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World of Final Fantasy Part 05

Chapter 15: Mako Reacting
Initial Stream: 10/14/20



BEAT is missing, so guest commentator Abby Denton has joined us for the night as we raid a Mako Reactor.

2:30 – Spoilers: This game may or may not eventually tie into the one and only Xenogears in the exact same way that Xenosaga tied into the one and only Xenogears. Or maybe it won’t. It is a mystery.

12:00 – Apparently there is a Lupin III Sega Saturn game. It’s not Fighter’s Megamix, though, so that is a point against it.

21:00 – This dungeon is mostly a throwback to Final Fantasy 7’s initial “bombing run” level. That said, if you were expecting it to end with a FF7 cameo, or something from its extended universe (Shelke is apparently still here), you’d be disappointed, as the finale features the Black Mages. Er… to be clear, that is the black mages of Final Fantasy 9, not the musical group.

26:00 – More anime that is weirdly CG-based, while we discuss Plumed Knight during one of the few chapters where she doesn’t appear.

29:00 – BEAT steps in to point out Funko Pop sex is terrible (and so is this game)

What actually happened in the plot: After regaining their powers thanks to irrelevant Dirge of Cerberus Guest Character Shelke, the twins venture through a Mako Reactor (which, incidentally, is later named by Edgar as a discovered, unknown technological area called “Midgar”). Apparently the reactor is being protected by a group of black mages led by Vivi. After attempting to capture Vivi in a pokéball, Vivi “awakens”, and then leads his black mage buddies to destroy the reactor. This frees Figaro, which leads to King Edgar offering his thanks and an apology for the whole “tossing everyone in a dungeon” thing. Vivi was also apparently holding onto the Earth Key, so now we’ve got half the necessary elemental macguffins in this world. We’re told the next key should be past the Big Bridge, so we head off there after Bahamut makes an ominous, split-second appearance.

Chapter 16: A Bridge Too Boring
Initial Stream: 10/14/20


1:46 – Eiko appears, and she introduces a bridge that is fairly big. It’s apparently this world’s Alexander summon all bridge-ified, so I guess we should be thankful we get a summoner that is at least marginally related to Alexander’s big Final Fantasy 9 moment.

5:40 – Some great animation here right before the second summoner in this game gets kidnapped while the heroes aren’t paying attention.

15:30 – GIG-AN-TAUR!… is at least something to brighten up this boring dungeon. It’s a straight line from toe to tip.

26:00 – Let’s talk about the Super Mario Bros movie while nothing happens and I get lost. Apparently I was supposed to trigger a cutscene somewhere up at the top of the bridge, but I missed that, and now I’m stuck wandering around like an idiot. This happens a lot this night.

34:00 – fanboymaster provides a detailed explanation of How Final Fantasy 7 hidden characters could have worked. I for one welcome a Yuffie that is impossible in every way.

38:36 – Finally back to plot. It’s Buttz and Boko!

45:00 – Abby explains that she was the person who originally named all the Pokemon. This story may or may not be accurate.

55:00 – Talking about voting opposite Gilgamesh showing up. Will we be streaming on election night? I have no earthly idea. (Spoilers from the future: nope!)

What actually happened in the plot: The Big Bridge was apparently summoned by a jiant some time ago, so that’s probably another oblique reference to the mysterious and missing mother of the twins. Eiko is keeping track of the bridge, but Plumed Knight (who has some enigmatic connection to mirages) fights and kidnaps the tiny summoner. As a result, the twins have to cross the bridge on foot, and they meet Bartz, who is searching for someone who is posing as him. Apparently it’s Gilgamesh, and he’s not so much posing as Bartz as just shouting “Bartz!” over and over again while causing mayhem. Did people think he was a Pokémon? Regardless, Gilgamesh is banished from the bridge, Bartz retires to parts unknown, and the team moves onto a dark area that hopefully holds the next key.


Chapter 17: THE TRAIN GRAVEYAR- WAIT A SECOND! YOU CAN’T BE HERE! YOU WEREN’T EVEN IN THIS VIDEO!!!!
Initial Stream: 10/14/20
As relayed by BEAT



You know, when I yelled at Gogglebob to let me do this one, I hadn’t realized that the video was an HOUR AND A HALF LONG WHAT THE FUCK GOGGLEBOB WE TALKED ABOUT THIS OH MY GOD.

