When you hear someone talking about JRPGs, you’ll think of Final Fantasy but more precisely, Final Fantasy VII (FFVII). Hate it or love it, you just have to admire what Final Fantasy VII did for the genre. It’s no surprise Square was going to release numerous FFVII titles, known as the Final Fantasy VII Compilation, after the success of Final Fantasy VII. The big question is: is Crisis Core a worthy addition to the Final Fantasy VII Compilation?
You take the role of Zack Fair, a 2nd class SOLDIER, who dreams of becoming 1st class and a hero. He is sent on a mission in Wutai along with his 1st class mentor, Angeal, and 1st class SOLDIER, Sephiroth, to investigate the disappearance of another 1st class SOLDIER, Genesis. After infiltrating Wutai, Zack realizes Angeal has gone missing and discovers Genesis copies. Zack is then sent a new mission to locate both Angeal and Genesis, and this all leads up to the popular Nibelheim incident.
Since Crisis Core is a prequel, it isn’t necessary to play the original, but playing it would help you appreciate the story a little more. Lots of recognizable characters from FFVII return and play an important role in the story while others serve as pure fanfare. It’s interesting to note the story isn’t the typical save the world from utter destruction. Instead, it’s just focuses on Zack and all the problems that are going on with Genesis and Angeal. The story starts off slowly and doesn’t get interesting until halfway through the game. It may be too late for many, especially newcomers, to get interested on the story, but those who wait are in for a treat. Fans of the original will relive one of the most memorable parts of FFVII, and players new to the FFVII world will anticipate the events after Crisis Core.
Having played the original, I knew how the game was going to end, but the ending still blew me away. It’s one of the best ending I’ve seen in a JRPG, let alone of all time. Throughout the game, you’ll fall in love with Zack and have a connection with him. This is something important for JRPGs since most of the games in the genre have predetermined characters and gives you little to none options to customize your main character. Would you like to play as a lifeless, uninteresting main character in a story driven RPG? Of course not.
One major issue I have with Crisis Core is the dialogue. Some of the dialogue and character’s motivation didn’t make any sense. The majority of the nonsense dialogue is filled with gothic-poetry lines. Throughout the game, Genesis reads a few lines from the Loveless poem over and over, and it just didn’t make sense on why he read them and what those lines meant until the very end. And even then, it still didn’t make any sense. Either the game got translated poorly, or there’s some sort of culture barrier that kept me from appreciating the dialogue.
Crisis Core is an action-RPG and uses a real time battle system. The game can be best described as a slower paced Kingdom Hearts. Zack is all by himself, but don’t let that get to you. In the normal difficulty mode, the game is easy and can be beaten by smashing the attack button. Zack automatically locks on to the target, and he’ll even run up to the enemy if he’s far away. Hard mode makes the game less of a button smasher and actually requires strategy. Battling is fun and can become addicting, but there is one little annoyance in the battle system which I’ll talk about later on. Zack is able to dodge and block enemy’s attacks by using the square and triangle respectively. Attacking an enemy from behind results in a critical hit which doubles the amount damage dealt.
The way battles are activated is terrible and predictable. If you look at your map and see a straight small area followed by an open area and then another straight small corridor, you’ll know there will a battle in that open area. Once you finish a battle and take a few steps forward then re-enter the open area, another battle will activate. This becomes frustrating especially when there’s a treasure box in the open area; you open the box, turn around, and the battle will reactivate. You can avoid the majority of the battles by wall hugging unless the levels are mostly made of wide open or small, tight areas. Every time you enter a battle, a female voice will say “activating combat mode” and when battles finish, she’ll say “conflict resolved.” It becomes annoying after a while, and I wish there was an option to turn the voice off.
Materia make a return, and they come in different forms: magic, command, enhancement or support. Magic materia requires MP, and command materiea requires AP (dodging and blocking also requires AP). Materia are much simpler to use and can now be fused. Fusing materia can result in creating a completely new materia or enhancing the same materia you fused. Fusing the same materia to enhance it is useful considering the vague level up process for the materia.
