Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
I've been putting this one off for a long time now. I picked this little gem of a game the day it came out, March 25th. This review is long overdue and has plagued me since I finished the game months ago.
Starting off, CC is an amazing game, hands down. There are so many elements that drew me in and very little that kept me at bay. For those of you that don't know the story, you play as Zack Fair, the legendary SOLDIER that inspired Cloud to live his life the way he did during Final Fantasy VII. Zack is a 2nd class member of SOLDIER eager to move his way up to 1st with the likes of his heroes Angeal and Sephiroth. Along the way, they find that another member of SOLDIER, Genesis (Guy Le Douche) has gone renegade and taken a small army of SOLDIER operatives with him. It's up to Zack to uncover why and try to bring said army back to Shinra. CC is a prequel to the events of FF VII and fills in all the gaps, leaving no questions unanswered. I wasn't a huge fan of FF VII myself, but this game cast a new light on that world, making me fall in love with it in conjunction with Advent Children.
The game play is sleek and streamlined. It functions as a much improved version to Kingdom Hearts battle system. The battles take place in real time with a list of attacks and magic available to you, depending on what you have equipped. Combat is pretty intuitive, I had no trouble jumping right in, but later on in the missions, the game can be quite challenging, providing for a fair bit of strategy on your part. Overall though, the game was quite easy, even on the hard setting. I cleared the game without dying during the main portion, only falling in battle during the missions. I found that I didn't need to use magic beyond Curaga, leaving Zack to a hack n' slash fest. In addition to the abilities you pick, there is a slot wheel that spins round and round throughout battles. This slot enables the use of random effects, such as invincibility, summons, limit breaks, and leveling up. This was a pretty cool addition, but towards the end of the game, it made everything too easy as you were made into a demi god laying waste to everything on the screen. Fun, but a little unbalanced.
The only complaint I had with the combat system is the way you entered and exited combat. You wander the mission map and when a fight springs up, a voice and screen flash announces when combat begins and ends. Sure it was cool the first few times, but quickly got annoying the next 5000 times I had to hear it, especially when I could only take two steps between each fight. The game is broken up between the main story and 300 side missions that you can take on from a save point. The missions quickly became repetitive with the same objectives and map layouts. While they were a load of fun, and perfect for gaming on the go, it becomes a little tedious when going for gaming marathons.
My chief complaint has to be one character though, Genesis. Not since Lucrecia, have I hated a video game character so. Sadly, it isn't because he's a good villain, he's incredibly annoying! He has no real words of his own. He's just constantly quoting a fictional work of literature, the play of FF VII, Loveless. Supposedly, he's based on the Japanese pop star, Gackt. I can see it and the long slow spiral of death that Tetsuya Nomura is bringing Square Enix to. From the first time you meet him in the game until the final unsatisfying battle with him, it seems that no punishment would be too great to inflict on him. Each encounter is a test of your patience as he rambles and prattles about utter nonsense. This is a great game, but Genesis is one of the worst characters ever created, I can't stand him.
The highlight of this game, though, is clearly Aerith. I didn't much care for her in FF VII. I made no real connection with her. But in CC, I fell in love with her instantly. You can see what made her one of the most beloved characters in all of gaming history. From the moment Zack meets her, to his final journey to her, your heart breaks over the inevitable outcome. This is a love story that only falls short of FF VIII by mere inches.
The overall game is beautiful, from start to finish, and well worth a purchase even if you're not a fan of the FF series. The graphics are superb, easily the tastiest eye candy the PSP has to offer. It is quite impressive from the in game to the fully rendered cutscenes. There's plenty to do, from materia fusion, to collecting every item in the game, to make this game worth replaying time and time again. I'm glad to see Square getting back on track with their games, after the disappointment that was Dirge of Cerberus. This is the first FF game to feel like a FF since IX. It's sad that it has taken this long for them to produce a quality game, but the wait was well worth it. This is the little train that could, and did.
Game cleared on normal and hard modes. 75% of missions cleared.