Sunday, September 4, 2016

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Zack Rider

There are three reasons why I bought a secondhand PlayStation Portable a few months ago - Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, the first Yu Gi Oh GX Tag Force, and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. These three games have taken hundreds of hours of my time 9 years ago and I don’t regret playing them one bit. My social life probably died when those games were released but what’s done is done. I’m a blogger and damn proud of it whenever someone impressionable asks. Out of those three, Crisis Core has the best story, unless you consider a school dedicated to a children’s card game to be interesting. And here go the Yu Gi Oh GX fans pelting me with mediocre trading cards! I’m so sorry!

Full disclosure: I was never a fan of the Final Fantasy series until this game. To this day, this is still my favorite game from that series. I have played Final Fantasy I and II: Dawn of Souls on the Gameboy Advance and didn’t really like those that much, consider me picky. I tried playing Final Fantasy VII on my PSP through some PSP sideloading and it still didn’t click on me. Maybe I just have no appreciation for retro games with main characters with Scott Steiner/Popeye arms.

I saw an ad for Crisis Core on a Philippine gaming magazine and the words “Final Fantasy” turned me off. “Never getting this shitty game,” I thought. Months later, I got the game in my PSP and I was enjoying the hell out of it. I wanted to play something action oriented and Crisis Core surprisingly fit the description. I played Dirge of Cerberus (which I may or may not review in the future) and liked it because I pretended Vincent Valentine is Tony Montana with a cape.

Let’s talk about Crisis Core then. You are Zack Fair. Sorry, no, you’re just a bored reader who’s procrastinating too much. You play as Zack Fair, SOLDIER 2nd class and bright up-and-comer for the Shinra Electric Power Company’s army of super-soldiers. Perhaps they’re under The Patriots, using Big Boss’s DNA to form the perfect army of super-soldiers to control Midgar. Revolver Ocelot is probably working for Shinra as well as the US government and the Soviet Union, just because the Philosopers’ Legacy was probably used as funding for their super soldier project or maybe the construction of the upper plate that covers the slums. Okay, enough fan fiction, Ralph.

Basically, you go through Zack’s career in Shinra as one of their top soldiers. He starts off being recommended as a SOLDIER First by his mentor and new character Angeal Hewley. You go through his entire career, aside from a few timeskips that jump from one important part to another. First Zack goes to Wutai and kicks the collective village asses of the people who are causing a commotion for whatever reason. Then he gets an email that Genesis and a number of soldiers with him. Guess Shinra didn’t have dental benefits. As the fandom says, “Fuck Genesis”. Because Genesis is an unnecessary character with a stupid motivation, bullshit poetry, and too much screen time in this game when that could’ve been used to give more time to Zack and Cloud’s friendship or Zack’s evolution from plucky, energetic hero wannabe to a mature individual with responsibilities. Genesis’s ego is what you have to crush but knowing the stinger of Dirge of Cerberus, he sadly lives because someone in the Final Fantasy creative team is a Gackt fanboy.

The battle system in this game is similar to a Tales game by Namco. Turn-based combat is on hiatus and say hello to action. You’re stuck in a small battle area for each enemy encounter. You’re not trapped with these monsters, of course; they’re are trapped with you and they’re going to regret their existence once you replace their memories of their mother with your Buster Sword. It’s nothing like Dynasty Warriors where you slash everything in your way so don’t worry about getting bored too quickly. Instead of menus that list your Limit Breaks, you have to get lucky with the roulette or “Digital Mind Wave” as it’s called in the game. The downside to this is that your devastating skills are hidden in a digital roulette and it’s luck that makes you activate those skills at whatever time is wants. The roulette system is also how you level up, as random as it is, when you get 7-7-7.

“But Ralphy, it’s not really random!” shouts an insistent fan.

Then why can’t we just have plain old experience bars to gauge how much we have to grind until the next level instead of it being a hidden value? It’s better to show the player an experience bar to give us motivation/stress on how much chaos we should cause to nature. Reliance on the apparently random slots hinder how much of a brutal monster you wanna be when dealing with the 5th random encounter in a row and you just need to mute the PSP when you hear “Activating Combat Mode” for the 55th time in a row.

Graphics-wise, this game looks better than your average PSP game. Not as good as Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker but better than Dynasty Warriors Volume 2. The big saving grace of the graphics department is the pre-rendered cutscenes which are beautifully done, especially the Genesis versus Sephiroth swordfight on VR Junon.

Call me crazy but I don’t really care much for Final Fantasy VII, especially Cloud and Genesis. Personal preferences really since I still have a grudge on Cloud having taken Zack’s personality and girlfriend. And compared to Cloud’s sleepy disinterested nature, Zack is optimistic and lively like a puppy. I like Zack. I’d go to a bar with him and I could bitch and whine about life and he’ll offer to pay for drinks. I dislike Cloud because I feel like he’d take me to a brooding poetry reading night sponsored by Hot Topic at a university cafe. Then he’d do the bitching and whining.

Even if the ending is sort of common knowledge to fans and people who've finished the first game, it was still an incredibly sad ending. Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t played the game, I can tell you that the roulette makes everything so much sadder and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re forced to watch this horrible, brutal event for this character doomed by canon.

Once again, the question remains: Is it fun? Is this action RPG that feels like a Namco Tales game actually fun? Definitely. Hell, I’ll definitely play this game again as soon as you finish reading this. I’m still bummed that this game never got an HD remake - a remake without Genesis preferably. That game is probably too good for this world. Maybe in another life. If Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker could be remastered to the PS Vita and PS3, why not Crisis Core? Easier said than done but that’s wishful thinking on my end as a fan. What irks me is that Square Enix never bothered to release Before Crisis, a game where you play as one of the Turks, Shinra’s black ops division. Oh well, their loss.

As linear as this game gets, it’s still a good game, especially on the PSP. It’s a big fish in a small, handheld pond. Personally, I’d have preferred an open world Midgar. All you get is a small section of the city without really finding a lot of exploration sites or a lot of sidequests. That’s just a personal preference though as I enjoy open world games, no matter how mediocre they can be. That’s like how a 7-year old thinks having Oreos and ice cream for every meal of the day is something to be fond of. This was one of the few games that made me cry because I’m a little bitch with emotions. After this game and Seen (which you can read here), I’m considering calling “Broken” Matt Hardy and get my feelings DELETED.