Set six years before the 1997 PSX game Final Fantasy VII, the prequel Crisis Core follows the adventures of Zack Fair as he discovers the truth of the organisation he works for, Shin-Ra. At the time, Cloud Strife is still a Shinra Guard and Aerith Gainsborough also makes an appearance. Other prominent figures are Sephiroth, Tifa, Yuffie, Cait Sith, members of the Turks gang and also characters from Dirge of Cerberus.
The game is played as an action RPG and the events are mainly set around the city of Nibelheim. The turn-based battle system, DMV or Digital Mind Wave, is entirely new. It is based on reels with the portraits of the characters spinning in the top left corner. Lining up the same character in all reels is awarded with a power-up (Power Surge). Attacks are both physical and spell-based, and materia also makes a return. There are different varieties, both defensive and offensive, and different materia can also be fused together.