clones may even be kids. When the characters observe these cloaked figures they mention their numbered tattoos, but this is not shown on their character model. They shuffle around slowly and talk about Sephiroth and the reunion. Dio mentions a more coherent clone who apparently asked him questions and he doesn't mention anything odd about this encounter but their tattoo.
In Final Fantasy VII Remake, the robed men's features can be better perceived. They are tall men who appear very pale. They wear dark but tattered hooded robes with a large white abstract symbol on the back.
After the events of the Nibelheim Incident, Professor Hojo rounded up the survivors of Sephiroth's rampage, with the exception of Tifa Lockhart who was rescued by Zangan before Shinra's arrival. He injected them with Jenova cells and exposed them to mako energy, similar, if not identical, to the creation of a SOLDIER. Those not the finest in physical and mental health, and thus could not retain their personalities, became shades of Jenova. Since Jenova was a puppet of Sephiroth, the Clones also became fanatics who would do anything for their master.
Those who turned into mindless slaves were tattooed with a number somewhere on their body, but those who failed and kept some shred of their ego were left to die. Cloud Strife's status, had Zack Fair not intervened and rescued him from the Shinra Manor, is debatable. Zack, also a Sephiroth-clone, was a complete failure: he was not mentally affected by the experiment due to previously being unaffected by the identical SOLDIER procedure. The twelve successful Sephiroth-clones become the group of fanatics that follows Sephiroth around in Final Fantasy VII.
In Final Fantasy VII Remake, two pale men in dark cloaks are seen: numbers 2 and 49. They are initially found staggering around the slums, but Cloud at times sees the clones as Sephiroth who taunts him in various ways. During the party's trek through the Shinra Building, they witness an apocalyptic vision of Sephiroth-clones and a burning Midgar and an approaching Meteor in the Shinra VR theater. Clone number 49 has also come to the building, and Cloud's party as well as Shinra executive Palmer see him take the form of Sephiroth himself, who takes Jenova's body from professor Hojo's lab and murders the President and Barret before facing the party as Jenova Dreamweaver. Clone number 49 disappears after being defeated and Barret is revived by the Whispers, but number 2 soon arrives to take Jenova's body and throws himself off the roof of the building.
In the original, the Sephiroth-clones do not migrate to Midgar as Hojo had predicted. Rather, the twelve head into North Crater and hunt for the Black Materia for Sephiroth. Jenova herself breaks out of the Shinra Building and moves towards Sephiroth in his form and under his complete control. Cloud is influenced by both the unconscious need for the Reunion, and his drive to avenge Nibelheim. After arriving at the North Crater, Sephiroth, using Jenova's body to shapeshift into his form, kills several of them before fighting Cloud and Avalanche as Jenova∙DEATH.
Only Cloud survives the journey to the North Crater, and thus becomes the only "success" of the Sephiroth-clone experiment; Cloud has his own mind and ego, but Sephiroth can still take control of him at will, although at times Cloud manages to resist Sephiroth's influence. At the North Crater, when Sephiroth reveals Cloud is a slave and claims his past is an illusion, Cloud breaks down and hands Sephiroth the Black Materia before falling into the lifestream.
Later, with the help of Tifa inside his subconscious, Cloud rebuilds his psyche and is restored to normal humanity. After the battle with Safer∙Sephiroth, Sephiroth tries one last chance to take over Cloud's mind, but is easily defeated thanks to Cloud's strengthened will power. Sephiroth can no longer exert his power over him, and the Sephiroth-clones are finished.
In the novel Final Fantasy VII The Kids Are Alright: A Turks Side Story, it is revealed that Annette Townshend had been assigned to recover the missing test subjects. Her dead body, along with those of the copies, is discovered by her son, Evan Townshend, in a mako cavern beneath the Great Glacier to the north of Icicle Inn. Among the possessions found on her body is a small piece of Jenova's still-living flesh wrapped in a handkerchief, which was being pursued by Kadaj; Evan kicks it into the lifestream and Kadaj leaps in after it, dissolving.
In the film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the children infected with Geostigma each carry a small portion of Jenova's cells. Kadaj tells Rufus Shinra that "[his] brothers and sisters who share Mother's cells will all assemble" as part of the Reunion he and the other remnants of Sephiroth are planning. Thus, while those infected with Geostigma are different from, and are never referred to as, Sephiroth-clones, their role is roughly the same.
List of known Sephiroth-clones
Below is a list of every known Sephiroth-clone. This list omits several clones, as the fate of many numbered clones is never revealed or expanded upon.
- 1: A young man around Cloud's age. Went from North Corel to Gold Saucer. Had a tattoo on the back of his hand. Asked Dio if he had the Black Materia, as Dio later tells Cloud in the Speed Square.
- 2: The man suffering from mako poisoning in Sector 5 slums. Upon returning to Sector 5 after receiving the Sector 5 Key from Bone Village, residents report seeing him leave "mumbling something about a reunion". In Final Fantasy VII Remake, he wears a black cloak like the others, and roams about the Sector 5 slums. A boy in the Children's Secret Hideout says that the man #2 used to be in SOLDIER. Near the end of the game he appears in the Shinra Building to recover Jenova's remains. He is also revealed to have been an Ex-SOLDIER by one of the children's fathers.
- 4: One of the people found in Nibelheim in Tifa's House's upstairs.
