The FF7 Remake really put me in the mood for more Final Fantasy, but also for more of 7 specifically – including Zack. I never had fully played Crisis Core, in fact I forgot I ever had at all but it turns out I played the first couple hours back when the PSP was a cool and relevant thing. I figured all these years later, especially wanting to fully flesh out all this other backstory about Zack and whatnot, was worth finally getting around to and so I started it up from the beginning and played on through it.
Obviously, this will have spoilers for Crisis Core, but also Final Fantasy 7 (the original game) as well as FF7 Remake.
For the most part, Crisis Core is in a lot of ways what Remake is really based on, so it was extra interesting and fun to go through this after Remake. The gameplay is near identical just modernized a bit in Remake even down to little details, but also this was the first time you could experience Midgar in 3D and honestly it’s very close to the same aside graphical quality but design and stuff is very close to the same in a lot of ways. It really does feel like the actual game that lead to Remake more than the original FF7 did. There are even awkward lines here and there by random NPCs that make me wonder about how much of Remake was already being thought about all this time ago; for example an NPC who mentions rumors of “ghosts attacking Shinra headquarters” which never happens nor anything mistakable as such, it’s just a completely random line. I’m sure it meant something innocuous but in retrospect it sure had more meaning.
I’m skipping basically to what I usually end on, but the game overall is really goddamn stupid even if it is mostly enjoyable. It’s absolutely worth playing as a fan of FF7 – a must-play really with how relevant it is.
It’s got beautiful music that is made up near entirely of fresh songs nowhere else in Final Fantasy 7’s compendium and sounds like it belongs to an entirely different game series. Graphically it’s fantastic for a PSP game especially on an emulator where you can make it look even nicer – not that I’d know, n-no way, I totally played it on my PSP in 2020. It plays well in terms of gameplay, responsive and pretty good action combat with some light ‘exploration’ thrown in that all works well…aside from the really awful stealth part which is a literal one-screen long sequence and yet is so completely shit that it still haunts me.
The plot itself is fucking ridiculously stupid. A Shinra scientist that was never mentioned in any other FF7 things until this but ‘totally was always around!’ hates Shinra because they gave Hojo a raise. Yup. That’s the actual main entire reason the plot happens, it’s not even some smart assed dumbed down version of it, that is the literal actual canon event that triggers Crisis Core. Hojo got a promotion and random guy did not. Beyond that, for some reason they don’t really bother explaining much, Genesis joins him because he also hates Shinra now because he does or some shit about his science-manipulated body degrading now I think, I just beat it and I already forgot.
Also, Genesis is literally officially stated to be designed based on Gackt – which is hilarious and I love it because it’s fucking beyond retarded – so you have literal evil Gackt working with random bitter wageslave scientist trying to destroy Shinra and wipe out humanity. Angeal is Zack’s mentor and best friends with Sephiroth and Genesis. Angeal randomly joins Gackt after “totally-not” killing his own mom because she probably told him “this is dishonorable” and MUH HONOR made him strike out at her with the buster sword. Then the whole game is building up Zack and Sephiroth as characters (and Shinra in general as an entity) for the most part through various missions of trying to chase them down. All the enemies, well most of them, are really shitty copies of Genesis that die in about 2 hits even though he was second only to Sephiroth canonically – the real one also dies pretty goddamn fast multiple times, not that he ever really dies, even in the end he’s taken by Shinra for an appearance in Dirge of Cerberus when they made that one.
This game’s plot basically should not have existed. It not only added absolutely nothing, nor any clarity to anything, about FF7 – but it actively made a lot of FF7 nonsensical both with Zack’s fucking omnipresent impact on all the lore which we’ll get to as well as in terms of a lot of FF7 no longer working because none of the stuff from this game ever existed even though so much of it would be known by the general public, let alone by Avalanche. This should have been what this game is…MINUS everything with Angeal and Genesis. Also, they needed more Cissnei. Cissnei is fucking cute, she better be in Remake.
