Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII: Discovering Gaming Greatness

I don't go for collector's editions very often, but I wanted this one 
Looking back over the last four and a half weeks, January was a pretty good month for me. I returned to University to find myself doing really well with my course assignments, and discovered that we'd be reading some pretty awesome texts this term (Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Milton's Paradise Lost, and Camus' The Outsider to name but three). My girlfriend and I also managed to secure tenancy of our flat for an extra year, meaning we don't have to move out until we finish our University studies in July 2011. It's been a pretty good month for games, too, as I played through and finished a total of four games in January. I've already shared my thoughts on Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and the two Half-Life expansions, Opposing Force and Blue Shift (in case you missed them, the relevant blogs can be found here and here respectively). 
 
The latest game I've seen the closing credits roll in is Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, which I finished on Sunday night. I bought the game almost as soon as it launched here in the UK, back in the summer of 2008. I was lucky enough to pick up the collector's edition, which comes with an exclusive book of official artwork as shown above. I wanted to get into it straight away, but elected to leave it as I had a lot of other titles on the go at the time. I finally picked it up over the Christmas holiday, marking the start of my plan to play through the whole Compilation of Final Fantasy VII this year. As a gamer whose tastes and influences were shaped by the experiences I had with the original Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation several years ago, I have a lot to say about Crisis Core, both as a stand-alone game and as part of the aforementioned Compilation. So without any further preamble, let's get this episode of Discovering Gaming Greatness underway.
 
Crisis Core's story ties up all the loose ends from FFVII 
The main reason I picked up Crisis Core (beyond the presence of the words Final and Fantasy in the title) was to experience its story, and in that respect I definitely wasn't disappointed. While I don't think that Final Fantasy VII is the best game in the series, it is a game that had a profound effect on me when I first experienced it over the winter of 2000/2001. One of the main reasons for this was the game's storytelling. Final Fantasy VII came into my life at a time when I was struggling to find enjoyment in reading, and managed to reignite that passion for me. It also showed me that story had an important role to play in video games, and in that respect it's probably had more influence on my tastes as a gamer than any other game I've played before or since. 
 
Zack's a better protagonist than Cloud. There, I said it 
I loved Crisis Core's story because it did everything that I expected it to. It allowed me to revisit a universe that I hold incredibly dear, and it answered all the questions left by Final Fantasy VII. Perhaps best of all, it gave me a real insight into the previously unexplored character of Zack Fair. In all honesty, I think Zack might just be the best protagonist in a Final Fantasy game to date. Experiencing his story in the form of the events leading up to Final Fantasy VII and seeing how those events affect him, shaping him from a carefree adolescent into a more serious and responsible young man, is one of the most rewarding aspects of the game. It also makes for a story full of emotion. One of the key themes of Crisis Core is relationships, and there are a lot of them. Zack's relationship with his mentor Angeal Hewley, and in turn his role as mentor to a young Cloud Strife, is very well executed. There's also, of course, the relationship between Zack and Aerith Gainsborough, which makes for some of the game's most beautiful and poignant moments. All this stuff was handled so well that even though I pretty much knew how everything was going to pan out, it didn't stop me welling up when the game reached its brilliant conclusion. The storytelling and character development in Crisis Core is some of the best I've witnessed in any game to date, and was without doubt the most rewarding aspect of the game for me.
 
The battle system is simple to get to grips with, but has a lot to offer 
One of my biggest concerns was that the gameplay of Crisis Core might not match up to the storytelling. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. As with pretty much all action RPGs, I spent most of my time either in combat, in story-focused cut-scenes, or exploring the game's gorgeous 3D environments. The game's combat system reminded me a lot of the one in the Kingdom Hearts series of games - battles are fought in real time, and the player has the ability to quickly switch between using physical attacks, special abilities, magic and items, and dodging and blocking attacks. As you might expect from a game in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, it's possible to equip various Materia and accessories to augment Zack's combat abilities. While I did check out the new kinds of Materia that I earned in missions, I found myself sticking to a set few tried-and-tested Materia types most of the time. I personally found the combat most rewarding when engaged in the game's harder missions, when skilled use of dodging and blocking and appropriate selection of accessories is crucial. Fights against weaker enemies often verge on being tedious by comparison. it may not be as mind-bendingly deep as some other JRPG combat systems, but it offers everything you'd expect from an action-oriented game of this type.
 
