Game Review: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (PSP)
Platform: PSP Published: Square Enix Developed: Square Enix Genre: Action RPG
This game takes place seven years before the events of Final Fantasy VII. The Shinra Electric Power Company has been increasing their hold over the city of Midgar by augmenting both their scientific and military strength. They have been doing this by monopolizing mako energy, the life source of the planet. Behind their military strength was the squad called SOLDIER. Among these operatives, the elite were designated SOLDIER 1st class. 1st class operatives are highly idealized by both SOLDIER members and civilians. You play as one of these, the young SOLDIER 2nd class named Zack. He aspires to be as great a SOLDIER as his mentor Angeal. During a mission in Wutai, a city in the outskirts of Midgar, many SOLDIER members led by Genesis, a 1st class member, go missing. This prompts Shinra into deploying a second unit to end the war in Wutai. This second unit is led by 1st class Angeal with Zack as his partner.
I approached this game with some skepticism, because Square Enix has tried to cash in on the Final Fantasy VII name, like with the game Dirge of Cerberus, which proved to be a failure. Mainly because they tried to branch out from the turn based RPG genre onto other ones, so when I learned that this was an action RPG game, I thought it might happen again. Yet I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was not the case.
Crisis Core had a few challenges that had to be met or surpassed as a Final Fantasy game and after finishing the game, I can see that they did. One such challenge was to remake the battle system so that it would fit the new action RPG pace and yet still stick to the original materia system established in Final Fantasy VII. They did a great job of this by both keeping the essence of the materia system, and refitting the effects they do on the battlefield. Another challenge they faced was that any fan of the Final Fantasy VII game, knew what the fate of this character was, even if not much was known about him, so with that in mind they had to make a storyline that would make the player care enough about Zack, and they did. The way the story was set up, not only addressed the story known in Final Fantasy VII, but also tied up some other loose ends left by the movie Advent Children. I never would have thought that after playing this game, I would put Zack right up there with Cloud as a hero, but that in fact is what this game did.
Finally, I found it kind of strange the way the game set up its level up system. It basically changes from an experience point system, to a random system called DMW. The DMW spins like a slot machine as you are fighting, if the two images on the sides match, you enter a phase, and if the three numbers are 7s you level up, if any two numbers match then the materia levels up. It is a bit crude but a lot more effective then I originally thought. I never found my self trying to level up because of the failure of the DMW, but instead I would try to build new strategies to clear my mission in the game.
Some of the few short comings in the game is the camera angle during battle. It becomes hard to target the enemy of your choice, when facing several enemies. This brings up another flaw which is targeting. There were several situations when I wanted to use certain magic spells on a particular enemy but was not able to without moving too much on the battlefield. Another thing is the way the "random" battles take place. Usually, Final Fantasy games use a random system to decide whether you battle or not, yet if this was their intent, they did a poor job of it. After playing for a while you can tell when and where the battles take place which are in open areas. For example, if you're on a stairway and you reach the top or bottom of it, like a big area, you know you'll face some enemies. However if you walk around the edge, you can avoid the battle completely. One last thing I noticed missing in this game was the musical genius of Nobuo Uematsu. Some of the music from the original game is still here, but for the most part the music is composed by someone else. The music is not horrible, yet it fails to be as great as Uematsu's.
There are not many things I would recommend changing in the game other than to have a better camera angle and a way to cycle through the enemies other than the current auto targeting. One way of doing that, is to have a manual version of targeting and use either the analog stick of the PSP to be the camera or the D-pad, since they are both currently used to move the character. The random aspect of the battle could be easily resolved if that was their original intent but to be honest it saves a lot of time if you can avoid these unnecessary battles. However if they wanted to get rid of it, it would be as easy as making the collision of the alarms bigger so the player would not be able to skip it.
Overall, Square Enix rose to the occasion and extended the experience brought by the original Final Fantasy VII by giving the player an innovative way to play a Final Fantasy game. It also gave the series a bit more closure. Other than a few mistakes here and there, this game was well planned and executed.