The really good thing about the plot though is the fact it almost, at times, comes off as more of a prequel about Sephiroth more than anything else. While he isn’t overly present, he’s around a good amount and for the first time in ANY FF7 thing that I’m aware of, he’s actually just a guy. Sure, he’s an ultra-skilled SOLDIER member, but he behaves like a normal person beyond that. He’s got friends, he hangs out, he does normal shit, he fucking laughs and smiles and not evilly, and he even talks (in jest) like a retarded teen to Zack just because Zack does it to him. Even a lot of the plot happens because he’s so avoidant of hurting his buddies he keeps refusing to do his job and lazily hangs out at HQ instead while forcing you to take on his work. You even get to learn he uses floral shampoo – and not just some, but one entire bottle every single day, as confirmed by his fanclub. Because he’s fucking weird.
Finally getting to see Sephiroth as just this military guy who is still a normal human being past that really adds so much to his character and that was by far the best part of this game – that and it really made his downfall even better. Sephiroth going insane in the original was just kind of “here’s him going crazy in Nibelheim” with no understanding of who he was prior, you know him as a bad crazy guy and you see him turn into that but only the moment he does. Now you see him and you see his descent into madness which made this entire game worth the time I put into it. It’s actually really pretty sad watching it happen to him – almost on par with the death of Zack even, and it makes this legendary antagonist of all video gaming someone far more deserving of that title.
There are sadly a lot of problems and they all really come in from the cast, lore retcons, and the entire plot pretty much every step of the way. The biggest problem I have with this oddly is not Genesis who seems to be universally hated and treated as “the bad part of Crisis Core”; no, while he is definitely shitty and retarded, Zack himself is a far bigger issue. Genesis is just annoying for the most part – hell, he’s barely even in the game at all and when he is he’s just saying lame shit from Loveless. My BIGGEST gripe with Genesis is just that he makes the end part of the game drag on by coming back just to extend the playtime which was a bit frustrating. For the most part Genesis doesn’t even do anything or appear at all and his only relevance is he’s tied to most enemies you encounter by being their original or some shit and his importance to the stupid – in every way, not just cuz of him – plot of the game.
Zack on the other hand basically destroys all of FF7’s lore throughout this game in little ways that were just meant as stupid fanservice tie-ins to the original game but it’s absolutely ridiculous. Zack is basically responsible for like 100% of the FF7 lore from big things to small things.
Remember (thing) from FF7? That was thanks to Zack. Remember (person) from FF7? Yup, thanks Zack! Remember (event) from FF7? “You’re welcome!” – Zack. There is almost nothing that isn’t thanks to Zack.
He ended the war with Wutai by himself. He defended Hojo, keeping him alive to basically make FF7 happen. He helped Sephiroth lose his mind by accident. He basically saved the Highwind from being stolen years prior by Hollander. He saved Shinra including the President multiple times from dying. He named Seventh Heaven when it was being built. He gave Aerith her hair ribbon. He got Aerith to start selling flowers and growing more. He helped the Turks remain relevant to Shinra’s interests and continue to work. He saved Midgar multiple times. He invented the entirety of Cloud’s personality (the only thing actually canon in 7 about him originally). He helped Yuffie become the actually skilled thief she is years later through multiple meetings and text messages with her which never fucking comes up in 7 at all even though Yuffie and him had loads of face-to-face meetings. He actually meets and could have freed Vincent, yet chooses to just lock him back in his casket because he’s retarded. The list goes on and on and on and on. ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING about FF7 is Zack.
To me, Zack being the entirety of all lore possible even about the most insignificant things does far more harm than Genesis does even at his worst. I’d rather have heard more stupid lines from extra-shitty Shakespeare than learn another of the million things that are entirely thanks to Zack. Surely he’s actually Marlene’s dad, built the Chocobo farm himself, and killed the Midgar Zolom too. No doubt he also invented the concept of Materia and is, himself, the Knights of the Round and gave birth to Weapon in all its forms by jerking off into a landfill. It’s just unbelievably fucking stupid how many things he’s to thank for in FF7 purely because the staff felt like making a lot of tie-in little cameos and mentions of various things for the fans to enjoy and didn’t think about the impact of all of that BEING FUCKING CANON would have on the real game.
