Review: Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core

Final Fantasy VII remains one of my absolute favorite RPGs to date.  I share this sentiment with many other gamers, I’m sure. While some may disregard the classic as little more than a normal RPG, I continued to be entranced each and every time I replay it. Square Enix’s recent projects aiming to rekindle and expand interest in Final Fantasy VII’s lore have inspired me to dive right back in. After viewing Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, I finally got to pick up Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. The wait was much too long for my tastes, but now that I have gotten to spend some quality time with such a fantastic game, I am certain that this journey back into the world of Final Fantasy VII is well worth your time, especially if you’ve been a fan of the numbered entry since its inception.


Meet Zack – SOLDIER, 2nd-Class…for now. If you’re familiar with the plot of Final Fantasy VII then his relation to hallmark characters Cloud, Sephiroth, and Aerith should be easy to recognize. For those of you who haven’t completed the original game, it’d be a good idea to do that first. Otherwise, you’d be robbing yourself of quite the rich storyline. There are a myriad of ties to the original that you will miss having never completed the original plot points, so I almost have to recommend that only fans of Final Fantasy VII pick this one up. In any case, Zack is an earnest and spunky young recruit aiming to become a hero. When his mentor Angeal begins acting peculiar and disappearing off with old friend Genesis, many threads are revealed to Zack that he wishes would have been left obscured. We get to see a different side of Sephiroth here, with Genesis taking up the mantle of deranged villain, and a familiar cast of characters returns, though some for little more than a cameo to explain their instrumentality in the plot as a whole. Though some parts of the story may seem a bit confusing to many, it’s generally a well-executed tale that should please followers of the tales regarding Shinra, Midgar, and various other integral pieces of the Final Fantasy puzzle.

cc2While this is billed as an RPG predecessor, it feels much more like an action title with an abnormal amount of cut scenes and text. As Zack, you’ll spend a good amount of time exploring various areas throughout your journey to find status as a hero, as well as uncovering the truth behind Angeal and Genesis. Unique to Crisis Core and very much unlike the original Final Fantasy VII, you won’t have too much investigative work to perform in towns, quests to undertake, or even any puzzles to solve. Most of your time will be spent in random battles, boss confrontations, or exploring linear environments. It’s tough to get lost when there’s only one path to take. While this may be a draw for some gamers, it’s also an entirely different approach to the Final Fantasy series. There is little to be done beyond fighting in random battles, or taking on “Missions” at save points.

Missions consist mainly of scouting out areas to clear them of monsters and obtaining items scattered along the way. True, they feel like an attempt to stretch out what is a very short game, but they’re useful areas to turn to in the case of you needing to level up sufficiently, since leveling is purely random. This brings us to the issue of battle. Battles are played out in real-time, with an auto-targeting system that focuses on the next available villain to conquer. Zack is the only party member you will be able to control, so you’ll only have to focus on what he’s up to. The familiar RPG menu has been replaced with a row of tabs that are cycled through via the left and right shoulder buttons. Zack can use a physical attack, utilize equipped materia, use an item, or various other abilities. They are all implemented in real-time as fights play out.

While it’s a huge departure from the typical turn-based fare, it also works quite well, until you consider experience points, leveling up, and limit breaks. While Zack is in “combat mode”, as the game calls it, a slot machine is running at the top left of the screen. Known as the DMV, the slots dictate when Zack will level up, when limit breaks will be used, and when certain augments will be granted in battle. Because of its random nature, you never know quite when you are going to gain a level, cast a powerful Limit Break, or receive a benefit you may not need at the moment. When you need to face off against a boss and you get relatively no Limit Breaks or augments, and the previous battle with some small-fries was an all-out offensive, the DMV system can get frustrating. You may find yourself in precarious situations when needing to be at a particular level for several different boss fights. This is my biggest complaint with the battle system, as the rest feels fresh and effervescent. It’s Final Fantasy XII’s sluggish combat system done right.

battlecriI mentioned you can equip materia, much like in FFVII. Now, you can combine multiple materia to create something new or improved via the Materia Fusion option in the menu. It adds a nice bit of customization to the package since the game is so linear and there is limited change you can find within following a set path. Along the way you can pick up different equippable items, except you can only find accessories and no new weapons, armor, or any similar items. This dumbs down the Final Fantasy-styled item system a bit, but also opens up the doors to potential new gamers who balk at in-depth item management.

Crisis Core is a very short game unless you tackle all of the optional missions. If not, you can finish it under 10 hours (or quicker depending on your leveling). It’s also fairly simple in that you’re always on the right path, and there’s little time spent wondering what to do next.

The game is presented in the gorgeous style of Advent Children, and environments are beautifully crafted. Cut scenes are rendered in FMV, and models are crisp and defined. You’ll be revisiting some familiar locations such as a Mako reactor, the slums of Midgar, and even a special church that has room for plenty of flowers to grow. As far as the audio goes? Some of the voice acting is dodgy, but familiar tunes are present. You’ll end up misty-eyed more than once (like I was in Aerith’s scenes).

Crisis Core is nowhere near being the perfect Final Fantasy game, but it gets more right than it does wrong. If you’re a fan at all of Final Fantasy VII or the games in general, chances are you’ll enjoy this entry too, if not for the story than for its excellent execution. Square Enix, I salute you!

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