As you might expect, there are gorgeous FMV sequences aplenty 
Another element of the game that I feel deserves praise is the game's graphical prowess. In the two years that I've owned a PSP, I don't think I've ever seen a handheld game that looks as good as Crisis Core, and that sentiment is coming from somebody who's played games like God of War: Chains of Olympus and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. Every aspect of Crisis Core looks absolutely stunning. The character models are all incredibly detailed, with some great facial animation on show in the in-game cut-scenes. The storyline-relevant environments are just as well-rendered, although the ones on show in the game's missions are pretty uniform and nondescript in their design. Part of the game's aesthetic appeal to me may be due to its faithfulness to its inspiration. All the locations and enemies I encountered in Crisis Core retained the same conceptual layout and design that they had in the original Final Fantasy VII, which resulted in some incredible moments of nostalgia for me. As we've all come to expect from a Final Fantasy, Crisis Core also boasts a number of gorgeous FMV sequences, all of which are of the same outstanding quality as the animated film, Advent Children. One notable change in Crisis Core is the use of FMV for the game's Summon sequences, something that I find surprising the series hadn't attempted until now.
 
Digital Mind Wave is great for Limit Breaks, but not so great for levelling up 
While I loved Crisis Core, there were a couple of little things about it that didn't sit right with me. One of these was the game's Digital Mind Wave system, essentially a slot machine in the top left corner of the screen which governs several of Zack's abilities in combat. In principle, I like the idea of the DMW being in control of Limit Breaks and Summons. It adds a sense of randomness and luck to the battles, and makes receiving a Limit Break or Summon a hell of a lot more meaningful than it would normally be. What I dislike is the fact that it also governs the levelling up of Zack and his Materia. Leaving such things to luck made it difficult for me to gauge my progress at times, and I would have much rather preferred that these aspects of character development were handled in a more traditional, experience-based kind of way. Another quibble I have is with regards to the game's side-missions. While it's a great idea for a handheld game, it started to wear a little thin when I realised that all of these missions were combat-based. If there had been a little more variety in the missions (a more even mix of combat, exploration, puzzle-solving and mini-games, perhaps) then I might have enjoyed the mission-based side-quests a lot more.
 
I think that pretty much covers my opinion of Crisis Core. Minor issues aside, I had an absolute blast with it. Based on the sum of its story and gameplay, it's a great game in its own right. When placed in the context of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, it's probably the best game within the collection (certainly better than Dirge of Cerberus, at any rate), and the most fitting addition to Final Fantasy VII's story arc to date. It's also put me in a prime position to finally return to Final Fantasy VII proper for the first time in three years. Now that I have it on my PSP thanks to the PlayStation Store, Anyway, thanks very much for reading, guys. I'm not sure what you can expect from my next blog, or even when you can expect it. I'm currently playing two Rare games on my 360 (specifically Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Viva Pinata), but I'm nowhere near finished with either of them, and I have no other games-related issues to get off my chest right now. I guess all that remains to be said at this point, then, is that I'll see you when I see you.
 
 
Dan
 
--- 
 
Currently playing - Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (X360)
10 Comments
11 Comments
Posted by dankempster
I don't go for collector's editions very often, but I wanted this one 
Looking back over the last four and a half weeks, January was a pretty good month for me. I returned to University to find myself doing really well with my course assignments, and discovered that we'd be reading some pretty awesome texts this term (Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Milton's Paradise Lost, and Camus' The Outsider to name but three). My girlfriend and I also managed to secure tenancy of our flat for an extra year, meaning we don't have to move out until we finish our University studies in July 2011. It's been a pretty good month for games, too, as I played through and finished a total of four games in January. I've already shared my thoughts on Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and the two Half-Life expansions, Opposing Force and Blue Shift (in case you missed them, the relevant blogs can be found here and here respectively). 
 