00:00 – So I haven’t watched the prior two videos and only caught enough of the stream to get SUPER PISSED OFF at the idea of Funko Pops Fucking, so I’m not 100% sure on how the anime teens found a train to Halloweentown. I’m just gonna roll with it.

01:00 – Up till this point, both Anime Teens have been completely devoid of anything resembling personality, so it’s kind of equal parts refreshing and shocking when the girl completely loses her shit and swears one thousand times revenge on the Halloween train’s Cactuar Conductor.



And like, it comes out of literally fucking nowhere, and has actual effort and CRAFT put into the animation, while adding literally nothing to the plot? When was it established that her personality is ANGRY GIRL? What the fuck just happened?

06:00 – The murder attempt aborted, The anime teens and their horrible mascot ride the train to some Parthenon looking building called… TOMETOWN OF THE ANCIENTS. Anyways some vampires threaten them, but then some dork who uses too much hairspray (Editor’s Note: it Cloud) shows up and saves them I guess whatever.

10:30 – Cloud takes the kids to Celes, who’s wearing what APPEARS to be the Funko pop version of Cammy’s outfit from street fighter. Also a CID, but it’s not the Cid who likes rockets and swear words, so it’s the WRONG CID. Anime boy is racist against robots. Anime girl has interesting ideas about English syntax.

19:50 – So I seriously thought it was gonna be a LIBRARY DUNGEON, but instead the official dungeon for this area is some kinda train graveyard. I genuinely like the visual design, with the misty blue backdrop of rusted, decaying train cars in stacks hundreds of feet into the sky. as far as places to wander around and accumulate XP go.

21:00 – Fanboy takes the very reasonable stance that the Train Graveyard in FF7 isn’t in his top 10 locations from the game. Abby calls his bluff, which was a mistake because Fanboy never bluffs.

34:20 – I zoned out for awhile during my listening session, so I’m honestly not sure why the commentary crew is suddenly talking about public urination. I’m willing to concede that the commentary crew is probably right on the basic point that you could learn a lot about someone by how they react to uh.. that. But also, what the fuck no stop.

45:00 – I’m learning a lot about a Magical Gay Vampire Queen? And her cotton candy girlfriend? Good for them.

1:04:20 – The following exchange has been preserved with only minimal editing.
PAST GOGGLEBOB, IN THE VIDEO: I could make a political Joke right now…
PRESENT BEAT, LISTENING TO THE VIDEO: Don’t you fucking dare.
PAST GOGGLEBOB: …but it would be way too obvious.
PRESENT BEAT SIGHS AND THEATRICALLY WIPES HIS BROW IN RELIEF.
PAST FANBOYMASTER:
So let’s not.
PRESENT BEAT: Thank you Fanboy I knew you were my realest friend for a reason.
PAST ABBY: We’re all gonna die, go for it.
PRESENT BEAT: What the fuck Abby, I trusted you!
PAST GOGGLEBOB: "The democratic party…"
PRESENT BEAT: NO! NOOOOO!!!!!
PAST GOGGLEBOB: "…is hoarding its Elixirs"
PRESENT BEAT ASCENDS TO HIGHER LEVEL OF RAGE, SCREAMING FIE AND DAMNATION, SWEARING VENGENCE.

1:04:54 – Gimmie Gimmie!

1:07:45 – This game’s cutscenes keep getting ALMOST good and its FRUSTRATING.


Like I keep going "WAIT SHIT IS THIS GAME… GOOD?" and the answer is always "NO" and it’s starting to get on my nerves.

1:10:00 – Time to kill a vampire I guess.

1:13:20 – For like a good 3 minutes I really thought they were just gonna say "Hahah good thing we killed the vampire before you had a chance to turn since we established that killing him would restore everyone he turned 3 cutscenes ago." That would have almost been clever. Instead they had her turn in the post fight cutscene, and then the vampire is stabbed immediately afterwards, and she turns back. I have NO IDEA why that whole runaround was in the game at all.

1:19:00 – Tometown is much more visually appealing when its not full of vampires.

