While waiting for Reunion, we have dusted off our PSP to get back to Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and write this sort of Retro-Review: it will be the launch of a new format, or just an opportunity to tell you about a prequel full of fanservice? Who knows…
When the first part of what we thought at the time was a real Remake (in the literal sense of the term) of Final Fantasy VII, who writes immediately thought of only one thing: “oh god, think how nice if they do it with Crisis Core”. A thought born spontaneously, but which immediately proved to be an obvious reality: knowing Square Enix, it was normal that such a moment would come. We weren’t expecting who knows what, obviously, even a simple remastered version, with a few tweaks here and there. And here we are, less than two weeks after the release of Reunion, going back in time. About 15 years old.
We didn’t know how to wait and we picked up again (dusting it off, oh my the dust even if it was in the box) our still sparkling PlayStation Portable, our Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII UMD and an obligatory charger, after so many years of inactivity. We have once again experienced the story of Zack, his epic and his ascent towards the “heroism” that he praises so much, in a succession of events, situations and characters that have now become iconic. We didn’t even know how to stop the hand, and we found ourselves writing this Retro-Review of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VIIagain with tears in my eyes.
Oh boy, the feelings | Retro-Recensione Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Crisis Core is a prequel to the original Final Fantasy VII, released exclusively on PlayStation Portable back in 2007. The story is set seven years before the adventures of Cloud and his companions, and features one of the most nominated and least seen characters of the original: Zack. Young man of great values, Zack is a second-class SOLDIER in the service of ShinRa with one big dream: to become a hero. Zack is a just man, full of values and with a big heart, but he finds himself having to collide with a much bigger reality than him.
The first step in this great ascent will be to become a first-class SOLDIER, just like his mentor Angeal (more of a father figure than a real military superior) or Sephiroth, the great hero of the war with Wutai, born in due to Shinra’s ongoing and exhausting search for Mako. War to which a brake will also be placed thanks to Zack’s actions, who will vanquish the village of Wutai by ending hostilities. And so far, you’ll tell yourself, everything is normal. Yes, but there’s more.
Zack as Hercules (the one from Disney) | Retro-Review Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
And this more begins to happen when Genesis, another first-class SOLDIER great friend of Angel and Sephiroth, deserts and leaves Shinra, taking with him a full of hatred and resentment towards the company which in Zack’s eyes seems, initially, unjustified. We don’t want to tell you further, because Reunion is coming and the script of Crisis Core is of a high level, although it allows itself poetic licenses only to make fans drop an easy tear. All starting right from the characterization of the characters: let’s take Zack and Sephiroth as an example.
Zack is the classic character that no one in the world can hate: cheerful, nice, genuine and spontaneous. A real good boy, always ready to lend a hand to anyone in need, strong and courageous and with a noble soul. A characterization that places an almost excessive emphasis on the merits of the protagonist, just in view of what will be an incredible rise in emotional terms, especially in the final stages of the game. It’s not necessarily a flaw, but replaying it fifteen years later, in a decidedly different period of life from when you were younger and dreamier, you notice.
Sephiroth little panda cub | Retro-Review Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Sephiroth, on the other hand, he is a real puppy. At times even sympathetic, the antagonist par excellence who also has a dedicated anxiety-inducing soundtrack proves very strong feelings of friendship in Crisis Core, which he also expresses not very covertly in many contexts. Sephiroth is very close to both Angeal and (especially) to Genesis, two characters created specifically for the prequel and to give an air of humanity to what, for all intents and purposes, is a character that was purely evil up until then.
In short: do we want to define it as a title devoted exclusively to fanservice? This is not exactly the case, although it is partly true. During the narration of Crisis Core, which to be completed without following the (many, we’ll talk about it later) secondary missions will take you about fifteen hours, there are many goodies, insights and clarifications that Square Enix has added to further expand the universe of Final Fantasy VII (in addition to the other spin-offs and films, in short). Not everything is done to bring tears down, we can assure you.