The latest game I've seen the closing credits roll in is Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, which I finished on Sunday night. I bought the game almost as soon as it launched here in the UK, back in the summer of 2008. I was lucky enough to pick up the collector's edition, which comes with an exclusive book of official artwork as shown above. I wanted to get into it straight away, but elected to leave it as I had a lot of other titles on the go at the time. I finally picked it up over the Christmas holiday, marking the start of my plan to play through the whole Compilation of Final Fantasy VII this year. As a gamer whose tastes and influences were shaped by the experiences I had with the original Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation several years ago, I have a lot to say about Crisis Core, both as a stand-alone game and as part of the aforementioned Compilation. So without any further preamble, let's get this episode of Discovering Gaming Greatness underway.
 
Crisis Core's story ties up all the loose ends from FFVII 
The main reason I picked up Crisis Core (beyond the presence of the words Final and Fantasy in the title) was to experience its story, and in that respect I definitely wasn't disappointed. While I don't think that Final Fantasy VII is the best game in the series, it is a game that had a profound effect on me when I first experienced it over the winter of 2000/2001. One of the main reasons for this was the game's storytelling. Final Fantasy VII came into my life at a time when I was struggling to find enjoyment in reading, and managed to reignite that passion for me. It also showed me that story had an important role to play in video games, and in that respect it's probably had more influence on my tastes as a gamer than any other game I've played before or since. 
 
Zack's a better protagonist than Cloud. There, I said it 
I loved Crisis Core's story because it did everything that I expected it to. It allowed me to revisit a universe that I hold incredibly dear, and it answered all the questions left by Final Fantasy VII. Perhaps best of all, it gave me a real insight into the previously unexplored character of Zack Fair. In all honesty, I think Zack might just be the best protagonist in a Final Fantasy game to date. Experiencing his story in the form of the events leading up to Final Fantasy VII and seeing how those events affect him, shaping him from a carefree adolescent into a more serious and responsible young man, is one of the most rewarding aspects of the game. It also makes for a story full of emotion. One of the key themes of Crisis Core is relationships, and there are a lot of them. Zack's relationship with his mentor Angeal Hewley, and in turn his role as mentor to a young Cloud Strife, is very well executed. There's also, of course, the relationship between Zack and Aerith Gainsborough, which makes for some of the game's most beautiful and poignant moments. All this stuff was handled so well that even though I pretty much knew how everything was going to pan out, it didn't stop me welling up when the game reached its brilliant conclusion. The storytelling and character development in Crisis Core is some of the best I've witnessed in any game to date, and was without doubt the most rewarding aspect of the game for me.
 
The battle system is simple to get to grips with, but has a lot to offer 
One of my biggest concerns was that the gameplay of Crisis Core might not match up to the storytelling. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. As with pretty much all action RPGs, I spent most of my time either in combat, in story-focused cut-scenes, or exploring the game's gorgeous 3D environments. The game's combat system reminded me a lot of the one in the Kingdom Hearts series of games - battles are fought in real time, and the player has the ability to quickly switch between using physical attacks, special abilities, magic and items, and dodging and blocking attacks. As you might expect from a game in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, it's possible to equip various Materia and accessories to augment Zack's combat abilities. While I did check out the new kinds of Materia that I earned in missions, I found myself sticking to a set few tried-and-tested Materia types most of the time. I personally found the combat most rewarding when engaged in the game's harder missions, when skilled use of dodging and blocking and appropriate selection of accessories is crucial. Fights against weaker enemies often verge on being tedious by comparison. it may not be as mind-bendingly deep as some other JRPG combat systems, but it offers everything you'd expect from an action-oriented game of this type.
 
