When news of the compilation of Final Fantasy VII was first announced, joy tickled Square Enix fans’ hearts. What could possibly be better than a whole series of games based around the events of what is arguably the greatest role-playing game in history? That question remains unanswered. Instead, mediocrity reigned and fans were disappointed. Crisis Core, a recently released FFVII prequel on the PlayStation Portable, ends the trend of shittiness.
When news of the compilation of Final Fantasy VII was first announced, joy tickled Square Enix fans’ hearts. What could possibly be better than a whole series of games based around the events of what is arguably the greatest role-playing game in history?
That question remains unanswered. Instead, mediocrity reigned and fans were disappointed.
The FFVII movie sequel, Advent Children, had flashy visuals in lieu of character and story development, and the PlayStation 2 spin-off, Dirge of Cerberus, was a decent RPG at best and a shitty shoot-’em-up at worst. The cell-phone game Before Crisis didn’t even make it to the United States. All of that potential, and American Final Fantasy nerds get nothing more than off-the-mark sequels.
Crisis Core, a recently released FFVII prequel on the PlayStation Portable, ends the trend of shittiness.
It’s still a far cry from the old-school Final Fantasy days, as Crisis Core follows the franchise-wide trend of becoming more action oriented, but the game doesn’t sacrifice quality gaming and intricate story lines.
Battle in Crisis Core is actual combat, as turn-based attacks and menus take a backseat to live fighting that has controls sort of like a hack-and-slash game. It’s weird at first to play an FF game more like a Dynasty Warriors title than… well, like any older Final Fantasy game, but the learning curve is smooth and fun. Equipment setup and leveling-up are still plenty intricate for the nerds out there, making this more than a mere button-mashing parade of assault.
Character development and story follow-through for Crisis Core are unlike the rest of the compilation games, because it works and doesn’t forget to answer more questions than it raises. Neither Advent Children nor Dirge of Cerberus clearly answered loose ends left by FFVII, but Crisis Core does a great job solving the mysteries laid out in the original game. As a prequel that may sound like a no-brainer, this game crops up plenty of its own questions–and works to answer them without relying on obvious answers.
The mysterious Zack Fair from FFVII is the lead character in Crisis Core, and the game explores how he and the original game’s protagonist, Cloud Strife, became friends, and how Zack and FFVII leading lady Aerith became lovers. But more importantly, Crisis Core shows a new side of Sephiroth, the most badass of all badasses in Final Fantasy history.
Born of a scientific experiment involving an unnatural beast hell-bent on destroying the world, Sephiroth himself attempts to reign in darkness during the events of FFVII and is later reincarnated for malevolence in Advent Children. In Crisis Core he is finally given the in-depth look he deserves. Every true villain has a backstory, and the history of the One-Winged Angel makes Crisis Core worth the purchase all on its own.
There’s more bang for your buck, too. The cinematic presentation is amazing, and it seems impossible that such a little system could put out visuals this sexy. The battle graphics get repetitive, but that’s par for the RPG course, and character animations are easily the best in the FFVII spin-offs.
The sound is top-notch, with the voice-acting doing justice to the characters and serving the story progression well. Inflection and tone play to the plot like no past FF title has, and it really helps that the music can jump from adrenalin-pumping rock to smooth, jazzy ambient without feeling jagged or out-of-place.
I should point out that I’m a devout and longtime Final Fantasy fiend. I bought this game with the same mindset I watched Advent Children and played Dirge of Cerberus with: obsession. I found myself not enjoying them nearly as much as their forerunner, leaving me to wonder how the spawn of the brilliant Final Fantasy VII could fall so short of the standards set by the original game.
Crisis Core kept me playing and intrigued for much longer, and the purchase was very gratifying. Pick this one up–it is well worth the $40. No game can ever recapture the glory of FFVII, but Crisis Core comes damn close.