It is immensely difficult to fire up Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII with lofty expectations, well aware of its previous follow-ups. And by follow-ups, I mean the countless failures of spin-offs Square Enix has produced since the 1997 smash hit that changed role-playing games forever (whether you like it or not). Through the conceptually frustrating (Dirge of Cerberus) to the downright sorry excuse of a pretty boy opera that was Advent Children, pre-conceptions of Crisis Core would tend to leave one cautious at best.
Thankfully, there is no need for caution here.
Perhaps one of its greatest strengths is its ability to appeal to fans by rekindling their nostalgia. It takes bits and pieces of Midgar, beautifully recreated on the PSP, and also gives a proper introduction to newcomers to the series. Managing to please both mediums of players is an incredible feat – one that Crisis Core magnificently pulls off due to stylized 3D graphics, unprecedented on the PSP.
Crisis Core’s strengths heavily outweigh the minor dialogue contrivances or effeminate characters that the genre is known for today.
Players assume control over Zack Fair, a similar shadow to Cloud Strife that fans will surely be acquainted with. With aspirations of ascending the ranks in Shinra Corporation’s elite squad of infantry, SOLDIER, Zack partakes in a bevy of missions available to you on the fly from your main menu. There are some other familiar old faces such as Aerith, Sephiroth and eventually Cloud, though it has its share of new characters as well. There's Angeal, who is essentially Zack’s mentor throughout the entirety of the game and Genesis, a Gackt lookalike bent on making your life hell and reading you poetry all at the same time.
Combat focuses solely on Zack and no one else – a first in the series – with fighting similar to Kingdom Hearts. Players run amok on the overworld map until enemies fade-in from the surroundings. Assuming control in real-time and being able to run up to any creature and beat it senseless is a great direction in design, as it’s a complete first for the series. Materia also re-enters the spotlight, though the isolation of only having one character to choose from creates waves of variety for Zack.
The quest itself is rather linear, and though the linearity of things can get monotonous, there are also a ton of side-missions Zack can partake in at any given time during the game, provided he’s near a save point. Each side-mission takes place in a random are, and is divulged with a little back-story (as well as some rewards). Some of the game’s best items and summons are stored here and it is also a perfect breather for taking the game out for five minutes if the main quest isn’t your sort of thing at the time.
Clocking in somewhere near 20 hours for the main quest, it will take the average player easily triple that to absorb every delicious tidbit and revitalized memory of the classic game that left its mark on us all well over 11 years ago. Crisis Core’s strengths heavily outweigh the minor dialogue contrivances or effeminate characters that the genre is known for today. Its greatest appeal, though, is being interesting and fun to both newcomers and FF7 veterans alike. Crisis Core is a triple-A tour de force with enough panache and stylistic flavor to infuse your PSP with enough mako energy to last you ten lifetimes.