Welcome to The Starlight Megaphone‘s playthrough of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, released in Japan by Square Enix for the PlayStation Portable on 13 September 2007. A North American release followed in March of 2008, followed by rest-of-the-world releases in June of that year. Fourteen years later, Square Enix and Tose produced an updated version of the game titled Reunion, available for all major consoles and PC, which was released worldwide on 13 December 2022.
Crisis Core is a prequel which charts the origins of the Final Fantasy VII story, detailing the beginnings of Shinra’s scientific and genetic experimentation which would lead to the JENOVA Project and the world crisis posed by Sephiroth and Meteor. The game follows Zack Fair, a character seen only in flashbacks during Final Fantasy VII. Aerith’s former boyfriend, and Cloud Strife’s former comrade-in-arms, Zack plays a critical role in the events that lead to the opening scenes of Final Fantasy VII, and his story in that game is only revealed in a few cutscenes, some of which are optional. Crisis Core charts his influence in the world, and shows the essential part he played in the stories and experiences of Cloud, Sephiroth, Tifa, and Aerith.
The battle system of Final Fantasy VII remains only in the most general sense of including potions and other items, materia, and limit breaks. Instead, the menu-driven ATB has been replaced with an action battle system in which battles take place on the world map. Pressing various face buttons performs the actions assigned to those buttons, whilst a selectible horizontal menu allows for choosing between items and spells. A slot-machine-style device called the Digital Mind Wave (DMW) rolls on the screen during battle, with its results causing various effects in combat, including summon magic, limit breaks, and level ups. Materia can still be slotted, and can now be fused together to create new kinds of magical spells. Those who are familiar with Final Fantasy VII will find themselves at home with most of the terminology, although some of the functions have changed.
Obviously the story, too, will prove familiar to Final Fantasy VII fans, as will the soundtrack, which takes many of its cues from the soundtrack to Final Fantasy VII. Plot elements and locations are shared across both games, although Crisis Core introduces new characters and details which provide history for the later events. Characters such as Angeal and Genesis show the early history of Shinra’s experimentation, and the roles of Drs. Gast and Hojo are developed in greater detail. Tifa’s stint as a Nibelhelm tour guide is on full display, and a young Yuffie Kisaragi is encountered during the Wutai War. Tseng’s early career in The Turks is seen, and more than a little Loveless, the theatrical production which has a billboard seen in the first moments of Final Fantasy VII, is quoted (GOBLIN BAR, which also has a sign seen in that introduction, does not get the same treatment).
The addition of new characters and story elements were not always favourably received. The script for the fictional work Loveless, in particular, came in for criticism as being simplistic and vapid: agreeable pontificating and speechifying about broad abstractions. Whether this was due to localisation or the original writing is difficult to tell, but regardless the issues did not end there. The character of Angeal, and more particularly that of Genesis, were particularly singled out for ire as being two-dimensional, cartoonish, and simplistic. The names themselves demonstrate the thinness of the conceptualisation, and much of the story shares this superficiality. Paradoxically, what may have saved Final Fantasy VII from a similar critique was its lack of detail and the opaqueness of its original translation, where grammatical, translation, and spelling errors added a level of fuzziness to what was taking place. The 2007 release of Crisis Core was a far more polished work, and in providing the story’s missing details, opened itself up to criticism on that front.
Alongside complaints, Crisis Core received praise for developing the character of Zack, an immediately likeable figure who, as a protagonist, is as far removed from Cloud as can be conceived. It is Zack’s outgoing personality, enthusiastic demeanour, and affecting charm which makes the tragic nature of Crisis Core all the more poignant. For, as the story of Final Fantasy VII makes clear, that game begins where Zack’s life ends, and Cloud’s story is premised on the death of Zack. Consequently, Crisis Core is an exploration of a genre very rare amongst video games: it is a tragedy, where the eventual fate of the main character is known from the beginning, accompanying the player along the way, and heightening each and every moment with unsuppressed pathos, culminating in final scenes that demonstrate a touching, poetic simplicity totally absent from the quoting of Loveless and the pseudophilosophical blather of Genesis and Angeal.
Please use the comment thread below to discuss your approach to the game, challenges you have faced, strategies and content you have uncovered, and any aids you are using in your playthrough. Do you believe that the additional material of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII has been beneficial to the storyline of Final Fantasy VII? Do you prefer the action battle system, or the traditional menu-driven design? Are you playing the original or the remaster, and do you prefer the changes made in the new release? What sorts of changes or additions would you have made to the game? What features would you add or remove? Tell us all about it and join in our discussion below! We will select some of the best comments for our podcast discussions.
The aim in this short playthrough is to complete the main game storyline by 20 January 2023. Instead of milestones, we encourage you to play at your own pace–but please keep us updated about your thoughts and progress as you play the game. This will help to sustain our discussion and encourage other players. Please also make use of our official Discord channel, where we have an #events channel dedicated to playthrough chat.
Please join in with us and comment about your experience! Our playthrough is intended to encourage anyone and everyone to participate, regardless of speed of play or familiarity with the genre. Comment and tell your friends!
Without further adieu, we invite you to join The Starlight Megaphone‘s staff members and readers in A Crisis Revisited: a Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII playthrough!