Square Enix’s Compilation of Final Fantasy VII games were either ill received or too difficult for me to acquire. Thus, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was my first FFVII spin-off. And having played through it: it is by far the only spin-off that matters. This is a game for its fans and full enjoyment requires that you have played Final Fantasy VII first despite Crisis Core being the prequel. I am a fan of Final Fantasy VII, but don’t misconstrue that as high praise for it. It may be one of the most beloved RPGs of all time by many, but I found its prequel to be more enjoyable. And before you send your hate laced e-mails, allow me to elaborate.
First and foremost, is the incredibly likable Zack Fair who you follow from beginning to end. There’s an immediate upbeat vibe when you first meet Zack. He’s incredibly optimistic and energetic — a complete opposite of Cloud Strife. Even when everything around him begins to crumble, Zack stays true to his nature and I admired that. He’s by far the most likeable character in the FFVII universe and it’s just a damn shame he dies at the end.
Plenty of other characters make appearances including Aerith, Yuffie and the Turks – all of them faithfully reimagined from their super deformed selves of yore. In fact, some of them were too faithful. (See Tifa’s cowboy outfit.) Most of the significant characters were cast with voicovers. And most of them reprised their roles well with only one noticeable exception: Aerith’s voice. I blame both the lines of dialogue she was given and the voice actress for presenting Aerith like some autistic girl. She’s special, but I don’t think she’s that kind of special. She sounds very off.
The technical presentation of Crisis Core is second to God of War: Chains of Olympus — silky smooth animations, a noticeable absence of load times and seamless use of full motion video was what I expected from a Square Enix game. I don’t see why they used so much full motion videos though. The engine is capable of amazing feats and they could have kept the immersion level higher without cutting away to the Advent Children styled videos. On the plus side, repetitive videos can be skipped.
I cannot praise the visuals in its entirety since similar to Mass Effect, Crisis Core’s side-missions took place in barren locales where generic backdrops were reused without restraint. Even then, the main story’s backdrops weren’t very impactful. I blame the lack of life and detail which were found in the original FFVII pre-rendered backgrounds. I personally found those to be superior.