Final Fantasy VII is one of the greatest games of all time, but its prequel helped its story and characters to reach even greater heights.
Released 10 years after VII on the Sony Playstation Portable, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII follows the story of Zac Fair, a support character from the original game. The player guides Zac through his exploits as a legend of the military group Soldier, meeting key characters like Sephiroth and Aerith to the ends of making his last stand against the evil Shinra Corporation’s forces.
Though the gameplay wasn’t revolutionary and had its share of technical hiccups, the game’s design and story expanded on the characters of VII in all the right places. In a series known for parties of adventurers, Zac is made to go through the game solo. He takes on colossal monsters single handedly, able to defeat series mainstay foes like Bahamut without help from anyone. It gives credence to why he holds such a vital role in the lives of the main characters after his death, as well as why Cloud Strife, VII’s main character, perfectly modeled himself after Zac in action and beliefs.
His end only builds upon this. Originally a brief scene offering him a quick and painless death, Crisis Core turns it into a monumental show of Zac’s spirit. Fighting wave after wave of Shinra henchman, he
swings his sword with less control in each battle. His movements become sluggish and winded until he literally collapses from exhaustion, dying in front of Cloud and triggering his transformation into the hero of VII.
It also builds upon the character of Sephiroth through its story. The most iconic villain of VII’s large poster of antagonists, Crisis Core shows who Sephiroth was before he broke down mentally. A hero of the highest renown, he pursued the betterment of Midgar with everything he had. The city’s people idolized him, and he was glad to be the hero Zac seeks to catch up to someday.
With the discovery of what he really is though, Sephiroth slowly unravels. His disdain for the world who created him, and for the torturous research done on his mother Genova, pushes him further and further toward his decision to destroy the world he once sought to protect. It culminates in an epic battle with Zac, accompanied by music and combat which hint at his later moniker of “One Winged Angel.”
While these seem like basics for a prequel title, their execution builds upon the first so perfectly that it’s now hard to imagine the series’ world without Crisis Core’s additions. It stands as a shining example of what a prequel should be, and further cements the main game’s place as a pillar of gaming’s history.