Picked up Crisis Core today, and sunk about two hours into it. I wholeheartedly agree with both allyourbaseare and brandonk: as an RPG, I'm enjoying it on a level that's surprising even for me. It's.... well, it really is COOL, for one thing. Edgy. It feels great re-entering the futuristic tech-world of FF7; Midgar, Shinra, SOLDIER. Materia. Buster Swords. Mako speak. Deep blue eyes. And.... squats. ;)
The game's play mechanics have been pretty easy to pick up. I'm not one for exploration in my games anymore, so I do appreciate the FFX-esque point A to B linear paths that they've laid out. Yet, at the same time, I like how they give you goal-oriented options that you can choose to partake in if you so wish; imagine my surprise when I actually WANTED to do the backtracking elimination during the Wutai palace assignment. Digging the quick in-and-out nature of the battles, too. If I have one qualm about the battle system, though, it's that it's easy to accidentally switch to the Items menu and use an item unintentionally; I was horrified when I used up an Elixir without even knowing it. The Limit Breaks, too, glitzy and somewhat lengthy as they are, might be more fun had they offered a more interactive element to them. (Like Squall's LBs, for example.) And it would've been nice to have more of a direct influence as to the way the D.M.W. system plays out, too.
Nothing more needs to be said about the graphics. They're of the highest caliber, pretty much the best you'll ever see on the PSP yet. I love the CG cutscenes rendered in that slick Advent Children vein, and the in-game engine rivals the best of Nomura's art direction from PS2 titles like FFX and Kingdom Hearts. As for the music, color me an instant fan. Its stylistic shifts between techno grunge-rock, dreamy piano and strings ensemble, jazz, and alternative/contemporary fuses a sweet soundscape between the hard-hitting SOLDIER mentality and the more natural non-Midgar settings. I'm progressing through the OST as I'm playing the game, and I've already culled some faves: Toyama's "Mission Start" marriages nostalgia and orchestral prowess, making for an unbelievably wicked opening sequence. Ishimoto's "Theme of CRISIS CORE" has gotten pretty infectious, especially the near Western-like "Under The Apple Tree" variation, while "Wandering On A Sunny Afternoon" is the complete summation of the badass coolness that this game lets off. Right, and the throwbacks to the original VII pieces sure don't hurt either.
Story-wise, it's got promise. Zack reminds me of a more goal-driven Tidus. Upbeat, exuberant, has room for personal growth - but also with a set purpose, which, at least from our initial interpretation of the character, is rooted in a sense of nobility. The thematic threads of heroism, desires, and honor that the game lays bare at the beginning - coupled with the idea of working for the 'bad guys' - should make for interesting catalysts for Mr. Fair. We of course know that Zack's journey will end in tragedy, but one hopes that the journey isn't without meaning, and that it'll make a worthy canon piece to the FFVII storyline.
So yeah, I've got a good feeling about Crisis Core. It takes a hell of a lot to keep me focused on an RPG nowadays. The fact that CC's gotten me past the first two hours and left me with continued interest..... it has to be doing SOMETHING right.