Way back in issue four of Otaku USA, resident Expert of Awesome Emily Balistrieri tackled the import release of the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII prequel, Crisis Core. Rather than retread some well-worn ground with your average review, I spent the last week or so checking out the domestic release of the game as a follow-up of sorts to Emily’s coverage. Is it still a must-play PSP title? Is it really the best of the FFVII spin-offs (like that would be hard)? All the answers to those oh-so burning questions wait below!
The Bad: Let’s kick this off by getting the grimy gunk out of the way first. To be honest, this isn’t an easy space to fill. Try as I might, it’s really difficult tocome up with a laundry list of outstanding caveats for this title. It’s simply a super polished, entertaining experience from opening to close. Yet, it’s not perfect.
For everything that Crisis Core does right, one of the chief things it’s missing is a complete feeling of control over everything protagonist Zack has to do in the game. This exists both inside and outside of the combat system, which, while tons of fun, is full of repetition and chance. While the player is indeed moving Zack all over the battle screen-rolling, guarding and slashing his way to victory-the attacks are still slave to a predetermined rhythm that doesn’t distance itself as much from traditional RPGs as it initially appears. It’s still almost entirely an action-RPG, it’s just more Secret of Mana and less Kingdom Hearts.
The DMW system, which causes a slot-machine interface infused with the fighting spirit of all your comrades to appear, is fairly random. Of course, that’s the whole point, for the most part; yet some might not find themselves as entranced by this feature as others. Personally, it adds a unique flavor to what would otherwise be a borderline button-masher, and it’s always exciting to land a summon or another equally powerful move through the virtual dice roll. Regardless, it’s not for everyone.
There’s also… who am I kidding? That’s about it!
The Good: Now that I’ve mentioned what isn’t so spectacular about the battle system, it should be noted that combat is pretty darn addictive overall. Random battles aren’t the chore that they are in other titles, and the game’s bosses are massive, gorgeous, and a blast to fight.
The story that accompanies all of this is a compelling one, as well. Though it might not be fair to say this, especially since the original is a decade old at this point, pretty much all aspects of Crisis Core‘s storytelling are more gracefully executed than Final Fantasy VII‘s. There’s still plenty of melodrama and a ton of FMV, but the narrative isn’t confounding in the least, and is driven by an interesting lead that makes Cloud a tad more forgettable than before.
There’s still plenty of fanservice (sorry, no panty shots that I know of) for those faithful to the original characters, though, and it’s all wrapped together in a wonderfully localized package with voice acting that’s rarely cringe-worthy. Like Emily said in her import review, “… fans of VII are going to want to be able to understand every e-mail, and the details of every mission.” Well, it’s all here, it’s all well written, and there’s a lot of it to absorb!
The Awesome: This mention gets its very own category. While I’ll admit that I’m normally in defense of gameplay over cinematics, the movies in Crisis Core are so amazingly produced that they almost make me want to go watch that mess of a movie Advent Children again. As if the in-game engine didn’t look nice enough for a portable title, the movies are all almost completely uncompressed FMV sequences that easily match the action seen in the aforementioned film.
Crisis Core isn’t just a good FFVII spin-off; it’s a great game in its own right. If you made the mistake of throwing your hard-earned cash at one of the other VII-based disasters (like Dirge of Cerberus) then consider this a rare chance to rectify a few bewilderingly poor life choices.
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix