Review by Crack Addict

Reviewed: 04/07/09

My Crisis Core review vs a 'Loveless' quote from Genesis - Which will bore you more? Read to find out.

You know, it’s really funny sometimes how things turn out. Final Fantasy VII is inarguable Square Enix’s most popular installment in their immensely popular Final Fantasy series. Furthermore, it is also the game with one of the longest lasting popularity.

Due to Square’s habit of farming their FF series on various systems, especially handhelds, you would think that once handhelds/consoles became powerful enough, Square would remake or at least port FFVII. Curiously, this never happened. Instead, the most gamers had to do with was various baiting by Square.

Then again, considering what happened with ‘Final Fantasy X-2’, perhaps it is better than Square does not do it.

Nonetheless, Square didn’t have much choice but to recognize FFVII’s continuing popularity, thus they eventually capitalized on it with the FFVII compilation. Crisis Core is part of this compilation, of course.

So, how does Crisis Core hold up under scrutiny? My answer….meh.

The story of Zack Fair and…..who the hell is Angeal?

Despite the obvious choice of choosing FFVII for the choice of making a compilation, there are, of course, problems with doing so. After all, the userbase you’re making it for is more complex than the average game.

When you create a new game, you’re only creating it for one group: Gamers. When you create a sequel, you’re creating it for: Gamers, Gamers who like the original. The FFVII compilation qualifies more as spinoffs than sequels, so it does alleviate some of the problems, but not completely, there are still some expectations from gamers familiar with the original.

Crisis Core immediately hits upon one of the big problems as soon as you start. When you’re creating a game for those who are familiar with the plot and characters of the original, how do you introduce characters and warm them into the hearts of gamers? Surprisingly, I’m not necessarily referring to new characters entirely.

First off, Crisis Core details the story of Zack Fair during his time with Shinra, a major corporation/government in the FFVII world, notably his trials, and what he encounters during his time there.

For you FFVII enthusiast out there, know this: Very little of the story has relevance on FFVII. In fact, there is only one major part of the plot which has a major effect on the story and, not surprisingly, that part of the plot is very much related to a blonde hair guy we all know and love.

So essentially, Crisis Core is very much a new story of its own. It is more centered on Zack and his trials than FFVII as a whole.

So the game has nothing to do with FFVII? Good bye.

It’s not necessarily the case that the game has nothing to do with FFVII, if that’s what you’re looking for when you pick this up. As revealed by FFVII itself, Zack has a lot of interaction with many characters from the original game. This relates to what I said earlier about introducing characters.

Those of us who played FFVII have already conceived opinions of these various characters and have their perceived personalities imprinted in our minds. It’s difficult to encounter them again without judging critically whether ‘Square did it right or not’. This is especially important in Crisis Core since at multiple points in the game, we will have scenes which may depict characters drastically different than how they were in FFVII or at least how we perceive them.

Ultimately, it is the case that little of Crisis Core is directly related to FFVII aside from various small points, and one major plot area.

But the real question is: How does the game stand on its own?

Regarding that, I would say Crisis Core is a decently good game. Zack is an easy character to empathize with and you do get immersed into the plot enough to want to continue playing.

The plot itself is actually decently unique too, especially if you’re familiar with the RPG genre. You, as a member of SOLDIER, a military group working for the corporation Shinra, are actually working for the big corporation that RPGs often pit you against. And no, you do not join a rebel group at any point in the game. Unreal, right?

One may think this wouldn’t make an interesting plot since, as a member of the big corporation, you’re already a part of the group that has control. However, the game’s plot itself, shockingly, doesn’t actually focus on the world being in danger or anything of the sort. Instead, it focuses almost entirely on, well, Zack’s experience in SOLDIER.

Hmm, perhaps I’m not entirely right about the plot not focusing on the world in danger. The game does have a villain. Two, to be exact, but one is the primary villain, and yes, he does have some intentions to destroy the world. However, even though it is his intention, much of the game doesn’t swirl around that attempt, but his attempt to find a cure for his disease.

