[Author's Note; This review was originally done for another website that I was writing for and has been recovered through the magic of the internet. The review was originally posted on August 11th, 2013] Many moons ago, Final Fantasy VII fans were salivating when Square-Enix announced a game in which the player would delve a bit more into the story of Zack Fair. He was an enigmatic footnote in Final Fantasy VII’s lore, but integral to the backstory of the main character Cloud Strife. Final Fantasy VII has one hell of a place in my and many fans’ hearts and this game is solid but does let us down a bit on the “backstory of Zack Fair” part.
You take the role of Zack Fair in this outing. The game begins as he and Angeal as well as Sephiroth (insert fangirl squee) are taking on a mission for Shinra Corporation as elite SOLDIER operatives. SOLDIER essentially being a high ranking special operations unit for the Shinra company.
The game holds up well graphically. It is a testament to the PSP’s graphical capability, especially in the cutscene department. The in-game graphics are akin to a PS2, and the cutscenes look like they would fit well in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Up and down the game is graphically great even by current standards for handhelds.
The game controls well with you moving Zack via the analog stick, and the controls in battle as well as in mini-games are very responsive.
The menu and music as well as many sound effects will definitely strike a chord in your nostalgia center with updated versions of the classic Final Fantasy VII musical score.
The RPG elements of Final Fantasy’s roots are present as you can equip Zack with Materia and accessories. You can have the game auto optimize him for offense, defense, or survivability, and you also have the equipment options to customize him however you like. Despite not being able to equip many different weapons, there is still a lot of customization available to the player.
As far as combat goes, I was very impressed. In contrast to the traditional “hit-hit-potion” formula of a traditional Final Fantasy, you are presented with a much more action oriented combat system. You have free control over Zack around a small terrain and can use your default attack or the materia abilities that you have allocated him. You can go heavy on command materia for more of an action game feel or magic heavy for more of a traditional feel. It was a welcome change for me.
However, a large problem I had with the battle system was the Digital Mind Wave (DMW) reels slot system. The system has 3 reels, each with a number value and character value. The number values effect how Zack and his materia level up and the character values can enable special attacks when all three faces match up. You also get a special chocobo mode which enables either Cait Sith, a Tonberry or Cactuar when triggered, or can use a Summon. Again, this only works if all three reels match.
It is an almost entirely luck based system which makes grinding a hell of a chore. Zack only levels up when all three reels numbers match and materia levels only go up when two numbers match.
Also, as is typical of Final Fantasy, there are many side missions. You can access these missions from save points and get extra loot and level up. Make sure you get your grind on and talk to everyone between each story mission, as I only unlocked roughly half of the missions and of the missions I unlocked I only completed 33% of them because the missions are either face-rollingly easy or system snappingly frustrating (later missions some enemies can kill you in one hit). Also, if you miss talking to someone at specific points who unlock missions, that mission is lost forever.
The difficulty may have come from the DMW level system as I was diligently trying to complete all the side quests but had a hard time leveling since the DMW seems to give the reels a higher chance of matching as you progress through story missions. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to how the DMW works.
Being that this is a part of (what is now know as) The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, you would figure that this game would have an excellent story right?
The story is the weakest point in this game for me. Toward the beginning Angeal, a friend of Zack’s, and Genesis, a fellow SOLDIER, go missing and the “Where’s Angeal?” arc is the main plot point for almost half of the game. The latter half ties more heavily into FFVII proper but is still mainly focused around a big bad that is a preachy douche. He doesn’t really feel like a threat the magnitude of a Sephiroth or Kefka.
A large part of the story is devoted to Jenova cells and the uses thereof but Zack, Cloud and Sephiroth are largely uninvovled in most of this development in favor of newcomers Angeal and Genesis. This would have been a much better as a vessel to flesh Zack out as a character and give us better insight into Sephiroth and Cloud’s actions and motivations in the VII story rather than devote an entire game to two newcomers who SPOLIER ALERT both die END SPOILER. The game also gives a fair amount of camera time to a character from a game that never came out in the states and is never heard from again after this.
The few flaws should not detract from this overall good game. The cinematic work and fast-paced battle system do not excuse the lackluster stor, but you spend more of your time in battle than you do watching cutscenes.
Overall I’ll give this one a 7.5/10. While this game is solid and the ending is a foregone conclusion to FFVII fans, the game itself is fun despite the story. On top of that, those bastards at Square-Enix even manage to throw in a morsel of hope to us FFVII fans that they might one day remake it
I hate you Square-Enix. I hate you so much…
Game – Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
System – PlayStation Portable
Publisher – Square-Enix
Developer – Square-Enix