Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is a stunning accomplishment from Square Enix. This new PSP action/adventure game is so good that you'll completely forget about the other horrible Final Fantasy VII spin-offs (including, but not limited to, Dirge of Cerberus and Advent Children). This game is so good that it makes up for the lack of original PSP software from Square Enix. It's so good that ... well, it's so good that you'll have a hard time going back to God of War: Chains of Olympus. And at the end of the day isn't that the biggest compliment of them all?
Crisis Core is the long-awaited prequel to Final Fantasy VII. You play Zack, a character who made a small, but important, role in Square's seminal 1997 PlayStation role-playing game. Given Zack's brief cameo in Final Fantasy VII, it may seem a little strange to see him headlining his own game. Believe it or not, Zack is integral to Cloud's classic adventure and his story manages to flesh out an already epic story.
The game begins with a young Zack pining to become a SOLDIER 1st Class, an elite group of fighters that appear to be genetically enhanced. Along the way he'll meet up with a number of famous characters from Final Fantasy VII (Cloud, Tifa, etc.), become one of the greatest soldiers in Midgar and, most importantly, uncover the truth about a secret project that was trying to genetically engineer the perfect warrior (in other words, it's the story of Alien Resurrection).
But Final Fantasy VII fans will get something more out of this experience. If you're one of those people who cried when Aerith died ten years ago or are still confused at exactly what happens at the end of disc three, then Crisis Core is for you. In this thirty hour adventure you'll learn a number of crazy things that will make you reevaluate everything you thought you knew about the original Final Fantasy VII. What will you find out, you may ask? Well, learn all about Sephiroth before he became a girl killing jerk. Learn about Cloud's man-crush on our hero, Zack. Learn why Yuffie will stop at nothing to steal your hard-earned treasure. Learn why Aerith would be the sweetest, yet most boring girlfriend ever.
Yes, this is the kind of game that is nothing but fan service, which will probably leave a lot of non-Final Fantasy VII fans scratching their heads. The good news is that Crisis Core manages to weave a tale that works on its own. So while some gamers may not understand the significance of Cloud, Tifa and the rest of the famous Final Fantasy VII characters, they won't think about it for long because they'll be too wrapped up in the game's exciting story. I definitely like that this works as its own stand-alone story, in truth the game is meant to be played by those of us who remember Final Fantasy VII back in the late 1990s. That's the target audience, so if you haven't played the original game then what are you waiting for? By now every serious fan of role-playing games should have made it through at least the first disc of Square's 1997 epic.
Without a doubt the biggest bone of contention for a lot of people is the brand new combat system. In a lot of ways Crisis Core does not feel like a traditional Final Fantasy game; the actions aren't turn based, you never control more than one person and it happens so fast that it might as well be in real time. It's a radical departure for Square Enix; the game really feels more like a cross between Kingdom Hearts and Parasite Eve. Regardless of how different it is, this brand new combat system works surprisingly well on the hand held and makes this game feel a lot different from its console brothers.
When you enter a combat situation your heads-up display will change and you will control a small row of icons at the bottom of the screen. You attack with the "X" button; however all you are doing is ordering your character to perform a move. By pushing the left and right shoulder buttons you can switch between commands for Zack, including conjuring up magic, using items and kicking butt. You can also use the "triangle" button to block attacks and the "square" button to roll out of the way.
For the first hour or two it feels like Crisis Core is nothing more than "Push X: The Game." It felt like a lot of the battles could be won by simply mashing the "X" button and focusing your attention on something else (like the Charles in Charge marathon you could be watching). But slowly the game adds more depth, including ways to customize your character in a number of intriguing ways. Crisis Core goes from being a button masher to having one of the most exciting control schemes I've seen in years. It's a lot deeper than you'll give it credit for in the beginning, yet so simple that after thirty hours you won't feel like you're just wading through boring menus.
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