So I want to talk about Final Fantasy 7 Crisis Core one more time to close out the year and this thread....(for now).
Crisis Core has a lot of issues in terms of the story, or rather the delivery of that story. if you've ever played the game or seen clips on Youtube you know the game is very much a mid 2000's game in terms of janky dialog and voice acting delivery. And the original game's combat was not great due to the limitations on the PSP. However there is one thing that I think above all else about Crisis Core.
The game has the best ending of any game I have ever played bar none.
That's because I believe there are some core things the game does absolutely right, and that is Zack being a very likable protagonist. Through his actions, his dreams, his behaviors, Zack is just a likable guy. Part of that success comes from Zack is playing the straight man. He's just a good dude who wants to do good things and he believes in the people around him with absolute trust. This turns out to be a bit naive of him because the people around him quickly begin to fall apart. His idols in Soldier either desert or turn into monsters, he begins to realize the company he works for is doing some fucked up shit, and he has this very real Crisis as everything around him turns into crazy town and you feel for the guy.
Adding to this is that fucking slot machine that seems like such a random thing to put into the game. But thematically makes sense for Zack because he befriends fucking everybody, and people mean a great deal to him. So to have these memories of his idols, and friends, occur to him during battle and thus he is able to do a move inspired by them really makes perfect sense. And throughout the game as people get added, and the people who don't, you really see the way Zack attaches to people.
All of this builds up to the greatest ending in any video game ever. But first a little bit of Zack's fate as shown in FF7. If you guys aren't aware, the big plot twist of FF7 is that Cloud was never in Soldier, he failed and just became a grunt that nobody fucking cares about. However because he got experimented on with Zack, Cloud got sick with mako poisoning which fucked up his head. Zack and Cloud escape together but Zack gets killed trying to get the two of them back to Midgar. Something screwy happens with the mako poisoning and Cloud's mind merges a lot with Zack's personality and abilities (since the experiments make him Soldier-levels of strong too). Thus Cloud lives believing that he lived Zack's life to an extent. Then it's reveal later what the true memories were and that Cloud just got sick and Zack was a different guy and that brings Cloud to himself. Point being Zack's doomed to die.
The whole of Crisis Core is basically building up to this big moment where we know Zack is doomed.
But the way they do it is wonderful. Zack flees Niebelhiem with Cloud and makes a detour to deal with the game's villain Genesis. With the help of another character Zack takes Genesis down and both his former friends die leaving him with Cloud alone. But here Zack finds a note that is from Aerith addressed to him. In the letter it reads that this is the 89th letter that Aerith has written Zack in 4 years since he left on his original mission. Meaning that Zack, Cloud, and the famous Sephiroth going crazy and burning a town down happened 4 years ago. 4 years of being tested and experimented on. Zack in a panic needs to get back to Aerith, who's relationship isn't shown as good as it could be throughout the game thanks to the chapter system. But it is implied that over the course of months of the game's timeline, Zack and Aerith really become a couple. So this 4 year reveal is great to give Zack a rushed urgency to get back and gives the player a heartbreaking dread because we all know....Zack doesn't make it back.
On the outskirts of Midgar Zack hides Cloud and gets confronted by the Shinra army who can't let an experiment go wandering free. Zack slowly pulls his sword and says an infamous mantra and goes into the fight.
It is here the player is given control, just like any other combat in the game. You battle an endless horde of grunts, while helicopters pelt you with missiles. Here the player notices that they can't die, even if they take fatal damage the hp meter will never drop below one. So you kill dude after dude. Until the slot machine starts to act weird and fizzle. Then memories show up just like they have the entire game, except three memories play back to back to back. And the game brings the slow machine into the center of the screen and three characters (Cissnei, Tseng, and Sephiroth) get deleted. Through this you realize that Zack is dying and he is reliving his final memories of the people that mean the most to him, basically his life is flashing before his eyes.
The slot machine brings up memories again this time it's of Angeal and Cloud. Then a final memory....Aerith and it's the longest memory yet. Cloud and Angeal are deleted and Zack collapses to the ground. A brief scene plays and Zack gets weaking back to his feet. Back into the combat for the player, except Zack barely moves and swings his sword weakly. The slot machine is just three struggling pictures of Aerith. This goes on for a minute or two until finally there is a final memory of Aerith and the slot machine combats back with the images of Aerith being deleted, symbolizing that Zack's final memories are of the love of his life. Her voice rings through his head and then darkness.
This ending is fucking heartbreaking because the game despite it's jittery story has bonded these two character together so well that the player might not even realize how great they are together until you realize what happening here. But not only that, the majority of this ending is done through gameplay, the player is given control to fight back but it's not a fight you can win and no matter what you do, no matter how good your gear or your level is, there is nothing you can do about it. And it makes it hit that much better. The stupid fucking slot machine that you've thought was a random weird gameplay mechanic this whole time ends up being a powerful story telling device that has been under your nose for your entire playthrough.
And there is a final cutscene where Cloud's started to recover and he crawls over to Zack. Zack, barely alive gives Cloud the Buster Sword and tells him to be his living legacy (which also adds to Clouds delusions of being Zack later), the shock starts to bring cloud out of the mako sickness and he morns Zack before dragging himself to Midger.
Here Crisis Core reunion does something else neat, in that instead of the PSP cinematic you actually get a modified version of the FF7Remake's opening which ends with Cloud on top of a train racing for the bombing mission where he says, "I'm Cloud. Soldier 1st Class."
There is a bit more that happens around this ending but that's the key stuff and honestly, having just seen it again, I cannot for the life of me think of any game with a better ending.
I'm gonna go finish crying now.