Review by SnyperWolf
"If nostalgia alone could make a good game ... : Review of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7"
Overall score: 4 / 10
Ah nostalgia. That warm fuzzy feeling when something from the past pulls at our heartstrings with that friendly reminder of how good things used to be. In this case, the thing from the past is none other than one of the greatest games of all time, Final Fantasy 7. If used properly, nostalgia would have been the device that made a good game better. Unfortunately, the latest crime against video game-dom with the name "Final Fantasy 7" slapped onto it, Crisis Core, proves that nostalgia can also make a bad game worse.
Before you get defensive, let me say that I wanted Crisis Core to be good. I really did. Finally learning the epic story of the hardly-mentioned-but-crucial-to-the-story-character, Zack, should have been a glorious thing. But wanting something does not make it so. Now, I've played most every mainline Final Fantasy game to date (FF1 to FF12, excluding FF11), and would recommend most all of them. I would even call myself a Final Fantasy fan, which is why it's so hard for me to tell the truth about this viscous assault on the name of FF7.
I also might exaggerate just a little, and I assure you that it is just for humorous affect. Please take this review as both a bit of humor, and a serious warning: don't buy this game expecting the game to be good, but if you must, buy it as a story with annoying interactive bits.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 is the very definition of an action RPG. You get to take full control of your character, the tragically stupid Zack, in the field and in combat like an action game, while retaining the equipment and leveling up system of an RPG . Well, I should qualify that by "full control" I mean that you get to click attack over again over again and watch Zack mindless hack away at his foes. I should also qualify that the leveling up system is not a classic leveling system, where combat gains you experience that goes toward achieving the next level, but is instead a magical, invisible slot machine in the sky. Just like the slot machines in Las Vegas, the system is stacked against you such that the house always wins. I'll talk more on the magical slot machine later. For now ...
Again, the battle system in Crisis Core could have been good. There is a lot of options and intricacies to the battle system that can be tried and tested out to see if they are effective. Unfortunately, there are many flaws in the battle system. So many flaws, in fact, that most of the attacks and spells that should have made this game more playable are vastly inferior to the tactic of mashing the attack button over ... and over ... and over again. The reason for this is that most spells have a short but significant casting time. In this time frame, Zack can be attacked, thus stopping the spell from being casted. When attacked, Zack will flinch, which is another short but significant time frame in which the black-haired doofus can be attacked again, causing him to flinch again. Zack continues losing health until the enemies decide to go stupid for a second and STOP ATTACKING. The good thing is these moments of temporary brain loss are fairly frequent, which allow you to get away without too much damage. However, this mental incapacitation does not apply when the spiky-haired hero is low on health. I think that this temporary stupidity works on the same system as the magical slot machine which was borrowed from Vegas, and will only work to the player's advantage when the player is already ahead ... but I digress ....
Returning to the button mashing tactic; the reason why this strategy is so effective is the damage is as good as almost any skill or spell, it does not have the casting time that spells or skills have, and it knocks the enemy back, preventing them from causing damage to Zack while he's showing off his flashy sword skills. Again, I digress. The battle system is fun for about the first hour or so of the game, and then it becomes boring to tap X a hundred time just to kill one tonberry . Oh, I forgot, occasionally you can tap a button at just the right moment to dodge or block the attack, or run away before the enemy can attack. However, the flaw with this is that once you commit to an attack or spell, you can't stop it. Even if you were all the way across the screen when you choose to attack, you cannot stop Zack from crossing the entire battlefield in his quest to stab something, even if you know that there is just a Chef's Knife waiting to thrust in his stomach when you get there.
I'm very surprised that the back of the box for this game does not boast something like: "100+ Side Missions!" or "Hours of Fun!" because the game provides neither. There is in fact just one side mission (missions outside of the game's main storyline), and this mission is repeated with slight variations dozens of times, consuming may hours of the player's life and giving back so little. The side mission is as follows: Go to $NOSTALGIC_PLACE and find $COMMON_ENEMY and kill it because $INANE_REASON (where $NOSTALGIC_PLACE, $COMMON_ENEMY, and $INANE_REASON are replaced with actual text that varies and is not interesting enough to remember).