Basically, playing as Zack, not only are you trying to find out the answer to a few particular questions in your mind, but you’re trying to fight against a villain bent on destruction. Does the plot get jumbled? Not necessarily, though, it does get off course sometimes.

Much of the plot is enjoyable, though I will admit that the character development could use some serious work (for example, I don’t like hearing quotes from some silly poetry book thrown at me constantly), but many of the characters do enjoy good characterization. More importantly, many of the primary characters enjoy good characterization.

Overall, I would actually rank the plot as surprisingly fresh, and pretty good. Not anything amazing, but fairly good.

Man, it sure is easy to kill this guy when all he does is attack the air.

Ah, but here’s the part everyone has been waiting for: The gameplay. Again, for those FFVII fans reading this review….it is nothing like FFVII’s gameplay. Well, perhaps ‘nothing’ is a strong word. Maybe there is a 5% similarity.

Lets begin with the obvious, Crisis Core does not have a turn-based battle system. Everything is done in real time. Well, perhaps that isn’t completely accurate either. If I were to use a comparison, I might say it is a sort of modified FFXII battle system or possibly Grandia battle system. What I mean by this is that there is actually a queue setup in the battle system.

Say we get into a battle and you decide to go the easy way – by mashing X. Well, you may note that if you were to stop pressing the X button (in order to press triangle or square, for example), Zack would perform one more slash before stopping. That’s the queue system. The game actually queues up one extra action before stopping completely. This doesn’t just go for slash attacks, but also magic/technical attacks too.

Furthermore, as you fight, you may notice that the monsters seem to take turns. For example, they would throw an attack at you, then wait a few seconds, then do it again. The queue is not completely predictable, however. For example, monsters may be able to act faster or take longer to act depending on whether you attack them or not. Some monsters would continue to attack at the same pace regardless of whether you hit them or not while others would not be able to attack at all.

That is not to say that Crisis Core is basically ‘mash X and hope the enemies can’t fight back’. After all, there is a reason a blocking button and dodging button exists. The two are self-described actions, but there is generally some strategy for it. Blocking is, of course, the easiest way to reduce damage, but due to the queuing, blocking is often times not useful because you can’t do it fast enough. Dodging is superior because you can dodge quickly while still attacking. Furthermore, it has the advantage of completely escaping damage whereas blocking just reduces it. However, the disadvantage is, of course, dodging is harder to do.

You’ll find that while it’s still more difficult, especially against magic users, dodging is actually easier than it is in most other games. Many enemies, when doing physical attacks, would charge at you, then when they are close, attack in one direction.

If you dodge out of the way, which is simple since their trajectory is easy to see, you can then simply run behind them (attacking from behind yields more damage), and attack. They will actually continue attacking in the same direction while you do this.

Now for some REAL fun! I call forth Blizzaga! Okay, the clouds are coming together, the giant block of ice is beginning to form, now it’s getting read- aw man, the stupid thing walked away from my attack.

The magic system is an interesting one. In order to perform magic in this game, you would actually have to change this sort of ‘action’ cursor using the L and R buttons. See, the game performs various actions in battle by using the action cursor at the bottom right. If you want to use your sword, you have to change it to the slash icon. If you want to use the various materias (i.e. Crisis Core’s form of magic system), you’ll have to change the cursor to highlight the material you want to use.

Additionally, the icons are lined up by the way you equip them. Say, you equip Cure, Fire, and Blizzard in that order. Well, then the icons will be lined up as Slash, Cure, Fire, and Blizzard. So what this means is that unless you can move like Superman, then it is recommended that you keep your most important materias equipped first and last place.

This doesn’t go for all materias. The passive ones, such as the ones that increase your strength or magic, will not appear as an icon if equipped. They just enhance your stats.

