Review by YanDaMan263
"Just like all other Square games of late, pretty graphics eclipsing mediocre gameplay."
For starters, I'd like to say, I've probably played and beaten almost every single FF game (except 11 and the remakes), so I got a pretty good idea of what to expect from these games. With that said, Crisis Core is the much hyped spin-off of Square's most popular Final Fantasy game, FF7. We've gotten a full CG movie, which I've quite enjoyed despite not following along with what the story is about, a cell phone game in Japan that we'll probably and hopefully never get, a pretty crappy third person shooter in Dirge of Cerberus, and despite all these spin-offs, I've held my breath and kept good faith in Crisis Core making up for the failures of their predecessors. So did my faith pay off?
For a story playing off FF7, they actually did a pretty good job here and kept things true to the original game, such as SOLDIER, Shin-ra, and most of the characters. This game is a prequel to FF7 where you play as Zack, Cloud's friend whom he pretended to be in FF7. The game starts from Zack as a rookie SOLDIER all the way to promotion to 1st class until the tragedy at Nibhelheim till his well, fate in FF7. The game added a bunch of new characters, and surprisingly, they tie to the story and play off the original FF7 quite well.
Well for starters, as you would expect from SquareEnix, the graphics for this game are topnotch, and arguebly the best that the PSP have, second only to God of War. The full CG movies of this game are mind blowing and SE pretty much went all out with them for a PSP title. The character models are great and rivals even SE's PS2 games in detail. The enemies and bosses looks impressive and their animation are fluid. The special effects and animation are great, and the environments are nice as well. Some environment are vastly overused, but if we've talking solely on graphics, they are still pretty impressive.
Another forte of SE is the sound department. The game is full of classic FF7 remixes along with many new great new soundtrack added in, which should greatly please any fans of the original. The game is also voiced for the majority of the cutscenes, and they are great. SquareEnix probably is the only company whose games have excellent English VA's for some reason. Be that as it may, everything so far sounds great doesn't it? At least until...
...we start playing the actual game and stop admiring the pretty graphics and beautiful soundtrack. Before anything let me mention that this game is an action RPG, therefore I'll treat it and break it down in such manner. You have your commands on the bottom left of the screen, from Attack to your magic/command materia equipped, to item. Pressing L and R cycle through these. Pressing X executes the command, Square do a dodge roll, and Triangle is block. Sound simple enough right? Well that's the problem.
The combat is completely devoid of any depth or strategy whatsoever. The only magic you would probably ever use is maybe Cure, Esuna, and Barrier/MBarrier, and those won't even be used that often. Offense magic are useless, command skills are worthless compare to your normal attack, and most of the time you're better off equipping support materia. Now back to combat. You press X on the attack command to attack. There is no combo nor chain, but you can repeat the Attack command fast enough to make it look like you are. But you're not, and all you're doing is swinging your sword once and repeating in a different animation. The game also happens to auto-lock and auto target your enemies, and unless your enemies deliberately dodges your attack, you'll probably never miss your target with your sword. Speaking of AI, the game is completely devoid of any. Half the time most enemies will just stand there and take all your sword cuts without a care in the world. You can try to be fancy and dodge when they attack, but it doesn't even matter if you get hit, because...
...of the DMW system. As I'm sure many of you heard already, this is the system FF7CC uses during combat, which involves a slot machine constantly spinning nonstop on the upper right corner. Anytime you get a 7 on any reels, you get some sort of benefit, ranging from no damage from physical, no damage from magic, no staggering when hit, to no MP cost for spells and more. These bonus happens so often that you don't even need to support yourself half the time and just mindlessly hack away at the X button and watching your enemies twitch from all your sword cuts and are pretty much trapped there till they die. Now when the DMW gets a matching icon on Reel 1 and 3, you enter Modulation phase, where the middle reel will randomly spin, and about 90% of the time, it WILL match the other 3, giving you not only a limit break, but heal your HP, MP, and AP WAY past your maximum capacity. Half the time I'd be running around with 2500HP when my max is 1300ish, which is why I said, you don't even need to bother healing half the time.
Now to level up, during Modulation Phase, if all 3 reels stop on a 7, Zack gains a level. if you get a pair, a materia you have equipped will level. This means, fighting enemies is almost useless. All it does is get you Gil which you'll probably never even spend, and SP for the DMW slot to spin even more and for certain command materia that cost SP which you'll never use anyway. Problem with this is that it makes battles even more pointless than it already was. Since the combat system is nothing but a one button hack 'n slash, with only one slash per "combo" if I may add. So you'd at least expect some kind of reward for fighting, but there is none. You just have to stay in battle and hope for the DMW to get you a 777 so you level up, thats it. And to be frank, playing a mediocre hack 'n slash game is funner than this, because at least most hack 'n slash lets you do more than a single slash combo for you to repeat for 99% of the game.
The game is also loaded with generic enemies, and that doesn't help it one bit. During each mission you'd literally fight one or two of the same enemies non-stop till you get to either the boss or the end of the chapter. The towns are also swarmed with the same 6 generic NPCs everywhere. Generic man, man in business suit, generic woman, woman in business suit, boy, and girl. That's it. Everywhere you go you see these SAME NPC's with maybe a different colored outfit. Oh and of course the infantry and SOLDIER members, who are also just pallete swaps. For a company who work so hard on graphics and their detail, they sure get lazy on the part they never should be, not to mention it takes almost no time to edit a NPC to make them look like another person.
Finally bosses. The bosses, are visually impressive, you fight random mechs, Summoned monsters whose special attack are all done in beautiful rendered CG unless their console versions, and important story characters. But just like normal encounters, just walk up, hack and hack, watch the bosses twitch nonstop for 4 times till they become immune to be stunned for a while, block their attack and take 10 damage or so, and repeat. If you get limit breaked, heal once, and repeat. The bosses in the later part of the game don't get stunned as easily and actually force you to play smart instead of mindlessly hacking, but these "fun" battles are too few and don't make up for the rest of the game's boring battles.
Missions are also present. But all they are is either a rematch with a boss or fight generic enemies until you fight the one you see on the map, and all of these missions try to add a reason and story behind them, like "stop the remnants of Wutai" or "find this item", but sadly they are all the same thing, kill the generic enemy you can see on the map, and that's the end, and by this point you wouldn't even care about the reason for doing it and you want to hurry up and get to the next plot cutscene.
The game also have a Materia fusion system. While it's a nice gimmick to have, as I've mentioned, almost every materia besides support materia that increase your stats are practically worthless. Its possible to beat the game without bothering with this at all.
The only reason I can imagine anyone playing through this at all is just for the story, and once is enough. If you're willing to go through this whole boredom of gameplay just to go through the story again, you're better off watching videos on YouTube for them instead. If I were to say one good thing about this game though, is that hey, at least it's better than Dirge of Cerberus. But only by one point out of ten as far as I'm concerned.
If you liked FF7, you would probably enjoy the story of this game. If these kind of game suit your taste. by all mean go for it, though there are plenty of better titles for these kind of games, even on the PSP, like Monster Hunter 2 for one. This game is hardly a reason for you to buy a PSP. If you already own a PSP, I would simply recommend a rental, beat it once and be done with it. The game is pretty short and can be beaten in 12 hours or so. It's a shame that Square always try to make some weird gameplay tweaks to all these FF7 spin-offs. If they just stuck to what they were good at, making RPGs, not action and shooters, this game might've turned out a lot better. If gameplay alone defined a game, this game would get a 3/10. If you consider all of its aesthetics along with it, such as graphics, sound, and more, as I have...
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 04/07/08, Updated 04/09/08
Game Release: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (US, 03/24/08)
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