Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII Review

I just finished Crisis Core, and I mean ‘just’; I put down my PSP and opened Word on my laptop – I didn’t even get up. Before I go any further, I’ll say this: Crisis Core is an extremely difficult game to review fairly. Like a lot of people, I loved Final Fantasy VII on the original PlayStation. Unlike a lot of people, I didn’t think it was the best Final Fantasy (that honor belongs to VI, no questions asked), I probably wouldn’t be interested in playing through the rumored PS3 remake and I, unlike a huge portion of the gaming population, haven’t carried a fanboy torch for Cloud, Aeris, Tifa, Barrett and the rest for going on ten years now. All that said, Crisis Core is a passable action RPG that is more of an overdue piece of fan service than a full-fledged, stand-alone game. If you live and die for FF7, you’ll probably disagree with a lot of what I have to say. If you haven’t played the original, saw it for the B+ experience it was or simply just want to know how a long-anticipated Square Enix project ended up, then I urge you to read on.

In case you don’t already know, Crisis Core is a prequel to Final Fantasy VII, a decade old RPG that made the Playstation a gaming force to be reckoned with and got an entire generation of gamers interested in the role-playing genre. There is absolutely no question that FF7 is one of the most important games in history, but it was and is far from being among the ranks of the best games of all time. FF7’s story, the tale of a loner named Cloud, his involvement with an anti-corporation rebel group and his eventual battle for the life of the planet itself against one of the most compelling villains ever, Sephiroth, was the main selling point for nearly everyone who played the game. The sweeping narrative grabbed thousands of gamers and made it easy to ignore the game’s mindless random enemy encounters, sometimes-confusing plot and clunky, unfulfilling gameplay. Adding to the near-hysteria over FF7 was the death of one of the main characters just short of halfway through the game. I won’t spill the beans for the one guy in the world who doesn’t know to what I’m referring, but the scene is forever etched into the minds of the entire gaming community and even those less than impressed with the overall experience that was FF7, like myself, were moved to tears – whether they admit it or not.

Everyone has heard the old “If it is ‘Final Fantasy’, how come there are so many of them? Heh heh.” routine from non-gaming peers, but FF7 really blew the “Final” part out of the water. The seventh game in the series has now spawned a pretty cool CGI movie (Advent Children), a mobile phone game no one seems to know anything about (Is it out? Who do you play as? Why hasn’t anyone got any info on this?!), a PS2 shooter starring Vincent Valentine, FF7’s resident vampire (Dirge Of Cerberus) and now, a PSP game starring Zack, a SOLDIER (acronym alert) operative who mentored Cloud, knew Sephiroth before he went nuts and like Forrest Gump, was in the right place at the right time often enough that Square Enix figured they could squeeze a whole “adventure before the adventure” game out of him.

Now that you are all caught up, lets quit talking about FF7 and dive right into Crisis Core. As I mentioned, you play as Zack, who begins as a lower level soldier (or SOLDIER… get it?) and is forced to track down his mentor, Angeal, and another guy, Genesis, after they mutate (sort of) and go rogue against the company that “created” them, Shinra Corp. Zack, Sephiroth, the Turks (Tseng, Reno and one or two others), Aeris, Tifa, Cloud, Hojo and some others all end up playing a part in the story that, if you did play FF7, you kind of already know about. There are cute references here and there, like the Buster Sword’s origin and how Tifa’s bar, the Seventh Heaven, got its name, but Crisis Core is kind of like “Titanic”; no matter how interesting things get, you know from square one just how things are going to turn out. In “Titanic,” no amount of Leonardo DiCaprio overacting was going to keep that boat from sinking; in Crisis Core, Zack can be as nice and likable as he wants, but his flashback-only appearances belie the fact that, no matter what, he is going to die. Thankfully, there is no “Darth Vader created C-3PO”-type nonsense, but as far as the plot goes, FF7 fans will eat it up. FF7 virgins will more than likely be constantly confused and will probably give up on the game after a little while. FF7 alums and virgins alike, though, won’t be able to deny the emotional payoff of the game’s finale. A good number of FF7 virgins probably won’t care enough to get that far, but if they do, it is something to behold.