As you might expect, there are gorgeous FMV sequences aplenty 
Another element of the game that I feel deserves praise is the game's graphical prowess. In the two years that I've owned a PSP, I don't think I've ever seen a handheld game that looks as good as Crisis Core, and that sentiment is coming from somebody who's played games like God of War: Chains of Olympus and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. Every aspect of Crisis Core looks absolutely stunning. The character models are all incredibly detailed, with some great facial animation on show in the in-game cut-scenes. The storyline-relevant environments are just as well-rendered, although the ones on show in the game's missions are pretty uniform and nondescript in their design. Part of the game's aesthetic appeal to me may be due to its faithfulness to its inspiration. All the locations and enemies I encountered in Crisis Core retained the same conceptual layout and design that they had in the original Final Fantasy VII, which resulted in some incredible moments of nostalgia for me. As we've all come to expect from a Final Fantasy, Crisis Core also boasts a number of gorgeous FMV sequences, all of which are of the same outstanding quality as the animated film, Advent Children. One notable change in Crisis Core is the use of FMV for the game's Summon sequences, something that I find surprising the series hadn't attempted until now.
 
Digital Mind Wave is great for Limit Breaks, but not so great for levelling up 
While I loved Crisis Core, there were a couple of little things about it that didn't sit right with me. One of these was the game's Digital Mind Wave system, essentially a slot machine in the top left corner of the screen which governs several of Zack's abilities in combat. In principle, I like the idea of the DMW being in control of Limit Breaks and Summons. It adds a sense of randomness and luck to the battles, and makes receiving a Limit Break or Summon a hell of a lot more meaningful than it would normally be. What I dislike is the fact that it also governs the levelling up of Zack and his Materia. Leaving such things to luck made it difficult for me to gauge my progress at times, and I would have much rather preferred that these aspects of character development were handled in a more traditional, experience-based kind of way. Another quibble I have is with regards to the game's side-missions. While it's a great idea for a handheld game, it started to wear a little thin when I realised that all of these missions were combat-based. If there had been a little more variety in the missions (a more even mix of combat, exploration, puzzle-solving and mini-games, perhaps) then I might have enjoyed the mission-based side-quests a lot more.
 
I think that pretty much covers my opinion of Crisis Core. Minor issues aside, I had an absolute blast with it. Based on the sum of its story and gameplay, it's a great game in its own right. When placed in the context of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, it's probably the best game within the collection (certainly better than Dirge of Cerberus, at any rate), and the most fitting addition to Final Fantasy VII's story arc to date. It's also put me in a prime position to finally return to Final Fantasy VII proper for the first time in three years. Now that I have it on my PSP thanks to the PlayStation Store, Anyway, thanks very much for reading, guys. I'm not sure what you can expect from my next blog, or even when you can expect it. I'm currently playing two Rare games on my 360 (specifically Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Viva Pinata), but I'm nowhere near finished with either of them, and I have no other games-related issues to get off my chest right now. I guess all that remains to be said at this point, then, is that I'll see you when I see you.
 
 
Dan
 
--- 
 
Currently playing - Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (X360)
Edited by luce

 I disagree with you on the story ( i thought it was complete garbage) and the gameplay did get a bit repetitive for me but the soundtrack and graphics were enough to keep me playing. Great game overall.
 
On a side note, this might be embarrassing to admit but i did enjoy Dirge of Cerberus for what it was.

Posted by Darkstar614

Yeah it has a great story, but with all 300 missions in the game, everything gets repetitive at some point.

Posted by Stang
@Darkstar614 said:
" Yeah it has a great story, but with all 300 missions in the game, everything gets repetitive at some point. "
Agreed. The game is awesome, if you stay away from the side missions. I am a sick bastard and beat them all, by the time I got to the end boss I could not be happier the game was over.
Edited by Icemael

I had a completely different experience. Crisis Core has the most convoluted, poorly told story I've ever seen in a video game(or anywhere else, for that matter), and incredibly boring, brainless gameplay. The combat is more monotonous then even Dynasty Warriors; in the Dynasty Warriors games, you have to manually walk up to the enemies before you start mashing, but in Crisis Core, Zack fucking auto-walks to the enemies when you press the attack button. 

