Review by Absolute Steve
"The big question: To get a PSP for this, or not. Make your choice after reading this review."
While almost every single fan of Final Fantasy VII is secretly hoping for their classic to be some day remade, Crisis Core is the meat we're going to have to chew on before that happens. If it ever happens, that remake. I hope not.
Crisis Core is a game you'll undoubtedly like if you liked FFVII. The question that arises however, is this: "Is it worth getting a PSP for this?". The short answer is: " It probably shouldn't be the only reason for getting a PSP." The long answer is that you'll have to read this review and decide it for yourself. On the other hand, if you already have a PSP, then this game should be in your PSP game collection, no doubt about it.
The graphics of Crisis Core are undoubtedly the most stunning visuals you have ever seen on the PSP, and may even be the best graphics the PSP can handle. The full rendered cutscenes look like they're straight out of the unreleased FFXIII on the PS3, while the in-game graphics are comparable to games such as FFX and FFXII on the PS2. People, let's keep in mind that we're playing this on the PSP! In all seriousness, the graphics are this game it's strongest point. Whether that's good or not I'm not too sure about, but they are.
The Story: 7/10
I like the FFVII universe, I always did. The so called FFVII compilation series however kind of made me nervous. What if Square screwed the FFVII universe up, story wise? Rest assured, Crisis Core didn't screw it up. It didn't add much to the FFVII universe in my opinion, but it didn't screw up. The story is about Zack Fair, who FFVII fans will remember from the classic as the black spikey haired fellow that did make it into SOLDIER: 1st Class, whereas Cloud didn't.
The game revolves solely around Zack, and it certainly shows character development around Zack and the other characters he meets. The game shows how he meets Aeris, with whom he goes on a few dates as we all know from FFVII. The game shows how he becomes a SOLDIER:1st Class, and how he aquires the Buster Sword. It shows us who his mentor was, and more importantly how some inevitable things went. These are great aspects of the story, and I enjoyed it to say the least.
However, the story also has a few flaws. For example, we now have Genesis, basically a Sephiroth with a red coat and arrogant ambitions. Compared to Sephiroth, he completely fades away, and as a villain I think he somewhat fails as well. This is a shame, because I like a game with a villain that just annoys the heck out of you, which makes you want to beat the crap out of him and beat the game as soon as possible. Crisis Core lacks this sometimes. Furthermore, we have another stereotype evil scientist, Hollander, who is basically a Hojo ripoff. The guy is annoying, doesn't add to the story -at all-, and is just plain boring. That'd all be fine if it weren't for his semi-prominent role in the story.
The story is mainly about pride, and not letting go of your dreams no matter how impossible they seem, but the game kind of pushes this theme too much.
Aside a few flaws, the story still stands with cameo's of classic FFVII characters such as Cloud, Aeris, Tifa, Yuffie, Sephiroth and Tseng. Especially these are the characters many FFVII fans will find interesting anyway, and there's a good amount of screen time for them. I understand that there had to be a bunch of new characters in Crisis Core, so the 7 out of 10 score is what comes out of the whole.
The gameplay is pretty simple if you want it to be simple, and quite complex if you want it to be complex. If that doesn't make sense at all, read on.
Crisis Core is an action RPG. You control only Zack, who will end up fighting many battles throughout the game where you most of the time run up to an enemy and bash their poor asses into oblivion with physical attacks. It is possible to beat the game by doing just this, although admittedly you'll have a few very tough boss battles. The fact that it's possible however makes the rest of the game mechanics kind of flawed in my eyes. And that's a shame, because there are a few very interesting new increments.
When you're not in a battle, you'll run around in 3D environments with the camera behind Zack. At least, that's where you'll want the camera so you can see where you're walking. The camera can be rotated with the L and R buttons, but not always. If Zack is standing against a wall with his back, you can never rotate the camera so that the camera is behind his back. Now it's not the problem that you'll be standing with your back against a wall very often, it's that when you're in an alley and you realize you actually want to go the other way, you can't easily turn the camera. A slight annoyance, nothing more, but still an annoyance that also has an effect on checking around for treasure chests. Which brings me to the next point.
Random encounters. No. Semi random encounters. In Crisis Core, when you walk over a
wide field/room/street that you haven't walked over, you know you're going to get into a battle the second you try to cross it. This is alright I suppose, but it becomes annoying when you have to cross that same field again after grabbing your everyday potion from a chest. But, there's a trick. A trick that allows you to avoid 90% of all 'semi random' encounters in the game. And it's darn simple, actually. All you have to do is hug either side of the wall of the field/room/street you're walking through, and keep running near the edges to avoid the encounters. Sounds great, but after a while you really, really get the tendency to just say 'never mind' to either the encounters, or the trick.