1:26:10 – "LOVE YOURSELF, BITCH!"

What actually happened in the plot: The anime Teens ride the Halloween train to Library Land, meet the MOST POPULAR FINAL FANTASY CHARACTER EVER (And Celes (And a fake Cid)) and conclude that it’s time to hunt a vampire. After like an hour or so of dungeon wandering, the sister gets kidnapped, and turned into a vampire for exactly 30 seconds. Then they kill the vampire and she’s fine. Then they go back to library land and get the exposition. Editor’s Addition: And they also obtain the Key of Darkness, bringing the total magical key count up to three out of four.

Next time in World of Final Fantasy: You gonna get wet.

FGC #526 Final Fantasy 7 Remake

This article contains hella spoilers for Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and a Thornton Wilder play. It happens. If you wish to experience FF7R untainted by foreknowledge, you have been warned. Now back to that play…

Let's talk about playsIn 1938, Thornton Wilder released Our Town. For anyone that has not seen or read the play, it is a deliberately simple production that showcases three different stages in the lives of the residents of Grover’s Corners. It begins with a focus on “daily life”, like children going to school and milk being delivered, proceeds to “love & marriage” with a joyous and stressful wedding day, and finally ends with “death and eternity”, a supernatural visit with the spirits literally haunting the local cemetery. The whole while, the play is hosted by the Stage Manager, a character that bleats his dialogue against the fourth wall. This “manager” separates their role between being a character in Grover’s Corners, narrator, and a congenial guy (or lady) that addresses questions from the audience. The Stage Manager and the general tone of the whole production was a result of Wilder acknowledging that he didn’t like the direction “the theater” was taking at the time, and Our Town was intended to drop intricate sets and impersonal narratives for a simple setup and direct interaction with the audience. Possibly because of this, Our Town has been popular since its premiere; however, Wilder often said the play was rarely performed correctly, as, in his own words, it “should be performed without sentimentality or ponderousness–simply, dryly, and sincerely.” Good luck with that, Thorn, as the final act of Our Town contains one of the most beautiful and insightful exchanges ever directly lifted by Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch:

“Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

“No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

If you’re curious about the context of such a statement: Emily, one of the stars of Our Town that has been showcased since her childhood days, has died during childbirth. She meets the other ghosts of the graveyard, and learns that, while she is unable to join the skeleton army, she can re-experience any moment from her past. She is warned not to try it, but she chooses to live out a mundane memory from her 12th birthday. Despite the fact that this is a typical, fairly boring day (children’s birthday parties in the early 20th Century rarely included enough N64 games to make them worthwhile), Emily can barely bear the weight of experiencing a time when her family was content, happy, and, most importantly, alive. Emily knows what happens to the people close to her 12 year old self, and she knows the hardships and death that await herself and others. Items as humble as sizzling bacon or a kiss from her mother are things Emily will never experience ever again, so this living memory of happier times is agonizing. Do people realize how good they have it when they have it? How every little piece of life is precious, and even something as routine as seeing a family member for breakfast can be lost in an instant? No. Of course not. The Saints and poets sometimes think about such, but you’re here reading a videogame essay, and gradually getting distracted by the fact that I mentioned bacon. Get a goddamn snack and then think about how good you have it, you frivolous living person.

So, after explaining one of the most important plays of the last century for 500 words, I’m going to go ahead and assume you’ve played Final Fantasy 7. You know the drill, right?

FGC #395 Final Fantasy Dissidia NT

FINAL FANTASYSo, chess, right? You know how to play chess? Let’s say you do. Do you remember when you learned how to play chess? Were you taught by a family member? A teacher? Some other kid? Some other adult? But here’s the thing: it is very unlikely you learned chess from a rulebook. Yes, you may have later read a great strategy guide to finally beat your grandpa at the game of kings (who don’t feel like standing up), but it’s downright unnatural to learn the rules of the game from a book or manual. And there’s a reason for that! Chess is a two player game, so it’s rather inevitable that player one is going to lecture player two. This is how games are learned! This is how games are passed from generation to generation. And, ultimately, this is what makes a game eternal: the drive for one generation to teach another. Because, after all, if you can’t find somebody to play with, what’s the point of playing a game at all?