Add to that the complete lack of exploration and character customization(aside from the Materia creation system, which is useless since the battles are so easy you never need to use magic; just keep pressing the X button and you'll do splendidly) and the fact that the entire game basically consists of tedious dungeon crawl after tedious dungeon crawl, and you've got one of the worst games I've played this entire generation.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Great stuff, as always.  I bought this game for my brother as a gift late last year, and I'm sort of anxious to get to his place and give it a go.  I don't own a PSP as yet (it's the only current system I don't own - damn it!), but when I inevitably pick one up, this will be a day one purchase.  Like you, Final Fantasy VII was perhaps the largest gaming milestone in my years as a gamer, next to the first time I played a Sierra adventure game back when I was just six or seven.  Final Fantasy 7 came out when I was a young teenager, and it was the only game my brother and I played for nearly two or three months.  About halfway through my first playthrough, I realized that I was addicted totally and completely.  Everything about the game came together so well - the presentation, the deep unrivaled (at the time) story, the gameplay mechanics... it was incredible.  It was my first true JRPG as well, which has become a staple genre in my collection of games. 
 
But for the most part, it was about the magic of the game - and no, I'm not talking about materia here.  Everything in Final Fantasy 7 was created with such loving care that it was hard not to love.  There were certainly elements I didn't much care for, but those were few and far between.  Since then, I think Final Fantasy X has become my favorite in the series, but I'll always revisit Final Fantasy 7 with a tinge of that same wonder and excitement I had as a kid.  It's a magnificent triumph in gaming history, and I'm very excited to have a new Final Fantasy game in my hands in such a short amount of time.
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Posted by Tiwi

agreed, zack is MUCH better. he has real motivation, as for could... well... he thinks he's zack...

Posted by Meowayne

A dude is a more interesting character than a dude who thinks he is the former dude then finds out he isn't? Yeah, right.
 
Also, VII doesn't have any "loose ends". It just used to have some elements that weren't entirely blended and spoonfed to you.
 
Used to.

Posted by brukaoru

I really enjoyed Crisis Core. Playing through it made Zack become one of my favorite characters.

I fully agree with the side-quests though, each location where there are a number of sidequests to do pretty much play out the exact same way, which can get very tedious, I didn't do very many of them myself. However I found the main quest to be really good. 
 
I've been meaning to play Dirge of Cerberus, even though it's supposedly horrible and I should stay far away from it, I like Vincent enough to put myself through a crap game in order to get his backstory. Maybe I'll play through it one of these days. 
 
Nice write-up. :)

Edited by ZenaxPure

Spoilers ahead. 
 
Anyhow, great write up. Always nice to see another person that really enjoyed the game as I've mentioned in the past it is one of my favorite games to date. The combat especially was everything I wanted from Kingdom Hearts as I really felt there was more to do and the battles were not just spamming the attack button over and over again unless you made it that way for yourself, in Kingdom Hearts there was no escaping it, CC you had a choice and on the hardest difficulty (which is seriously fucking hard at points, I never even beat it) you had to use other strategies for combat. 
 
Though that aside the one thing that made the game amazing for me was the final battle, watching the DMV slowly fall apart as death crept closer and closer to Zack is probably one of the most emotional moments I've ever had with a video game, there was just something about watching the slot machine that had been there displaying parts of Zack's thoughts the entire game slowly break apart that got to me. The DMV itself is such a clever thing as the entire game you are seeing Zack's inner thoughts so as he is slowly forgetting things near death and it stops working (since you know, it controlled a lot of your more powerful abilities) was just mind blowing for me.

Posted by gloveslash

not   dissatisfaction