Review by Chaotic_Fusion

"Emotional men with big phalic weapons must stop a poetry reciting she-man by pressing X"

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (aka. Press X to Win: The Game)

Pros:
+ Amazingly detailed graphics
+ Nifty looking cinemas
+ Fast paced battle system
+ Decent game length for a handheld title
+ Genesis is totally dreamy

Cons:
- WAY too many random battles
- The slot machine... wait! Sorry. The "Digital Mind Wave" is poorly implemented
- Missions and battles become very repetitive and don't stimulate
- Voice acting is meh
- Dialog is poorly written, characters lack honest motivation, and the story adds little to the FF7 universe.
- Sephiroth's hair. Dare I say... Genesis simply must recommend a better stylist to him.

Spiked hair? Check. Massive swords? Check. Metro-sexual men who get all emotional around other dudes and love to talk in metaphors, bad poetry, or won't shut up about how awesome they are? Sounds like a modern Final Fantasy title to me! Crisis Core is supposedly the summation of events leading up to the RPG everyone either loves to hate, or write erotic fan fiction about, Final Fantasy 7. While greatly anticipated by fans of the series, now that the game has arrived it has to be asked whether or not Crisis Core is both a good game and simultaneously a beneficial addition to an already complete title. While it somewhat nails that first one, the second one might need looking into.

Unlike other Final Fantasy spin-off titles, Crisis Core honestly does try to be different in the name of good. The game is based around an extremely fast paced battle system involving a slot machine. Exploration is restricted to tiny, maze-like areas where you can chat with people. Missions and story sequences are the same, only your job is find a single enemy and kill him. This isn't so much an RPG, really, as it is a third person action/adventure title. The point is to be a quick and portable role playing experience, not some ninny text filled interactive movie. And you know what? The game pretty much accomplishes this as a goal. What it doesn't completely accomplish is being fun, stimulating, and making a case of strong narrative like most RPG's should.

Crisis Core is the story of Zack Fair. Who is this man with a last name that couldn't better describe the male population of games designed by Tetsuya Nomura? He's a capitalized "SOLDIER" working for the evil, planetary life-force sucking, company named Shin-Ra. It's Zack's dream to become a hero! Woo! But since there's no radioactive spiders or gophers around, he'll settle for becoming a SOLDIER 1st class. Of course this dream suddenly goes awry when 1st class Genesis not only goes missing and takes other SOLDIER's with him, but his best friend and mentor, Angeal, vanishes as well. It also doesn't help that Zack's sword is only about half the size of the other male SOLDIER 1st's as well. Thankfully, he does know how to use it after plenty of training from Angeal.

Right. Anyways, the point here is that Crisis Core's story and characters are both equally lacking. Let's get this out of the way first... This is NOT the same story presented in FF7. While it borrows bits here and plays out certain events exactly as we witnessed them in FF7, there are an abundance of new characters and events that awkwardly toy with the original game's continuity. The villains themselves have a very hard time getting their motives across as well, usually summarizing their actions by simply telling everyone "I'VE BECOME A MONSTER!". Er, alright. Whatever you say monster man... I don't know why you're a monster now when you were perfectly nice yesterday. Even when confronted with tons of moral support and logic, the villains decide they're simply gonna be evil because, I suppose, genetic experimentation isn't good for their skin. Genesis, one of the main villains, talks almost exclusively in poetry, something which becomes aggravating fast. Everything else is presented too metaphorically, ambiguously, or quickly without explanation. The story becomes a wandering mess of random events that conflict with the original story. Worse, all these events lack a serious amount of cohesion. In summary, Crisis Core's plot doesn't stand well on its own and heavily dilutes the original game's plot... yet again.

Ok, so the plot kinda bumbles its way into existence. Like I said, this isn't really a complete RPG anyways, right? So the gameplay's gotta pull a Grandia and be the saving grace here I hope? Unfortunately, only somewhat. Crisis Core's gameplay is based around three fundamental principals: Hub world exploration, battles, and missions.

The hub worlds are places where Zack is able to relax for a moment, talk to people, complete story based missions, or advance the story through dialog. In fact, these areas really only exist for the purposes of story advancement alone. Zack already has access to stores at any time from the main menu, including during missions. Because of this, the exploration aspect of this game is really dry. Areas are so tiny that there's little to see, and there's honestly never anything to do other than hold pointless conversation and hope you unlock another repetitive mission because of it. Sure these areas are neat to wander around in now that they're 3D instead of pre-redendered... but they're so small, square, and lifeless that the nostalgia is quick to fade in the face of tedium. It's a bit of a shame since exploration is usually one of the central portions of a role-playing game, action oriented or otherwise. Once in a while you might have a mini-game to complete such as deflecting missiles in a village, with your sword no less, or trying to stealthily infiltrate some location. These mini-games are so random, simple, or awkwardly designed that they end up annoying more than bringing some life to your otherwise repetitive tasks.

Battles are where the game tries to pick up though, which is a good thing because the majority of the game is spent battling. All battles take place in real time ala Kingdom Heats. Once in battle, you can attack with X, or use the shoulder buttons to access items, magic, and skills. Players can attempt to block or dodge incoming attacks as well. The targeting system is 100% automatic which makes for quick action. Unfortunately, it can also frustrate when you wish to target something specific and need to run around the arena hoping by fluke it will target said enemy. The camera is also awkward at times, projecting a strange view of the fight. Worse, there's nothing you can do to fix it. Still, battles are fast, efficient, and neat looking. The problem here is that anything other than casting heal and barrier is rarely required. After that, the player can freely mash X until he wins. Battles are still fun to complete... for a while. It's just that they lack any variety or real strategy. The number of times I had to actually use more than my trusty X button was sparse, and I was able to complete the game using only Cure and Barrier. It also doesn't help that the game has designated "battle" areas. Walking in a corridor? Safe. Walking around a wide corner or a field? Battle! And the encounter rate is these areas is HIGH. We're talking taking two steps and you're in another fight. It becomes quickly annoying, which is something not even a battle system this fast can solve.

