Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Reviewed by Anna Slado
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-04-17 PSP RPG T (Teen) Square Enix

Almost every gamer has played Final Fantasy VII, or at least heard of it. It was the biggest role-playing hit on the PlayStation and it's safe to say that the RPG scene changed forever. Here in Sweden, big posters of Cloud and his Buster sword were to be seen everywhere prior to the game's release. Teenage boys yearned for Tifa and all of us felt our heart break as Aeris died at the hand of the greatest villain of all time, Sephiroth.

Final Fantasy VII was a profound experience and provided the gamer with a story that took hours to finish. Not only was it lengthy, it was also quite complex. Cloud suffered from some psychological illness, he couldn't remember things correctly and what he thought was his own memories were in fact someone else's ? his friend Zack.

Crisis Core is a prequel to Final Fantasy VII, and it takes place a few years before Cloud and his friends saved the world from the threatening Meteor. We follow the 2nd class SOLDIER Zack, who dreams of becoming a hero, as famous as Sephiroth, a legend within SOLDIER. Zack carefully listens to advice from his friend Angeal, a 1st class SOLDIER and takes orders from Tseng of the Turks.

You will meet a lot of friendly and unfriendly faces from FFVII in Crisis Core, and some characters you will only hear of. There are of course new faces, like Genesis, another 1st class SOLDIER, and close friend of both Angeal and Sephiroth.

What I like most about this game is the familiarity. It's such a great feeling to return to Midgar, even though you are now fighting for Shinra, and not against them. But things are not as they seem and Zack will learn that there is hardly anyone that he can trust.

It's easy to remember Aeris talking fondly about her first love in Final Fantasy VII. The time that Zack and Aeris share in Crisis Core, is filled with laughter and warmth, and even some tears. Their relationship is gently portrayed ? almost too gentle at times, and I only wish Square Enix would have given us more. I loved getting to know Zack. In Final Fantasy VII, I couldn't care less about him. Even after his reappearance in Advent Children, I still didn't know what to think of him. But now I do. It's possible that Zack outshines Cloud when it comes to being a hero.

Crisis Core carries some features from FFVII and brings about some fresh ones. The Materia system is back with a twist. You can combine Materia and make new ones. I didn't use this feature much, but it can come very much in handy. Battles are fought in real time, so we are not talking the classic ATB-style here. In the bottom right corner, there are several commands that you execute with the X button. The first one is simply attacking, and the other slots can be filled with for example magic or special attacks in the form of Materia. The last option is items. You scroll through these with the left and right buttons and even though I've never seen a fighting system like this before, it works very well and is not hard at all.

Zack can dodge and block enemy attacks using the square and triangle buttons. Doing this however, removes AP points that are in addition to the HP and MP points. In the top left corner is a "slot machine" ? also called the DMW (Digital Mind Wave). It represents the thoughts and feelings of Zack and as he meets people along the way, more faces and memories are added to the DMW. By finding special items, summons can also be added to the slots.

The DMW is not something you yourself have any control over. You can argue that this is good or bad, but I found that the DMW mostly worked in my favor and triggered at the right time. If you get three matching faces, say of Sephiroth, a special Limit Break for that character is executed. There are also numbers that come into account. Different combinations give different results. For example 777 gives Zack a level up. If you get 333, and Materia is placed in the third slot, it will level up. When only one 7 is shown in the DMW, it provides status changes like "no MP cost" or "null physical damage" depending on which column the 7 appears in. It's all very smart and I guess it's a good thing that you don't have to think about it as Zack battles hordes of enemies all by himself, and sometimes it's easy to feel overwhelmed.

Lucky for us then that Missions exist. Missions are short, have nothing to do with the storyline, and can give you rare items and help you gain higher levels. You can of course disregard them completely but I doubt that would be smart. There are 300 missions in total, and that's quite a lot. I completed 37%, and I felt that was good enough this time around.

The graphics in Crisis Core are stunning. It's the best I've seen so far on the PSP. Some CG sequences actually look as if they have been snatched straight off the PS3. The only place where the game feels slightly repetitive is in the Missions. You run around in these empty dungeons or corridors covered in mostly gray tones. Not that impressive, but then again, the missions are just for passing time.

And when it comes to time, Crisis Core is rather short. I completed it in 22 hours, and then I guess at least 5 hours were missions. I would have loved to have stayed in Midgar for much longer. The music in Crisis Core is a mix of old and new. The classic tunes from FF VII have gotten a make-over and are the scores that you will remember the most. The original tunes are not that heartfelt and I found it hard to create new memories around them.

I was shocked when I stumbled upon the end of the game. I was not at all prepared and it came as such a surprise to me. If there is anyone out there, who has decided not to play this game, I can tell you that the ending alone is reason enough to pick it up. I have never felt such heartache over an ending, even though I always feel sad when a good game ends. I was depressed for days. Crisis Core is not just a game. These characters come to life, right in front of you. They laugh, they cry, they fight, the lose hope and trust, and find a new path, a new goal. The voice acting is beyond brilliant and is perfectly fitted to characters talking. For any gamer to say no to this game, would be a crime.

Crisis Core has given me a better understanding of what happened in FF VII and Zack has come to be a very big part of that world - almost bigger than Sephiroth and Cloud combined. With his charm, his charisma, his laughter, his bravery, his spirit, his beliefs, his goals, and his love, Zack and his story has completely shaken me to the core.