After you equip your materia, you can start using them in battles. You can cycle between different magic attacks, techniques or items by using the R and L button. When not battling, the L and R buttons control the camera, and the camera angles can be troublesome when you’re in a small tight corridor. Other than that, the controls are great and navigating through the battle menu shouldn’t give you a problem.
The Digital Mind Wave (DMW) is a series of reels and plays a huge role in battles. During the modulating phase, the reels will interrupt your battle and go spin crazy on the entire screen. When all three reels have matching characters or summons, Zack will either perform a limit break or a summon respectively. While the DMW looks and sounds interesting, it’s actually a bad design.
You have no control over the DMW, and you’ll never know when it enters the modulating phase. There was one occasion where I went from level 7 to level 10 in one normal encounter. A few of my materia never seemed to level up. Either there’s some hidden level up process I don’t know about, or it just happens by luck. During boss battles, the DMW enters the modulating phase at a very fast rate only to perform limit breaks and summons. I don’t find being interrupted by the uncontrollable DMW every 10 seconds as fun, and it just felt the game was the one fighting the boss and not me.
There were a few occasions when the DMW did nothing during the modulating phase- no bonuses or limit breaks. It was just a complete waste of time and slows the down the pace in battles. While the DMW does provide a little bit of background cutscenes and plays a nice role at the end, overall it’s one of the worst features I’ve encountered in a video game, and Crisis Core would’ve been better without it.
The main story is short and shouldn’t take you more than 15 hours to complete, but there are hundreds of side missions available and should keep you occupied for 20 hours. Once you accept a mission, the game automatically takes you to the location (this also applies to the main story). There’s no over-world map or freedom to explore different locations like in Final Fantasy VII. Side missions shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete, except for one ridiculous mission that took almost an hour to complete, which is great when you’re on the go.
While the amount of side missions present sounds nice and dandy, the side missions suffer from repetition. They can be categorized as fighting a summon, fighting a wave of enemies or finding a visible enemy on the field. Not only that, later side missions become extremely difficult and frustrating. Most enemies will cast an instant death spell, and you will have to restart the mission all over.
Visually, Crisis Core is one of the most impressive looking games on the handheld. It amazes me this was actually done on the PSP. The CGI cutscenes rival Advent Children, and they’re some of the best I’ve seen. You can’t skip cutscenes which can be frustrating when you die and have to watch them again, but the chances of dying in this game are very slim unless you’re playing on the hard difficulty. Character models and the environments look great and are nicely detailed.
Another strong aspect in the game is the soundtrack, composed by Takeharu Ishimoto and Kazuhiko Toyama. Crisis Core features arrangement from the original game which many fans will remember and new songs. Many of the arrangements sound great and surpass the original, while others just ruin a classic like One Winged Angel. Most of the themes are hard rock and gets you pumped up for battles. The voice acting is average – neither bad nor good. A few voice-overs sound bland and uninspired, and the rest just sounded okay.
Die hard fans of the original will most likely enjoy this, but I can’t say the same for people newcomers to RPGs and the FFVII world. The lack of a strong plot for the first half of the game and the pathetic difficulty given in the normal mode may turn some players off, but those who wait will be welcomed with an amazing conclusion and eager to play the original. While I do appreciate the attempt of creating a deep original RPG on the handheld, there were some annoyances and features that damaged the game.
One of the most impressive looking games on the PSP. Story starts off slow but becomes interesting halfway through. A lot of the dialogue doesn't make sense.
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Controls are great. In normal mode, the game is a button smasher, but luckily hard mode makes the game less of a button smasher and more fun, that is until the uncontrollable DMW interrupts your battles. The DMW becomes annoying when it occurs at a fast rate and just feels the game is the one playing the game.
The soundtrack is amazing, but a few voice overs need work.
While the main story is short, there are side missions to keep you occupied. Too bad most are repetitive and you get the feeling you've done them before. A new game+ mode is available.
Without the annoyances and one feature in particular, Crisis Core could've been great.