Side missions aside, I will have to give props to the game creators for doing a good job at the mainline missions, that actually have some thought, quality, and, most importantly, variety. Complementing the mainline missions, the story in this game is actually good, despite the character's best attempts to write bad poetry and cut themselves with their black razor blades.
Magical Slot Machine:
The whole time during battle, there is a small double slot machine running in the upper left hand corner of the screen. Now, because you're in the middle of fighting a battle, many players just ignore this and concentrate on more important things, like not dying. Thankfully, this slot machine can be ignored until it actually does something to your character. Even when it adds a positive effect, like the ability to cast magic without using MP, you can still basically ignore it, because there is only one effective strategy, and it does not include casting spells (see "Battle"). Also, the game seems to punish you for trying to use these positive statuses, because they run out the moment just after they are applied. For example: You gain the ability to cast spells without using MP, but by the time that you can get the black-haired dummy far enough away to not be attacked during casting, and wait for the cast time, the beneficial status is gone and it still consumes MP. Since Crisis Core is basically a game of resource management, this wasting of MP is bad (which I'll talk about more in the next section).
In addition to adding completely useless status effects to Zack, the magical slot machine also controls when Zack and his materia is allowed to level up. Never in Crisis Core does one have to run around in an area to get experience to level up! Instead the player has to run around in an area until the invisible slot machine in the sky decides that he is allowed to level up. Again, since this slot machine is direct import from Vegas, Zack will only level up when he's completely over leveled already, and will never level up when it could actually help turn the tides of the battle. I should mention that to level up, you first have to get the right combination on the first magical slot machine, and then get the right combination on the second slot machine. Do it wrong, and you may get a small boast to your health or HP, or nothing at all. I should also mention that there is a third and fourth slot machine, just in case things weren't confusing enough.
Some of the challenge of Crisis Core, and many RPGs for that matter, is getting the right equipment, spells, and items to be able to make the next segment of the journey without dying. In order to keep from dying, players usually need to manage their HP and MP values as well. Now in most RPGs , completing the next segment of the game either refills the player's health, or allows them to refill it for a reasonable price at the next town. However, Crisis Core decided that this is an overrated feature and removed it from gameplay. Couple this with the fact that the only way to get a cheap boast to HP and MP is to be awarded it by the magical slot machine. Again, since the slot machine cheats, be prepared to only get a boast from it when you're already at or near the maximum values.
Again, once reviewing the flaws of this game, resource management is a joke as well. For example: instead of spending well earned money on filling up the HP and MP gauges, why not just start a side mission and die? This will completely fill the gauges without any cost (or at least no cost that I've noticed; I probably can't get the "best" ending now *cry*). There are a couple other interesting design choices like being able to shop anywhere, and the invisible slot machine being able to fill your HP, MP, and AP above the maximums. I think that these choices were made just to mask other design flaws, and they also have the benefit of removing the most of challenge from the resource management aspect of the game.
Again, if you must buy this game, accept that it's for the history and not for the gameplay.
(I use a ternary scale for my rankings, where: 0 = bad, 1 = good, and 2 = awesome)
Graphics: 2/2 - Alright, you got me, the graphics in this game are awesome. I cannot deny it. But pretty does not make a good game.
Sound: 1/2 - Some of the music is awesome, but most of it is just filler.
Story: 2/2 - How many continuity directors does it take to make a good prequel? (Yes, this game actually had people in charge of continuity) The story is solid, really good for a prequel. All the little touches were there, from the photograph of Zack and Sephiroth, to the usage of summons and red materia.
Gameplay: 0/2 - Gameplay is just bad. There is little left to say about it.
(The overall score is, obviously, weighted heavily in favor of the gameplay score)
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 04/30/08
Game Release: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (US, 03/24/08)
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