This prequel explaining before the events of Final Fantasy VII are ruined by it's stupid DMW leveling system.

User Rating: 5 | Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII PSP

Despite the amount of grudges that I continue to have with the Final Fantasy series it's still impossible to deny the impact that Final Fantasy VII had on gamers around ever since the original game's launch on the PSOne back in 1997. It's a game that helped popularize J-RPGs worldwide and earned massive praise for the story, characters, the CGI video cutscenes which were really cool for the PlayStation and of course the enjoyable ATB combat which has became a really welcome stable of the series. Final Fantasy VII still remains as one of the most popular games in the series sitting alongside Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy IX and has later on brought out the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII which expands in the universe of Final Fantasy VII but in all honestly it was just a marketing scheme to milk the fanbase out of their love for Final Fantasy VII on many levels. One of these I have talked about is Dirge of Cerberus Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation 2 which was that Action RPG Third Person Shooter spinoff and it was such a utter mess of a game thanks to a bad story that hardly makes sense and really poor gameplay that is at times cheap, annoying and unfair at times. The other Final Fantasy VII game that also came out from it is Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII on the PSP and seeing that the long awaited Final Fantasy VII Remake is getting close to release date now is a perfectly good time to finally talk about it. Released in Japan in 2007 before the rest of the world would get it in 2008 Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII is a game that celebrated Final Fantasy VII's 10th anniversary and brings the legacy of Final Fantasy VII to the PSP. It's an Action RPG with a stupid game of chance system that often screws you over in so many ways and it relays so much on luck which completely ruins the flow of combat in a fundamental way.

This prequel fills in the blanks of what happened before Final Fantasy VII and we do get to see familiar characters like Cloud, Zack and Sephiroth.
This prequel fills in the blanks of what happened before Final Fantasy VII and we do get to see familiar characters like Cloud, Zack and Sephiroth.

Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII is a prequel taking place before the events in Final Fantasy VII where the player is playing as Zack Fair a 2nd Class SOLDIER working for the Shinra Corporation. Zack interacts with characters like Cloud and Sephiroth who will be familiar to longtime fans while also meeting new characters like Angeal his mentor and lastly Genesis who views Sephiroth as something of a rival to him. You do get to witness many of the events similar to the backstories seen in the original Final Fantasy VII and for the most part it is faithful. Zack is a very relatable character unlike Cloud in the original game with his cocky and energetic attitude which brings out plenty of life from him and shows plenty of feelings about those close to him and others around him making him a very likeable protagonist. Unlike most Final Fantasy protagonists especially today's Final Fantasy protagonists where they just a pack or stereotypical emo tropes Zack is a fresh protagonist who's cocky which often gets the better of him in some situations. Some of the relationships he has with the other characters are pretty good as well and it helps to bring more of the characters of Final Fantasy VII into Crisis Core thanks to the cutscenes which you will see on a reasonably frequent bases. What's less good is Genesis who tries to have a rivalry with Sephiroth which makes sense seeing that he shares the project involvement with him but his plot device is honestly rather flat because he just becomes a massive arsehole who creates various clones and then just goes insane and I honestly find Tseng and Cissnei of the Turks to be rather meh and uninteresting. I also don't find Angeal to be all that good of a character either aside from the iconic Buster Sword which he rarely either uses, Angeal tries to be one who deeply holds Honour and Dreams and he seems to be strong mentor to Zack but later on betrays Zack and just does what he wants making his actions rather questionable. There will be some moments where many players will get a kick out with some characters and the fanservice delivers from the lore of Final Fantasy VII while some scenes especially towards the end might have some players in tears, during the early chapters the story starts out fine till some of the major plot twists later on but when it really hits the Nibelheim parts that's when the storyline finally takes off. The dialogue is at least pretty good and the English Dub voice acting is solid but some character lines are a little weird and also a little off putting in some moments.

