The Final Fantasy series of a games is held very highly in the minds of most gamers. Final Fantasy VII for the Playstation 1 is regarded by many as the absolute best Final Fantasy ever and it is also thought by many to be the game that ushered in the modern Japanese role-playing game. In the past Square Enix attempted to add to the Final Fantasy VII universe with action based spin-off games, cell phone games and even a movie, however none of them were regarded by the fans as being as good as the original.


This time Square Enix has decided to make a prequel to Final Fantasy VII, in the form of an action role playing game hybrid. From the very opening scene long time fans will know this is a true Final Fantasy VII game. The result is an extremely polished game that deserves the name Final Fantasy VII and Crisis Core is the best spin off for any Final Fantasy game to date.

The visuals in Crisis Core represent some of the best on the PSP. The character models are all very highly detailed and realistic looking. Unlike the original Final Fantasy VII which featured somewhat cartoonish character models, Crisis Core treats the characters very seriously and thus the models look very realistic and highly detailed. Everything down to the characters hair looks realistic and is quite impressive for a portable system.


The environments are also fairly impressive. Crisis Core features a wide range of environmental graphics, from the familiar city and mako reactor graphics, to small town and mountain areas. The environments themselves are not bare since many of them feature realistic looking trees, plants, chairs, couches, boxes, etc. Overall the environmental graphics are very impressive for a hand held system.


Like all Final Fantasy games since part VII, Crisis Core features spectacular cut scenes and summoning cinematics. Long time fans will get to see new versions of Ifrit and Bahamut. The cut scenes themselves switch between CG and in engine cut scenes. As always the CG cutscenes are the best in the business. The in engine cut scenes aren

The Sound in Crisis Core is top notch all the way around. The music is conducted by Takeharu Ishimoto and he does a good job of conveying the mood of each scene. The score itself can range from classical orchestra to hard rock which works surprisingly well. Some of the boss battles feature rock music, which actually fit the mood of the battle and can help you get into the battle even more.


After the battles, the music will switch back to a more mellow background music and the transition is not jarring at all. After several game play sessions I found myself humming the opening cutscene

The controls are one area where long time fans may take issue. As I stated earlier Crisis Core is an action role-playing game, which means that it is not turn based at all. Throughout the game you only control one character. You move around the battlefield with the analog stick and the X button is used to activate whatever attack action you have selected. The square button is used to actively dodge enemy attacks and the L and R buttons cycle through a limited number of attack options. The control system may take a bit of getting used to but after about a half hour of play time I was able to fight effectively.


The biggest problem with the control scheme is that you have to cycle through seven different slots with the L and R buttons to activate different attack, magic and item options, this by itself isn

Since Crisis Core is a Final Fantasy game it is very story driven. From the opening cutscene until the final battle you will be treated to a very well written and fairly long story that leads you from scene to scene. The game starts very familiarly with the main character Zack on top of a train headed toward a mako reactor and you are quickly introduced to several new characters and many old fan favorites including the infamous Sephiroth.


The story revolves around Zack who at the start of the game is a Soldier 2nd class and his mentors Angeal and Genesis who along with Sephiroth are Soldiers 1st class. For those of you who have played the original Final Fantasy VII you will know where the story is headed, but the journey to get there is very deep and rewarding. Throughout the game you will find yourself actually caring about the various characters and their eventual fate.


The main mission itself is fairly straightforward and I was never left guessing where I should go next. There is a very well done map system in the game, which often times helped me find my eventual goal. Throughout the main game there are a couple of side missions integrated into the main zones, however there are also literally dozens upon dozens of other side missions that are handled differently.


Since Zack is a member of Soldier he is free to accept missions for higher at anytime through the various save points in the game. Once you select a side mission you are instantly transported to the mission and upon completion you are transported back to the original save point. Side missions usually offer up some sort of reward whether it be money, equipment or even rare materia. The only real complaint I have about the side missions is that they tend to recycle the same environments over and over again and can get a bit repetitive.


Perhaps the biggest concern that many people will have with this game is that the developers decided to use a very strange

Crisis Core screams fan service and any Final Fantasy fan will be happy with the $39.99 they spent on the game. My first play through of the game took roughly 16 hours, which is fairly hefty for a hand held game. With that being said I only completed 20% of the side missions on my first play through, so if one would take the time to beat them all you could easily spend over 30 hours playing the game.


There are also several optional bosses, including a mega boss Minerva and there are several hidden summons to find. Overall Crisis Core is a great value and many gamers will find themselves going back to the game to try and get all of the things they missed the first time around.

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