Now, humble reader, I am well aware this is a videogame blog. I am blitheringly aware that “there must be a second player” is a stupid position for malcontents that haven’t picked up a controller in the last thirty years. This very blog will attest to the fact that my favorite games are predominantly single player. And, sad but true fact, I would estimate that a mere 10% of my gaming time is anything that could truly be considered “multiplayer”. But, gentle reader, you misunderstand my intentions. I’m not saying a game must include a two player option, I’m saying that videogames are your second player.

My father taught me how to play checkers. My mother taught me how to play Clue. My grandfather taught me how to play Chess. And Shigeru Miyamoto taught me how to play Super Mario Bros. Or did SMB itself teach me? The line is a little blurred there, but, if we consider videogames to be “thinking” objects (which we obviously do, because why else would we swear at them so regularly when they kill our dudes?), then a videogame’s own… videogameness is your eternal second player and teacher. After all, what fun is a game if you don’t understand the rules?

WeeeeeAnd, while we’re asking that rhetorical question: are bad games just games where “the game” misrepresents or otherwise sullies “the rules”? What is bad hit detection but a misperception of the boundaries of certain malicious pixels? When a JRPG requires excessive grinding, is it a feature, or a misunderstanding of what the player has to do between two objectives? And who likes it when the rules change right at the final moments? You’ve been playing an awesome action game, and then it turns into a shoot ‘em up? That’s a clear betrayal of the rules that Friend Videogame laid down from the start! That would be like requiring every game of Hungry Hungry Hippos to end with a test of strength! And that’s terrible! There’s no way I could overpower a kindergartener!

And then there are the games that don’t even bother with explaining the rules. They’re the worst of all.

Final Fantasy Dissidia NT is the long awaited sequel to Final Fantasy Dissidia Duodecim, a game that was released a whopping seven years ago. In videogame years, that is a period equal to approximately eighteen Assassin’s Creeds, or at least sixty Maddens. That is a lot of time for technology to improve, and, what’s more, the old Dissidia was a title for the PSP. Remember the PSP? Sony’s attempt to out-portable Nintendo right when mobile gaming was first making the scene? Yeah, it was an abject failure, but Square-Enix managed to release at least one good PSP game a year, so it wasn’t a total loss. And one of those excellent SE games was Dissidia, an unusual fighting game featuring the heroes and villains of the Final Fantasy franchise all duking it out for… I don’t know… I think crystals were involved? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it was fun, and it was one of the rare fighting games that was actually built for a portable system. Dissidia was part Street Fighter, but also part Pokémon, as you had to “train” your Tidus, and make sure the little dork always had the best equipment. WeeeeeExcuse me, it wasn’t about having the best equipment, it was about equipping the items that would fit your playstyle, so you might wind up with a different load out if you preferred to chase EX charges, or liked to just pummel your opponent into submission. You’ve got options!

But this is not to say Dissidia was a straightforward fighting game that just happened to have a little extra backend. Dissidia introduced the “Bravery System”, which, in short, means you’re supposed to hit your opponent until you have accrued enough hits to really hit your opponent. On one hand, it’s an overly complicated way to get to the “deplete HP” step that is essential to every fighting game ever, but, on the other hand, it does create a lot more drama, and a real see-saw mechanic that other fighting games have attempted to achieve for years. But, love it or hate it, you had to learn it before you could use it, so Dissidia certainly had a barrier of entry. But at least there was a tutorial right from the boot up of Dissidia, and, acknowledging that people might need such a thing, there were intensive lessons available through the game. And, what’s more, those lectures were written “by” Final Fantasy heroes from throughout the series, so if you ever thought Rydia would be an excellent summons teacher, congratulations, you’re right! Hey, if a game knows you’re going to need extra instructions, at least make those instructions interesting.

Final Fantasy Dissidia NT, unfortunately, did not learn this lesson.

Learn to climb!FFDNT started as an arcade game. And that’s great! So did Street Fighter 2! And we all learned how to play that game just fine. Except… assuming you were playing a proper SF2 cabinet, all the fireball motions you could ever need were graphics on the cabinet, so learning the finer points of that experience was, amazingly, still teaching-based. Not so much with FFDNT. It is unlikely I’ll ever see a FFDNT cabinet, but I’m going to go ahead and assume it doesn’t have the gameplay basics written anywhere on there, as it would require a cabinet roughly the size of a convenience store. Want to know how Terra works? That’s in aisle six.