I do have to say even for a PSP game Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII is truly an incredible looking game especially considering the limited hardware of the handheld console. The environments while empty and are just a series of maze like corridors are actually pretty to look at and a lot of the animations are solid and smooth. The character models are really incredibly detailed and are very high quality and the facial animations in the cutscenes are brilliant. At times I thought that I was playing a real quality late release PS2 game because the game actually looks amazing. The Emails you get from NPCs that you can check out are also pretty amusing as well especially from fanclubs supporting either Angeal, Genesis or Sephiroth and also ones from Shinra which all help bring the Universe of Final Fantasy VII to life. The soundtrack has some great remixes of original Final Fantasy VII tunes alongside the One Winged Angel which is remixed well here plus some cool original tunes for the game as well.

And then we have the Gameplay which I'm always going to have either mixed thoughts or negative opinions on when it comes to a Final Fantasy game. In Crisis Core involves exploration and of course combat and plenty of it. You walk around each area moving from point A to point B collecting any treasure along the way and also dealing with any threat that comes your way. There are some minigames thrown in that are fun for a brief diversion and many of them are easy to do with the best one being the Squats Minigame where you have to press the X button to make Zack follow another Squat in succession to get a High Score. Sounds fun but however the timing is often thrown off due to the camera shifting around Zack as he makes a boosting comment often causing you to lose your momentum.

Then we have the combat which honestly on the surface isn't anything all too impressive. It's a combat system inspired from the Kingdom Hearts games and also the Tales of games where you only control Zack in combat and you have no other allies to back you up. You control your character in a small battle arena and you select from the available commands with the L or R buttons and then X to use whatever attack, combat ability being either a magic spell or recovery item that you have selected. The Square button is used to dodge incoming attacks if well timed and also Triangle blocks against attacks. Mostly the combat seems rather basic and slow, the enemy AI is rather dull and just stands still waiting to get hit and mostly it's easy to tell when to dodge and most battles are won by button mashing the same basic attacks over and over till the enemies die before you do.

The Digital Mind Wave is stupid way to level up your character and Materia.
The Digital Mind Wave is stupid way to level up your character and Materia.

What really lets the combat down, no I mean the whole game down is the stupid levelling system Square Enix tried to implement. Instead of gaining experience to increase your character's level in Crisis Core all of the levelling from levelling your character and Materia is all controlled by a slot machine. That's right a slot machine, called the Digital Mind Wave (DMW for short) where it's a system of pure luck where numbers and portraits spin around and where the dials land on you get a special effect depending on what numbers dialled. You either get one where you don't have MP or AP expenditure, invincibility from either Physical or Magic attacks or complete invincibility but these last temporally for only a few seconds. You earn Solider Points (SP) from defeating enemies which is then used to keep the DMW spinning and hope that the system is in your favour and that three slots of the same portrait lands, when it gets two of the same character portrait it goes into Modulating Phase where depending on the character portraits either gives you the matching character portraits that activates a Limit Break that relates to the character or it completely screws you over and gives you nothing. During the Phase getting either two of the same numbers that relates to the Materia's equipped slot increases one of your current equipped Materia's level or getting three 7s during the Phase grants you a character level up. The reason that this system is stupid is because everything is a game of chance and you have no idea what the DMW slot machine is going to land on. If you played any of the gambling slot machines in a Casino or some resort area where the numbers that land is all but a game of luck that is what the DMW is like in this game in a nutshell. It's a full luck based system that heavily relays on RNG and it either gives you a level up and a Limit Break that you need to win the fight but often times it screws you over and you end up with nothing. Limit Breaks range from attacks that either do multiple strong hits on one enemy, some attack all enemies on screen while others give you a Luck Boost making it easier to get Limit Breaks out or just healing you or unleash a summoning beast. Sometimes you'll get the Limit Break that does the job but other times you'll end up with a Limit Break that you honestly don't need or you don't get one at all. For example you find yourself in a rather easy fight and then you'll suddenly get a Limit Break and rather then giving you a Limit Break that finishes off the enemy instead you might end up with a Limit Break which heals you when you don't need it and it's just annoying at times where the DMW just goes into Modulating Phase which constantly interrupts the fight. Also sometimes during a Modulating Phase you'll get those little brief sideshows showing what happened in the story and also you'll might get a little video showing memories of Zack with a relatable storyline character that the DMW picks out. While some of them do add a little bit of story to the characters but the majority of them are just pointless to watch and they just slow the battle down considerably, thankfully they can be skipped.

