Final Fantasy VII is one of my favorite RPGs, and that's the case for a lot of folks my age and bit older. It was a brilliantly told story with what was at the time cutting edge visuals and gameplay mechanics. Even today it is the most iconic entry in the MASSIVE Final Fantasy series. I mean, despite having never appeared on a Nintendo platform, the game's protagonist, Cloud, was a DLC character for the recent Super Smash Bros on 3DS and Wii U. So how does this prequel released ten years later hold up?
In a bit of a departure from the hybrid real time/turn based Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core is a straight action RPG with freedom to move about the field and all of the combat taking place at once. The game's protagonist this time is a SOLDIER named Zack (who looks a lot like Cloud with black hair), and the story revolves around his attempt to unravel a mystery about a surge in the number of mysterious monsters and SOLDIER members going missing. It takes place shortly before the events of Final Fantasy VII and ends right before the original begins, and Tifa, Cloud, Aerith, and Sephiroth all make appearances to one degree or another in the game, but the action is definitely all about Zack.
The game's visuals are probably the highlight as they're extremely impressive for the PSP, and the cut scenes are probably the best looking of any game on the system. Unfortunately the music doesn't quite hold up to the original (although there is an interesting arrangement of One Winged Angel), and the voice acting feels stiff and amateur. Whether it's because of that sub-par voice acting or bad writing, I can't say, but at no point was I really engaged by the story. It didn't straight up repel me or anything, but I never got sucked in, and that's a big strike against an RPG in my book.
From what I've read, there were more scenes to the game that expand on Zack's and Cloud's friendship (which was the most interesting component of the story in my opinion) that had to be removed due to the limitations of the UMD format, and I think those missing scenes could have added some real depth to the story and the character dynamics. The character development throughout the game - especially Zack and, to a lesser extent, Sephiroth - are definitely the highlights of the game's narrative. A lot of RPGs have a hard time developing characters in a way that is gradual enough to feel real without keeping them too static, I've noticed, and to Crisis Core's credit, it manages to strike a pretty good balance for the most part.
All things considered, Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII is a competent action RPG for Sony's first handheld console, but it's not a great Final Fantasy game. Hardcore fans of Final Fantasy VII will want to give it a playthrough at the very least to get more of the world's story and lore, but for more casual fans of the game or relative newcomers to Final Fantasy, this is a definite "maybe" game. If you see it cheap or know a friend who has it and will let you borrow it to play it, then sure, do that, but don't go out of your way.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.