Maybe someone at Square realized how simple and dull the fighting could become, so they added an element of chance to Crisis Core's battles through the Digital Mind Wave. The DMW, which is really just a fancy, sparkling name for a slot machine, will at random roll a combination of numbers and character faces during combat. Obtaining certain number combinations affects Zacks stats, making him invincible, granting unlimited MP, leveling him or his materia up, etc. Lining up faces invokes limit breaks or summons. You can somewhat alter odds of these events through certain limit breaks or story moments as well, although how this works is never explained and the whole thing is annoyingly random. It's a cool concept, but it generates far too much chance within combat. It's actually quite simple in most cases to simply dodge enemy attacks and wait it out for that next big limit. It's also somewhat of a let down to win a tough fight merely by a roll of the dice. The leveling system is equally bunk. You're never actually told your experience level for starters. To make things worse, leveling up is random. Once you've hit the invisible number of exp for a level, you have a % chance of gaining said level on a slot machine roll. Yes, that's right. An RPG where leveling is based on chance... I don't get it either.

There is a new Materia system too, but it's actually somewhat interesting. It's called Materia fusion. Players are now able to take earned Materia and combine them with each other, items, or minerals to make stronger combinations of skills. Curaga with an additional 999%+ HP? Hell yes. To get skills that powerful will require a decent amount of time and effort though. And while I'm all for working to earn the best fusion material possible, it's a shame that, like everything else, you're going to be stuck fighting an endless number of similar battles in similar areas to earn these gems.

Love or hate the battling system, you're going to have to get used to it because completing missions is pretty much 90% of this games meat and bones. Along his silly travels, Zack will earn missions. These can be accessed at save points throughout the game. 99% of missions comprise of the same thing: Find a single enemy within a small game field, and kill him. That's it. There are about 300 of these things as well, and almost all of them recycle similar game fields and enemies. If not for the fact that completing them yields some important items and much needed exp, I'd have called them a dull and grueling waste of time. Instead they're a dull and grueling necessity.

At least Crisis Core is beautiful looking. From the high quality cinematics, to the extremely crisp and animated characters, this game is leaking presentation values all over the board. Summons are even skippable. Sadly, everything else is not. And while the cinemas and story portions honestly look fantastic, it's a grueling process to go through them over again should you die. This is even more so because the voice acting is only bearable at best. While not composed by Nobou, the music is pretty decent as well. Unfortunately it's mostly just remixes. And what isn't remixed is mostly weak. I guarantee you you're going to loathe the battle theme before you even hit the two hour mark. The only other thing that bothered me aside from the unskippable cut-scenes was how ridiculously EXTREME!!!11!!1!!! the game is. The game walks a thin line between cool and ridiculous at almost every moment. I'm talking Zack yaking on his cell phone, holding a conversation while about five soldiers are firing at him with machine guns, and he just sits there and talks while bullets whiz all around him. Gravity also doesn't seem to exist anywhere in this world unless you're falling to your doom or something. It just becomes a little too much in places, and you start to wonder why so much time was spent on trying to make the game look pointlessly cool instead of fleshing out the story, characters and gameplay.

To quote one of Zack's limit break phrases: "i'm trying! I'm trying!". Crisis Core is. It really, honestly tries to be something more than just a lame spin-off. There's just too much material from within the first five hours of the game that they recycle endlessly for the remainder of the title. That goes for everything from enemy models to mission locations, to mission objectives, etc. The battle system is likewise repetitive and shallow. While I understand the intention was to be action oriented and blazingly fast, it handles its purpose too well, becoming too simple for its own good. And honestly, did we really need a prequel? Zack's story does nothing more than hurt and dilute the original game's plot. We already knew everything we needed to know about him in FF7, and we already know his fate. He was Cloud's buddy and his idol and is the sole reason why Cloud became the character he was in FF7. We never needed more information than that, and this game only proves that further. It doesn't help that the character development is weak and poorly explained, while the storyline creates too many conflicts and additions to the original game that never existed, or have been awkwardly altered. That especially goes for some of the original characters personalities.

Crisis Core is alright. It's certainly a cleaner and stronger experience than your general action rpg. But the game seeks to stretch its paint as thin as possible and in far too few colors. It's almost as if so much time was spent on the presentation side of things that the rest of the game was never equally as polished. FF7 was a complete experience, and this game can't make those edges any rounder. If anything, it only serves to roughen them up. Sparse plot, repetitive design aspects, and a far too large a focus on the presentation values over the gameplay ones. These are the things that ultimately make Crisis Core an above average action rpg at its best. At least the game can be quite long... as long as you don't mind doing the same thing over and over again. For fans of the series, you'll probably ignore everything I just said and dig in anyways. For everyone who isn't a Final Fantasy 7 fan, you don't need to apply. This isn't a game worth buying a PSP over, and you're missing nothing critical to the now enfranchised FF7 storyline. Myself? I still can't dress as well as Genesis. Where DOES that man shop? And who does his nails? Damn him! Why am I such a MONSTER! One day I'll be just as fair... you wait. You'll have to excuse me now though. I'm off to my manicure. Ta ta!

Overall Score:

7/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/07/08, Updated 04/18/08

Game Release: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (US, 03/24/08)


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