See, the problem with Final Fantasy Dissidia NT is not simply that it fails to convey meaningful lessons to the neophyte player, it’s that there is so much going on, it is impossible to accurately learn anything from the gameplay. There are two teams of three, but you only control one fighter on one team. That’s pretty normal… but what are the win conditions again? It seems like fighters revive pretty quickly after depleting their health… so is it a most kills in a minute kind of thing? No, wait, the match just ended… did someone die? Our team? Theirs? And now there are some rankings… looks like whoever exhausted the most HP gets the trophy… but aren’t there other goals during a match? Why am I supposed to attack the EX Core Crystals again? To summon? But I can summon even if I never bothered. And what does the summon do? Change the background, toss a few lasers around, and… wait, my attack stat goes up? How am I supposed to know that? And I should be using my EX skill more often? How does that become available? It poisons the opponent? But only if I choose that at the start of the match? Holy cow, how are there this many questions revolving around one three minute match!?

GO AWAYAnd Dissidia NT continues to pose questions when it should be providing answers. Why does story mode distinctly require exiting story mode to make progress? Why does this character completely change her playstyle with a button, while that character just kind of grunts? Why did I just earn a new special move if I can’t even use it? Why is changing equipment only cosmetic, but changing my EX ability dramatically impacts the battle? And, most of all, why are my party members always dying? Am I supposed to be doing something different? Should I be protecting them? Should I be more offensive? If this were a traditional Final Fantasy game (even one of the later, more AI controlled titles like FF15 or FF12), and 66% of my party was dying every other round, I’d be sure I was doing something wrong. Here? Not really. In fact, during boss matches, your allies appear to exist only to be mobile meat dummies, and their greatest contribution is distraction. But it’s not like the game effectively relays this information in any way, and you’re just left listening to Shantotto apologize for her tenth death in a row. I’m sorry, chipmunk girl, I’ll try to be better next time. I think?

And it’s not that Dissidia NT is a bad game, it’s simply that practically the entire thing… ummm… uh… Oh! A metaphor! Good games play with you like a good friend, but bad games are definitely that one smelly kid that told you exactly what you’re going to play now, and you’re going to listen to his rules, and what do you mean you don’t play it like this at your house, we’re playing it my way now, you better learn how that works, or you’re not going to have any fun. No, I’m not going to teach you, nerd, just start playing. No, not like that! Moooooom! Bobby isn’t playing the game right at all!

Okay, maybe Final Fantasy Dissidia NT is bad. Once you understand it, once you read the FAQs and strategy guides and message boards, once you get through all the auxiliary materials, FFDNT is actually pretty fun to play. But before that? Before that, it’s pure, confusing hell, and a hell that makes no effort to impart how you might find your way to its heaven. Final Fantasy Dissidia NT might have a delicious, chewy center, but it’s surrounded by rancid garbage.

And how much garbage are you willing to swallow?

