by Chris Scott
reviewed on PSP
A bit of history
Twenty-one years ago a floundering company put all their chips on a little game for Nintendo’s Famicom console. Called Final Fantasy, the game turned out to be a huge success, saving Squaresoft from potential bankruptcy and in turn launching what would become one of the most successful gaming franchises ever. While the Final Fantasy series stayed popular over the next 10 years it reached a whole new level of success and popularity with the release of the seventh game in the series, aptly called Final Fantasy VII.
Using the power of the Sony Playstation, Final Fantasy VII brought the series into the mainstream, featuring 3D environments and beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds. It also took on a decidedly more cinematic approach to telling its story, using CGI cut-scenes to great effect. The game was released to almost universal praise and ushered in a whole new era of game making. The success of the title placed Square in the elite ranks of game developers and also spawned many would-be imitators.
It is quite hard to believe that Final Fantasy VII was released over 10 years ago as it is still as popular today as it was back then. Square, realizing the game still had a large passionate fan base, put together what they called the ‘Compilation of Final Fantasy VII’. It involved a handful of games for different platforms and a CGI movie sequel. To date the entries into the Compilation have been lackluster at best. Yet now there is a title that Final Fantasy VII fans have been waiting for and that is Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.
Let’s get this out of the way, if you are a Final Fantasy fan and more specifically a Final Fantasy VII fan, stop reading and go play the game. My opinion here isn’t going to alter yours and you would be doing yourself a favor to play the game without any knowledge that may be revealed within this review. Come back when you are finished.
Crisis Core is not a turn-based RPG like the game it owes its soul to. Instead, it is a ‘turn-based action-RPG hybrid’. The easiest way to describe the gameplay is to compare it to another Square franchise, Kingdom Hearts. The player plays Zack and will issue commands to him via an action bar on the bottom right of the screen. It is controlled with the shoulder buttons and you will also be able to dodge (highly important) and block (less so) using the face buttons.
Another departure from its inspiration is the leveling structure and limit break systems. Say hello to the Digital Mind Wave (DMW). The DMW looks a lot like a slot machine and, just like a slot machine, you are purely dependent upon luck here. The DMW’s reels spin and depending upon the outcome different effects will happen. Gaining three sevens will level your character up, gaining three of the same character portraits will result in a special move, or limit break, being performed. It is an interesting idea that just doesn’t seem to pull itself together and may leave longtime fans feeling a little put off by this luck-based approach.
In keeping with the tradition of most Square games, Crisis Core is graphically impressive. While it may not shake the foundations of gaming like Final Fantasy VII did, it is quite possibly the best looking PSP game with only God of War: Chains of Olympus rivaling it. The character models are fantastic with both player characters and enemies looking very good indeed. The boss battles are where the game really shines, especially when you are battling the likes of Ifrit or Bahamut. The environments are all jaw-dropping, although at times they are sparsely populated.
No Pros and Cons at this time