Before we move on past Nibelheim (I’m seriously lagging on my playthrough!) I want to take a few minutes to talk about the other optional character that we get to pick up while we’re in the creepy ghost town that totally never burned down.
Locked in the basement of the Shinra mansion is a vampire named Vincent Valentine. I don’t know that he’s actually a vampire, but he’s been sleeping in a coffin for over twenty years and he doesn’t look to be older than 30. Also, he’s been genetically altered to be able to transform into various movie monster tributes when he gets suitably angry.
So yeah, he’s pretty much a vampire.
Vincent’s tragic backstory is quite good, actually, because he has much stronger connections to Sephiroth than you would expect from an optional “secret” character (the fact that he and Yuffie are optional always struck me as odd, since they’re listed in the manual as playable characters, and the game goes out of its way to let you know you can recruit them; this is a big departure from the optional characters of the previous Final Fantasy, whom you might not even know existed without someone telling you). In fact, Vincent’s connection to Sephiroth is really pretty awesome (and creepy) when you think about it.
You see, Vincent’s ex-girlfriend is Sephiroth’s mother.
I’m not talking about Jenova here; Vincent’s ex is a woman named Lucrecia. She and Vincent were lovers when he was an operative with the Turks and she was an assistant researcher on the Jenova project many years prior to the events of the game. For reasons that aren’t really clear in Final Fantasy VII, Lucrecia dumped Vincent in favor of Professor Hojo (the current mastermind of all the genetic horrors we’re encountering while we chase down the man in the black cape), who got her pregnant. That baby was Sephiroth.
Thrown in with Vincent’s tragic love life is the fact that he’s one of the best cases of body horror in Final Fantasy VII. He was horrified to learn that Hojo was going to experiment on Lucrecia’s baby, and when he tried to rescue her, Hojo shot Vincent and then used his body to conduct some rather ghastly experiments, resulting in Vincent’s apparent immortality and his unique ability to transform into berserk monsters.
What I find most fascinating about Vincent’s character is that he’s obsessed with atoning for his past failures, even though by all accounts he seems not to be at fault. Hojo’s the one who was responsible for the experimentation that turned Lucrecia’s baby into a mentally unstable super-soldier, but Vincent really wallows in his own failures (he did spend a couple decades just sleeping as a way of punishing himself). I’d call it a pretty raw deal that he feels that way, but with an indeterminable life span, maybe he’ll eventually come to terms with the fact that he just got screwed over by someone who really is evil and begin to forgive himself.
Nonetheless, Vincent’s a good addition to the party, and along with him comes some more information about Sephiroth, like confirmation that he’s not a Cetra like he believes and that Jenova really is just some weird monster thing that (thankfully) didn’t actually give birth to Sephiroth. Also, much later in the game, we’ll get to see a very poignant scene where Vincent just lays it out to Hojo about how he’s responsible for everything that’s happening, and then (spoiler alert) kill the jerk.
Of course, to get to that point, we’ll need to press further in and tackle Mt. Nibel and the lands beyond it.