FGC #395 Final Fantasy Dissidia NT

  • System: Playstation 4 and Arcade. The arcade version came out three years ago? Crazy.
  • Number of players: Online? Six. Locally? One. There should be a law against that.
  • Go get 'emOther Illegalities: There are also loot boxes. And “buy a season pass now, we’ll announce the DLC characters later” sales. Dissidia is actively trying to piss me off.
  • The sequel curse: So this is, ultimately, a mascot fighting game. And you know what a mascot fighting game should never do? Drop characters. I don’t care if you’re Ice Climbers or Gon, when you lose the weirdo auxiliary characters from game to game, you lose my heart. The lack of Gilgamesh, Laguna, Yuna, and Tifa in this title is keenly felt. And if even one of those dorks become extra purchases? I will burn this mother down.
  • Favorite Character: Bartz is pretty awesome. He was my favorite in OG Dissidia, and he’s completely different now, but he’s still a lot of fun. And fast! And fast is really important when you have to chase some angry tree all over the arena.
  • Other annoyances: You can’t just restart a battle in a single player match. This is particularly important in the boss battles, as, come on, you can permanently lose those fights in the first thirty seconds, but wait five minutes to actually die. And then you have to wait five minutes for loading screens…
  • The Final Fantasy: So, considering the sheer lunacy that was the first two Dissidia titles, the story of this one is actually pretty straightforward: there’s a world fueled by battles, everyone battles, everyone realizes there’s no real reason to battle, and then they fake battle until they battle a giant lizard so they can make clones that will fight battles forever. That’s pretty much the plot to Sense and Sensibility.
  • Say something nice: Terra is supposed to be “post Final Fantasy 6” Terra in this one (or something like that), and she’s actually kind of… good? Previous Dissdias made her a sort of damsel (“Oh, poor me, Kefka is always taking over my brain, what is it to be me?”), but here she’s confident, and winds up being the de facto leader of her little party. Way to get yourself together, Terra!
  • Work together!Did you know? That kid from Final Fantasy Tactics is in this one! No, not Thunder God Cid, the main character. You know! What’s his name? Delita? No, that doesn’t sound right…
  • Would I play again: Honestly? Probably not. Even if the upcoming DLC is amazing, there are too many good fighting games out there, and Dissidia seems to revel in wasting time. Just give me my instant gratification, Square!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Centipede: Infestation for the Nintendo 3DS! Centipedes? In my blog? It’s more common than you think. Please look forward to it!

FGC #180 Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core

SLASHLike the ouroboros, here is the tail of the Final Fantasy 7 Compilation, and the head of the Final Fantasy 7 story.

Let’s review the Final Fantasy 7 franchise. Final Fantasy 7 was a straight JRPG that redefined gaming and, incidentally, was pretty damn fun to play. Ehrgeiz wasn’t technically a FF7 game, but it featured almost the entire main cast, and eschewed all the trappings of a plot for a fighting game that amounted to “let’s have fun with these guys”. In a way, it was almost proto-Dissidia. Advent Children, meanwhile, was Ehrgeiz’s opposite, nonexistent gameplay in exchange for a reunion (ha!) special that focused primarily on Cloud’s various psychoses. Dirge of Cerberus was an action game with a plot, but both parts were severely lacking when stacked against Vincent’s debut game. And, starting before even Advent Children, there was Before Crisis, an episodic cell phone game featuring the Turks that never saw release in North America. Given I can only guess at its content, I’m forced to conclude that it was exactly as unnecessary as Final Fantasy 4: The After Years, though I’d love to be proven otherwise. Still, anything primarily staring Reno cannot, by definition, be any good.

It’s a personal bias, yes, but I always felt that the individual pieces of Compilation of Final Fantasy 7 did not combine to form a Voltron that could face the robeast that was the original Final Fantasy 7. I’m not even that big of a fan of Final Fantasy 7 (on my general Final Fantasy rankings chart, it’s above anything from the NES, but I’d put 4, 6, 8, 12, and even 13 higher than 7. This is, again, completely subjective, so don’t think too hard about it), so it’s not like I’m putting the game on that high of a pedestal. But Advent Children was a popcorn flick about as substantial as kernels, and Dirge was a game roughly as fun as licking a fire poker (I speak from experience!). As an added bonus, both games “expanded the mythology” in a manner that seemed to only weaken the original Final Fantasy 7. So Sephiroth can just come back to life whenever he wants despite Cloud’s final cathartic omnislash? And there are somehow entire countries that we missed exploring back when AVALANCHE was touring? Great, now I just want a bigger, badder Final Fantasy 7, and not this parade of spinoffs.

Final Fantasy 7 Voltron needed something else. It needed its Blazing Sword. It needed Crisis Core.

Crisis Core is Zack’s story. Zack, you may recall, was little more than Cloud’s palette swap in the original Final Fantasy 7. While I don’t believe ATTACK!Zack appeared onscreen for very much of Final Fantasy 7’s original release (hey, who’s that in the picture?), FF7 NA included a few scenes of Cloud and Zack escaping from Hojo, and Zack… dying. Zack, ultimately, is the Uncle Ben to Cloud’s Spider-Man, so, right from jump street, there was no way Crisis Core would wrap up with a happy ending. Additionally, this forces Crisis Core into being a prequel, and thus cursed with all the problems that great men like George Lucas have never been able to overcome. Enjoy all these amazing characters achieving grand goals? Great! Now you get to watch them before they got anything done, and, by plot rules, will be incapable of accomplishing anything!

