Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is the prequel to the iconic PlayStation title Final Fantasy VII and follows the story of Zack Fair, Cloud's friend and mentor who had died prior to Final Fantasy VII. The game follows Zack from just before his promotion to SOLDIER 1st Class right up until his destined death. Throughout the game, Zack encounters characters introduced in the original game, such as Sephiroth, Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, Tseng, and Yuffie. New characters, such as Genesis (who first made a brief appearance in Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII), Angeal and Cissnei are also introduced.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII does not use the typical combat system found in Final Fantasy games, and instead opting for a combat system more similar to the one found in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. A menu on the lower right corner of the screen displays your options, comprised of an attack command, a link to an items menu, and the attacks you can perform based on the materia you have assigned. While you are battling, on the top left hand side of the screen, there is a slot-machine-like component called the DMW or "Digital Mind Wave". If three character's or summon's faces match up, you will perform the limit break assigned to that character/summon, for example Aerith's "Healing Wave" or Bahamut's "Megaflare". A number up to 7 accompanies each character face, and if three 7's are matched up, Zack will level up. If two 2, 3, 4 or 5's appear, then the materia in that slot will be leveled up, for example if you have Firaga in Slot 3, if you get two 3's, Firaga will level up.
As a 1st Class SOLDIER member, Zack is often sent on missions in order to investigate various occurrences. These missions are optional to the player, but if the player completes them they will be rewarded with an item or a materia, and the best items and strongest materia can often only be found in these missions. In these missions, Zack will also face most of the optional bosses found in the game.
Set 7 years before Final Fantasy VII, the story follows Zack Fair a SOLDIER 2nd Class whom, under the guidance of his mentor (Angeal Hewley SOLDIER 1st Class) aspires to climb the ranks of the Shinra Electric Power Company Organization SOLDIER. During a mission in Wutai a large number of SOLDIER agents go missing along with Genesis Rhapsodos (SOLDIER 1st Class). Shinra takes the decision to send in more SOLDIER troops to end the war with Wutai and discover the fate of the missing operatives. Zack, Angeal and Sephiroth (SOLDIER 1st Class) are assigned along with the troops, but when Angeal goes missing in action Sephiroth puts it down to betrayal. After some investigations Zack is sent with Turk leader Tseng to Banora, home of both Genesis and Angeal. Once in Banora they are attacked by 'Genesis Copies' troops turned into lower copies of Genesis by the scientist Hollander. As Zack explores Banora he discovers the graves of Genesis's parents and Angeal's mother Gillian Hewley, they talk briefly and Zack leaves with no more useful information on the turncoats. After some more exploring Zack returns to Gillian and finds her dead under Angeal's shadow, and finds it hard to believe that Angeal killed his own mother. He leaves, only to be confronted by Genesis who baffles Zack by revealing his one black wing. Zack is then attacked by Genesis's summon 'Bahamut'. After defeating Bahamut, Zack escapes to the Turk helicopter with Tseng.
Just before take off, Zack witnesses the bombardment of Banora and the loss of the rare fruit, the 'Banora White', which only grows there. Zack's performance in the Banora mission (and possibly the loss of two SOLDIER 1st class) gets him promoted to SOLDIER 1st class by Lazard, President of the Shinra Company. Almost immediately Genesis launches an attack on Midgar and Shinra headquarters. During Zack's flurry through the battles, he rescues the Turk Cissnei who promptly takes a shine to him. Teaming up with Sephiroth, Zack heads towards Sector 5 reactor. Genesis has teamed up with Hollander, the scientist who started 'Project G' (Project Gillian - Angeal's mother); an early variation of the Jenova Project which created both Angeal and Genesis. Genesis is suffering from degradation and is slowly dying because of his unstable life form and DNA. New monsters are discovered by Zack with Angeal's face: Angeal copies. Zack tries to capture Hollander (after a lengthily cut scene) however just as Hollander is cornered, Angeal appears. Angeal reveals his one white wing, and challenges Zack who refuses to fight his mentor and is dropped into the Midgar slums.
Zack falls into the Sector 5 Church onto a bed of yellow flowers cared for by Aerith Gainsborough (pronounced AIR-ITH). This scene is in direct parallel to Cloud's first meeting with Aerith in Final Fantasy VII. Zack being the charmer that he is, convinces Aerith to go on a date with him in the slums. After some light merriment Zack is called 'above the plate' (the plate divides the lower and upper halves of Midgar) after another attack led by Genesis. Once above Angeal switches sides and helps Zack fight back the Genesis army.
