Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Staff Review

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, the latest game in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, is a game that will appeal mostly to fans of the series. Starring a character who appeared only in flashbacks and in passing mentions in the original game and detailing many events only alluded to in FFVII, Crisis Core relies a great deal on nostalgia, to the point where it’s actually re-telling parts of FFVII at times. Still, underneath it all, there is still an interesting, if not particularly challenging game with some unusual ideas about combat and storytelling. On the whole, Crisis Core is a solid, if somewhat predictable title that should provide some entertainment for people looking for a bit more background on the characters of Final Fantasy VII.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII elaborates on the story of Zack Fair, SOLDIER 1st class, and of the events leading up to the destruction of Nibelhiem and the opening of Final Fantasy VII. The main focus of the tale, though, is actually the conflict between Angeal, Zack’s mentor, and his childhood friends, Sephiroth and Genesis. As the story opens, it seems that Genesis has gone rogue, taking a number of other SOLDIER operatives with him. The now-depleted ranks of SOLDIER are ordered to track Genesis down, which opens the door to conflict between loyal SOLDIER Zack and honorable mentor Angeal as they hunt down his friend.

The story does eventually get around to events that veterans of FFVII will recognize, especially towards the end of the game, where the nostalgia runs a bit thick. The story works in a lot of the minor things that were going on in the background of FFVII, like the relationship between Zack and Aerith, and the war between Wutai and the Shinra corporation, a lot of which comes off as being a rather blatant attempt at playing off nostalgia for FFVII. This is especially true in some of the game’s many side missions, which take place in locations like the Chocobo Ranch, Cosmo Canyon, and the Midgar Slums. On the whole, though, the story is a fairly well-told tale that, despite some serious predictability and a lack of coherent plotting towards the end, still manages to present a side of these characters that we haven’t seen before. Crisis Core does an especially good job of humanizing Sephiroth, giving him a background and motivation that were somewhat lacking in FFVII.


Crisis Core‘s combat system is a sort of hybrid turn-based-slash-real-time combat system that actually bears some resemblance to the combat system of Parasite Eve. There’s no shift to a separate field of combat; enemies simply appear, the game walls off a small section of whatever corridor or field you happen to be walking through, and combat begins. Most of the game’s landscape is pretty flat, so it’s unusual to get anything other than a small squarish field of play. Zack’s available commands are displayed on the lower right hand side of the screen as a horizontal list of icons such as Attack, Items, and whatever Materia Zack has equipped at the moment. L and R are used to cycle through these commands, giving Zack quick, easy access to his various combat options. When a move is selected, Zack goes from free control into automatic, running towards whichever foe is targeted, or charging up and releasing a spell, automatically directing it towards its target. The player can cancel any move at any time by pressing square to dodge roll, but can’t select another move until the current one is done, which makes combat feel as though it had turns.

Perhaps the most unusual part of the game is the DMW, or Digital Mental Wheel system. A set of three reels like a slot machine, the DMW will spin during combat, awarding status effects depending on which numbers come up. These status effects are always positive, and some are practically broken, such as turning all hits critical, or breaking your current max HP limit. Alongside the numbers are faces of characters Zack will meet during the course of the game, which can strengthen effects awarded by the DMW. If the DMW comes up with two of the same characters on the far left and right reel, it enters a state called Modulating Phase, wherein the DMW can come up with much stronger effects, closer to Limit Breaks and Summons from other Final Fantasy games. Modulating Phase even has the potential to randomly break in with snippets of Zack’s memories in the form of short story sequences, boosting the chances of seeing a particular face on the reels. The DMW has a major effect on combat, and can be a bit frustrating at times, since although the DMW will grant Zack more status effects as his mental state becomes more excited, you never know exactly when the reels will come up with an effect or which one it will be. The game even uses the reels to determine when Zack levels up, though the game is balanced in such a way that levelbuilding is still handled in much the same way as with traditional RPGs.

On the whole, the combat system is fairly complex and enjoyable, though the DMW can cause some mild frustration at times, breaking up combat with effects that may or may not actually be useful. The game isn’t particularly difficult, as most enemies telegraph their attacks with more than enough time to get out of the way, but it tends to degenerate into wild slashing matches broken only by dodge rolls. Various spells and abilities can break up combat to a certain degree, but they aren’t really necessary – a monster who is weak to Blizzard or Thunder will still fall to Zack’s sword with very little difficulty, especially given the amount of time enemies spend reeling after being hit. Given the incredibly high encounter rate, the game can become a bit monotonous at times.

Crisis Core‘s visual style is very similar to that seen in Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus, with some extremely high-quality CG and almost disturbingly realistic character models combined with characters using a very showy, complex aerial combat style. The combat shown in the game’s CG movies actually causes a bit of a problem, as it couldn’t be any further from the actual combat system if it were placed on the opposite side of the planet. It isn’t exactly an issue as such, but it can be a bit disappointing to watch Zack flipping and spinning through the air, expertly slashing dozens of foes before spinning past three Stinger missiles and saving the day, only to get into an actual fight and find you can’t even jump. On the whole, the game’s visuals are quite well done and very realistic, if a bit predictable.


Given the amount of simultaneous action required by the combat system, it’s a darn good thing that control is as tight as it is. Switching between various commands in combat is fast and easy, and control in and out of combat is tight and responsive. Crisis Core‘s menu setup could be a bit more streamlined, and there are definitely a few aspects of the game, such as the means by which new Missions are unlocked, that could’ve been explained better. On the whole, though, even the most complex systems the game has to offer, such as Materia Fusion, aren’t so complex that they can’t be figured out with a bit of practice.

The game’s soundtrack was done by a relatively unknown composer, Takeharu Ishimoto. Ishimoto’s work on Crisis Core is very solid, producing a soundtrack composed mainly of rock anthems that work very well with Zack’s hyperactive and aggressive personality, making the game really feel like Zack’s story rather than an extension of Cloud’s. The only issue with the soundtrack is the repeated use of a fairly repetitive theme tune in the less combat-oriented scenes, but it does help tie the music together, so it isn’t a serious problem. The game’s sound effects are a largely effective, if uninteresting lot, and the voice acting is solid, if not amazing. Overall, Crisis Core‘s sound is above average, and worth the listen.

For a game with such a lot of material to deal with, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is incredibly short. The mainline plot will take only around 15 hours to complete, perhaps longer if the player goes into the exceptionally long list of side missions Shinra supplies SOLDIER with. Missions are a good way of levelbuilding and getting some of the more powerful summons, but on the whole, they aren’t really necessary. Even with an encounter rate that, in places, will give you a battle every three or four steps, Crisis Core is far from difficult. Wild sword-swinging and a bit of attention to equipment will likely be enough to see most players through without trouble.

In the end, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is a surprisingly solid game, though the degree to which it relies on its pedigree can be a bit overwhelming at times. With a solid soundtrack, high-quality visuals, and a story that reveals a side of some of the characters in the series that we had not seen, Crisis Core is more or less a must-play for fans of the series. For those who aren’t particularly interested in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core isn’t going to do a lot to change your mind, though there are definitely some interesting ideas swimming around in the game.

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