Show me the power of SOLDIER!

User Rating: 9.5 | Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII PSP
GAMEPLAY: 9
GRAPHICS: 10
SOUND: 10
VALUE: 10
TILT: 10
[STORY]: 8

ROUGH SCORE: 9.5
FINAL SCORE: 9.5

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The Good:
- Gorgeous visuals
- Amazing cutscenes and voice acting
- Excellent soundtrack
- Engaging and addictive combat system
- The DMW system keeps things interesting
- Easy for the player to adjust the game's difficulty, regardless of which game mode they choose at the start
- Deep Materia Fusion system

The Bad:
- Story, while good overall, is a bit too cryptic
- Gameplay involved with the main story is definitely on the short side
- Genesis's obsession with LOVELESS

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I bought my first PSP at the beginning of last month. As a FFVII fan that had bought the PSP simply to download FFVII, I knew I had to make the purchase more worthwhile, so I bought Crisis Core, thinking why not? It's the prequel to my all-time favorite RPG! All I knew going in was that it was about the story of Zack Fair - I knew who he was ahead of time - and that I'd be in for a good surprise with the combat system.
Well, from the very beginning, I was blown away. Remixed FFVII tunes, the return of FFVII's chirpy menu sfx, the beauty of the game itself. Being a new PSP owner, I could not believe that I hadn't been convinced earlier somehow to buy one, given that it possessed games like this in its library.
It only got better the more I played.

GAMEPLAY
I'm positive the details of Crisis Core's combat system have already been explained or described at least a hundred times already in other user reviews, so instead I'll stick with my opinion of it. I loved it.
I thought the DMW system was very interesting. Not once did I grow impatient with it or bored with the combat system as a whole. If things began to feel stale, I just changed up my accessories and materia so I would have to adopt new strategies. The DMW system makes the combat interesting and it's that whole "you never know what's going to happen" element that keeps the combat engaging and very addictive. For those of you who think it's too random or confusing, there is an actual mathematical formula in play that determines the probability Zack will gain a level up at any given time and quite honestly, I'd have to disagree with you if you believe the DMW system is confusing because I explained it to my 81-year-old grandmother and she understood it right away (I'm sure it helped her cause that she and my grandfather love an occasional trip to Atlantic City, NJ and thus, understand how a slot machine works). Personally, I would cheer if I got a materia level-up or if Zack got a level up and I'd laugh if I got a ridiculously insane roll. Essentially, if you think the DMW system is broken or convoluted, then you might just have to spend some more time with it. It's like nothing I'd ever experienced before and that helped make it exciting and interesting.
Another unique system in play in Crisis Core is the Materia Fusion system. Whereas in the original FFVII game you simply equip different materia and gain AP from battles so you can harness new spells and eventually master the materia, here, each materia only possesses one magic spell, physical skill, or ability, mastering a materia just makes it stronger, and through fusion, it is possible to create new kinds of materia and boost new or pre-existing stat bonuses with or without the use of certain items. The way I saw it from the very beginning, Square Enix had taken a mechanic that would surely have been very familiar to many of the people who would play the game and created an entirely new way of utilizing that mechanic. It's fantastic, and when you think of it in that light, it totally succeeds in what it was meant to do. Fusion feels new even though it uses something old to work. I will admit that trying to create a specific materia through fusion can be rough when going about it completely on your own, but that's why 1) saving is your friend and 2) you're in luck that the game's been out for more than a year and thus, there are some valuable FAQs floating around the internet to help you out.

STORY
Overall, the story is great. My only two qualms with it are that I wish it was longer and I wish it wasn't so cryptic. What do I mean by "cryptic"? Well, I don't like it when I don't understand what the meaning is behind what a character is saying. If I can't follow a conversation, that bugs me. Case in point: Genesis. Sure, I could speculate on what the LOVELESS excerpts had to do with present events, but when he speaks regularly, I was completely lost. He never answered any of Zack's questions and so I, the player, was always confused and scratching my head. That's real unfortunate, seeing as how nearly every other aspect of this game is absolutely stellar.
As for the story's length, it is true that if you just play through the story content and skip 90-100% of the missions, the game will be over technically before it's even begun, leaving you very unsatisfied. I don't believe the story would have made any more sense to me had I done such a thing, but I do wish that for those players choosing not to complete so many missions, there would have been more content. Surely, some chapters could have been fleshed out a little more. Hey, perhaps they could have fleshed out some of the cutscenes by making things more clear! Zack (and by proxy, the player) deserved to know what the heck everyone was talking about!

GRAPHICS
Umm, this game is pretty. I've yet to see a more stunning PSP game. It's unfortunate that the missions' locales couldn't have been more diverse (or that the missions themselves could have had more purpose and diversity rather than as simple series of extracurricular combat spats), but at least they looked as pretty as the primary portion of the game.

SOUND
This game has got some seriously awesome music. I loved all the remixes to classic FFVII tunes, and all the new stuff was truly excellent as well.

VALUE
For the record, I clocked in just about 77 hours on my save file. That's with 100% DMW completion, 100% mission completion, and Zack at level 99. That's how much I couldn't get enough of this game. If you're willing to do missions, you'll find plenty of content in Crisis Core. It's a fact that there's absolutely nothing else for you to do on a save file once you complete all the missions and have beaten the game once, except replay the final boss and any missions you wish, but that's okay. You could go on engaging in combat and fusing materia together for hours upon hours if you wanted. I know I would have, if I didn't have such tremendous backlog that I'm dying to work my way through.
Bottom line: You're definitely getting your money's worth with Crisis Core and there's definite replayability present, which is something I am always looking for in the games I buy.

TILT
If you're looking for a good RPG on the PSP, you cannot go wrong with Crisis Core. In fact, if you own a PSP, you'd do well to own this game, period. It's definitely one of the best games out for the handheld at the time of this review's publishing.
Likewise, for those of you interested but unsure if you should play the original FFVII first, Zack was physically featured in a single, somewhat hidden cutscene in the original. It's a symbiotic relationship between FFVII and Crisis Core. You could certainly play one and then the other and be fine either way.
Fans of FFVII would be silly not to pick this one up.

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