‘Crisis Core’ Plays Like an Artificial Crisis

Brent Wallace

Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core is a game released for the PSP by Square Enix, the people behind the incredibly successful Final Fantasy series.

Crisis Core is a prequel to Final Fantasy VII, one of the most influential role-playing games of all time. While Crisis Core does make excellent usage of this source material, it is ultimately held back by a few major shortfalls that prevent it from achieving the greatness of its predecessor.

The storyline follows Zack Fair, a member of the SOLDIER organization funded by the Shinra Corporation, which is busy harvesting a valuable resource known as ‘mako’ from the planet. Zack’s story covers the events that lead up to the events of FF7, from Zack’s training with SOLDIER, to the events of the Nibelheim incident.

Zack was only briefly seen in FFVII during some flashbacks seen in the game. Fortunately Crisis Core does an excellent job of expanding Zack as a character. Crisis Core also has appearances by some of the memorable characters from FF7, such as the original game’s protagonist Cloud and its immensely popular villain: Sephiroth. It is also nice to notice that Crisis Core also has a decent sense of humor that is even more obvious than what we saw in FF7.

Crisis Core also throws in some new characters, such as Zack’s mentor Angeal and the 1st class soldier Genesis. These characters are unfortunately not very well developed. Other than this disappointment however, Crisis Core uses its source material brilliantly, and will undoubtedly please fans of FF7.

Unfortunately, people may not be pleased by how Crisis Core plays. Crisis Core takes many liberties from the game play of FF7. Instead of a turn-based battle system like the one used in FF7, Crisis Core uses a fully real-time battle system that lets you move Zack freely around the arenas you face enemies in.

The combat system is solid, with a fairly wide variety of orders that you can give to Zack, such as basic attacks and the abilities that Zack can perform depending on what materia he has equipped.

The most unique addition Crisis Core makes to the combat is the Digital Mind Wave (DMW). The DMW is essentially a slot machine that randomly lets Zack perform devastating limit break attacks whenever three portraits of the same character line-up. The limit break performed depends on which character comes up.

As you proceed through the game, more portraits are added to the DMW, increasing the variety of limit breaks Zack has access to. The DMW also has a line-up of three numbers that level up either the materia, which are small spheres of crystallized energy that can be used to cast magic in FF7’s world, Zack has equipped or even Zack himself when they are matched up.

Unfortunately, the combat ends up falling flat for most of the game due to the game’s horrendous enemy artificial intelligence. The enemy AI in Crisis Core is nothing short of comatose, as enemies will only occasionally try to attack you and literally seem to be begging you to hit them. As a result, the random encounters in Crisis Core are almost never satisfying.

The game does partially salvage its combat with some entertaining boss battles, since their attacks will keep you on your toes, but even these battles are generally fairly easy. The only true redeeming factor of the battles in Crisis Core is that they look great in motion.

People expecting a true role-playing experience from Crisis Core will be disappointed in other ways as well. The actual role-playing elements of Crisis Core are relatively inconsequential. In all reality, Crisis Core actually plays more like an action game than an RPG.

Crisis Core doesn’t give players a lack of things to do however. Those who rush through the main storyline will likely have it completed in slightly longer than 10 hours at the normal difficulty level. But that’s only if you don’t go through the game’s side missions, which generally send you into a small area where you have to find a specific enemy and defeat it. These side missions easily double, if not triple, the length of the game.

Graphically, Crisis Core is one of the best looking games on the PSP, though the graphics aren’t without minor quibbles. The cut-scenes in Crisis Core are quite simply downright gorgeous.

The in-game graphics are also quite impressive as well with highly detailed character models, animation, and environments. Not enough can be said about how great it is to see the classic characters, environments, and enemy designs in such high detail. The particle effects aren’t always quite as impressive however.

In the end, Crisis Core is a tough game to recommend. The combat is almost completely crippled by the game’s abysmal enemy AI, and the role-playing elements are too inconsequential. The game still manages to be satisfying however with how it uses its source material. Ultimately, Crisis Core is most recommendable for fans of FF7, who will undoubtedly embrace the game as the fan service that it is.

Released: March 24
ESRB rating: T (teen). Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes and Violence.
Retail Price: $39.99
Availability: Retail stores and online vendors.

My rating: 2 out of 4 stars.