Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Platform: PSP
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Action RPG
Format: UMD
Released: Japan 09/13/07
Official Website: Japanese Site

Graphics: 97%
Sound: 89%
Gameplay: 84%
Control: 81%
Story: 65%
Overall: 82%
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Ashton Liu
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Ashton Liu

It's been ten years since Final Fantasy VII–the most famous and well known entry in Square Enix's flagship RPG series–came out for the original PlayStation. In one 3-disc, 50-hour quest, the game single handedly revolutionized the RPG market and transformed the way stories were told in any RPGs that followed it. Since then, Square Enix has capitalized on the popularity of this entry and released a myriad of spin offs, sequels, and prequels in an attempt to flesh out the original story; or milk it for all it was worth, depending on how you look at it. In any case, none of them were particularly stellar attempts at adding to the overall plotline of Final Fantasy VII. It should come as no surprise, then, that I approached Crisis Core with an unhealthy amount of skepticism.

Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core continues the tradition of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII and provides a story that adds to and enriches the mythos of the world of Final Fantasy VII ... is what I'd like to say, but after numerous retcons, re-retcons, un-retcons, and retcon retcons, Final Fantasy VII's story has become something like an antique vase that's been shattered to pieces from rough handling, then given the indignity of being pieced back together haphazardly with tape. Not even fancy tape, duct tape.

It starts off well enough, with Zack, Crisis Core's hero, partnered up with his friend and mentor Angeal to find a missing First Class SOLDIER member named Genesis. Upon arriving at their destination, Wutai, the two discover that the enemy soldiers they've been fighting are actually clones of Genesis. Angeal vanishes and Zack's superiors come to the conclusion that Angeal has joined Genesis and become a traitor. The story goes downhill from there. There's a lot of talk about "Project G," clones, monsters, and whatnot, but the story has so many holes and retells certain events from Final Fantasy VII so differently that there's really not much of a point to it. The one exception to this is the ending: those who have played Final Fantasy VII will know how the game will end, but it ends in one of the best ways possible. I'd almost go so far as to say that the ending almost made up for the ten or so hours of drivel that I had to put up with.

Living up to their reputation, Square Enix pumps out incredibly impressive graphics from the PSP with Crisis Core. The game offers graphics of such high quality that it puts many PlayStation 2 games to shame. The character models are beautifully rendered and intricately designed. Environments are meticulously detailed and rich with an amazing amount of variety. The occasional CG movies are also uncanny in visual aesthetics, presenting beautiful full motion videos that at some points surpass even the work of Advent Children. It would be no stretch to say that Crisis Core is the best looking game on the PSP. Every facet of the game's visual aesthetics push the PSP's hardware to its limits and the results are resplendent.

Though not living up to the bar that the game's visuals set, the soundtrack is nothing to sneeze at, either. Crisis Core's soundtrack is quite well-composed, which is no surprise considering that much of it is based on the music from Final Fantasy VII. There are quite a few tracks that will sound familiars to veterans of the original game, and many new ones that make the game's soundtrack stand on its own and prevent it from using pre-existing tracks as a crutch. Crisis Core also features a copious amount of voice work, and all of it is delivered profesionally; while not the best voice acting to ever grace a game, handheld or otherwise, it is by no means anything short of above average.

With each entry of Final Fantasy, a new gameplay innovation will rear its head, for better or for worse. This holds true even for spin off games and Crisis Core is no exception. While enemies are not visible on the field, battles take place directly on the exploration map without a major transition to a battle screen. This makes the combination of exploration and battle much more seamless than in most previous Final Fantasy games. During battle, the actions Zack is able to take are displayed on the lower right hand corner, with his basic stats (HP, MP, and AP) on the bottom left. Actions include the two basics, attack and item, plus any magic or command materia Zack has currently equipped. Magic materia expends MP for use and command materia requires AP to execute. Battles are fought in real time, with Zack being able to move around during battle. As soon as a command is issued, Zack will cease listening to the player's commands and initiate the action. For magic, he will stop in place and cast the spell, and for physical abilities, Zack will run up to the targeted enemy to execute the command. In the time between the beginning of the command execution and the end of the spell/attack animation, Zack will be uncontrollable–which can be somewhat of a bother at certain times.

The true innovation of the combat is the D.M.W. (Digital Mind Wave) system, which is a slot-machine-like gameplay feature that is constantly running. At the top left corner of the screen during battle, the D.M.W. system is consistently present. It is made up of three reels of character faces. Once the same character is lined up in all three reels, Zack can perform a limit break, the effect of which differs depending on the character. Lining up three Aeriths can provide Zack with full healing and temporary invincibility, while three Angeals allows Zack to rush the enemies in a multi-hit attack. As Zack meets friends and enemies throughout his journey, the D.M.W. will contain more and more characters for a maximum of seven. Once the player obtains summons, the D.M.W. will randomly execute those as well. Each reel is also accompanied by a number, and depending on what lines up, it can have a different effect. Three sevens, for example, can result in a level up for Zack. While the D.M.W. system seems overly complicated and based on chance, it is not too difficult to grasp and is a welcome addition to a battle system that would quickly become monotonous on its own.

Being a spin off of Final Fantasy VII, materia is abundant in Crisis Core. Zack can equip one of four different types of Materia: magic (green), command (yellow), enhancement (purple), or support (blue). Magic materia grants use of spells in battle, command materia allows Zack to use a variety of different skills, enhancement materia can provide Zack with myriad stat increases, and support materia can add effects to Zack's attack or increase his resistance to certain elements or ailments. Later on in the game, Zack gains the ability to combine two materia together to create a new one. This system can be used to increase the enhancements of certain materia or to obtain newer, stronger attacks. Unfortunately, this system is also easily abusable, and a few hours into the game I had an absurd amount of HP and defense, ensuring my survival for the entirety of the main game.

Crisis Core's main storyline takes a maximum of 15 hours to complete, and those who haven't had enough can tackle the hundreds of side quests available whenever they're at a save point. These missions, however, are severely lacking in variety, with all of them involving finding an enemy, killing it, and moving on to the next mission. Additionally, a large number of the harder missions contain random encounters that can kill Zack in one hit, causing unbelievable amounts of frustration.

While Crisis Core will not be giving any competition in regards to game of the year, it definitely pushes the envelope as far as visual and aural aesthetics go, displaying graphics and sound the quality which have never before been witnessed in a PSP game. The excellently crafted aesthetics combine with an entertaining and user-friendly gameplay system making it one of the best original PSP games. Hopefully, in the future, other developers will follow Square Enix's example and push the PSP to its technical limits.


© 2007 Square Enix. All rights reserved.

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