The (not so) Final Fantasy VII
Few games have ever brought me the joy that Final Fantasy VII has. I first purchased Final Fantasy VII for my PC when I was in the 5th grade. The experience changed my life. As I’ve said before, Final Fantasy VII opened my eyes to the potential of the gaming industry and fueled my love for literature and writing. It’s why I’m here today.
Some fans groaned when Square-Enix announced Crisis Core and the slew of other Final Fantasy VII knock offs. I, however, salivated with anticipation. This was an opportunity for me to explore the world I loved in a new way. I can put my umpteenth play through of VII on hold. In March of 2008, Square-Enix released Crisis Core in America. I was not disappointed.
Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core is the story of Zack Fair, the young SOLDIER operative whose past Cloud mistakes for his own. The game begins during the war with Wutai, and one of the SOLDIER First Class agents, Genesis, has gone missing. Zack, by orders of Director Lazard, is paired up with his mentor, Angeal, to lead an attack against the Wutai army in Genesis’ stead. Eager to earn a promotion to first class, Zack willingly accepts. One of the coolest aspects to the intro of the game, aside from a nod to the opening of VII, is the ability to experience a piece of the war with Wutai. It’s something that Cloud and the gang often hear about during the course of VII, whether it be Aeris’ (or Aerith, take your pick) origin story, Yuffie and Wutai’s past, or other miscellaneous information. It’s something that was never particularly fleshed out.
From there, the game spirals into a deeper story that focuses on the reason Genesis defects. The only clues Zack has at the beginning of the game are a long list of quotes from the play Loveless, which Genesis often quotes. For me, the Loveless quotes really stood out. Not only are they pretty cool and totally relate to the experience, but as a fan of Final Fantasy VII and its lore, I always wondered what Loveless was about. I remember seeing Loveless posters when I was a kid and becoming infatuated with the idea of figuring out what this was. Having pieces of the play read to me was something I thoroughly enjoyed.
The gameplay in Crisis Core is a mostly active combat system with turn-based remnants scattered throughout. You are only in control of Zack for the entirety of the game. This is not a bad thing. Zack’s command bar is situated at the bottom right of the PSP screen in the form of icons that represent commands. For example, a Cure icon would be a green materia orb. In the bottom left corner of the screen is Zack’s HP, MP, and AP (Action Points) bars. And, lastly, at the top left of the screen is Zack’s Limit slots. For combat, you select your command and Zack performs it. Like I said, it’s pretty active… so for the majority of attacks, you could continue to mash the attack command and have an action RPG. Outside of a few enemies that are annihilated easier with the proper materia, the attack command could get you through the entire game. Attacking from different angles can earn you critical hits, too. A back attack, for example, will always be a critical. Most concerning in regards to gameplay are the wonky camera angles. Control Zack with the left joystick while the L and R buttons are used to swing the camera around. This wasn’t a particularly bad system, but I sometimes found myself unable to see where I was headed or who/what was behind me. In the side quests, this sometimes cost me a mission.
For its age, Crisis Core has some pretty decent graphics. Characters have fingers and distinct faces. With that said, the cinematics in Crisis Core are still beautiful and definitely awesome. There is a flashback scene where Sephiroth, Genesis, and Angeal battle, and it’s one that I still watch every now-and-then on YouTube.
The sound in Crisis Core is also another positive. The voice acting is solid. Familiar voices from Advent Children recur in Crisis Core, and any new voices were well done. The soundtrack was an excellent rendition of Final Fantasy VII songs with composer Takeharu Ishimoto’s unique twists. He also included many new tracks that fit the tone of the game perfectly. Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core offers a ton of side quests in the form of missions, requests, e-mails from Shin-Ra and clients or friends. They are all identical at heart. You run Zack around one of five or six stages and kill the ‘key’ enemy. It is extremely redundant at its core, but I always found myself saying, “Just one more.”
Crisis Core suffers from having a big brother as popular as Final Fantasy VII. It was nearly impossible for it to reach every fan’s expectations, let alone surpass them. For me, it is easily my favorite PSP game to grace the American market, and there were a lot of good ones. It also happened to be the first PSP game that I was capable of finishing for myriad reasons. It’s also a game, much like VII, that I have revisited numerous times throughout the years. In fact, after I sold my PSP to purchase a Vita, I re-bought a PSP for the purpose of playing Crisis Core again.
The real, and final, question would be this. Does Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core succeed as a title if the player has no prior FF VII experience? The answer is a wholehearted yes. The execution of Zack’s story through his rise and fall between the ranks of Shin-Ra just works.