Square Enix's attempt to capitalise on the popularity of Final Fantasy VII with their Compilation of Final Fantasy VII series of games hasn't been going too well so far, especially in North America. The Vincent Valentine vehicle Dirge of Cerberus for the PlayStation 2 was mediocre at best, and the mobile game Before Crisis featuring the Turks still hasn't made it to North American shores. Basically we have a slipshod shooter and Advent Children, a well-crafted yet ultimately shallow CGI movie. Now, Square Enix has released Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII for the PSP, a true prequel to the PlayStation original, which follows the career of Cloud's inspiration, soldier Zack Fair. Has the rebirth of FFVII finally delivered compelling gameplay, or are we better off just replaying the original?
Loved or Loveless? Activating combat mode...
Combat System: Crisis Core's combat system is basically an evolution of the Kingdom Hearts system, with combat actions, spells, and items selected in real time with the shoulder buttons. It felt a bit awkward at first, but quickly became second nature.
Digital Mind Wave: The DMW is the spinning roulette wheel at the top left, which randomly determines when special attacks and summons occur, as well as not-so-randomly determining when you level up. As the game progresses and you discover new summons and special attacks you will fall in love with the DMW.
Mission System: A big part of what makes Crisis Core an excellent PSP game, the mission system, lets you engage in quick, bite-sized tasks, perfect for a quick Final Fantasy fix. It's optional, but some of the cooler summons in the game are hidden away in missions.
Final Fan-Service: The game is filled with subtle hooks for fans of the PlayStation original. Characters, locations, and events will have you fondly remembering your time with FFVII.
Filling In The Gaps: Crisis Core not only stands on its own in terms of presenting a compelling story, it also fills in gaps from the original game's plot. Final Fantasy VII makes a bit more sense to me now that I've played through Crisis Core.
That Square Enix Shine: Production values in the Crisis Core are through the roof. The music seldom misses, the voice work is excellent, and the CG is truly amazing. Even the menu system oozes quality.
Unskippable Cutscenes: Nothing pisses me off more than losing a 10 minute long boss fight only to find I cannot skip past the 14 minutes of cutscenes leading up to the rematch. Come on Squeenix, we've moved past this.
Mission Repetition: The missions take place over a dozen or so environments that repeat far too often. Taking on missions in large chunks, I found myself quickly getting tired of seeing the same metal rooms, cave surfaces, and rolling plains over and over again.
Forget Before Crisis and Dirge of Cerberus. With the release of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, FFVII can now be considered a trilogy. Crisis Core, Final Fantasy VII, and Advent Children together form the full Final Fantasy VII experience. Not only is Crisis Core jam-packed with hooks to the PlayStation original, its characters and storyline are strong enough to stand on their own.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is a PSP masterpiece, and an absolute must for fans of spiky-haired protagonists everywhere.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was developed and published by Square Enix and released on March 25 for the PSP. Retails for $US 39.99. Campaign played to completion, mission mode 54% completed.