Making a return is the Materia system where equipping Materia gives you different abilities to use in battle from magic spells that use up your MP and physical combat attacks that use up your AP. All Materia have a different stat value which depending on the Materia you equip gives you a stat boost being HP, MP, AP, Strength, Vitality, Magic, Spirit or Luck without lowering any other stat values. Like I said if you get two of the same numbers during a Modulating Phase related to the Materia in the slots that you have equipped it increases that Materia you have equipped. Later on in the game you'll unlock the Materia Fusion where it allows you fuse two Materia together to either make one of your Materia stronger or make a new Materia. You can even use any of your items with the Materia you wish to fuse which can also effect what stats are going to be applied to it and using more also offers a boost in stats. Mastering Materia and then fusing either different Materia or fusing of the same Materia that has been mastered greatly effects what new Materia is going to come out and it can be confusing at times to till what will make your current Materia stronger or what ones make a entirely new Materia unless you had either a Strategy Guide or an online Walkthrough explaining on how to make them.

Building a good Materia loadout is going to help you in the long run as it give you a reasonably balanced out stat build to deal with the challenges you'll across. While there are a handful of Materia which are useful and can help get through some really hard fights but some of the Materia are just slight variations of another while the remaining others are just borderline worthless. Even some of the more upgraded spell Materia are just slight upgraded variations of a regular spell just with higher MP costs. A Firaga Spell for example just shoots out three fireballs as opposed to a regular Fire Spell which shoots just one fireball. Levelling up Materia especially getting them Mastered takes a long while obviously because of the DMW often times not giving you the Materia Level ups due to bad luck but having to upgrade a Materia to the max takes even longer because you need SP to fuse SP and maximizing out a Materia fully requires a ridiculous amount of SP. Not only do you need to grind for SP through either battles or from mastering other Materia but also grinding to get items which can help boost stats faster during Materia Fusion and it's a very slow process maximizing one Materia. Sure you can convert Materia into SP which does help a fair bit in Materia building and you there are some faster methods that you can do to make Materia easier but regardless you are going to be spending quite a lot of time grinding and maximizing out your Materia in order to be more effective in combat. While you start out limited to only a few slots in Materia and Accessories you can later on get your hands on more slots both through the story and also the Side Content. I often find it easier to grind Materia Levels by going onto the easiest Side Mission and then leaving the game on auto pilot so that the DMW does all of the levelling up for you. It does make so that you have less involvement in the game but it does allow you to do other things while the game does the levelling work.

The Materia grinding wouldn't be so bad if the combat was any good and while I'll say it's better then Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII it ain't all that good and has some problems. Like I said the AI just stands still waiting to get hit and Zack's attack speed leaves him open to enemy attacks whenever they do attack. The camera can be a problem sometimes not adjusting behind the character when you are exploring the fields and in combat the camera doesn't make you sometimes aware of enemies off screen in which their attacks will would come straight at you that you couldn't see and the camera never adjusts when you get behind enemies making it difficult also to see where you are and who could be attacking you.

The combat is nothing special and it doesn't feel balanced out.
The combat is nothing special and it doesn't feel balanced out.

The difficulty could have done with a bit of balancing also, you'll breeze through the majority of fights by button mashing easily because of the exploitable pattern they have and the only times the game only ever provides a challenge when there are a ton of enemies on screen at once or when enemies throw status effects and many instant death attacks that you perhaps couldn't see coming. While there isn't a Petrification Status Aliment the most annoying Status Effect in the game instead in it's place is Stop where you are stuck in place for a few seconds, sometimes it goes on forever leaving you helpless often resulting in an unfair death. The boss battles start out simple and easy and then there are a few bosses and also some enemies that will throw protective barriers that make them completely immune attacks for a few seconds which can make some fights a little unfair and annoying. The targeting system is also a problem as it often targets the enemies you don't want to target and doesn't target the enemy you want to go for. In a Tales of game like Tales of Symphonia you can use the Targeting Button to switch between targets on the fly, this makes it so that you can prioritize certain enemies so that you can stop enemies from casting spells or to target other enemies that are attacking your allies where as in Crisis Core you can't do that and you'll end up a lot of bad situations at times which is why I say that Crisis Core's combat is very shallow in comparison. I often find it ludicrous and sad that people often praise the combat system as high as the Kingdom Hearts and also the Tales Series and hold it in the same high regards as those games just like how people praise Final Fantasy II, VIII, XII and the XIII for their systems, because Crisis Core suffers from a lot of issues with the combat and at times unbalanced difficulty in a few ways and the DMW system relies way too much on luck to actually get any kind of levelling or a Limit Break out that everything feels unsatisfying and the combat just unenjoyable.