The battles themselves are generally fast paced, but there is one glaring flaw in the battle system, to be precise, in the so called DMW (Digital Mind Wave), the Limit Break system of Crisis Core. More than one flaw, actually. I'll first talk about how the DMW works. It's basically a slot machine over which you have no control, and there are three reels of which only the middle row counts. It's as basic as slot machines can go. You can get three pictures in a row, and numbers are also shown. These work independently. If you get two pictures on the outer two reels, the screen will enlarge the DMW and spin the middle reel. Like I said, you have no control over this and sometimes scenes from the game will show, that you've already seen (fortunately you can skip these). When it stops and you get 3 the same pictures, that Limit Break is performed. If you get two or three the same numbers, you'll get a good status (like zero MP consumption, temporary invincibility) or you go a level up (if you get three times 7).
Nothing seems wrong with it, but there is. Sometimes when a battle has already ended (you just smacked up the last soldier and you hear him moan, and see that he's about to fall) the DMW starts spinning. Sometimes you get the three pictures, and if the attack isn't damaging (such as healing, or getting critical hits), the animation is still performed. This is very annoying because it's a waste of time since the battle is already over. This has happened about 6 to 7 times in one playthrough, at least to me. Furthermore, the DMW gets very, very repetitive and annoying after a while, not in the least place because it likes to come to battle very often - almost too often. Other than these two flaws, you get used to the DMW fairly quickly, and it's ok. Just ok.
As in all other RPG's you have HP and MP, but you also have AP - Ability Points. These are used when you switch to a yellow command materia in battle, which often allows use of stronger (and slower) physical attacks, or commands such as steal and mug.
Scrolling through your commands in battle is done with the L and R buttons. It works, but it would have been much, much better if the D-pad was used for this, because as I said earlier, the L and R buttons were also used for camera rotating outside battle. You'll sometimes get the urge to rotate the camera in battle, but you can't. If you mistakenly try to do so, you may end up scrolling through your items and using up some precious Elixirs.
Materia makes a comeback in CC (or is it making a comeback in FFVII since storywise this is earlier..? *Gets shot*) and it comes with an additional option: Materia Fusion. This option, which is gotten about 1/3rd thoughout the game, gives you the ability to fuse two Materia (and items) to merge into one new, hopefully better materia. This allows for customizing almost any materia the way you want, and it's quite indepth.
An other important aspect of CC are missions. You can select these from the menu when you're at a save point, and they're mainly about killing a few enemies, grabbing a few chests, and getting a reward upon completing the mission. This sounds lame, but it's actually fun to get upgrades this way, plus it's the ultimate way to play CC on the go. Missions are short, so you can do a mission in 3 minutes, then get off your bus and start working. Besides, missions are a welcome addition to CC; Without them, the game would be way too short.
One of the side missions features an extremely powerful optional boss that we expect to see from Square Enix. Minerva has 10 million HP, so you'll at least have a reason to waste your time to become all powered up - something you can do while on the go.
The sound only gets this high of a rating because of the classic Nobuo Uematsu tunes which are finely remastered. Unfortunately, the rest of the tunes which are completely new..well.. To say they suck wouldn't be fair, but they're really nothing special. Some tunes are really alright, but 'alright' isn't good enough for a battle tune or a tune that's going to be recycled in about 7 different areas. It gets very repetitive and dull.
Fortunately, there's plenty of 'old material' around, some of which were horribly raped (the FFVII boss battle tune, for example), some of which sound better than ever (the Nibelheim tune or One Winged Angel..sheer estacy for your ears).
The voice acting is something I can't say much about, especially not because I can't understand what they're saying (I followed the story with a game transcript). But knowing Square Enix, this can't be of very bad quality.
Crisis Core is a really nice game, don't get me wrong on that. It's also a fairly short game compared to other RPG's. I'd say you will average at about 10 hours if you just follow the story. If you go ahead and do all missions, and beat the optional boss Minerva you're probably looking at around 25-30 hours, give or take some. There's also a New Game+ option, but it doesn't add anything; You just get to keep your stats, inventory and stuff, but the game doesn't get any harder. In fact, it gets alot easier, and that's also one of CC's weaknesses; It's simply too easy.
There are many minigames in CC, some annoying, some fun. It's a matter of personal preference, and I think the majority of them is quite fun. All in all, this doesn't distract from the game - it in fact gives a good distraction from the semi random encounters.
The Story: 7/10
Crisis Core is a good game. It's not ever going to be a classic, but for a spinoff it's a very decent and competent title. The graphics are stunning, the story is alright, the gameplay is smooth but comes with a few flaws, and the sound is either magnificent or so-so.
So, should you get a PSP for this game? Decide for yourself, but I hope this review has helped you make your choice. If you already own a PSP, get this game, you'll like it.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/19/07, Updated 01/08/08
Game Release: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (JP, 09/13/07)
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