Activing Combat Mode! | Retro-Recensione Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
So let’s move on to the Core (pun intended) of the title: its innovative combat system. If you think of a Final Fantasy of the times it is inevitable that your mind will lead you to imagine a system of turns, but it is not like that. Combat is completely real-time and, once engaged in the fight with the enemies, a superimposed menu will appear at the bottom right which will indicate the commands that Zack can execute. From the simple Attack, through the Materia (magic or skill) to get to the Objects, the commands can be selected with the X key, after having scrolled through the menu by pressing the L or R keys. With Square you dodge, with Triangle he parries. In short, everything is simple and immediate… approx.
To characterize everything, Square Enix has inserted a sort of slot machine, always active at the top left, called in Italian OMD (Digital Mental Wave) which allows Zack to perform special techniques and receive bonuses from the characters he has met and depicted so far. in the WCO If the first figure on the left and the last figure on the right of the OMD coincide, Zack enters the modulation phase: if the central one is the same as the side ones, the special attack starts.
RNJesus | Retro-Recensione Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
In addition to the faces of the NPCs, scrolling in the OMD there is also a series of numbers, between 1 and 7, the combinations of which determine positive effects for the protagonist. If, for example, three identical numbers between 1 and 6 come out, the matter placed in the slot of the relative number increases in level. If three 7s are rolled instead, Zack levels up. There are also other particular combinations, some which are also activated outside the Modulation phase, and which we leave you with the pleasure of discovering for yourself.
Does all this RNG actually work in a JRPG? The answer is actually not that easy to give. While it’s true that Zack levels up periodically, never being left too far behind the level required by the story, it is also true that the OMD often turns out to be useless in particularly difficult clashes. Above all, it must be considered that if in the Modulation Phase three identical figures are obtained, in addition to the special attack relating to the NPC depicted, a fair amount of HP/MP/AP will be recovered and we assure you that in battles against particularly tough bosses a good dose of… benevolent randomness.
O.M.D. | Retro-Recensione Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Like it or not, the combat system of Crisis Core: Final Fanasy VII revolves very much around the presence of the OMD It’s not a particularly difficult title, even if you select the highest difficulty level, it will take a few hours to get used to dodging and parrying and, apart from the more difficult bosses mentioned above, you won’t have any particular problems completing it. Especially if you are dedicated to completing Side Quests with zeal.
What pleased the press at the time of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was precisely the portable nature of the title. Both the story missions and the secondary ones that can be selected from the game menu and which are unlocked by thoroughly exploring the various areas, are quick to complete, especially considering that Crisis Core is deliberately not a title devoted to exploration. The maps are relatively small and with few crevices and secrets, just a few chests here and there, and everything is completely dedicated to the combat system.
Always beautiful | Retro-Review Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Still today, after fifteen years, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII looks good on the small PSP hardware. We won’t stay here to fathom the technical details of a 2007 game, you’ll also understand why, but the graphics engine used then still performs very well today, especially in the cutscenes (some are still spectacular). Obviously, seen with today’s eyes, the game seems bare and low in polygons, but as already mentioned it is not something we want to analyze today, in 2022.
To be still exceptional is unquestionably the soundtrack, which rearranges some pieces also present in the original Final Fantasy VII and adds new unreleased tracks often leaning towards metal or hard rock tones. A peculiar choice that we appreciated then and continue to appreciate today, just as the English dubbing (which will be reworked in Reunion) is more than good.
We wait… confident?
We want to close this sort of Retro-Review of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII with hope. And no, it’s not about Reunion from a purely technical or videogame side: we already know what Square Enix went to retouch, so we probably already know what we’ll be facing (barring surprises beyond Final Fantasy VII Remake). What we hope is that Reunion still knows how to do what Crisis Core did to our hearts fifteen years ago: let us enjoy that pure and natural fanservice, which seen with external and aseptic eyes may seem excessive and disproportionate, but which in the heart of a passionate it’s the only thing that really matters. See you in a couple of weeks…!
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