Review by Darrenito
"Crisis Core: A new look into the Final Fantasy VII universe."
As you probably know if you are reading this, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII tells the story of Zack Fair, a very minor character in the original Final Fantasy VII. Crisis Core plays like your standard RPG with an action oriented combat system. I am writing this review by explaining my opinion on each of the following categories of the game based on their quality.
All that said, I hope you find this review helpful for whatever reason you happen to be reading it, whether it be thinking about renting/purchasing the game, or just looking for the opinions of others. I try to be as objective and non-biased as possible by looking at each category and rating them individually, completely separate from the overall score.
Note: The original version of this review was written for the EBgames/Gamestop websites, and thus most of the categories I am rating Crisis Core on are on their websites. I have also added a gameplay category to talk about the battle system more generally in this review.
I would also like to note that while my overall score for Crisis Core may be an average of the categories listed below, but that was not how I determined the overall score.
This game contains two difficulty modes, normal and hard, which are both available from the start. I currently have only gone through about half the game on normal, and it seems to be a very easy-going mode which is good for those who have never played an Action RPG before.
Normal mode can be challenging for those new to this genre, but it is never very punishing and simply doing a few side missions will likely get you the additional strength you will need to overcome any challenge that is giving you trouble.
Hard mode on the other hand, which I have played through entirely, is very difficult. It is perfect for veterans of the action RPG genre whom are looking for a good challenge. Being a hardcore gamer myself, I know that there has been a lack of challenging games (at least compared to what there used to be) as of late. Crisis Core on hard mode will give you the challenge you have been looking for if you're into more difficult games.
I rate the challenge highly because Crisis Core went to the lengths of offering two separate difficulties for people who like their games easier and people who like their games harder. The only thing I think they could have done better for the level of challenge is made normal mode more difficult than it is, and offered an easy mode which is around the level of difficulty that normal actually is (maybe a little bit easier). Overall, the challenge of the two difficulties is very fitting and suits two very different types of audiences.
I would like to start this section off by noting that the 9/10 score is under the assumption that you enjoy action RPGs. For a person who does not enjoy them, they in general won't enjoy the gameplay as much simply because of the genre it falls into.
That said, Crisis Core's gameplay is very fun. I'm going to be very brief here since most of what I could say is pieces of what falls into other parts of the review. The combat is fun, and although it will likely feel a bit weird at first (even to those who have played action RPGs before), it will quickly grow on you.
Combat is fairly basic, but intuitive. You will have to make decisions in combat quickly in order to succeed. Should you try to land an attack on the enemy? Should you back off and cure yourself or recover from poison or some other status effect? Should you try and dodge an incoming attack to avoid it all together or just block to guarantee you take lower damage? These are the kinds of decisions you have to make on the fly, which is very similar to other action RPGs.
Crisis Core also has something called the "Digital Mind Wave" (DMW) involved in its battle system. On the most basic level, it is a slot reel that constantly runs while you're in battle, and if you're lucky, it can give you special boosts like make all your attacks be critical hits, make all spells cost 0 mp, or even make you invincible, among other things.
There are two other important functions the DMW reel serves. One is various limit breaks and summons, which occur when three of the same character faces align on the DMW reel. When this happens, Zack performs the limit break or summon. When the DMW reel has two of the same character faces on the left and right reels (middle does not matter), and the numbers on all of them land on 7, Zack levels up. Your materia will also level up in a manner similar to this.
Overall the DMW is a one of those things that some people hate, while others love, and then some just don't mind it. I personally feel like it is another one of those things that just grow on you as you continue to play the game.
In the end, if you're an action RPG veteran, you should know what to expect from Crisis Core's gameplay, with a few changes (like the DMW) to make it unique. You'll have fun hacking and slashing, actively casting spells, dodging powerful enemy attacks just to survive a bit longer so you can land the killing blow and win the battle.
While you can find a game that does look nicer than Crisis Core, it would be very hard (if not impossible) to find another one on the PSP. All of the CG cutscenes look beautiful. The detail put into them and the actual areas you explore during gameplay as Zack is astounding. The characters look good, and the monsters look intimidating and fierce. The animations are also done very well, which goes for both combat between your character and your enemies and the non-battle animations in and outside of the cutscenes.
Overall, there really isn't much more to say other than the graphics and animation in Crisis Core will be pleasing on your eyes throughout your entire journey. There was nothing flawed enough in the graphics or the animation (considering the PSP's hardware) that I felt warranted a deduction of even one point,
The overall length of the story in Crisis Core is fairly short. It would not be difficult to beat the game in less than 20 hours if you do not do any of the side missions. This is somewhat disappointing, and I wish the main story would have been a little bit longer to flesh out some of the story a little bit more (albeit being done well enough already.)
However, the meat of the gameplay that will keep you playing for way more than 20 hours are Crisis Core's 300 side missions. Each mission can take anywhere from 2-10 minutes (on average), and are fun and rewarding enough to make you want to keep doing them. When you include these side missions, you begin to realize that this game actually has quite a bit of content (more than your average portable game at the very least). Most people playing through this game will find themselves spending a lot of time doing these missions because they're plain fun, and it adds a lot to the longevity of Crisis Core.
