Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reader Review
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is another gravid teat on the udder of Square-Enix's favourite cash cow. Final Fantasy VII may be more than a decade old now, but that people are still writing homoerotic fiction about it today is a testament to its legacy. Square-Enix sees this undying fanlove and manlove as the kind of throbbing latency that can easily result in fat cash slapping their tender wallets. And quite rightly too, since people are liable to spend furiously in the name of fandom. This may be the only entry in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII that is actually worth your time. The compilation that has thus far involved a movie (shiny but shit), a mobile phone game series (never got released here, probably for the best), and a PS2 sequel starring everyone's favourite effete vampyr, Vincent Valentine. This last one is of particular note for being an incredibly monotonous third-person shooter whose storyline squats over the mythos that FFVII created and proceeds to defile it whilst frothing at the mouth. In short, so far the compilation has kind of totally sucked.
Crisis Core is a fair attempt at alleviating some of that stigma. It starts off with an homage to the introduction of the original game, all beefed up with modern-style FMV. It's definitely shiny, even if it does turn out that the excuse for aping the train-ride into a sector of Midgar is fairly lame. The referencing and homage swing between "lame but inoffensive" and "kind of cool" throughout. Though there's not much to do to combat the fact that adding a whole new cast of characters to a prequel is a retcon too far. Some of the trinkets added to further furnish the cabinet of FFVII mythos feel a little strange too. The Buster Sword gets an origin story, for instance. Details of Zack's hairstyle are also made of paramount import. Let's not even ask why, aside from Yuffie, the usual characters all appear fairly ageless.
In terms of playability, it's probably fair to say that it's a bit of a dull slash-em-up at heart. The basic framework involves pressing the X button repeatedly until everything is dead. You don't even have to touch the analogue stick if you don't want to. The game stops playing on automatic transmission after a while, and you may find yourself having to switch through your command options for more than just the odd cure spell. It's not dire, by any means. But the one-note combat can get monotonous if overexposed. Protip: Hug the dungeon walls and you don't run into random battles! Now you can concentrate on getting to that thoroughly exciting FMV sequence.
A nice touch to the combat is the DMC. It's essentially a slot machine that, more often that not, gives you lots of delicious power-ups, spilling out like candy from a spanked pinata. A nice touch heaped upon that is the fact that occasionally little flashbacks play during the spin, to events involving other characters that Zack has met. It ties in nicely with how the system works (allegedly Zack is inspired by his comrades or something, and thus pulls out a special attack in honour of them. Yeah I know. It works much better in the game that it sounds). It also means that you are slowly suckered into caring about these people; the vignettes reveal Zack's private interactions with them. Levelling up is also done via the DMC, which is really not as bad as it sounds, since there is a secret experience ticker hidden under the bonnet that means you never really have to wait too long between levels. Sometimes you'll even get two or three at once during a single battle, which is thoroughly gratifying. Zack fights alone, and the awesomely sexy power of a SOLDIER is expressed via the fact that he can easily break the limits of his HP, MP, &c. when he's getting all juiced up. Despite being a glorified one-armed bandit, the DMC really makes one think things like "aww hella yeah I am totally going to kick your arse right now". No faults there.
Where it really feels like Final Fantasy VII is the materia system, which supports combat in a way that both fits in snugly to the presentation of gameplay, and completely feels like this is how Final Fantasy VII would play out if it was a beat-em-up. Pretty much everything is accounted for, though summons have been understandably shifted elsewhere and support materia is supportive in a slightly different fashion. It's almost as if --gasp-- the developers took the time to think about how they could use the given universe as it is, without pointlessly slapping more extra junk onto it. The materia combination system is also a lot of fun to experiment with, and it soon becomes apparent that you can superpower your materia in extremely exciting ways. You may wet yourself.
It's quite pretty, too. The FMV quality is the usual Squaresoft superlative affair, and the graphics are sharp. A little flat around the environments, but the characters are extremely well-portrayed and when their mouths flap it's almost distracting how well-synced the speech is. The acting isn't terrible either!
If you've played through Final Fantasy VII, you'll probably know what happens to Zack at the end here, and no amount of retroactive continuity is going to get him out of it. So it's an attestation to the plot that you might find yourself giving a shit toward the end of things. I'm as shocked as you are. Yes, despite the usual Square-Enix zippers-and-hairspray plop that tarnishes some of the plot twists, it's really pretty OK. Good, even. Do give it a go. I award it a G for Project Genesis and also God-Emperor of Dune.
7 / 10