Going through the game will take at least 10 to 20 hours if you are just focusing on the storyline but however the game has 300 optional Side Missions that you can partake in which will increase the amount of playtime you'll have. All of the missions however just involve going to where the target is on the map and defeating it to complete it which gives plenty of rewards when you complete it, many of the few environments that are made for the Side Missions are recycled frequently with them either being a full complete map or be a shortened quartered off section instead which honestly feels lazy. The Side Missions themselves are mostly easy to do aside from the ones which either throws way too many enemies at you or enemies with a ton of annoying instant death attacks but however the map never points out to where the target objective is which can be little annoying when you are trying to find the target objective. Completing some of the most difficult Side Missions gives you plenty of good rewards including powerful Accessories and Materia which in turn make the storyline boss fights a total pushover.

For a game that provides plenty of backstory into the events of Final Fantasy VII the storyline is told decently showing us what really happened before the original game but the gameplay has a ton of problems which makes the game a total letdown and it being massively overrated. The combat is shallow and at times unbalanced, the camera can be a pain, many of the Side Missions fell lazily thrown together and worst of all the Digital Mind Wave system used for Levelling up and activating Limit Breaks is a very, very stupid system to have in an RPG let alone a Final Fantasy game especially one as big as Final Fantasy VII. Don't get me wrong I still to some extent love Final Fantasy VII and it has in some way made me look into RPGs but however the way Crisis Core is designed with it's levelling system made levelling up your character and Materia a massive chore and the combat system is ridiculously shallow and boring compared to many of the games in the Tales of Series. Those games don't use a slot machine based levelling system or any kind of stupid luck based levelling system and it would never want to have it in one of their games and have always had enjoyable Action RPG combat no matter how they have aged. Unless you want to see the events leading up to who was originally a somewhat minor character's death kicking off the events of Final Fantasy VII then I would pass on buying the game unless you find it cheap like I did when I got it. The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII was really just bad treatment on the lore of Final Fantasy VII and nothing really good has come from it to try make everything live up to Final Fantasy VII's name and Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII is big example of it. There are far better RPGs on the PSP that are more worthwhile especially Action RPGs like Tales of Eternia and Tales of the World Radiant Mythology that have enjoyable combat and content and while this game is better then the likes of Dirge of Cerberus Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII is just another Final Fantasy game that tries to throw some dumb ideas into the mix and didn't do it properly. This does not give me any hopes for the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake seeing that is going to be an Action RPG and it will be in episodic form which is not what I would like to see from a Final Fantasy game. I plan to take a look at it myself but however with the Coronavirus epidemic going on I may not be able to review that anytime soon so I hope that you guys are being smart and doing your best to stay safe from it. Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII is seriously overrated and it is far from being one of a top Final Fantasy game, it's far from being a top game for the PSP and it is also far from being one of the worst entries in the Final Fantasy series let alone on the PSP either.

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Game Score: 5.3/10

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Game Title: Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII

Platform: PlayStation Portable

Developer: Square Enix

Genre: Action Role Playing Game

Age Rating: PEGI: 16+

Release Date: 20th June 2008

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The Good Points:

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The Backstories into Zack, Sephiroth and Cloud are well told and shows the events of what happened pretty well

Looks really good for a PSP game and the remix soundtracks are pretty good

The Bad Points:

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The combat is shallow and is unbalanced in difficulty

The Digital Mind Wave System used for the levelling and Limit Breaks relies way too much on Luck and it is very, very stupid

Levelling up your character and Materia is a massive chore

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Reviewed by: Anthony Hayball (AQWBlaZer91)

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