Now then, lets say you want to cast Fire on your enemies. Well, once you select the proper icon, and press the X button, you simply wait while Zack takes the time to cast the spell. Here is where some of the magic system’s quirks come in: The various spells have range and time.

For example, if you cast Fire, then know that if you’re too far away, the spell will not reach your enemies. Instead, it’ll simply disappear into thin air. If you decide to cast Blizzard, know that the damn thing will take forever to finally launch. Often times, your enemies will run before you can hit them with Blizzard, and trust me, it is VERY easy to dodge Blizzard. If you encounter an enemy that loves casting Blizzard, then cheer up because they will never be able to hit you.

Speaking of never being able to hit anything, this brings me to the subject of materias which allows you to do different physical attacks. Many of them are slow as hell too and if your enemies happen to hit you, then guess what? Start over! What a joy.

Who does this guy think he is? I’m going to Rush Attack his ass. Does anyone have a quarter to loan me so I can play this slot machine?

Continuing, you might have heard about this famous aspect of Crisis Core: The DMW. Basically, the DMW is a slot machine in the top left of your screen that keeps spinning and spinning and spinning. Yes, it also stops every now and then. Whether you perform a special attack or not depends entirely on whether the icons in the DMW lines up or not. There are different icons in the DMW and different special techniques are performed if different icons line up.

Furthermore, the DMW is actually a double slot machine. One, with the icons, is for performing special techniques. The second, with numbers, is for leveling up. Yes, you heard that right, leveling up in the game depends entirely on a slot machine. Not just leveling up Zack, but also the materias.

This may sound distressing at first, but one should note that leveling up is not really that important in the game (aside from materias, which has a max level of five anyway). Then again, the idea that leveling up is not important is a bit distressing too, albeit it does help the game’s pace.

Regardless, unlike real casinos, the DMW is not really that stingy at handing you good stuff. In fact, you’ll get lined up icons/numbers on a regular basis in the game.

Alright, I’m getting tired of this fight. Time for a summon! Guess I have to cross my fingers, I suppose.

Some of you may have noticed how I failed to mention anything about summons. It’s because I wanted to keep from mentioning it until I spoke about the DMW. The reason is because summoning has to be done by the DMW.

I know, I know, some of you are saying ‘uh-oh’ to yourself already, but it’s not that bad. See, occasionally, the DWM will go through a change mid-way, and summoning icons will replace the usual character icons. If your summoning icons line up, a summon will come forth in a blaze of glory.

It is questionable as to how useful the summonings really are, especially since Zack does a fair amount of damage by himself and summons occur fairly rarely, but it is a fact that summoning through this method does have its benefits. For example, there is no MP cost. Hell, if you DMW icons line up, your AP/HP/MP are even replenished to an extent.

What did you say there? AP?

AP stands for action points, which is what you need to perform actions. It can be replenished through various methods, but generally, it is very difficult to run completely out of AP, especially since even the DMW replenishes it.

Generally, the two main things you have to worry about in battle is HP and MP; MP because even the basic magic is incredibly useful in the game, so you tend to run out of MP quick. You also have to watch it because using items in this game requires you to change that action cursor again to the Item icon, then changing it to ‘Ethers’, then finally using it. All while the battle is still continuing unabated.

HP is also fairly important in the game too because some monsters give a ridiculous amount of damage. Many monsters will give damages in range of 500-600 while your health is roughly 1,500-2,000HP. Others will deal out 1,700-3,000 damage in a single special move.

In other words, the materia Barrier and MBarrier are incredibly useful in this game. Don’t neglect them.

Perhaps I should also make one other important note in this game: You can only equip two armors. Why did Square Enix do this? Why do dreams happen as they do? Ask your local pastor/professor/politician because I have no idea.

Random battles? No matter, I will use my trusty MP Absorb + Ultima materias to demolish these fools.

Ah, there’s that FFVII gamer in you appearing again! Unfortunately, you can’t link materias in this game. Yes, that Knights of the Round + HP Absorb trick you used in FFVII? You can’t do anything like that in Crisis Core. It sounds bad at first, but this is alleviated by the fact that there really aren’t that many materias for you to use anyway.

