Review by Tensh_Issen

"Frustrating and disappointing. That's all that needs to be said, really."

The first thing I wanted to do was to like this game. FFVII has a special place in my heart, just like millions others I would assume, so revisiting Midgar again in an all-new prequel adventure was something I looked forward to for some time now.

Yes, I had played Dirge of Cerberus. Yes, I felt, despite my nostalgia, it was a bad game with cool cutscenes and was created only to milk on the success of FFVII and Advent Children.

So believe me when I say that DoC is Game of the Year when compared to this sorry piece of crap I'm reviewing right now.

SquareSoft has made every effort to make this game as unenjoyable and frustrating as possible. There is an option to avoid the frustrating part, but that would lead to boredom, which isn't much of an improvement in a game that was supposed to continue the FFVII legacy. How did this game earn such ire from a simple gamer? I'll explain.

Overview
Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core (FFVIICC) traces the story of Zack Fair, a rather minor character in the original FFVII who played a very important role in the development of its protagonist, Cloud Strife. Without giving too much away, Zack is a SOLDIER of Shinra, and he battles monsters, rebels and traitors, while trying to find honor within himself.

You guide Zack as he fights his way through the monstrous hordes, ARPG style from a third person perspective. You can fight, cast spells, combine materia to create new and more powerful materia, collect a whole Paraphernalia of items and level your character as you progress through the game.

Gameplay
Combat is a fairly straightforward issue. You press the X button to attack or cast spells, you press Square to dodge, Triangle to defend and some other actions, and Circle is your cancel button. You also use the shoulder buttons to select the various actions you want to perform. You can customize the types of actions (to a maximum of 6) by equipping different types of materia such as magic and command materia, much like in the original game.

So far, so standard. Unfortunately, there's where SquareSoft decided to... differentiate themselves.

Combat (which is 90% of the gameplay) occurs when you enter a 'zone' where enemies will spawn. The first thing you will notice which is different is the DMW, or Digital Mind Wave. What this is supposed to be, as far as I can gather, is supposed to be the digital representation of Zack's memories of the people he met, which empower him to perform great feats. In gaming terms, this thingy is a roulette wheel that lets you do Limit Breaks.

And by roulette wheel, I am not kidding. The DMW has 3 slots, and what happens is that you need to have all 3 slots showing the face of one of your friends (eg. Cloud). Once all 3 slots show the same character portrait, you get your limit break. Levelling up your materia and yourself also occurs here, except they use numbers instead of portraits.

Oh, the part where I mentioned I wasn't kidding? It's entirely based on luck. You can fight through 3 hours without having a successful match, and you could activate 3 Limit Breaks in as many minutes. There are some items that can improve your chances getting a successful match, but that is much later in the game. This also means that your levelling process is also, more or less, based on luck.

So as you play along, you go "Mkay, its a new concept. It doesn't exactly break ground, but meh, I'll continue."

Then you play the Missions. And then you begin throwing your PSP in fits of rage.

Missions consist of the bulk of FFVIICC's gameplay. These are optional quests that almost all involve you hunting down monsters in various, repeated maps. You can safely ignore these and stick to only the main storyline, but the main story is actually staggeringly short, and that's not what you pay $40 for.

You play Missions because all of the rare and powerful items can be accessed through here. And at first you play them because you feel, "Hey, I might as well grind my character. This is a JRPG after all." And all is fine at first, until you start reaching some of the mid-range missions.

Your initial frustrations will begin to occur when monsters can do damage almost equal to your HP, or even more. This serious unbalance will force you to constantly struggle to survive until you can find the necessary items to break your HP and damage limit. It also means that you will often get killed and have to restart the missions again, this time avoiding combat zones entirely just so you won't have to endure your own slaughter.

After you break your HP and damage limits, you feel that you should heave a sigh of relief. You have managed to make things just a little easier for yourself, and now fights can just be challenging, not suicidal, right?

Wrong.

Spoilers abound, but Status Effects in this game are ridiculously lethal. Y'see, the problem is that SquareSoft felt that it wouldn't be much of a challenge if you were just outnumbered and outgunned 6-to-1. They had to implement Status Effects that afflict you instantly and constantly. Take the usually-unnoticed 'Stun' effect for instance. In most other games it is a mild nuisance that incapacitates your character for a few seconds for the enemy to get a few shots in.

In this game, a simple status like 'Stun' is a death sentence. Since you only get to control only one character, there is no one else to throw you a potion or heal to snap you out of your sudden incapacity. So you're stuck there for a ridiculously long time while enemies wail on you with sheer impunity. That's not the worst part. Enemies LOVE to inflict status effects on you ALL THE TIME. It usually is one of two or three moves that they have, and they will ALWAYS use it in every fight.

That's still not the worst part. No matter how high your level is, or how high you've pumped up your defense, you CANNOT block these status effects unless you equip very specific items. This means that if you don't wear just that one item, a monster 20 levels below you will Stun you just as effectively as one 20 levels above you would.

That's STILL not the worst part. Stun is the least of your problems. The truly lethal statuses are Stop and, wait for it, Death. Stop will, well, stop you for an inordinate amount of time, no matter, again, your current level, allowing your enemies to whack you at their leisure. Stop also lasts a LOT longer than Stun.

And then there's Death. If you don't have the correct equipment, any enemy that casts Death will kill you instantly unless you can interrupt him. So the 50,000 HP you worked to build up for 3 days fusing materia now counts for nothing because that creature just cast Death. Sometimes it doesn't even need to be cast. Some creatures inflict Death with just their attacks.

Wait, that is STILL NOT the worst part yet. After you endure the drudgery, you fight and claw your way to obtain the items that would grant you immunity from these annoying statuses, you find that there is a creature that casts UNBLOCKABLE STOP. Your equipment, again, counts for nothing as these creatures swarm on you and, once again, kill you with sheer impunity. You watch in sheer disbelief as your enemies take their time to cut down your 50,000 HP at 3,000 damage per hit. If you do the calculations, your enemies should need quite some time before they can whittle down that much HP, but believe me, they will have all the time they need.

The reason why I mention all this, and the reason why I have given such a low score is because for EVERY STEP OF THE WAY SquareSoft has imposed these ridiculous rules and obstacles in this game. When I play a game, I would like to feel that the game might be stacked against me, but if I were to fail, it would be because of my temporary lack of skill or familiarity, not because some utterly insane skill an enemy has that makes all my efforts moot.

If these were part of the skillset of some superboss, I would probably not be so incensed, but these are GRUNTS, and I don't know about other gamers, but I don't play games just so I can fail over and over again despite every effort I make. Dying in a Mission doesn't net you a Game Over, just that you have to restart the Mission again, which probably makes it worse, since you know you have to run through the frustration again.

Verdict
I stuck onto this game like a battered wife because I thought things would get better, and because it is Final Fantasy 7. Now that I've endured through this piece of garbage, I feel I should at least warn the next poor fool who picks up this game 'for old time's sake'

If you're a fan, rent it, play the main mission and be done with it. For the secrets, there's Youtube. Only play this game in its entirety if you want to be really frustrated and disappointed.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 05/01/08

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


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