The Final Fantasy VII renaissance is upon us! Fans of Cloud, AVALANCE, and the world of Final Fantasy VII have come from the excitement of the Final Fantasy VII Remake, have Final Fantasy VII Rebirth on the horizon and we're just a week out from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion from releasing. Crisis Core is the prequel to the story of Final Fantasy VII, and was my first introduction to the world of Final Fantasy VII. Knowing how important the story of Crisis Core is, and how well the game was executed originally for the PSP, how much does it improve or suffer from a current-gen remaster?
Crisis Core Reunion follows the story of Zack Fair, a member of SOLDIER a genetically enhanced portion of the Shinra Corporations military, and his rise to become a 1st Rank SOLDIER and his dream to become a hero. We start with Zack almost at the end of his journey rising to the rank of a 1st early on and becoming a recognized SOLDIER on par with his mentor Angeal, the traitor Genesis, and the hero of the war with Wutai, Sephiroth. Just as Zack is attaining the rank that he's aspired to reach and is closer to his personal goal of becoming a hero everything surrounding him begins to fall apart.
The war with Wutai, a neighboring nation that's opposing the Shinra Corporation, comes to a conclusion with Shinra forces declaring victory. This sets up the main players at Shinra, and their relationships with Zack, and teaches players the basics of combat and exploration in the game. With news of the desertion of Genesis, and the appearance of Genesis clones attempting to attack the Director of the SOLDIER department the very obvious external antagonistic force of Wutai is very quickly replaced by a relatively unknown threat from within. The quick change in the story's focus is a bit odd so early on, but the plot hook of mysterious clones and genetically engineered warriors going rogue is far more interesting than that of a corporation wanting to invade another nation to build a power plant.
Over the next few chapters players' ideas of this perfect world that Zack is part of and has been working to join begin to fall to the wayside you learn of Genesis's ambition to change the world with the Goddess's "Sacred Gift." Angeal suffers his own conflict between whether the genetic alteration performed on him has turned him into a hero that can use his abilities to change the world or a monster that should be killed.
The game plays into some deep and introspective themes. Still, it's all wrapped up in edgy monologues about metaphorical and literal wings that can carry you through the sky, or the deep search for the true meaning of a verse from an in-universe play called LOVELESS. It's a fun story about the loss of friends and the finding of one's own path in the world, but if you're not inclined to buy into very 'anime' plotlines then you might find yourself rolling your eyes at how cheesy a lot of the dialogue is. Genesis as a character probably spends more time on-screen quoting poetry or soliloquizing than actually explaining to anyone what his deranged plot is.
Gameplay in Crisis Core Reunion is primarily conducted as an exploration of the world with triggered battles as you explore. You'll get to explore a variety of locations far from Midgar like Banora or Nibelheim or get free reign to explore the Shinra Building, neighboring suburbs, and the slums under the plate. With no overworld travel, the locations you visit will vary widely from scorching deserts to lush jungles and cold steel hallways.
Originating as a PSP game, each of the environments that you visit are quite linear, the map is almost a series of lines and nodes. While exploring you'll be able to predict as you transition from the linear hallway to the box-shaped room that you'll trigger a battle, this is even more prevalent in the mission side-quests that the game offers. Everything has definitely gotten a nicer coat of paint, and more in-depth assets added but that limitation on the framework does a lot to return the player to the idea that this game originated from the PSP.
In-game models give a very 'remastered' look to them as you can still tell from the shapes of models that they were intended for a less powerful system and now look much sharper. The voice acting that's now prevalent throughout the whole game does a great job to make the character's intentions so much more powerful, but hearing an emotional discussion in Zack's voice only to be paired with a primarily stationary model on the screen slightly flapping his lips does again highlight the game's origins.
The largest facelift that the game has received from across its environments is that of the Midgar slums. What was quite a dark and oppressive location in the original has been filled with sunlight and given a look much closer to that of the Final Fantasy VII Remake. While these environments have each earned their own glow-up in this remaster, it still feels like set dressing.
The combat system in Crisis Core Reunion triggers encounters while exploring the overworld. Enemies will spawn in and combat will begin but you'll stay in the overworld, albeit roped into an invisible ring where combat will take place. Zack can freely run and dodge around the arena choosing enemies to take on with sword slashes, or different materia to cast spells or unleash powerful sword attacks. Combat has also greatly benefitted from the remaster treatment. In the original which attack or ability you'd use would be set to a cursor along a bar, now you can activate any materia quickly with shortcuts.
The DMW returns from the original game, but again improved. The DMW is a constantly spinning wheel in the top left of the combat screen alternating through faces and numbers. When it lands on the same faces you'll get to activate a powerful summon or limit break, while certain number combinations can grant you a variety of boons in battle such as reducing MP cost to 0 for a temporary amount of time. The system functions just as it did before giving players good excuses to shift up their strategies when something more efficient triggers. The biggest benefit is that at no point does the DMW interrupt combat by taking over your whole screen when you're close to a Limit Break. Other effects on the screen such as a blue shimmering, or full-screen memories might still occur but that's more of an indication of what could be and not as intrusive.
Zack's movement and response time to attacking have also greatly improved allowing for much faster and more cinematic combat. Getting to see enemies in front of you displaying their electricity or ice weakness and getting to strategically roll around them and quickly cast spells intended for each leaves you with a satisfying feeling, especially as you're rewarded with extra HP, MP, and SP for completing a battle unharmed.
The missions will challenge players in increasingly difficult battles that work through side stories occurring within the world. Missions will have you take on further Wutai forces that remain, spend time hunting down treasures with a young Yuffie or rematch against more powerful renditions of bosses you've previously defeated.
A downside of the missions isn't that there are over 300 of them, but if you're playing them in tandem with completing the story you'll likely find yourself overpowered with the items you're rewarded with. On the flip side if you're completing the story and then want to turn around and go back for some of the missions you'll find yourself facing easy enemies, sure they're quick to kill but there are still a lot of missions to complete. Crisis Core was already one of the easier Final Fantasy games to beat, but you can make it trivial almost accidentally.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion has done a great job to pull what is such an important part of the Final Fantasy VII story from its cage on the PSP and bring it into the present. While there are aspects of the game that still betray its origins as a handheld game the grandeur of the story, conflicting development of the characters, and up-to-date control improvement make it right at home on a PlayStation 5 or other current generation systems. For a remaster I feel what that Crisis Core manages to nail is what I hope every remake of a game I enjoyed in the past does, and that's to look as good, or better, than my positive memories of the game.
TechRaptor reviewed Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by the publisher. This game is also available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC Via Steam.
- Complex story
- Updated controls
- Engaging combat
- Shows PSP roots
- Accidental power leveling