Zacks next mission is in the derelict and deserted town of in the frozen Northern Continent. During his journey with Tseng and two Shinra Army Troops their Helicopter is shot down which kills one of the Shinra Army Officers. The rest of their journey has to be completed on foot. During the walk through the snow Zack discovers that the remaining Shinra Army Officer is Cloud Strife and they instantly hit it off. Both grew up in the countryside and talk about their young lives. Eventually the three come across a Mako warehouse, in which Genesis has formed as a base of operations. With the guidance of Tseng, Zack storms the base. During the exploration, Zack discovers that Hollander has failed to stop the degradation and Genesis wants revenge, so Zack attempts to rescue Hollander. A weak Genesis tries to stop Zack but is defeated and falls into an abyss.
During the battle between Zack and Genesis, Hollander escapes Modeoheim. As Zack chases Hollander through an old bath house he meets Angeal again. Hollander tells them both of how Angeal was the success of 'Project G', and obtained the Jenova power of 'two-way genetic transfer', which enables him to pass on or take on genes from or to monsters and people. This causes Angeal to have a revelation and he decides to no longer wants to be a monster. Angeal takes on several different monsters and absorbs them turning him into huge armored form: Angeal Penance. Zack defeats Angeal and before Angeal dies he passes on his 'Buster Sword' and his 'honor'. Hollander has been captured at this point and the mission is a success; three major threats to Shinra have been defeated, the war with the Project G is over.
Zack has now taken Angeal's responsibility in SOLDIER, training and giving speeches to the new recruits. Shinra gives Zack a well deserved holiday and sends him to the Cosa del Sol on vacation, however he is being watched over by Cissnei. During a relaxing bathe in the sun, Zack is attacked by Genesis copies, which alerts him to the possibility that Genesis and his army are still at large and at war with Shinra. Having no sword Zack is forced to use a large sun umbrella as a weapon. After defeating the copies Zack is sent to Junon where Genesis and his army are attacking with full force. This is alarming because that is where Hollander is being kept captive. During the attack Hollander escapes and Zack attempts to re-capture him in a chase across the city but Hollander escapes. After the dust has settled it is revealed that a mole in Shinra allowed for Hollanders escape: Lazard. Unsurprisingly, Lazard is no where to be found. Sephiroth takes over as the President and Director of Shinra until a proper candidate can be put into place.
After some time Sephiroth puts a plan into action, observing that Genesis has been attacking Mako reactors all over the world. Zack is assigned to investigate Nibelheim the home and birthplace of Cloud. Before he sets off Zack goes to see Aerith who is being protected by an Angeal copy and helps her build her flower cart.
In Nibelheim; Sephiroth, Zack and Cloud are led to the the Mako reactor on Mt. Nibel by Tifa Lockhart. There they discover monsters warmed and mutated by over exposure to Mako energy. In the reactor Sephiroth discovers a tank engraved with JENOVA on the outside. Jenova was the name of his mother, inside he finds a female-like alien suspended in liquid. Sephiroth is distressed, unsure of his past and his origins, he journeys to the basement of the reactor and reads the files and books of the scientist Dr. Gast. Here he reads about Project S and the JENOVA project. This knowledge drives him mad and he goes on a rampage and destroys the town in a burning inferno, killing most of the townspeople.
Zack chases Sephiroth into the Mako reactor, where Sephiroth tries to 'free' his 'mother' (Jenova). During this struggle he hurts Tifa. Zack then confronts Sephiroth and they have two big battles but Zack ultimately is defeated. Cloud then arrives, enraged by both Zack and Tifa's terrible injuries as well as the death of his mother, attacks Sephiroth with an unknown power and defeats him. Sepihiroth is thrown into the lifestream along with Jenova's head (Here is where Sephiroth is until the events of Final Fantasy VII.) Even though Cloud wins he was terribly wounded and falls. Professor Hojo, the 'genius' behind Project S takes the bodies of Zack and Cloud and begins a new experiment on them. He plans to create Sephiroth clones to test his Jenova reunion theory. Placed in tanks and fused with Sephiroth cells Zack and Cloud are left floating in tanks for several years. Zack is finally woken by what seems to him to be Angeal, and because of his SOLDIER training and genetic manipulation is resistant to Mako energy. This enables him to escape with the comatose Cloud through the rebuilt Nibelheim and waves of Shinra troops. During their escape Zack changes Cloud into a SOLDIER uniform because his old clothes are so soaked in Mako liquid; this he hopes will help Cloud to get better faster.
Zack, carrying Cloud makes his way across the world in a motorbike until they come across Genesis and some of his clones. During this cutscene Genesis explains that he needs the S cells that Zack and Cloud are carrying to stop his degradation. A genesis clone consumes some of Zack's hair and is transformed into a monster, which Zack defeats. Zack then travels to his home town, Gongara to see his family. When he arrives he is confronted by Cissnei who warns him that Shinra are waiting for this obvious move, giving him a head start before she informs her superiors that he has been sighted. She also mentions that 'Cissnei' is not her real name.
