Final Fantasy Week: A Crisis in the Core?

Final Fantasy VII had a slew of spin-offs. I can’t speak for the quality of all of them. Honestly, I’ve never played past Disc 1 of Final Fantasy VII and, without nostalgia to fuel me, I don’t see it happening any time soon. However, I was around during FFVII hype. Sure, I didn’t get into RPGs until Final Fantasy IX really, but I knew all about Cloud and company. I know the story. I didn’t mind spoilers. I wasn’t into the genre much, so I lived vicariously through numerous fans that were absorbed in this tale.

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I knew all about Cloud and his identity crisis. I knew all about Aerith dying. I knew about Sephiroth and his crazy desire to reunite with his mother. I don’t pretend to subscribe to the hype around FFVII, but I do understand it. I have a nostalgia for these characters despite never really interacting with them myself.

Fast forward a decade or so. After Final Fantasy IX, I became an RPG fanatic. I ate them up. Now, I was always a handheld guy, but I never got around to picking up a PSP. Imagine my surprise when, after finally obtaining one, the little console was an RPG paradise. One of the first that caught my eye was Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. I grabbed it post-haste.

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I’m not sure what I expected, but it’s not what I got. Upon starting it up, I found a gorgeous game. Long gone were the hoof-for-hands models of the PS1 game that had become so famous. This game was pretty, the music was great, and lo and behold, the voice acting wasn’t too bad. Heck, it HAD voice acting. I had hoped I’d stumbled upon something special. My hopes were well-founded.

Crisis Core isn’t your normal RPG. There is no overworld map. There are no random battles. The story unfolds through a series of chapters in which Zack Fair, the (SPOILERS) dead friend of Cloud Strife around which his memories have been modeled (I guess, like I said, didn’t finish FFVII), tackles various missions as a SOLDIER FIRST CLASS. There’s no typical grinding. Instead, Zack can take on a number of side quests that are available to him at the various save points littered across his missions. Zack still talks to NPCs to gain info, items, etc. There is no party. Just Zack and his various abilities. These are bestowed upon him by materia. Zack has six slots and these can be filled with materia that grant attacks, magic abilities, passive abilities, etc.

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The battles play out like an action RPG. It’s all an illusion though, as this game is very much turn-based. Zack and his various foes attack, dodge, cast magic, etc. in an open arena of sorts. You can run around and such, but once an attack is initiated it happens no matter where you are in the arena. Zack will run up to his foe to strike, for instance. Then his turn counter resets and he can’t attack again until it rolls around. This isn’t visible on the screen, it’s just kinda…there.

The Digital Mind Wave also throws some stuff into the mix. This is a sort of slot system based around the various acquaintances Zack encounters in his story. I won’t pretend to understand exactly how it works, because I never really figured it out. I do know this is responsible for summons, limit breaks, leveling up materia, and even leveling Zack himself. It all seems pretty random, but it actually works out pretty well. You trigger the slots my killing enemies, so it pays to fight, even if you don’t gain experience in a traditional manner.

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Between (and possibly despite) the unique battle system, the compelling story with well-written, fleshed-out characters, the gorgeous presentation, and the excellent OST, Crisis Core has somehow managed to win a top spot in my heart, even without the typical FFVII knowledge to fall back on. The FFVII spin-off project may have been more miss than hit, but this is one game that really shouldn’t be missed. I have a fondness of it that many RPG fans reserve for its predecessor.

Have you played Crisis Core? What did you think of it? Does it live up to the legacy for you? Let us know what you think of it.


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