And like I mentioned already, all the hate Genesis gets just doesn’t make sense to me. I mean I do get it, he’s a shit character, he’s annoying when he talks, he is LITERALLY Gackt, and he stretches the game past where it should have ended. However, the same things apply to Angeal – just replace “MUH LOVELESS” with “MUH HONOR” plus notice how both of them serve no real purpose, are both fucking annoying, and both overstay their welcome and should never have been characters in the first place. However the biggest problem of both is a bit contradictory to what I just said, in that they both suffer from a lack of being relevant or around ever at all – Angeal less so, but Genesis basically does not exist outside of maybe an hour of combined time in the entire game. And no, he doesn’t change anything really about Sephiroth’s downfall. He tries to and Sephiroth basically tells him to fuck himself, while he maybe slightly helped push him to investigate it all he really didn’t get through to him at all. Sephiroth was having doubts already on his own and would have ended up in the basement library regardless.
I get the hatred if you’re remembering the game 10 years later, surely his stupid shit must stand out in memories, but he’s harmless and barely there. Angeal is a far bigger annoyance in every single way and something I dread seeing in Remake far more than Genesis. I really am not excited to hear MUH HONOR. ZACK. MUH HONOR. MUH SWORD I DON’T USE BECAUSE MUH HONOR AND MUH RUST. MUH HONOR. ZACK I KNOW I’M A TRAITOR AND PROBABLY KILLED MY OWN MOM EVEN THOUGH I CLAIMED OTHERWISE BUT WAS STANDING THERE WITH MY SWORD OUT DIRECTLY OVER HER BODY BUT I TOTALLY DIDN’T BRO ALSO MUH HONOR SHE KILLED HERSELF BUT I WON’T EXPLAIN WHY I HAVE MY SWORD OUT AND NO ENEMIES ARE OR WERE AROUND IT WASNT ME ZACK I HAVE MUH HONOR. I KNOW I BETRAYED YOU, SHINRA, SEPHIROTH MY BEST FRIEND, THE ENTIRETY OF CURRENTLY LIVING HUMAN BEINGS BY PUTTING THEM ALL AT RISK, EVERYONE WHO RELIED AND TRUSTED ON ME, MY OWN FAMILY, AND HID THAT MY DAD IS A SUPER EVIL SCIENTIST BUT MUH HONOR WHICH I SOMEHOW STILL PRETEND TO HAVE. I HOLD MUH HONOR ABOVE ALL, ZACK. DON’T YOU HAVE HONOR? ZACK IT’S ALL ABOUT MUH HONOR. NEVER FORGET YOUR HONOR ZACK JUST LIKE I DON’T FORGET MUH HONOR. Then he becomes a stupid fucking flying-dog-monster with his little face growing out of it but his soul in it and saves Cloud off-screen because they wanted an excuse to continue shoving Angeal in all the way to the end after he died hours of playtime prior…That’s way way worse than 30 seconds of Genesis reciting the same Shakespeare line again before leaving and coming back hours later to do it again. Though I’ll admit, the end of Angeal was kinda sad and I liked the montage.
Another problem is that friendship between Angeal, Genesis, and Sephiroth. While I can somewhat believe it, it never really is shown to you. They just continually bring up how they’re best friends and all you see of that is one fight on top of (yet another random scale because it’s not even consistent within the same games) the Junon cannon somehow proving they all love each other and are super close buds. Sephiroth has a few moments that build it up, but aside him there’s not much which is a little odd given Angeal and Genesis basically were raised by the same people their whole lives and are practically brothers. The same applies pretty heavily to Zack and Cloud which is a bigger problem given them being close was a big part of FF7’s twist about Cloud, yet you learn they basically were simply lightly acquainted at best. Going on 3 missions where they spoke for about 10 seconds per-mission…and that kind of being their entire history. Zack caring about Cloud, sure, because of the post-breakout from Shinra Mansion 4 years after the Nibelheim incident…but Cloud was comatose for that entire time aside the very last moments Zack was alive. They weren’t remotely friends.