Yes, I know that sounds worse.

In order to assuage the undoubtedly fierce nerd rage of FFVII fans with the lack of materia linking is the newly introduced system called ‘Materia Fusion’. As the name implies, it is basically a system where you can fuse materias in order to get new or better materias. Say for example, you decide to fuse a mastered Firaga with another master Firaga, what will come out? An even better Firaga!

This sounds like a fun system. After all, what could be more fun than gathering/purchasing numerous materias, then fusing them to create an incredibly strong material so you can one-shot kill everything? Well, hold up there, cowboy, but there are conditions you have to meet.

For example, you can’t simply mass-purchased Fire, and then fuse them for an all powerful form of it. First, you need SP, which is what you use to fuse materias. They’re not really that difficult to get, so you should have no problems with that. However, you will then need to actually level each one up to a good level before fusing them will have a nice effect. Remember how you level up materias? With the slot machine-like DMW.

If you’re still confused about how materia fusing works, think chocobo raising, except with materias instead of, you know, chobobos. By the way, chocobos don’t appear in the game either so don’t even try to think about raising chocobos.

Anyway, I don’t really think tons of materias are really necessary in battles anyway. See, here’s the thing: Crisis Core does have random battles, but it’s not actually random per se. Doesn’t make sense, right? Let me explain.

There are areas in Crisis Core which are designated as battle areas. If you’re in a building for example, you will never encounter a battle in a small corridor. Instead, the game will initiate a battle (it *will*, not *might*), so first of all, you know when a battle is going to occur. Secondly, there is a way to avoid many of the game’s battles: Simply walk on the sides.

Using the building example above; say you’re walking along a corridor and you see a big spacious room ahead. You know a battle is going to occur there. When you reach the room, however, instead of walking forward into the middle, simply walk along the walls, and the battle will not initiate.

It seems as if Square presumed that gamers would simply walk blindingly into every room and made detection spots around the middle. Good thing for us otherwise there would be battles galore.

Hmm, Final Fantasy VII side story, huh? Please say this game lasts more than ten hours.

General rule of thumb: When your game lacks content, you have to increase gameplay time by a few special ways. Traditionally, the most popular method has been to increase difficult (e.g. look at the entire library of the NES). Another method that has become much more popular over the years is to either: (A) Add lots and lots of sidequests or (B) Add some very time consuming sidequests.

Crisis Core employs the first in the form of ‘missions’ that are available for you to do whenever you reach a save point. There are innumerable missions available and each mission has sub-missions. For example, one of the first missions you’ll get is a challenge from the jealous police force of Midgar who claims that they are superior to SOLDIER, so you’ll have to do the mission to prove them wrong.

The missions…are generally very repetitive. Using that same example from above, once you complete one mission and beat the police force, they will change some conditions, and then have you fight the police force again. This will continue again and again until you finish each mission within that category. And no, you’re not fighting anything new aside from the addition of a new monster in each succeeding mission.

So question: Why would you do these missions? For the same reason you do sidequests in any other game. Like a good RPG gamer, you’re doing it in the hope of getting an awesome item. Unfortunately, Crisis Core doesn’t allow you to change weapons, so getting Excalibur/Ultima Sword/Random famous sword is out of the question. However, there are some enticing items, such a good armor or even summoning materias to be gained from doing these missions.

So how long does the game last without doing missions? Surprisingly long.

I would estimate that if one doesn’t do missions, the game would last roughly 10-15 hours. This is despite the fact that the game has no world map (yes, you’re restricted only to the Shinra Corporation and some parts of Midgar outside of plotline areas). However, the reason for this is unfortunate as it is because the game contains a lot of fluff areas. In other words, areas meant solely to pad the game’s length.

