“Final Fantasy VII” obviously wasn’t the first “Final Fantasy” game, and to many people it’s not even the best game in the series, but it’s easily the most popular.
So for years, fans of the game have demanded more and more content. The most popular request is a complete remake of the PlayStation original, made all shiny and new for the PlayStation 3. While that wish hasn’t been granted (at least not yet), Square-Enix has revisited the world of “FF7” in just about every other way possible. There’s been an action game spin-off for the PlayStation 2, a cell phone RPG (currently only available in Japan), a feature-length, CGI movie sequel, and now “Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII” on the PlayStation Portable.
“Crisis Core” is an RPG prequel that takes player back to where the story of “FF7” really began: seven years before the original game takes place. In the game, you play as Zack, a member of SOLDIER and key element to one of “FF7”’s most bizarre and mind-bending plot twists. If you’re familiar with the original you will recognize a ton of familiar locations and faces, such as Cloud, Aerith, Sephiroth, and Tifa. Some of it is enough to make diehard fans go crazy.
But even if you aren’t familiar with the original “FF7”, or even the “Final Fantasy” series in general, you may find a lot to like in this title. The story alone might keep your interest for the entire length of the game, which clocks in at anywhere from 15 to 30 hours. The plot takes a lot of twists and turns, and is generally well-written throughout. A large amount of voice acting and high-quality cutscenes help move the story along, and the characters are easy to care about. Throw in some quality music and you have an adventure that’s not only epic, but also quite emotional in spots.
The gameplay is something of a departure from the “Final Fantasy” standard, opting for a much more action-oriented experience than the typical turn-based battles of other games (though battles still take place through random encounters). This change is actually a great fit for the game for many reasons, one being that Zack is the only character you ever control, opposed to having a larger party of cast members. The combat is fast paced and fun, and overall is an enjoyable experience. The only downside is that it makes for a rather easy game until at least halfway through, which could disappoint some of the more hardcore players.
But the much weirder and more controversial change to the gameplay is the “Digital Mind Wave”, or “DMV”. The DMV is basically a slot machine on the top left corner of your screen that is always moving so long as you’re defeating enemies. The DMV, which seems to be nearly entirely random in how it affects you, is the key element to powerful limit break attacks, certain combat bonuses, and the leveling up of not only your skills, but Zack himself. My personal feelings on the DMV are somewhat mixed. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. While you seem to level up at about the same rate that you would with a traditional system, it is sometimes frustrating that you have absolutely no control over these aspects of your character. Leaving these things to chance seems like a bizarre move on Square-Enix’s part.
All in all, “Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII” is a fantastic game that should please not only fans of the original, but also fans of RPGs, or even stories in general. It’s not only one of the best “PSP” games to date, it’s also one of the best original RPGs to ever come to a handheld system.