The game stars Zack, a mercenary of the Soldier corps employed by the fascistic globalized monopoly known as the Shinra Corporation. An indication of Crisis Core's thematic throughline can be gleaned from Last Order, the anime OVA included in the upcoming collector's edition of Advent Children. Taking place one year before the events of Final Fantasy VII and told from the perspective of Tsveng, the Turk known by his ponytail and the tilak on his forehead, Last Order informs the back story of the keitai cell-phone Compilation of Final Fantasy VII prequel Before Crisis. Tseng therefore is central to the events of Crisis Core.
Parsing all the story elements of the Compilation is a sordid task, especially since the poor translation of the original game created a certain degree of false information. Tseng appeared briefly in Advent Children, contradicting the assumptions of most Anglophone fans of Final Fantasy VII that the character died in the Temple of the Ancients, the fault of a translation error. The Turk appears in the Tokyo Game Show trailer of Crisis Core as Zack's direct superior, and in one sequence he thanks Zack for raising his salary by succeeding in not dying during a hazardous mission. With a clearly delineated hierarchy running from newbie Cloud, to Soldier Zack, Turk Tzeng, and Rufus somewhere behind the scenes, the corporate militarism that made Midgar of Final Fantasy VII such a compelling dystopia is back in full force.
New characters have been revealed for the PSP prequel. A fellow Solider to Sephiroth named Angeal is depicting wielding Cloud's signature buster sword, which the Soldier keeps in pristine condition by relying upon magic casting as an offensive strategy. Angeal appears to be a foil to Sephiroth's misanthropy, another central figure in the trailers and screenshots revealed thus far. Waxing poetic on the virtues of nurturing morally upright aspirations, Angeal is depicted in the trailers literally transformed into a one-winged angel.
Regarding Cloud, the jaded hero of the Advent Children feature film, the developers have coyly obscured his discernable features behind heavy armor and an oversized helmet in several of the screenshots. As with the prequel for the mobile phone Before Crisis, Cloud's wields an oversized machine gun. In one sequence of the trailer, Zack pats Cloud, dressed as a common Shinra grunt, on the shoulder and tells him to hang in there if he wants to make it into the Soldier organization.
A scene between Zack and Cloud in the back of a yellow truck that appeared during a flashback in Final Fantasy VII returns in the Crisis Core trailer. There Zack pledges his friendship to Cloud in a show of camaraderie that will later be put to the test as the plot behind "Project Genesis" unfolds. Much ado was made of Genesis in the first-person shooter for PS2 starring Vincent Valentine, Dirge of Cerberus. The secrets behind Project G will finally be revealed when Genesis is depicted fighting beside his comrades, Sephiroth and Angeal. The big deal made of Gackt's contribution to Dirge of Cerberus will reach its apex with Crisis Core, as the JRocker will be aiding his voice to the role of Genesis for the PSP title.
Much has been revealed regarding the play mechanics of the new title vis-à-vis the playable demo on display at the Jump Festa event. The demo included two missions, a Wutai Invasion and a battle with Ifrit. The game reportedly plays like a mixture of Final Fantasy VII’s real-time battles and action-based titles like Kingdom Hearts. Players are given full control over Zack while roaming around the playing field with the camera capable of being rotated using the PSP's left and right triggers. The play mechanics of Crisis Core utilize both action and menu-based commands. Random battles take place directly on the overhead map with no loading in between. As soon as Zack is confronted by an enemy, directional commands cease to control the character's navigation and shifts to informing the battle triggers, allowing the player to fight or cast magic.
Actions performed during battles consume action points (AP) and relying upon the same action repeatedly consumes more AP than mixing up triggers. Diverging from the command-based menus of Final Fantasy VII, here players can hit square to perform a roll maneuver in real time and press triangle to block, while circle confirms menu selections. Battles consist of multiple enemies on screen at once, rising into the double digits. Far away enemies cannot be targeted by blade attacks, but they can be damaged with magic spells.
The most noticeable novelty of the battle system is the addition of a roulette wheel in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, somewhat reminiscent of Cait-Sith's limit breaks. Lining up three characters on the slot machine generates various boosts such as "Actions cost no AP" or "Reduced MP Cost." From time to time, the roulette wheel rewards the player with a powerful summon spell, as well. The online response to the addition of the ever-rotating roulette system has not exactly been positive, bringing to mind negative associations as various as gambling addictions to the seizure-inducing Pokemon episode of 1997. Some are concerned the simulated slot machine will come off as a cheap and gimmick, but here is to hoping Square Enix pulls it off.
Crisis Core is currently being localized for North America and Europe. Mena Suvari, seen here tactfully defending Square Enix before a vapid IGN reporter, has confirmed she will be reprising her role as Aerith Gainsborough, whom she voiced for Kingdom Hearts II and Advent Children. Another pleasant development, Crisis Core will be only the first of two PSP games to feature Cloud Strife in a supporting role. What's the other? Why,Final Fantasy Tactics: The Lion War, of course.