If you know me, or followed my reviews for any period of time, you’ll likely know that I’m a pretty big fan of the Final Fantasy franchise. It’s been a constant part of my gaming journey ever since I was young, through to now thanks to how replayable many of them are and the numerous remasters and remakes that have launched in recent years, and likely into the future as the series shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Of the many, many entries the series has, one of my personal favourites and arguably one of the deepest when it comes to world building and complexity is Final Fantasy 7. While many have experienced the tale of Cloud Strife, whether it be via the original game or the 2020 Remake, unless you had a PSP in the mid 2000’s, you may have missed the awesome prequel that was Crisis Core. Now, almost 15 years on, that tale has been recreated, upgraded with multiple quality of life improvements and brought to more platforms than ever before to make this release of Crisis Core the definitive way to experience the game whether you’re wanting to jump in for the first time or if you’re a returning player.
The events of Crisis Core take place 7 years prior to the beginning of Final Fantasy 7. You play as Zack Fair, a character you may have a little bit of context for if you’ve played FF7 or it’s Remake. Zack is a SOLDIER for Shinra and at the beginning of the game his goal is to be recognised for his efforts as a SOLDIER and promoted from being ranked 2nd class to the more prestigious 1st class. His dreams are clear pretty much from the earliest moments of the game but before long, Zack finds himself assigned to retrieve a missing SOLDIER named Genesis and manages to uncover a deeper mystery involving other members of SOLDIER and Shinra’s twisted Jenova Project. It’s a deep and emotional tale that fleshes out the characters and world we’ve come to learn more about in FF7.
Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion walks a really strange line between what we typically call a remaster and a remake. While it’s certainly not the ground up full recreation that FF7 Remake was to the original Final Fantasy 7, it’s more than your standard asset upres remaster we’ve seen many times in recent years. Reunion uses the original PSP game as the framework but they’ve rebuilt most of what’s laid on top to make it feel more in line with a game that’s releasing in 2022 rather than 2008.
The largest and most notable change with Reunion are definitely the visuals. It’s a huge step up all round from the original and there are times that it looks right on par with what we got in the FF7 Remake just a couple of years ago. In the shift over to Unreal Engine 4, the character models have been completely rebuilt and look fantastic, the user interface and menus have been redesigned to be brought more in-line with the designs of FF7 Remake and the environments are now incredibly detailed and feel modern. It’s truly one of those cases where the game now actually looks how you thought it looked when playing it back on the PSP, but looking back on footage of the PSP version to compare while playing Reunion, it’s clear to see it’s come a very long way.
Another notable improvement that Reunion introduces is a faster paced combat system. Zack feels way more dexterous on the field, with the ability to quickly dodge, roll to vantage points, sword strike and unleash spells smoother and faster than ever before. The pacing of combat in the PSP version is noticeably slower by comparison, so I’m glad that things feel a lot smoother now given that Crisis Core utilises a real-time action based combat system. You also now have the ability to quickmap abilities and spells to button commands now too which can be accessed by pressing R1 + a face button rather than having to use the dpad to scroll through a list and individually select the command you want to do while also trying to manoeuvre the battlefield or dodge attacks in real time like we had to do on the PSP version. These quality of lift improvements really help the flow of battle and remove some of the frustrations that plagued Crisis Core in the past so I was so glad to see them reworked in this rerelease.
Also returning on the combat side of things is the DMW (Digital Mind Wave) system. This is a constantly spinning slot machine that can be seen in the top left corner of the screen during combat encounters. It features 3 sections, each of which include a number and an image of a character that Zack has some sort of relationship with in the game. Each time it spins, depending on the combination of images and numbers displayed, it will reward a different kind of reward or buff to Zack. These can include things like being invincible, immune to magical effects, spells costing zero MP to cast, among many other things. Matching 3 images will also allow Zack to execute Limit Break attacks or even summons if the images align with one of the game’s summon creatures. Having this mechanic sitting on top of an already solid system helps each battle feel fresh and somewhat randomised at all times as you’re never really able to predict what the DMW system will spit out for you next. I’m one of the fans that really love this system, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been featured in other games since the original release of Crisis Core.
While Reunion does a lot to bring Crisis Core into the modern era, there are some aspects where it struggles to escape it’s legacy as a PSP game. The shift to Unreal 4 has done a lot to lift the game visually, but the game has kept it’s original CG cutscenes mostly intact resulting in a very noticeable quality difference between these scenes and the in-game cutscenes. I would have loved if these scenes were also rendered in engine to keep things visually consistent. The layouts of many of the stages also retain the corridor-like linearity that was ever present in games of the era, which being a 1:1 remake of that game, I fully understand, but it also makes it very clear at times that you’re playing a game designed 15+ years ago. But most of all the game’s side missions continue to not be that fun to complete, which is a similar issue I had with the original game. They were very much a product of their time and target audience (and the PSP) with them being bite sized, highly repetitive battles designed to be played while on the go. I would have loved to see them enhanced or removed altogether but do appreciate Square Enix taking the time to remake them as well as they may actually appeal to some Crisis Core fans a lot more than they resonated with me. Thankfully they’re optional for the most part, but if you happened to really like this part of the game, you’ll probably love that they’re still here.
Another notable improvement with Reunion is that it’s fully voiced now. Previously, there were still quite a number of text based interactions between characters but now they’re voiced which really helps with the delivery of the story and the overall immersion in the world and it’s characters for me. Quite a number of characters have been recast to match their new voice actors that featured in the FF7 Remake, which I did appreciate too as it keeps things consistent with the new FF7 universe that Square Enix are going forward with these days.
Whether you’ve played Crisis Core in the past or planning to jump in for the first time, there’s really no better way to experience it than with the Reunion Remaster. It does so much to bring a title that released 15 years ago into the modern era, and succeeds on most of it. And with numerous quality of life improvements implemented and the addition of full voice acting, it’s an incredible way to experience this part of the wider Final Fantasy 7 universe.
A PS5 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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