Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Staff Review  

A Day of Crisis
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Less than 20 Hours
+ Beautiful presentation
+ Soundtrack, great mix of old and new
+ Clarifies backstory of FFVII
- Randomness of the battle system
- Awkward combat interface
- Dull optional missions
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   In an effort to create a series within a series, Square Enix has expanded on the PlayStation title Final Fantasy VII to bring about the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. This compilation has seen the release of the CG movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the PlayStation 2 third-person shooter/RPG Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, and the Japanese-only release of the episodic mobile phone game Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation Portable is an action RPG, and is currently the last announced title in the compilation; closing things out by coming full circle back to the beginning of Final Fantasy VII.

   Crisis Core is a prequel that follows the adventures of Zack Fair of SOLDIER. At the start of the game Zack is merely a 2nd class SOLDIER, hidden behind the glory of the 1st class SOLDIERS: Angeal, Genesis, and the greatest of them all, Sephiroth. Zack is taken under the wing of Angeal in an effort to locate Genesis, who went missing during a mission at Wutai. Quickly it is discovered that things are a great deal more complicated than Zack had ever expected as he is caught up in a poetic story of betrayal, heroism, and tragedy. Crisis Core not only details what happened to Zack prior to the events of Final Fantasy VII, but also weaves a truly interesting standalone tale. The game's original story is somewhat overshadowed by the epic retelling of events that were previously seen during the almost incomprehensible flashbacks of Final Fantasy VII itself; as those events were nowhere near as clearly told as they now are. Crisis Core clears up much confusion from the original series title.

   As an action RPG, Crisis Core is a very fast-paced, high action game. Players control Zack as he encounters groups of enemies in a real-time combat setting. As Zack moves around areas, exploration is occassionally halted as the words "Activating Combat Mode" appear on screen to signal the beginning of a battle. Once in combat, Zack is able to attack, dodge, and block at the press of a button. Attacks are selected via a menu-based system with regular attacks being the default option. In an awkward setup, the left and right trigger buttons are used to move between equipped materia, forcing players to cycle through attack commands during the heat of combat. Materia grants the use of magic spells that require MP and combat skills that take AP. Enhancement materia is used to raise various stats such as HP, MP, attack and defense. Spells include elemental attacks, protective spells, and restorative spells. Combat is fast, but not extremely complex, requiring little strategic planning outside of making sure that Zack has enough HP to survive the current onslaught of enemies.

Truly Awesome The Breaking Point

   A key element of combat in Crisis Core is the luck-based Digital Mind Wave or the DMW. This rotating three slot mechanic is constantly spinning throughout combat and grants Zack certain enhancements depending on the slot line up. Matching three sevens on the DMW will cause Zack to level up, while matching three faces will active a Limit Verge attack. Limit Verges are powerful moves that will grant Zack a boost in combat. The type of move is specific to the matched character and whether or not Zack has accessed this character. These Limit Verges range from Zack performing a damaging attack, having his HP restored, or gaining the ability to perform critical hits. The DMW comes in quite handy as it is required to level up both Zack and his materia, but the fact that it is random makes it a questionable game mechanic as there is no way to control it.

   One aspect that Crisis Core completely shines in is graphics. Considering that Crisis Core is a handheld title, it easily rivals many PlayStation 2 RPGs. Character detail is fantastic; cinematic actions, combat animations, and vocal/lip syncronization are all highly detailed. Some of the game's cutscene are just amazing to watch and it is difficult to truly describe the level of quality found in this portable title. It is best to just experience it first hand.

Male Bonding Male Bonding

   A great deal of Crisis Core's cinematic scenes are fully voiced and very solidly so. Complimenting the voice acting is the wonderful soundtrack, featuring a selection of new tracks and remixed older tracks from Final Fantasy VII. Takeharu Ishimoto does a wonderful job of giving Uematsu's classic FFVII soundtrack a fresh feel. He also composed many memorable themes for this soundtrack all on his own. The game's Japanese ending song, "Why," is very catchy and fits wonderfully into the game.

   Crisis Core offers two difficulty options at the start of the game: normal and hard. Normal mode is fairly easy for most of the game with only a few bosses offering a significant challenge. Hard mode does ramp up the difficulty a good deal from normal, but is not impossible. The DMV is less active than it normal mode, making leveling more difficult. Sadly, Crisis Core is not a very long game, offering just a little over ten hours for a playthrough of the main storyline. The game features optional missions to unlock additional content which can pad the playtime for a few more hours, but these optional missions are repetitive and non-essential to completing the game.

   Overall, Crisis Core is a very solid title. It offers some great insight into the backstory of Final Fantasy VII while developing a wonderful cast of characters of its own. It sports some of the most impressive graphics for a handheld title to date and features a wonderful soundtrack. The game is only held back by its short length, awkward combat interaction, and the randomness of the DMW. While Crisis Core might not be a flawless RPG, so many of positives help overshadow the negatives and will have many RPGamers continuing to cry for remake of Final Fantasy VII.

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