Final Fantasy VII has been overhyped and played-out. Included are Before Crisis, which never came to the Americas; Advent Children, which made little to no sense; Last Order, which told nothing anyone who had played the game didn’t already know; Dirge of Cerberus, which did little to contribute to the plot of the FFVII saga; and lastly, On the Way to a Smile and The Maiden Who Travels the Planet (Hoshi wo Meguru Otome). So why play Crisis Core? Because in a sea of re-hashed and uninteresting material, Crisis Core is a breath of fresh air, even if it’s a Final Fantasy VII story.
Crisis Core is one of the only games in the saga where the player takes on a different perspective that isn’t Cloud or Vincent. Granted, Before Crisis put the player in the shoes of the Turks, but most of the playable characters had little to no direct bearing on the plot. The character the player takes the role of in Crisis Core is none other than Zack Fair. While Zack played a very small role in the original game, it was integral to the plot.
Zack starts off as a SOLDIER 2nd class, and has high aspirations of making 1st class like his friend Angeal, as well as becoming a great hero like the famed Sephiroth. After quelling the uprising of the Wutai, all seems fine. However the meat of the story deals with a defected SOLDIER operative who is a friend of Angeal and Sephiroth named Genesis. When Genesis seemingly talks Angeal into joining his rebellion, it’s up to Zack and Sephiroth to stop their plans for rebellion against SOLDIER and Shinra. To be frank it’s a basic plot, but it helps establish the groundwork of the rest of the FFVII saga.
The gameplay flows quite cleanly. It usually begins with Zack strolling around the SOLDIER floor of the Shinra building or around Sector 8, gathering info about his next mission, buying items, and taking on side missions. From there, it’s out to the field and tackling the current assignment. This helps give the game a fast-paced feel and makes it fun to get into. The flow, as well as the gameplay mechanics, are simple and easy to get a grip on quite quickly.
One of the big things everyone was looking forward to is the game’s battle system. Battles are conducted in real time using a simple menu system that the player uses the L and R triggers to navigate and a simple push of the X button to attack, use spells/abilities, or items. A lot of what happens in battles is governed by the DMW, or Digital Mind Wave, system. It’s represented as a slot machine-like mechanism in the top left corner of the screen. It can change the parameters of battle, bestowing effects like invincibility, increased luck, or limit breaks on Zack. The game lays out in great detail how all the DMW effects work and after awhile, it becomes second nature.
There are only a handful of gripes about Crisis Core. The first is that the battle system might feel a little clunky at first but it’s nothing more than a modified Kingdom Hearts engine, complete with guarding and dodge-rolling. Another thing is the DMW. Level ups seem to occur on an extremely arbitrary basis; they come when the reels read 777 during a limit verge, and ONLY during a limit verge. Materia levels up in a similar fashion. When two of the reels read the same number during a limit verge, then the materia in that slot levels up. It can be frustrating for when that one extra level could really help out. Speaking of frustration, the game has several voiced system messages that play before, during, and after battles such as A