The names Final Fantasy and especially Final Fantasy VII evoke strong feelings in fans of the venerable series and role playing games in general. So when a new title from Square Enix arrives in that universe, there is a lot to live up to. Thankfully, the story of Zach Fair in Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII is an amazing one with a top notch game to back it up.
Zach Fair is a little known character shown in cutscenes during the original Final Fantasy VII game on the PS1. He is a friend to Cloud Strife and Aerith's (Aeris) old boyfriend. Zach was very important to both characters, and in this prequel we are introduced to him and learn how the events in the main universe were shaped and introduced.
Zach starts the game as a SOLDIER 2nd class operative who is being mentored by the stoic yet noble Angeal, who is notably equipped with FFVII Cloud's infamous Buster Sword. Immediately, we wonder how and why this sword finds its way to Cloud's hands, but we have no time to wonder as a typically amazing and epic scale CG cutscene unfolds, introducing us to the look and feel of the game and our hero Zach Fair. The game starts right after the cutscene and is played via a real time engine that is both easy to use and functional.
Zach begins his journey with one goal in mind; to be a hero. This is his motivation and his dream, and it infuses his character with a nobility and passion that we have never seen before in a lead character in the Final Fantasy series. Over the course of the game, Zach noticeably matures and becomes wiser about the world, his role in it and the realities of the Shinra corporation. It is a compelling tale that is all the more powerful as we know the eventual fate of Zach, since this is a prequel.
The world you are in is alive with people and there are many little back stories and side elements that flesh out the story and your relationship with the characters. E-mail and cell phone calls play a big part in this; you will constantly receive messages or calls adding some info or fleshing out a relationship. This addition of depth and immersion really enhances the tone and solidity of the world you are traveling through
The real winning element in the narrative is the true growth we see in the character interaction, in many other Final Fantasy games you don't understand why people care about each other. In this title, we see why Zach looks up to Angeal, we understand why he and Cloud are friends and we understand why Aerith misses him. These are real moments and for the first time in the series we have main characters we care about. I actually had a shiver when Angeal said to Zach at one point, "You're a little more important than my sword, but... just a little." The sly look and the posture of the character shows that Zach is much more important the Angeal's famous sword without him having to actually say it.