However, of all my issues with this game, my biggest upset and disappointment come entirely from this making Cloud’s entire character make no sense. I looked further into it after finishing as well, as I had expected the game to explain, but there is nothing anywhere; nobody has any explanation for Cloud’s mental fuckery and thinking he is Zack. Originally, you were lead to believe it was from what happened in Nibelheim and that it fucked his brain up. Now though, you see him while Zack is dying just prior to FF7 beginning; fully aware, fully conscious, speaking, thanking Zack, talking with Zack, accepting being Zack’s legacy, and telling Zack his goodbyes before having an insanely hard time dragging the buster sword through the desert all the way to Midgar with both hands. He shows no signs of mental health issues, let alone schizophrenia or Dissociative Identity Disorder. He seems perfectly fine, like completely absolutely fine and aware of himself and of Zack. There is no attempt at an explanation, it’s just suddenly that he’s insane once he finishes his trek to the city. Him having all those moments with Zack made it even stupider rather than explains a goddamn thing. It being the mako makes no sense because he was clearly doing fine after it, Nibelheim in general had no impact because he’s normal during all this too, the only explanation fans have come up with is “the trauma of Zack’s death” which also had NO FUCKING IMPACT on him aside making him sad. Not to mention in Remake he seemingly isn’t fucking dead, so that excuse is gone too. Not to mention if he’s having such a rough time dragging the sword how the fuck does he manage to use it so well basically right after this? I suppose the “S-Cells” which Cloud was pumped with by Hojo during the 4 years him and Zack were used as experiments post-Nibelheim? But then why was he having a hard time at all with the sword?
Anyway, I loved seeing the ending of this game being the ending of FF7 Remake with the exception of Zack being alive still (which again made it feel more like Remake was made for CC rather than 7), and loved even more the post-credits sequence being the start of FF7 in general which was a really cool little transition into the main game and one of the few actually thought out nods to the original that didn’t destroy all the lore with Zack.
One thing I feel I have to mention before ending this, as it made this really a memorable experience for me, is that Crisis Core really brings a feeling to it that is hard to come by. Because you know the way this story ends both for Sephiroth and for Zack, it feels so fatalistic and melancholic the whole time right from the very start. There’s no room to feel anything but this oppressive depressive feeling of inevitability to this super optimistic young SOLDIER’s future, as well as knowing Sephiroth will transform from this cool pretty nice guy into a madman from Shinra’s twisted experimentation. While there are plenty of similar stories with prequels like this where you know things must end up badly…this just felt a lot different for some reason, I think thanks to (much like all the lore) Zack himself.
Not only do you have to watch this optimistic would-be Hero finally become one only minutes before his death, but you have to get there by seeing everything he loves, cares about, and trusts fall into insanity, die, or betray him along the way with the exception of the girl he loves. It’s a pretty fucked up game but in such a specific very strongly bittersweet way that it feels really special.
Genesis is obnoxious, Angeal is obnoxious, but while Zack fucks up the lore he is actually a pretty great and likable character. Honestly, I might like him more than Cloud, he’s a generic shounen protagonist but he pulls it off and has enough trauma to not feel completely stupid, and his obsession with becoming a hero was really played with well throughout the game especially in the end with it coming full circle and creating a more personal situation between him and Genesis (who also wanted to be a hero, but believed it was more like his god given right rather than something he’d earn) as well as getting to actually sort of play the very moment when he becomes a true hero; fighting off hordes of Shinra infantry to protect Cloud.
I really look forward to seeing Zack more in Remake and with how important this entire game is for Cloud, Zack, Shinra/The Turks, Aerith, and maybe most of all Sephiroth, I hope they dedicate a full “part” of the Remake to being a redone Crisis Core – yes, even if that means Genesis and Angeal will be there. Perhaps when Cloud learns the truth of his identity after he becomes literally retarded later in the original they can throw this entire fucking game in as the flashbacks instead of Tifa sitting and spinning while Cloud drools on himself and falls through the lifestream.