Review: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
|FF7 Fan Score:||4 (Good)|
This game was obviously created for Final Fantasy VII fans. If you didn't obsessively follow every plot point in Final Fantasy VII the story will be confusing. If you don't remember what Jenova is or how Cloud relates to the Sephiroth clones, you might want to find a story guide before playing.
If you never played Final Fantasy VII and have no plans to, then forget it. The story will make no sense, the cutscenes that exist solely for Final Fantasy VII fans will mean nothing, and the gameplay just isn't fun enough to make up for this.
The story assumes you've played through basically all of Final Fantasy VII and acts as a spoiler for that game. It is faithful to the original story - at least as far as I can tell. I don't remember enough details of the original story to be completely sure of how everything fits.
So enough about the story and onto the gameplay. You play as Zack, a member of a special-ops force known as SOLDIER. Crisis Core is an "action RPG" so while you are still selecting commands off a menu, you're doing it in real time.
The gameplay is obnoxious, not because it doesn't work, but because it does. Almost. If you ignore the Digital Mind Wave (DMW). (Yes, that's what DMW stands for, according to the manual.)
The DMW is two sets of rolling slots. One is a set of numbers from 1-7 that cause various status effects and the other is a set of character portraits that allow Zack to unleash limit breaks.
Which means that while you're playing, you might suddenly find that magic no longer costs MP or that Zack is about to finish the battle with a sudden and unexpected limit break. According to the manual, you have no control over the DMW, it's completely random.
This means that an interesting and fun battle might suddenly be interrupted by the slots, and then suddenly end with a powerful limit break involving no input from the player. On more than one occasion I've found myself yelling that "I don't need your help!" to the game as a limit break finished a battle for me.
Even more obnoxious, all advancement is done through the DMW. Get three 7s at the same time the portrait slots activate and Zack goes up a level. Other combinations of numbers level up the equipped materia. Even though you can get an item that allows you to disable the DMW very early in the game, doing so will likely prevent you from completing the game due to lack of advancement.
When I think "action RPG" I generally think of a game that doesn't involve sitting through long combat cutscenes where I watch the characters battle in prescripted sequences. But the DMW ruins that - any action invoked via the spinning character slots involves cutscenes. And not just cutscenes about the combat: the concept behind the DMW is that various memories from Zack's life trigger abilities, which the game shows as cutscenes that interrupt the battle before the final combat cutscene plays.
You can skip some of the cutscenes that the DMW invokes - but not the combat animations it triggers, not the spinning slot animation, and, of course, some flashback sequences can't be skipped.
It's a real shame, too, because without the DMW the combat would be far more interesting than it is.
This isn't to say the combat system would be perfect without the DMW. It wouldn't.
When combat starts, you lose control of the camera. The buttons that used to rotate the camera now select commands. This means that occasionally you'll be attacked by enemies that are hidden outside the field of view of the camera.
Worse, Zack doesn't always target the closest enemy. Occasionally he'll target enemies offscreen, or enemies across the screen. Once you enter a command, you lose control of Zack until he completes the command. This includes Attack - when you tell Zack to swing his sword, that includes him running up to whatever he targeted. Even if that includes running through some attack another enemy is releasing. Attack isn't the only ability that causes Zack to start running around - other actions also cause Zack to run up to an enemy before executing them.
The field screen also suffers from camera issues. The game solves the "camera in the wall" issue by refusing to allow the camera anywhere near the wall. For most of the game this is a mild nuisance which can be solved by allowing Zack to run around until the camera dislodges from the wall.
The part of the game where this fails is due to the Action RPG Cliché, the Forced Stealth Section. Nothing is more annoying than being caught by an enemy you can't see because the camera is stuck on a wall. Thankfully this section is very short and while there is a "penalty" for failing the items lost aren't worth the effort in getting lucky enough to make it through uncaught.
However that's the end of my negativity. The game is beautiful, showing off just what the PSP is capable off. The cutscenes are gorgeous, and if you're a Final Fantasy VII, are reason enough to play through the game.
Unfortunately there's no way to skip the cutscenes, even if you've already finished the game, and there's no "movie mode" to rewatch cutscenes after you've played the game. So I guess I'm not through being negative.
Ultimately, this game is perfect for Final Fantasy VII fans. Others need not apply.