+Impressive graphics and CGI
+Easy to learn combat system
+Plenty of side missions
+Remixed music sounds great
-Gameplay can be repetitive
-Not always the best voice acting
Whether you care to believe it or not, Final Fantasy VII became one of the most influential video games ever made. More than ten years later, the game is still a milestone in gaming, with fans playing it religiously, even to this day. Dirge of Cerberus didn't exactly make a big splash in the Final Fantasy VII fandom. However, Crisis Core not only succeeds in the places where Dirge of Cerberus did not, it also helps to fill in many gaps found in the original storyline.
Crisis Core is a prequel to the main game and centers on Zack Fair, a member of Shinra's SOLDIER Unit. He dreams of one day being a hero, and he gets his chance when a member of SOLDIER 1st Class suddenly goes missing in Wutai and Zack is sent to investigate. This sets the stage for the events leading up to Final Fantasy VII in an amazing, detailed story that helps to answer a few lingering questions from Final Fantasy VII, and helps us see Zack as much more than a mere plot device. The story is told through some CGI cutscenes that look as though they were ripped straight out of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Needless to say, the story sequences look spectacular. Throughout the story you'll get to know some new faces and you'll see other characters pop up from Final Fantasy VII and even Dirge of Cerberus. Any devoted fan to the original Final Fantasy VII will be absorbed and enthralled by the storyline.
Crisis Core is, first and foremost, an action RPG. At first the combat can be slightly confusing. As you traverse through areas you'll enter Combat Mode where you'll fight many enemies at once. You'll mostly be mashing on the X button to land attacks but you can also block attacks and dodge attacks. The L and R buttons also let you cycle through your attack, items and materia. Battling is very similar to Kingdom Hearts. Including the button mashing experience. The game isn't too hard to get into, but some of its other mechanics concerning battling can be a little confusing at first.
Crisis Core utilizes what's called a Digital Mind Wave (DMW). The Digital Mind Wave is a slot machine in the corner of the screen that is constantly spinning. At first this may just seem like something to give you a little boost in battle. From time to time you'll find that in a battle you can use Magic without losing MP, or you'll get a bonus that keeps you from being knocked down by attacks, or even a moment of temporary invincibility among other things the DMW can do. However, as you'll soon discover, the DMW is also responsible for increasing levels, performing limit breaks, and leveling up your materia. You have no control over the slots, but much of the system actually works in your favor. You'll come to realize you get level ups and perform limit breaks quite often in battle. In short, the DMW in no way interferes with combat itself. The learning curve to Crisis Core is relatively simple.
Final Fantasy wouldn't be Final Fantasy without sidequest. When not going through the main story, Zack can undertake missions for Shinra. If there was anything that Crisis Core lacks, it's creativity in its side missions. While there are literally hundreds of them, they all simply send you off to dispatch more enemies. While some of them are fun (particularly boss battles) it can become repetitive rather fast. On the bright side, however, they yield some great rewards and they often go by quickly.
Graphically, it's needless to say that Crisis Core is arguably the best looking PSP game out there. You'll be amazed at how detailed everything is. You'll also revisit areas from Final Fantasy VII and they look almost exactly the same, only being given a huge face lift. Even some Playstation 2 games don't look as good as Crisis Core.
Musically, the game actually sounds pretty good. A lot of the battle themes grow on you and become catchy after a while. The music presented in many of the areas is also really good. There are also some tracks remixed from Final Fantasy VII that sound really good.
Does Crisis Core have any real problems? Yes, but they're not huge problems by any means. For starters, the voice acting isn't the greatest. There are some good voice talents, but there are also a couple of wooden voices here. In addition to that, you can't skip any cutscenes, which can serve as a major problem if you happen to lose a tough battle. You also can't control the camera in battle which would really help the player out when the enemy clouds your vision (you can, however, control the camera outside of battle).
The biggest problem with Crisis Core is that you spend much of your time just mashing on one button throughout the game. Even worse, the game's combat system is a little too easy to take advantage of. It's a great combat system, but it is also a combat system that doesn't really challenge the player enough.
At the very least, however, the story is more than enough to make up for the shortcomings. Fans of the original game will more than likely be overcome with nostalgia when they reimmerse themselves within the world of Final Fantasy VII. If you loved Final Fantasy VII, by all means pick up Crisis Core. It's a treat for any and all Final Fantasy VII fans. Needless to say, if Final Fantasy VII wasn't your cup of tea, then Crisis Core is most definitely not for you.