- 5: One of the people found in Nibelheim in Tifa's House's entrance.
- 6: One of the people found in Nibelheim's inn.
- 9: Exited from the Temple of the Ancients before dying. Had a tattoo on the back of his neck.
- 11: A man on the outskirts of Sector 7 slums in Episode INTERmission. One of the people found in Nibelheim in Tifa's House's kitchen in Final Fantasy VII.
- 12: One of the people found in the Nibelheim Item Store.
- 16: A man on the outskirts of Sector 7 slums in Episode INTERmission.
- Others: Four other clones appear in Nibelheim, but their numbers (if they had any) are not revealed. They include two clones found outside the Shinra Mansion and two tiny clones found in an attic (probably the children seen in Cloud's flashback, given the younger one's propensity to repeat his sister's words). These may have been given the numbers missing from the list above (3, 7, 8, and 10).
- Marco: Appears in Final Fantasy VII Remake and is tattooed with the number 49. He lives in the slums of Midgar, and Tifa is asked by Marle to look after him in his apartment in Sector 7. He is nearly attacked by Cloud to whom Marco appears as Sephiroth himself, but he is saved when Tifa intervenes. Marco is used several times by Sephiroth as the host for his physical appearance, eventually being used as the host body for assassinating President Shinra, and fighting the party as Jenova Dreamweaver. He is killed when Jenova's body is.
- Cloud Strife: The main character of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Remake. Went into a vegetative state after being injected with Jenova cells and exposed to Mako, and was labeled a failure. This assumption proved false, as he regained consciousness and was controlled by Sephiroth to an extent. One of the only Clones to make it to the North Crater, but later threw off Sephiroth's control. Does not have a number.
- Zack Fair: The main character of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-. Was not affected by the Jenova cells, and was therefore labeled a failure. He does not have a number. In most depictions in the Final Fantasy VII series, Zack dies when gunned down by the Shinra army outside Midgar.
- Lilisa Meg: Appears in the "Picturing the Past" short story in Final Fantasy VII Remake World Preview, and is tattooed with the number 24.
- Glen Reiner: Appears in the "Picturing the Past" short story. His tattoo number is not revealed.
- Geddie Bach: Appears in the "Picturing the Past" short story. His tattoo number is not revealed.
The Ex-SOLDIER who runs a weapon shop in Junon begins to wear a robe like the Sephiroth-clones when visited after the party has the Highwind in the original Final Fantasy VII. He states that a while ago, he felt the urge to dress like this, indicating the procedure that produced the Sephiroth-clones is the same treatment given to the members of SOLDIER.
In and around North Crater, 17 black cloaks are seen. These are likely to include the 11 surviving clones as well as others with Jenova cells. If the player were to return to Nibelheim after viewing these scenes, the clones will still be there, although this is likely an oversight as they disappear once Meteor is summoned.
Eight of the nine Nibelheim clones are named in Final Fantasy VII The Kids Are Alright: A Turks Side Story. Their names are not identified with their numbers, however the two that share a surname are likely the siblings. In the original game, the five caped characters that Cloud checks the number of he refers to as men.
The following five are confirmed dead following the events of North Crater:
- Kaitlin Stark (ケイトリン・スタークス, Keitorin Sutākusu?)
- Edmund Stark (エドモンド・スタークス, Edomondo Sutākusu?)
- Trevor Schoen (トレバー・ショーン, Torebā Shōn?)
- Ezra Monte (エズラ・モンティ, Ezura Monti?)
- Ian Meadows (イアン・メドウス, Ian Medōsu?)
The following three's bodies were not found:
- Rick Fergus (リック・ファーガス, Rikku Fāgasu?)
- Lisa Tutti (リサ・トゥッティ, Risa Tutti?)
- Senna York (セナ・ヨーク, Sena Yōku?)
The Sephiroth-clones, as well as Cloud's status as such—and more specifically Sephiroth placing the various clones, including Cloud himself, under control—were referenced in the third round of Mewtwo's Classic Mode Psychic Control (which deals with Mewtwo "recruiting" a defeated opponent in the next match) for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Behind the scenes
In an early version of the game script, the Sephiroth-clones were not people, but, rather, parts of Jenova floating in the air covered by their cloaks. During important plot points they would reveal themselves to be pieces of Jenova's body: her right arm, heart, etc. They also replaced Sephiroth in several scenes, such as the pivotal one in the Forgotten City.
At one point, Red XIII fears he might be a Sephiroth-clone due to being given a number by Professor Hojo. This is untrue as the number was given to him in an unrelated experiment. In actuality, he was captured by Hojo more than three years after the Sephiroth-clones were created, confirmed by the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega. His tattoo also uses the Roman numeral, while dialogue implies (and seen visibly in Final Fantasy VII Remake) that the clones use Arabic numerals. In the original game the clones revealed no number higher than 12, while in Final Fantasy VII Remake the highest number seen is 49. This may be an allusion to the number 7 (7x7=49), and also perhaps because 4 and 9 are considered to be unlucky numbers in Japanese superstition: 4 is pronounced like shi (death) and 9 is pronounced like ku (suffering). It could also refer to the Buddhist concept of bardo, the intermediate stage between death and rebirth, which—according to some interpretations—can last for up to seven weeks (49 days). The robed men act as hosts to the true Sephiroth, who posthumously affects the mortal world by acting through them.