Tuesday, March 18

Crisis Core and Portability

Earlier today I was reading the review of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII in the newest issue of Game Informer (April). The first thing I noticed, of course, was the review scores of 7.25 and 7.0. I voiced this to my friend, Kay, sitting next to me. He was also surprised by the scores. His response was something like, "What the F***! These guys are idiots!" Kay is the biggest Final Fantasy fan I know. He owns the limited edition of every Final Fantasy game ever made, not to mention every Squaresoft and Square Enix game ever made. For the record, he has never played Crisis Core (though he owns it); Kay is a South Korean transfer student at my college; his copy of Crisis Core is across the ocean. I'm a big fan of Game Informer; so I convinced him to hear out their review, you know, the actual words. He conceded.

In the review, Joe states:
Crisis Core is intriguing from a story perspective, but the mechanics of playing the game are far less engaging. You tromp through various maps, encounter enemies at every node, and slash through them using one-button combos. Magic and other special attacks are accessed by cycling through materia, but you'll usually do just fine with only your sword. There are dozens of side-missions to undertake, but they're all essentially the same task - wander a map, kill a specific monster - over and over. You don't even get experience from this grinding; all of the game's progression, from character level to materia strength, is done through random slot wheels. This arbitrary system also governs when you execute a limit break or a summon, though the specific move you perform is also random. This essentially robs the combat of any strategy, but it keeps you barreling headfirst through the action. The sooner you cut down the bad guys, the sooner you get to the next cool plot point.

Kay remained unimpressed. I began to explain to him the reviewer's point, from a western perspective. Joe thought very highly of the story in Crisis Core, but lamented the combat system and actual gameplay in general. I explained to Kay that, perhaps, the eastern opinion places priority of story in games. This was after Kay had stated that Famitsu had given Crisis Core a 10. The western perspective, however, prioritizes gameplay over story; if the gameplay, combat, controls, camera, you name it, is poor, then the story can only do so much to compensate. Kay patiently waited for me to finish before asking me a very simple question, "Where did these guys play Crisis Core? (meaning the reviewers)" I answered that they probably played in a comfortable chair in their offices.He continued, "You see? Thats the point! They don't know what they're talking about. The console is P.S.P. PlayStation Portable. It is meant to be played on the bus or the train. The combat is simple; it's perfect. You don't want combat that takes too much focus; you won't be able to play on a bus that is shaking and their are people everywhere and you need to get off on the right stop. For complex buttons and analog sticks there is PS3, which I can play on my TV at home and can focus. These guys are idiots."

I agree with Kay. While the possibility remains that eastern and western gaming cultures place different priorities on the quality of a game, this does not negate the fact that portable consoles are designed to be played portably, away from home, and that well-designed portable games are also designed for this purpose. At one point during his speech, Kay said, "I can be out in real life and still be in the world of Final Fantasy." I asked him why, instead of a game, Square didn't just make a movie of Crisis Core instead of a game, by just combining all of the cut-scenes and cutting out all of the gameply. "Oh that," Kay replied, "Japanese just like to move things. They want to move stuff around [meaning the character]. I agree with you there."

For a completely opposite opinion of Crisis Core, read Ryan Clements's review at IGN.

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