And, make no mistake, Crisis Core is burdened with some particularly groan-worthy retcons. Zack named the bar that would become Tifa’s Seventh Heaven. Aeris wears her signature pink outfit exclusively for Zack’s return. The Turks, and Tseng in particular, have a great interest in Aeris not only for Shinra, but also as a personal favor to Zack. And, most aggravating of all, Sephiroth is revealed to not be the only science experiment stalking the halls of SOLDIER, no, Sephiroth’s contemporaries, Angeal and Genesis were also pumped full of midichlorians Jenova Cells, and at least one of those guys tried to destroy the world a good couple of years before Meteor was even a glimmer in the cosmos (the other one turned into a dog or something). On one hand, sure, it makes sense that there would be a few other “test cases” spawning from Hojo’s lab, but on the other hand, come on, way to weaken your scary, imposing, and, most of all, memorable big bad by just making him one of a batch.

MONSTERBut, despite all the prequel problems inherit to the story, Crisis Core seems to be the only worthy successor to the Final Fantasy 7 name within the compilation. And it’s not because it’s the first game to even try to simulate something like a “real” Final Fantasy 7 feel, it’s because it’s finally about something.

This, ultimately, is the secret to a good prequel. Far too many prequels (and, yes, Star Wars springs immediately to mind here) spend all their time carefully lining up the dominos for the actually good story. Here’s the Buster Sword, here’s exactly where it got its start, who owned it, and every enemy it bisected before it got to Cloud. Yes, that kind of thing is inevitably interesting to someone that already experienced the original story (and, incidentally, possibly spent a decade on Gamefaqs theorizing and debating unexplained gaps), but to someone that simply played Final Fantasy 7 and then called it a day and moved on to 1997’s other releases (or someone who didn’t play Final Fantasy 7 at all), it’s just rote plot filler. Woo, Warrior X is super attached to Sword Y, haven’t seen that before. No, what a prequel needs is a story of its own, and, more importantly, a theme of its own.

Except, my bad, Crisis Core doesn’t have a theme of its own.

Crisis Core is, much like its ancestor, completely obsessed with fate. We already know Sephiroth’s story, but, once again, here’s a man that discovers his origins, and then absolutely flips until Nibelheim is a smoking crater, and the planet is steered onto a similar path. Genesis, Sephiroth’s red-headed step brother, has a similarly destructive outlook on life, but believes his fate is being steered not by his genetic origins, but his literary origins. Yes, Genesis is, essentially, a malevolent English Major. Regardless of the source, both whackjobs endanger the entire planet because they’re convinced they’re meant to. Angeal is on the side of the angels (oh, I just got that), but he’s similarly shackled by duty and destiny. He’s the good guy because he (mostly) follows orders and looks out for his subordinates, but, still, he’s, in a manner of speaking, “just following orders”.

And then there’s Zack.

WoooZack is an actual SOLDIER 2nd Class at the start of the game (which, incidentally, means AVALANCHE likely would have slaughtered the guy had he never received a promotion), but eventually becomes an actual SOLDIER 1st Class to stand with the greats like legendary Black Trench Coat and easily forgotten Red Trench Coat. Zack spends most of his life following orders, not only during the plot, but also through a series of side missions that are assigned via Shrina and various other hangers-on. Zack, here’s a tip, when you’re taking orders from a pre-pubescent Yuffie, you’re maybe a little too obedient.

Eventually, Zack is betrayed by SOLDIER and Shinra, and he becomes a man on the run. But even when Zack is separated from the company and companions that have defined his life up to this point, he’s still following clearly defined, short-term “missions”. Protect a comatose Cloud. Stop Genesis from doing… whatever he’s doing. Empty every indistinct cave of every generic monster. You can take the boy out of SOLDIER, but you can’t take the SOLDIER out of the boy. Throughout it all, Zack seems to retain one overarching goal, and that’s to return to Aeris back in Midgar… a goal that is, yet again, in service to another person.

