|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Mar. 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Despite the lightning-fast pacing, there are elements of the combat system that don't quite work. The new DMW (Digital Mind Wave) system controls limit breaks (powerful animated attacks), status effects, and leveling. As you battle, three image and number wheels will spin randomly like a slot machine in the upper-left corner. If the images or numbers line-up in specific combinations, you will gain the effects of the DMW. These effects will help you in battle or to level up your character and/or Materia (magical elements). These wheels will line up more or less frequently depending on Zack's emotional state, as his excitement is quantified and measured by his Limit Gauge. The gauge will go all the way from Low (tranquil blue waves) to Heavenly (intense red waves) depending on just how hopped up Zack is.
What this DMW system does is take a lot of the control out of the RPG experience. If you want a high-level character, you had better hope the game gifts you triple sevens. Moreover, leveling up your Materia is truly dumb luck. If the number wheels line up to display two threes, then the Materia in your third slot will be upgraded; if the wheel shows three fours then the Materia in the fourth slot will be upgraded by two levels. This makes things very easy, but it also means you'll often be frustrated by the wheels leveling the wrong slot and you won't have access to some higher level spells of a certain type for an excruciatingly long time. In essence, the game randomly decides how your character will grow and doesn't allow you to leave your own mark on its development.
To make matters worse, achieving Limit Breaks by entering the Modulating Phase completely disrupts battles. You'll be cruising along whooping up on a baddy's backside when all of a sudden the action will stop while the slot machine of repetitious action animations takes over. If the three images line up then you will score a powerful Limit Break associated with that character. I can't tell you how obnoxious this can be. Quite honestly, I would have preferred no Limit Breaks over the constant interruptions. Also, it can't be left unsaid that every time you enter and exit pitched battles you will hear "Activating Combat Mode" and "Conflict Resolved." This will start to grate on you sometime before the 200th battle, depending on the state of your nerves.
Thankfully, the overall pacing of combat is very fast and very fun. It is easy to switch between the various attacks and Materia you have equipped with the L and R shoulder buttons. To activate the selected skill you will simply press the X button to confirm. This makes for quick killing, but also breaks up the button mashing aspect by having you click through the line of combat options in order to make your selection. One could definitely describe combat as easy, but it is still rich and rewarding. The spell effects and ease with which you can best your opponents make every encounter an enjoyable one.
It may sound like I didn't enjoy the title due to a few of its problems. That's not the case; I just want you to know exactly what to expect. Overall, this is a tremendous game which anyone who is remotely interested should pick up. It will provide you with anywhere from 15 to 25 hours of enjoyment depending upon the degree to which you explore the side missions and secrets. This is one of the very best games for the PSP and even one of the best in the Final Fantasy series. It is a title that almost everyone, even those who traditionally abhor the series, will thoroughly enjoy despite its mild quirks.
CCC Lead Contributor / News Director