But maybe we shouldn't gloss over the negatives so quickly. The game does have a few minor problems that should have been addressed before shipping. The biggest gripe has to be the fact that you can't skip lengthy cinema scenes. At first this isn't a problem (since the cinemas are generally pretty interesting), but there are a few points where you'll go against a tough boss only to lose and then have to watch the whole cinema all over again. Seeing the same cinema three or four times in a row is no fun, especially when some of them are so long and over the top. Thankfully I only had to deal with that a few times, but it's annoying that you can pause a cinema but not skip it.
Another small gripe is the amount of random encounters. While it's true that Crisis Core has made random battles fun again, it's also true that you can have too much of a good thing. This game is loaded with random encounters, often at the worst possible times. There are some dungeons that will have one random battle after another, sometimes with no more than one or two seconds between them. Thankfully this problem doesn't happen frequently, but it would have been nice if the developers could have toned down the amount of random battles a little.
The game itself is not quite as long as its console siblings. You'll notice that this game does not come on three UMDs, so you should probably expect a much shorter experience than other recent Final Fantasy games. The game itself (including the extra missions and whatnot) will run you around 30 hours. That's not bad, especially for a portable game, but if we were talking about Final Fantasy XII then 30 hours would have been the halfway mark. Fortunately the length works to the game's benefit. Seeing as you're only playing one character 30 hours seems about right; this game definitely does not overstay its welcome.
As good as the story, gameplay and cinemas are, the real reason to play Crisis Core is for the graphics. Now that I'm so used to playing all of my "next-generation" games in high def it's sometimes difficult to be impressed by a portable game playing on a small screen. But Crisis Core's visuals will blow you away. From beginning to end the game is absolutely gorgeous, each area (the dungeons, cities, snowcapped mountains, etc.) has an amount of detail that you just don't see very often in a portable game. And it's not just the backgrounds, the enemies you fight against are very cool ... especially the bosses. And let's not forget the summon spells, a Final Fantasy staple that has always wowed graphics-hungry gamers. Although there are only a few creatures to summon, their cinemas (which, unlike all other cinemas, you can skip) are on par with anything I've seen on the PlayStation 2.
But it's not just the level of detail that is so impressive; it's also WHERE you are. Let's not forget that it's been 11 years since we've visited a mako reactor in Midgar. The last time we saw these locations they were small, overhead and 32-bit. But all that has changed, and we can see what Final Fantasy VII would look like had it been remade for the PlayStation 2. All this is done on purpose; there are so many areas that are meant to remind you of something you saw a decade ago. Heck, even the game's introduction is a throwback to the beginning of Final Fantasy VII, complete with the music and train barreling towards the city.
Speaking of music, Crisis Core's audio is on par with its visuals. Like all great Final Fantasy games, this PSP title features a nice collection of songs. It's not unusual to go from a sweeping song with a beautiful melody to butt rock. The soundtrack is diverse and exciting, featuring a number of remixed versions of familiar Final Fantasy VII songs. The voice acting is also good, though not nearly to the same level of Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops or God of War: Chains of Olympus. Then again, part of the problem may be the somewhat clunky localized script, which is good, but still a little wooden.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is the Square Enix role-playing game that people have been clamoring for ever since the release of the PSP. This is a phenomenal achievement, both in terms of graphics, gameplay and story. Although it's shorter than previous Final Fantasy outings, Crisis Core's story is no less interesting and intense. In fact, I would argue that the story here is one of the most interesting I have seen in a long time. Its roots are still very much in the Japanese RPG genre, but it's not afraid to try new things. Crisis Core is a must buy for anybody that owns a PSP, it's that simple.
Forget remaking Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core is the Final Fantasy game you've been waiting eleven years for. With amazing graphics, an intriguing new combat model and one of the best RPG stories I've experienced in years, Crisis Core may just be the game that makes you completely forget about God of War: Chains of Olympus!
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