I?d been having a terrible day when I received the phone call asking if I was able to preview FFVII: Crisis Core
, and I literally dropped my phone with excitement. I can only conceivably imagine being more enthused by the prospect of interviewing Bruce Lee, but that ship has long-since sailed, and I?m over that now. Suffice to say FFVII: Crisis Core
has a lot to live up to. As enthusiastic as I was to get my mitts on the prequel, this fact made me nervous.
I needn?t have worried. As the opening sequence pans through jaw-dropping visuals to the familiar triumphant fanfare of a theme tune I?m sucked straight back in again. It?s visually spectacular, pushing the PSP to glorious new limits while the adrenaline-injected music gives shivers of nostalgia the way only a truly stand-out soundtrack can.
Protagonist Zack hops off the train just as Cloud will do in a few year?s time, and I am so pleased to see such blatant fan-pleasing I almost punch the air before realising that I am clutching a hand-held and about to hurl it across the room if I?m not more careful (I drop things a lot). So, I settle into the action.
Very quickly, this is evidently not just fan pornography. The battle system is as close to action-genre as it is the party system of Crisis Core?s
inspiration. The luck-based Digital Mind Wave slot system rotating to randomly decide my fate in the top-left corner seems fitting: the creators have definitely taken a gamble.
I?m button-bashing. I?m only controlling one person. I?m not convinced. I?d rather enjoyed the god-like control allowed by directing the movements of a whole party in previous titles, and it takes a little more sword-swishing before I get it: I am not a puppet master here ? I?m Zack - and that is so much more exciting.
I?m dodging attacks, I?m charging monsters, I?m wielding a massive sword. It?s immensely engaging stuff, overcoming the major weakness of former games in the Final Fantasy
series ? the monotony of battling the same monster for the forty-fifth time today, clicking attack-select-attack-select over and over in pursuit of experience points. In Crisis Core
it doesn?t have to be that way ? this is fun!
Even the luck element, which initially terrified me, doesn?t take long to warm up to. Standard enemy encounters now have a real feel of anticipation ? crap, I?m out of HP ? hold up, I?ve been resurrected and I?ve leveled up twice. I?m battling drones on the edge of my seat. As for boss fights, the satisfaction derived from randomly being dealt invincibility and a power surge halfway through a battle you were about to lose is frankly ridiculous. The risk has paid off.
The voice acting in Crisis Core
is thankfully a vast improvement on previous titles, the slightly embarrassing breaks mid-dialogue officially a thing of the past. Zack is admittedly straight from the school of ?bring it ooon!? Americanisms in the English version, but that?s Zack ? a little too enthusiastic not to be slightly irritating. He?s a far cry from the moody, silent protagonist of the original, but the familiar mannerisms are undeniably charming and as the character develops it would take a heart of stone to resist growing fond of him.
Fittingly for the PSP platform, Crisis Core
is nicely broken down into manageable chunks, with hundreds of optional side-missions to pass the time and earn some goodies in shorter intervals. While on a less epic scale than the original, it delivers all the same emotional punches and stands up as an exceptional game in its own right.
Pacy and fun with all the depth of a creation made with evident faithfulness and genuine passion, this game isn?t only going to hit the spot the old fans are looking for ? it?s likely to create a whole generation of new ones.
Don't forget to read our interview with senior members of the Crisis Core creative team... right here.