Frequently in the game, you would be forced to chase down some random villain only to speak briefly to them and let them go once you do meet up. Each meeting reveals more and more of the plot, but generally, there is little plot revelation that occurs with first going on one of these long various chases.

Hmm, well, that’s all well and good, but I don’t care. I’m a graphics whore. Oh, I also like nostalgic soundtracks.

If one of the primary reasons Crisis Core caught your eye is for graphics, then you’ve certainly made a good choice. Crisis Core, as expected of a game made by Square, is one of the best looking games in the PSP’s library. Each character is lovingly modeled to the full graphical capability of the PSP and it shows. Midgar doesn’t look half bad either.

The backgrounds are rather bland and not very lively, so they could have used some work, but the monsters (or at least some of them) look rather fabulous. Furthermore, the game makes very good usage of FMVs.

When the FMVs do appear, you may be shocked at the quality of them. They really do look amazing and Square knows it, which is why they added various screenshots to the DMW. Yes, even the DMW has nice graphics to it. Occasionally, when the DMW is spinning, the battle may be stopped as everything is focused on it, then various screenshots will flash. Typically, they are meant to show that you’re going to have something lined up. So when they appear, be cheery.

Furthermore, Square really put some graphical power into the summonings. Many of them are spectacular (albeit some are overly long) and will easily impress. This is not surprising since summonings has long been a big part of the Final Fantasy series (especially in VII).

Moving on, what about the ‘nostalgic audio’? Well, it’s very nostalgic. What can I say? Many of VII’s tracks makes it into Crisis Core and it does work in making you remember. This is especially since VII has some of the most memorable tracks of any FF installments.

I myself am a big fan of the FFVII OST, so the audio was a great bonus for me. It is very difficult for me to not notice when Square uses a VII track and smile a bit. There does appear to be some new tracks in Crisis Core, however. What do I think? It’s hard for me to say since I don’t remember any of them.

This is not to imply they’re bad, but it’s generally the result of what happens due to a combination of low audio due to the PSP’s small speakers (and where I tend to play it – in public), lack of gameplay length vs. its big brother, and various other small factors. Then again, it may also be due to the fact that FFVII had the famed composer ‘Nobuo Uematsu’ as opposed to Crisis Core’s ‘Takeharu Ishimoto’.

For those who may not know, Uematsu is probably Square’s most famous and popular composer. His credentials include such famed titles as Chrono Trigger and many Final Fantasy games; hell, he’s also a composer for the upcoming Final Fantasy XIII. Basically, he is Square’s version of Nintendo’s Koji Kondo. By comparison, Ishimoto’s most notable works seems to be Kingdom Hearts and Vagrant Story; his future most notable work appears to be Final Fantasy Agito XIII.

So yeah…there’s not much of a comparison between the two.


So what is my overall recommendation? I have two separate recommendations.

The first is to regular PSP owners. The game is honestly a very good game and is definitely heads and shoulders above much of the PSP’s lackluster library. If you want a good game, get Crisis Core. If you like RPGs and want a good game, definitely get Crisis Core. It’s not your traditional RPG experience, but it’s good for what it is.

My second recommendation is to FFVII fans looking to get a fix: Be cautious. Considering Crisis Core will touch on one of FFVII’s major plot details, it is important to note that there will be story conflicts. Square knows how to tell a story, but they’re apparently not master authors. Characters you’re familiar with may seem to be different in personalities. And so on.

Know this: Crisis Core does not do much to add to FFVII’s plot. I said it before and I’ll say it again; the game really is more about Zack Fair than anything else. If you care enough to learn about him, you may like the game’s plot. If you’re playing to learn more about the FFVII you know, you may be disappointed. If nothing else, those of you who are pro ‘Cloud x Aeris’ will be supremely pissed.

Overall, my recommendation to the general gaming public is this: Regardless of why you want to play Crisis Core, it really is a good game. If you own a PSP and need a good game, this is your best bet for something enjoyable.

Overall Score – 6.5/10

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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

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