It took me about 20 years to actually buy and finish this game, and then another 30 or so to actually write and then post this review. Well, better late then never. I hope that you enjoy.
Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core is the latest part of the Final Fantasy Saga, published on the PSP. It starts several years before the events of the original game and follows the exploits of Zack Fair leading up to it, including the infamous incident and Nieblheim.
The plot is great, well paced with a very satisfying conclusion, though I advise you have tissues at the ready. It fills in the holes of the original brilliantly (though I would have liked to have seen more of bat shit crazy Sephiroth), elaborates on the new elements without going over the top and the new characters don't jar with the existing.
Zack initially is a rather annoying protagonist but as the game progresses he calms down a lot and becomes a very sympathetic character. One of the best (or worst, depending on your view point) aspects of this game is that you know how it all will end. When he heads off to Nibleheim his farewell to Aries is truly tragic.
For better or worse this game will change the way that you view the original. Aries's relationship with Zack makes you re-evaluate her relation to Cloud in the main game. Cloud seems much more the pathetic weakling he was touted to be originally. Angeal and Genesis serve to flesh out Sephiroth and make his later actions much more understandable, though their importance seems strange considering their complete absence from the main game.
The only issue with the plot is that there's not enough of it too fill the 20 odd hours that SquareEnix has deemed its games must take. Admittedly the fans (myself included) would have a fit if this game was reduced to the 5 or so hours that it needs to be. In order to fill out the remainder though the game has been populated with a miriade of minigame and sidequest like portions that must be completed to advance the plot. It is a pet peeve of mine, leading to disproportionate amounts of rage, for games to have sections like this that do not flow. The game does try hard, bless its little cotton socks, but never quite manages to pull it off. They always seem like they have been just dumped in and generally only serve to break the flow of game play, though it does provide a welcome break from what would otherwise be a long slog of random encounters.
Seeing the characters brought into spanktacular 3D was incredible and caused much fangirling on my part. The fully rendered cut scenes rival the visuals of Advent Children (the scene with Genesis and Sephiroth fighting on the Junon Canon... my god! YouTube it). Seeing the much loved vistas of the original rendered beautifully does have a certain squee factor but they have lost a lot of their charm in the transition. All the character of the paintings from the first game is gone though there are some rather nice nods to the old game (signs to locations in the game etc). The camera is a bit whippy, becoming uncontrollable when you are in a battle and this makes it very easy to get lost.
As I've previously stated I am a HUGE fan of music in games and Final Fantasy, VII being high in my list. Crisis Core borrows heavily from the original game re-orchestrated by Kazuhiko Toyama with additional music by Takeharu Ishimoto. They have used the advancement in technology to allow for a deeper and more complex soundtrack. The two composers manage to mesh the old and new together, but Toyama is obviously no Uematsu and the two styles are distinctly different. There are a few new themes of note such as 'A Moment of Courtesy', but it's the reworking of the old that will catch your ear and make you take notice.
This is where the game falls down in spectacular fashion. Having gotten used to the absence of random encounters in more recent instalments, their return here seems annoying and tedious. This is heightened by the fact that you have a party of one and can't run away. Luckily these battles flow rather more smoothly than in the original, and do not break from your game play so much. The battle system itself is comparatively simple but very restricting; you have 6 equiped materia, attack and item commands and cycle through them using the shoulder buttons. This eliminated a lot of the fun of trying to find the perfect combination support and magic that made you utterly invincible, instead forcing you to rely purely on levelling.
So its a brilliant game in all aspects... except the whole game bit. It's just as well that most people who play Crisis Core are not going to be in it for a great game playing experience. This does well what it set out to do; finish, or rather start, the saga that is Final Fantasy VII. Crisis Core is at it's heart a fantastic story, if a flawed game, and a welcome addition to the FF VII franchise.