As Zack explores he is attacked by Genesis and Hollander, who has infected himself with G cells in order to survive a mortal wound. The Angeal in the tube from his dream appears saving Zack and Cloud, and reveals that he is actually Lazard. Hollander is also dying of degradation now and after a brief chase decides to fight Zack, and is defeated.
After a conversation with Lazard, Zack works out that Genesis is hiding in Banora. He is always carrying a 'Banora White' a fruit that only grows in Banora. Zack heads to Banora, but before leaving asks Lazard to take care of Cloud. Zack explores the caves beneath the derelict village where he discovers Genesis, cured of the degradation by 'the Goddess'. Casting a powerful magic spell Genesis is transformed into a large beast and a battle commences between them. Eventually, Genesis is defeated but Zack is badly wounded and drags his body back to the camp site.
At the campsite Zack is informed that Lazard and Cloud were attacked but help was found in the Angeal copy that protected Aerith. As the copy finally dies he passes on a message to Zack from Aerith. In this message, the 89th letter she has sent to him since he left for Nibelheim , she asks where he has been for four years. Zack is shocked to discover that he was in a Mako induced coma for that long. The four men, Zack, Lazard, Cloud and Genesis; share a last meal of 'Banora White' and Lazard finally passes. Desperate to see Aerith, Zack heads with a comatose Cloud in tow for Midgar, leaving Genesis behind.
Later, Weiss and Nero the future leaders of the Deepground Group in SOLDIER 1st class uniform take the barely alive Genesis away in a Shinra helicopter.
On Zack's journey back to Midgar he is confronted by a large Shinra Army Force, sent to stop him. In order to protect his honor as a SOLDIER, he battles the army of infantrymen and is momentarily successful, until a second squad comprised of three infantry men shoot down a wounded Zack. As Zack lays dying in the rain staring at the sky, Cloud finally wakes from his comatose state and crawls to Zack's side. Zack tells Cloud that "for the both of us....you must live". His final words are "you're my living legacy". A confused Cloud affected by the Hojo experiments, dressed in a SOLDIER 1st class uniform and carrying the Buster Sword, along with the vague memories of Zack's conversations during his comatose state; wanders into Midgar believing to be SOLDIER 1st class. After the credits roll, the player is shown a modified version of Final Fantasy VII's opening sequence, featuring Cloud on top of a train coming into Midgar, saying "My name is Cloud. Soldier...1st Class". A screen then appears saying "To be Continued in Final Fantasy VII".
01 - Fragment of Memory -D.M.W-
02 - Theme of CRISIS CORE "Inheritance"
03 - Mission Start
04 - First Mission (from FF VII "Opening ~ Bombing Mission")
05 - The Mako City
06 - Patriotism on a Moonlit Night
07 - Encount
08 - Theme of CRISIS CORE "Dream and Pride"
09 - Last Order - Crisis Mix (from "LAST ORDER FF VII")
10 - Importance of Truth
11 - Wandering in a Sunny Afternoon
12 - Conflict
13 - Operated Iron Beast
14 - Theme of CRISIS CORE "Under an Apple Tree"
15 - Summoned Being (from FF VII "Fight On")
16 - The Burdened One
17 - On the Verge of Assault (from FF VII "Fight On")
18 - Dark Suits' Secret Schemes (from FF VII "Turks' Theme")
19 - The Building Made of Tubes and Iron (from "LAST ORDER FF VII")
20 - Combat
21 - Theme of CRISIS CORE "Scar of Friendship"
22 - Flowers Blooming in the Slums (from FF VII "Aerith's Theme")
23 - The Azure Pupil
24 - Theme of CRISIS CORE "Sharing Pride"
25 - Melody of Suffering
26 - Marching in a Remote Land (from "LAST ORDER FF VII")
27 - Exchange of Courtesies
28 - A Flapping Black Wing
29 - Theme of CRISIS CORE "The True Plan"
30 - The One Who Loses Pride
31 - Why (CC FF VII Mix)
01 - Town Closed from Sunlight
02 - The Situation Begins to Change
03 - The Organization That Controls Mako (from FF VII "Shinra Company")
04 - Theme of CRISIS CORE "To a New Appointment"
05 - Closed Village (from FF VII "Anxious Heart")
06 - Melody of Farewell
07 - Gloomy Mansion
08 - Momentary Rest
09 - Prelude to Decay
10 - The Enemy of the World is Created (from FF VII "One-Winged Angel")
11 - Night of Seclusion
12 - Duty and Friendship
13 - Theme of CRISIS CORE "Frantic Battlefield"
14 - Deserted Wasteland
15 - Melody of Resolution
16 - Moonlight Wandering
17 - Reciting Old Poetry by the Waterside
18 - The Roar of Strange Beings Gathering
19 - The One Who Receives Divine Protection
20 - SOLDIER Battle
21 - Compensation for Freedom
22 - Why / Ayaka
23 - Fulfilled Desire
24 - to be continued (from FFVII "Opening ~ Bombing Mission")