While the length of the story mode is fairly short, there is a lot more to do with the side missions. Some of the side missions are even relevant to the story, just not required to progress through it (though many aren't). So while I think that they could have extended the story a little bit, overall there is enough content in Crisis Core to keep you occupied longer than most games will.
The story in Crisis Core is superb. While I cannot go into why the story is so great too much for fear of spoiling the plot for those of you who haven't played yet, I must state some of the finer points.
For starters, Crisis Core tells the tale of Zack very well. Over the course of the game most players become very attached to him and many of the other characters he meets throughout Crisis Core. Even though this is a prequel leading up to the events of Final Fantasy VII, it makes you care about the characters exclusive to Crisis Core just as much as you do the characters that aren't. In short, it stands well on its own.
Speaking of this being a prequel, the story manages to connect itself with Final Fantasy VII and set the events up for it fantastically. Those who have played Final Fantasy VII will know how Crisis Core ultimately ends. However, they will not be prepared for how dramatic and well done the ending is, as well as how much the story really connects with what will later occur in Final Fantasy VII. Minus a few details not matching up between Crisis Core and the original Final Fantasy VII, the stories are linked perfectly.
While the story has its own way of telling things, it is nothing but exceptional the whole way through. While there are many games with stories that are just as great in their own ways, there are many that aren't so great, and it is very doubtful that Crisis Core's will disappoint you.
I don't feel like there's a whole lot to say of the controls, other than that they are similar to any other action RPG you've likely played. In battles you hit the R and L buttons to change what types of attacks (or items) you want to use based on your current materia equipped. You can hit the square button to dodge a dodge roll, which thankfully is very responsive and works quite well since you will be using it a lot to survive on hard mode. Triangle lets you stand still and block which lowers the damage you take significantly. Outside of combat, it's the standard RPG stuff of moving around, talking to people, etc.
The combat controls do take a little while to get used to, and at first you're likely to not actually control Zack nearly as well as you could. Once you get used to the combat controls though, there's really nothing difficult about the control setup and it will feel almost second nature. Nothing remarkable here, but nothing that will negatively effect the gameplay either.
Similar to the control scheme, Crisis Core has a rather standard interface. Out of combat, the game will tell you when you can press the X button to perform certain actions (like jump, talk to somebody, pick up an item, etc.) The battle interface works well enough for its action RPG genre. There are a few things that could be improved a little bit. One example is Libra (formerly known as scan or sense), which only shows the status of your targeted enemy when you are not performing any actions. It would have been nice if it showed the status of your targeted enemy at all times.
Any gripes towards the interface, however, are all relatively minor issues, and do not stack up to be anything that would detract from the game. While the interface is not remarkable or flawless either, it works well with the gameplay (particularly the battle system), and thus will certainly not make playing Crisis Core frustrating.
The sound effects in Crisis Core are well done. When you slash an enemy, get knocked to the ground, cast a spell, or do pretty much anything else, you will hear an appropriate sound effect to go along with it. There was never a point in Crisis Core where I felt a sound was out of place or didn't sound quite right.
The voice acting is much better than what you have probably come to expect from RPGs that were developed in Japan and then later brought over to North American shores (and beyond for some others). Each of the actors delivers their lines impeccably, and the whole of it is a very believable performance.
The music in Crisis Core is also very good overall. Although not all of the songs you will hear are extremely catchy that will stick to you for a while, a good portion of them are. Even the songs that you wouldn't describe quite like that still fit well with the moments that they are played during. Like the sound effects, none of the music ever felt really out of place, and it all meshed quite nicely with the rest of the game. Some songs in particular, like the remix of the battle theme in Final Fantasy VII, and Aerith's theme, are some of the most memorable songs in video game history.
Just like the graphics of this game will be pleasing to your eyes, the music, sound effects, and voice acting will be pleasing to your ears. It is doubtful that you will find anything here that you strongly dislike, and should find it to be a very enjoyable set of sound effects, music, and voice acting overall.
This is a very good game that fans of RPGs, Final Fantasies, or just good games in general should not miss out on. I would implore anybody that currently owns a PSP to purchase this game, as it's just an experience that nobody that enjoys games should miss. It is not perfect, but as far as that goes I can say with utmost confidence that I have not played a single game I have considered absolutely perfect.
If you absolutely cannot stand Final Fantasy or Action RPGs, I would not suggest getting this game (maybe try renting it if you're still curious). However, the sheer quality of this game, especially of the storyline, could give somebody who hasn't found themselves liking these types of games very much something to enjoy and get them into it.
Bottom line is, I think everybody should give Crisis Core a try, though how they should go about trying it depends on how much of a fan they are of Final Fantasy and Action RPGs in general. People who love them should try to purchase it as soon as they can, people who don't like them so much should try to rent or borrow from a friend, something along those lines.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/31/08
Game Release: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (US, 03/24/08)
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