Review by Heiedono
Embrace your dreams...
I'd like to start with admitting that I have never played Final Fantasy VII, or any other games in the Final Fantasy VII Compilation Series for that matter. Because of this, I share no bias towards the "overrated" opinions, nor do I simply hate to go against the mainstream.
That being said, on with the review!
I was extremely impressed with this portion of the game. The characters you meet are super cool, and most all are lovable. The plot has one or two slow points, but it's not really a problem. The characters really made me empathetic.
To summarize the basic plot (don't worry, no spoilers!), you play Zack Fair, a SOLDIER 2nd Class. SOLDIER is a branch of the Shin-Ra Electric Company that acts as a (relatively) small elite military. My problem here is that it's not perfectly explained what SOLDIER is, but it's easy to infer. Your goal, as Zack is to climb up the ranks and become a 1st Class hero. One thing happens after another, and the fate of the world rests in your hands. Typical of any RPG, but executed extremely well.
Really, the thing I can't get over is how well I bonded with the characters. I didn't think for a moment whether or not they were just typical RPG cliches. It didn't even matter that I hadn't played a 3D Final Fantasy before, I loved every character. This is where the game really shines!
The gameplay is action-y, somewhat resembling Kingdom Hearts 1. You can move Zack with the directional pad or control nub, but I found the nub to be far superior. You have two basic commands, attack and items, and any other commands appear based on equipped materia (equipping a thundara materia, for example, causes the thundara command to appear). You cycle through commands with L and R. Hit X to pick a command to carry out; hitting square will cause Zack to perform a dodge roll; and triangle is used for blocking.
There's also something called the DMW, which is like a roulette with images of Zack's heart. If he gets three of the same character in a row, he activates a special ability (usually an attack, in some cases healing, etc.). This was executed rather poorly, as the player has no interaction with this mechanic. You simply fight waiting for the DMW to line up. Also, the battle scenes that are played for each special ability can get boring kind of quickly if you happen to be getting a lot of bonuses (I think there's an option to turn off these cut scenes, but I haven't checked).
Customization is pretty deep here, you'll be able to choose up to four materia to equip and level up, in addition to two pieces of armor that can affect all 5 stats: Strength, Vitality, Magic (all self explanatory), Spirit (Magic Defense), Luck (DMW,???). However, appearance doesn't change with customizing, which is a perk I always like included :(. Materia also level up via DMW (read: randomly), and eventually you can fuse materia together to obtain even better materia (a deep mechanic I regretfully have not explored).
Overall, the combat is average. No serious flaws, but nothing to praise, really. It really is quite similar to Kingdom Hearts 1's combat, if not slightly less fluid.
Gameplay also involves a few fetch quests. Run around town for this and that to build that. Again, nothing wrong with it, but it didn't really add anything to the game.
There isn't much to do after beating the game (which took me about 15 hours and 30 min), but I was left wanting more. the missions aren't that great, but they give you something to do if you really enjoyed the game and want more out of it. A New Game + option is available, but again, it doesn't offer much considering the combat itself isn't very deep.
As Far as difficulty goes, I had no problem playing on Normal mode (there are only two choices: Normal or Hard). I died twice, I believe. A little too easy, but Hard mode is offered.
From beautiful piano solos, to rockin' guitar fight music, to a perfect cast of voice actors, this game also excels in this department. All the music fits the mood perfectly, and the music is just plain good to listen to. No problem with sound effects as well. I can't think of a way to improve this section of the game, but I still can't say it deserves a perfect 10.
The in-game cut scenes are implemented well and the FMVs (Full Motion Videos) are breath taking, especially for a handheld. I don't think the PS2 itself could've done much better as far as graphics go. Camera angles are good and rarely a problem, if at all. The areas were mostly nice and detailed, but on the missions (which are completely optional), the areas become somewhat bland. I love the style and everything flows extremely well. The character models are also pretty to look at. The only thing that hurt this section was the mission scenery.
~~~In short (Pros/Cons)~~~
+AMAZING can't miss story for any RPG fan
+and music are great
-Somewhat short for an RPG (~15hours)
-Gameplay can get repetitive
-DMW is random, no player interaction
If you ever see this game, it's definitely not one to miss. In fact, go buy it right now. RIGHT NOW!
Overall score: 9.6+7.5+9.3+9.0 / 4 = 8.85 = ...
Come one, what are you waiting for? Go become a hero!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (US, 03/24/08)
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