Review by EstebanMartinez
As a fan of the Final Fantasy series, I really wanted to like Crisis Core. A prequel to one of my favorite entries in the series that further expands on its predecessor's back-story? My excitement even increased as upon starting the game, I'm greeted by one of the many familiar tunes that return from Final Fantasy 7. Unfortunately, as soon as I hit start, things began to roll downhill.
Crisis Core changes a couple of things from its predecessor. To start, you'll be taking the role of Zack, a member of SOLDIER, an elite fighting unit of the Shinra Corporation. And that's it; there are no other party members that are joining you on your quest. Sure you'll see familiar characters such as Cloud and Sephiroth, but they'll never actually fight by your side.
But that's also in part due to the switch from the turn-based combat system of FF7 to Action RPG combat ala Kingdom Hearts with battles now functioning like the previously mentioned Hearts. You'll navigate with the left and right bumpers through a menu consisting of various attacks, magic spells, and items while moving Zack around with the D-pad and attacking with X. And while a switch from the drawn out battles of console JRPGs sounds like a good idea, it's actually the death kneel. What should be a fast and furious, combat based game turns into a race to see how many times you can mash the X button till you get bored and move to something else. Sure there are a lot of magic and materia combinations to use, but there's no point when your sword does so much damage and is faster then any spell in the game. Also, the enemy AI will, for the most part, stand in place and let you pummel it to death.
Now to rectify this, I tried the game's hard mode. Enemies hit harder, the sword is considerably weaker, and using magic for elemental weaknesses increases damage. This was going great until I started to get further into the game and up against enemies that would kill me in one hit. To rectify this, I tried some side-missions to level up, but that was no use as Crisis Core decided to venture from the normal leveling system and try a new approach which fails miserably.
Instead of a normal leveling and experience system, Crisis Core uses the DMW, a slot-like gauge placed in the lower left corner that spins constantly to determine character status, limit breaks, leveling for materia and Zack, and random summons. This takes character and item growth completely out of the players' hands, completely negating any strategy the player would be able to input. It was aggravating to complete 15 or so missions only to level up my fire materia after the 14th one. It's a really frustrating system that really defies a lot of RPG rules, and while I'm all for trying new things, it's really hard to not throw you're PSP out the window after three hours of playing only to level up once.
Another hit to the game is the story: it has almost absolutely no relevance to FF7's storyline in anyway. Don't buy this game expecting some amazing plot revelation that will having you rushing to find FF7, besides the Nibelheim scene and the ending, this is primarily a story based on Zack and his adventure through soldier. While there is considerable character development for Zack as he progresses through his journey, the rest of the characters and some situations just felt out of place and rushed. I really couldn't care for half of the characters and some where even thrown in for fan service, such as Yuffie's random appearance in Wutai.
And it's a shame as this game had the potential to be a massive game for the PSP. The sound is top notch, the graphics are gorgeous for a handheld, and it's a prequel to a beloved game. The stars were lined up for this one, but it misses the mark in big areas. I'm sure Final Fantasy fans will dig it, despite the flaws, but for everyone else it's not worth the $40. The gameplay is flawed, the story is boring, and the mission system is just the same find-the-monster-and-kill-it missions.
Verdict: 4 out of 10
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 08/20/08
Game Release: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (US, 03/24/08)
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