And, as we all know, Zack isn’t going to achieve everything on his bucket list. Despite eventually obtaining enough broken materia to take down a planetary goddess, Zack is still going to be gunned down by a trio of soldiers as Cloud looks on, because, without that event, there is no Final Fantasy 7. It’s a tragedy, you know what’s going to happen, and it becomes an echo of Aeris’s own fate in Final Fantasy 7 (unless you’re one of the twelve people on Earth that didn’t have that death spoiled by a FAQ, strategy guide, “well-meaning” friend, or me). Bye ByeKnowing Zack’s fate, every action, every life saved, every afternoon wasted punching ostriches has that much more meaning for a man with a death sentence. Maybe Zack completes every mission, maybe he just speeds through “his” story, but no matter the choices he makes, there’s no getting off the train Zack’s on, and his last stop isn’t Midgar Station, but a forgotten hill that will be seared into Cloud’s (repressed) memory.

So enjoy Crisis Core. Enjoy a game that, finally, at the end of the Compilation of Final Fantasy 7, remembers what Final Fantasy 7 was all about. It’s about fate. It’s about choices, both real and imaginary. It’s not about fights with hulking dragons or invincible WEAPONs, it’s not even about saving the planet. It’s about people, what they do, and what they try to do to make their lives better.

Crisis Core does what no other piece of Compilation of Final Fantasy 7 does: it makes Final Fantasy 7 better. And if you don’t want to play Final Fantasy 7 upon completing Crisis Core, well, then maybe you’re just a puppet without emotions.

FGC #180 Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core

  • System: PSP, and only PSP. I, however, will be shocked if we don’t see a Type 0-style HD remake of this game before at least one of the Final Fantasy 7 HD Episodes.
  • Number of Players: One Zack. Wait, let me make sure someone didn’t try to shoe-horn in a 2-Player Mission mode or something… okay, yeah, just one player.
  • Port Problems: Assuming Crisis Core does wind up on anything but a portable system, it will be a loss for the game. Crisis Core’s gameplay soars because it has about a thousand short, “meaningless” missions that are ideal for quick play sessions or while watching TV (or both). A Crisis Core that still basically requires all those Grumblebite-sized missions (for leveling, materia acquisition, etc), but must be played on the big screen during dedicated couch time would not be nearly as enjoyable.
  • To be the very best: Yes, I 100% completed every mission in this game. It’s a testament to how good the gameplay in Crisis Core actually is, but it’s also a result of the PSP seeing practically zero software after its initial launch. But, once a year, Square Enix released a PSP game actually worthwhile (see also: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Dissidia, and Final Fantasy 4 Complete [my “last” PSP game]), and I’d be damned before I let a system I purchased wallow in disuse. Work that battery, PSP!
  • Barrett? No Barrett. Fine time to look at the start of Avalanche, but nooooope.
  • Buster Blues: Much fuss throughout this plot is placed on the Buster Sword, what it means to its various owners, and how important it has been throughout the lead-up to Final Fantasy 7. The Buster Sword even originated with Angeal’s poor family saving up to purchase the iconic blade for their son… so it’s kind of a shame that it’s the absolute weakest sword Cloud can equip, and it’ll start soaking up inventory mildew five seconds out of Midgar.
  • Did you know? Genesis survives this game, and is dragged past the good Final Fantasy 7 games to appear in the secret ending of Dirge of Cerberus as the reawaked “G”. This was supposed to be important and spooky and oh boy what is Genesis going to do next… but, nope, Compilation of Final Fantasy 7 ended chronologically with Dirge, so we won’t know what Red gets up to after awakening unless, I suppose, Final Fantasy 7 HD is a monster success worthy of new, original content. Sorry, Genesis, you’re loveless.
  • Would I play again? Yes, despite complaints that a “TV Version” would suck all the fun out of the experience, it’s pretty inevitable that I’ll play whatever version of Crisis Core we see in the future. It’s a surprisingly good game (particularly compared to its contemporaries), and I wouldn’t mind seeing poor, doomed Zack ride again.

What’s next? Regular service resumes next week, and Random ROB has chosen… Splatoon for the WiiU! Time to get our squidly bits a-paintin’! Please look forward to it!

Let's call it a day