Posted on April 10, 2008,

Gaming Today Impressions of FFVII: Crisis Core

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Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core

Developer: Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix

Price: $39.99

Platform: PSP

Category: Action RPG

ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence)

Release Date: March 25

Of all the people that have written about Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, I think I’m one of the few with a very unique perspective on it: I’ve never played the original FFVII. I was never much of a Final Fantasy fan up until last year when I began trucking through the old games that had been ported to PSP, and as Crisis Core is a prequel, I’m getting to enjoy a fantastic game that simultaneously holds up well as a standalone game and also manages to flesh out the story of the classic PlayStation RPG. (Or so I’m told.)

Crisis Core is in almost every way unlike any Final Fantasy game you’ve ever played. There’s no party, the action isn’t the strictly turn-based affair you normally get, and the cutscenes rarely run on for too long. In other words, it’s a game perfectly adapted to the platform it’s on. Among its many achievements, that is perhaps one of its greatest accomplishments.

Battles take place in a vacuum; you’ll be exploring the environment when monsters will suddenly spring up at what become all too predictable locations and the fight ensues. Your available skills (which can be modified outside of battle) are located in the bottom right hand corner and can be scrolled through with the shoulder buttons. A simple press of the X button attacks, casts a spell, or opens your inventory so that you can hit up the potions. It’s incredibly simple to grasp, with the triangle button set to block and square to evade. I dare say it’s an ingenious control scheme for a portable action game.

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Combat isn’t all perfect, though. While ideally you’re forced to trade attacks with your enemies in turn-based fashion, I oftentimes found myself simply mashing the X button, hacking away with great success. The weaker enemies are unable to retaliate unless you opt to cast a spell, which takes time, or another enemy that you aren’t able to stun with your attacks manages to strike you. Against the mechs and other larger enemies, though, combat is able to really shine.

But it’s interrupted all too often by the game’s Digital Mind Wave, or DMW. Even after all of the hours I spent playing the game, I’m still unclear as to the exact particulars of how it works, but think of it like this: a slot machine is constantly running through battle, and from time to time the action will pause as the DMW takes over the entire screen to show you the third column stop scrolling. When you start counting up the number of seconds that this and the ensuing unskippable battle animations, you’re looking at completely random interruptions of upwards of 15 seconds and and this can happen multiple times in the course of a minute. It’s extremely frustrating when you’ve got a single enemy left to kill, who only needs a single more press of the X button to fall, to be thrown into the DMW screen and watch as the battle drags on much longer than it should.

The DMW also controls how and when your character levels up and it amounts to being completely random. I literally went for a few hours gaining no more than a single level, only to level up three times in a few consecutive battles. Rather than leveling up as a reward for your hard work, it takes away from that great feeling you get when leveling up in your standard RPG since you really have no impact on how or when you’ll level up.

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Despite not knowing what occurs in FFVII, I was motivated to keep pushing forward through the main story to find out what happens to Zack Fair (the character whom you control) and his friends. However, the disappointing thing is that the actual action and everything that happens from cutscene to cutscene is no more substantial than the many, many side missions you can embark on at any save point. With the exception of the plot advancing and the “mission completed” screens, there’s really very little difference between the two aspects of the game. Perhaps that speaks to how the game focuses so much on digestible action segments, but you expect more from the main stork arc.

Now, that isn’t to say that the story arc isn’t a good one. Of the many RPGs I’ve played, this manages to do a magnificent job with pacing and storytelling. The cutscenes are absolutely breathtaking and they simply are jaw dropping. I was actually shocked that I was playing such a great looking game on my PSP. This is certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing games on handhelds.

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It’s the complete package, as the soundtrack is beautifully orchestrated, as well. Even though you’ll hear certain tracks over and over again, it’s just so damn good that I never once thought to myself, “This again?” The voice acting and sound effects are first rate, too. The game simply bleeds high production value in every single way possible.

While there’s a lot to complain about, most of it is nitpicking fairly minor issues. I honestly didn’t expect to become so invested in the game, and it speaks volumes about just how good a game this is that I found myself really frustrated with its small quirks. I needn’t convince Final Fantasy fans to go out and pick this up, as they’ve already undoubtedly played it through from top to bottom. But if you’re a casual onlooker that’s interested in Final Fantasy or not, you’d be doing yourself a great disservice to not give Crisis Core a try.

If you’re interested in the official 1UP Network review, click here.

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3 Comments on Gaming Today Impressions of FFVII: Crisis Core

mooshimooshi

On April 10, 2008 at 9:18 pm

if only FF VI got this much love…. gawd, can the rabid anime kiddies make 6 a hot item so fans of the REAL best final fantasy game can get some cool movies and spinoff games? pretty please?

HQ

On April 10, 2008 at 10:22 pm

I have the game and I played the original FF7 and im impressed with the way they connected all the dots sort of speak. They actually managed to tell a compelling story without messing with the first ones. They even managed to thread together some of the lose ends with their so called sequel. FF7 DoC. Now that had to be a task. With all the fanfare of this one stoy in the franchise it makes me wonder when we’ll see another fantasy get a CG movie or possible sequel/prequel/remake??

I think they should update FF8′s graphics.Just update the characters to hd. The backgroungs were all prerendered so they still look good even by todays standerds. It wouldn’t be as daunting of a task as remaking FF7.

ManOfTeal

On April 11, 2008 at 7:41 am

I’ve been playing Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core for about a week or so and I have enjoyed it. Having played the original Final Fantasy VII, I have that unique perspective of knowing the true fate of Darth Vader, so to speak, and that adds to the enjoyment.

@mooshimooshi

Final Fantasy IV, or what was Final Fantasy II here in the States, is probably my all-time favorite in the series. It was the first time I ever experienced dynamic characters in a Role Playing game and it had a great story.