Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was a prequel to a 10 year old game, starring an NPC from the original game who was long since dead and had only appeared in flashbacks, and was released exclusively on a portable system of questionable popularity. This sounded an awful lot like something that was stretching really far to cash in on Final Fantasy VII nostalgia and I couldn’t believe at all that it could possibly live up to expectations. Still, it was a Final Fantasy VII game, so I had to try it.
Much to my surprise, it actually lived up to all that it had promised rather well. Here was an action-RPG with a solid real-time combat system, a surprisingly large amount of content, extremely high end cutscene videos, and some very impressive in-game graphics for a portable game of its time. I’m told that the gameplay is very similar to Kingdom Hearts, though I’ve never played any of that series. You can certainly see a resemblance in the visual design though. The gameplay followed a formula that has become the standard for the modern day action-RPG, with a main story that was of a somewhat short length for an RPG, but packed full of dozens of hours worth of pointless side quests. This is a formula that is still subject to a lot of debate even today, but one that I find to be pretty enjoyable if a game has good enough gameplay to back it up, and I believe that to be the case with Crisis Core. There are a ton of optional extra adventures to tackle, many featuring challenging exclusive boss fights. After digging up my dusty old PSP, it seems that I spent around 55 hours on this game back in the day. Not bad for a last gen portable game.
As for the story, it adds some interesting details to the history of key characters like Zack, Sephiroth, and Hojo, as well as dropping in as many familiar guest-stars as possible without creating continuity conflicts. The history of The Jenova Project and Sephiroth’s descent into madness are expanded on, mostly via the introduction of a new character, Genesis, who serves as something of a proto-Sephiroth. There’s also the fabled “romance” of Zack and Aerith, though this was not one of the more exciting aspects of the game, having felt more than a little undercooked. Overall, it does a good job of being a faithful supplement to the original without interfering with the pre-established history or being entirely reliant on nostalgic call-backs.
What really stuck with me above everything else in this game though, was the bizarre attachment I grew to have with Zack. Poor, doomed Zack who was destined to die in order to help mold Cloud into the iconic character he became. Zack only had a handful of lines back in Final Fantasy VII and there was never really much to him except for a fancy haircut and some flashy sword moves that Cloud would come to adopt as his own. Crisis Core does an excellent job of filling that void of a character though, and does so to such an extent that as the end approached, I found myself hoping that beyond all reason, some crazy deus ex machina would manifest and somehow save Zack from his fate. Who knows? Stranger things have happened. Maybe the Zack that was said to be killed in Final Fantasy VII was another weird clone. Maybe since we didn’t actually witness his death very clearly, he actually survived somehow. Maybe Crono pops out of a portal and whisks him away to the distant future even though that’s not even the right series. IT COULD HAPPEN! But did it? Well, I’ll leave that for you to see for yourself, but I will tell you that this game had one of the most memorable and powerful endings I’ve ever seen.
Crisis Core remains my absolute favorite PSP game to this day, but it’s unfortunate that so many other people are probably missing out on it due to its exclusivity on a system that wasn’t exactly a massive success. I can’t imagine too many people are going to run out there and pick up a PSP right now just to play this. I’m honestly pretty surprised that Crisis Core still hasn’t been re-released on newer platforms. You would think that Square-Enix would be all over this with how much they love to constantly re-release other Final Fantasy games. Maybe in a few more years when that Final Fantasy VII remake comes out, they’ll get the bright idea to put out a remaster of this on modern home consoles so that more people can get a chance to experience it. If so, I highly recommend checking it out if you’re a fan of Final Fantasy VII. It’s not going to blow your mind and become one of your favorite games ever like VII surely did, but it’s a great game for what it is, and it’s a worthy addition to its world that feels genuine, and not like some simple after-the-fact cash-in.
This is merely a small sliver of the grand universe of Final Fantasy though. For more great games in the series click the pic below, which leads to the hub of the mighty Final Fantasy – Crystal Compendium project, which is being hosted by The Well-Red Mage and is bursting with other more fine WordPress talents than I can even remember the names of. Thanks to the host for having me, and thanks to everyone else involved for being generally awesome.