If the Final Fantasy series is good at anything, it's building a mystery. No, we're not just talking about the way the games' stories are always packed with twists and turns. It's more about the fact that details about the actual games themselves are guarded so jealously for so long by Square Enix. Case in point: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was originally announced before the PSP came out. It wasn't until this May that we got our first look at its graphics, but there was no gameplay in sight. Now, we've caught a tiny glimpse of its gameplay... but it's nothing like enough to draw any conclusions from.
What we do know is that the game follows the story of Zack, the soldier who Cloud stole some of his memories from in the original Final Fantasy VII. The trailer at TGS this year dripped out a few more details - showing Zack giving a young cadet (maybe Cloud?) some encouragement and interacting with his fellow SOLDIER members... particularly the enigmatic Sephiroth. Even though this game takes place (at least partially) before Seph goes rogue, he's still caught babbling philosophical BS aplenty, though he does so with less obvious malice than in his later appearances.
The opening of the trailer showed Midgar, the city ringed with Mako energy towers, still under construction. The Shinra Power Company, which provided the dark core of the Final Fantasy VII tale, is clearly still on its way up in the world. Zach enters the city via train, in a scene that echoes the opening of the original game - down to a new version of the same music. He soon meets up with Aerith - even going so far as to ask her on a date - while spending time in her flower-filled church (why does everyone from FFVII like this place so much?)
The game is full 3D, and the cutscenes are simply gorgeous, particularly for the PSP - they come quite close to the stuff from Kingdom Hearts II in every way. Aside from Seph and Zach, we got to see another SOLDIER member who undergoes some startling transformations (one winged angel, anyone?) as well as a number of those summoned monsters that make Final Fantasy what it is.
The extremely short clip of the game's battle system showed Zach, alone, fighting monsters. It seemed as though he ran freely (the game is billed as an action RPG, after all.) The bottom right of the screen showed the four PSP face buttons, with Circle labled as "attack" and triangle as "item." The top left of the screen showed a gauge that looked like a slot machine - but we honestly have no idea how that affects the gameplay.
Call us suckers, but we can't help but be excited about this game, despite its so-not-there-yet public appearances so far. The reason? Final Fantasy VII is fun. And this game stands the best chance out of the whole big, stupid Compilation of Final Fantasy VII project to actually deliver good story and good gameplay at the same time. We're there.