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Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion Review

Embrace your dreams

2022 has certainly been one of the weirdest years in Square Enix history, doubling down on its RPG production to incredibly mixed results. For every genuinely solid, caring remaster like Tactics Ogre there was a (sigh) Babylon’s Fall and, to be brutally honest, it left me with an uneasy feeling when Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion was announced. I was certainly happy to see it return, but would it end up as just another hastily put together cash-in?

Crisis Core, for those of you just joining the Final Fantasy VII fandom via FFVII Remake, is a prequel to the original PlayStation classic that released all the way back in 2008 on the PlayStation Portable. The PSP, for those of you just joining the Sony fandom via the PS5, was a handheld system that lived and died rather quickly, and is fondly remembered for its solid library of titles and not, in any way, its universal media disc format. Crisis Core itself pushed the system to its limit in presenting a full-blown action title, which was certainly impressive way back when, but given how far we’ve come in just a short space of time, it definitely needed an upgrade to fit within more modern conventions.

Enter the Reunion, an opportunity for Square Enix to follow up on its work on FFVIIR and tell Zach Fair’s story with a fresh coat of paint. From the outset the added polish is as clear as day, the opening scenes setting the now established design and tone of Remake’s Midgard, and it equally doesn’t take long to discover some of the key changes made to the combat system. While the bones of the original design remain, real-time combat mixed with traditional Final Fantasy magic and summoning, everything feels far closer to FFVIIR’s smoother, faster UI which the unique Digital Mind Wave system benefits from the most.

Hair to die for

Think of the DMW as a slot machine (no, not a pachinko), where a random match of three characters can result in unique Limit Breaks, summons, healing waves and more. You don’t have much control over the system outside of unlocking creatures that can potentially be summoned, but it adds an air of excitement to the action on screen and keeps things fresh in the process. Beyond that, Zach has plenty of his own abilities which mimic what Cloud and the gang could accomplish in FFVII proper, with the Materia system allowing you to determine your magic loadout along with the usual assortment of potions that can be accessed during combat.

A word of advice: don’t skip over the side missions. Though relatively short, these little quests hold the key to unlocking a ton of unique Materia and items you can’t otherwise find out in the wild or in a store, which in turn will make the late game quests just a tad easier when the difficulty ramps up. If you do decide to skip them, the story will play out in a rather brisk ten hours, but your time will be more rewarded with some cute cameos too if you go all in.

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Besides the obvious updates and changes to suit modern systems, your widescreens and higher resolutions, the bulk of Crisis Core will be very familiar to anyone (such as myself) who played the original release all those years ago. The story plays out almost exactly the same, not quite word for word, though now fully voice acted compared to the mish-mash of VO and text of the original cut. Most of the cut scenes have supposedly been up-scaled from the PSP and, to be fair, I didn’t notice this little tidbit straight away, which just goes to show how well both the original FMVs were and how well they’ve been implemented here.

Well this isn’t a one sided fight at all. Nope.

It’s a little more obvious when the game shifts to in-engine cinematics, however. The development team decided to blend together the original scenes of Crisis Core with their modern character models, which works in some way to improve the dynamics of storytelling but otherwise feels outdated when Zach spins on the spot or awkwardly move towards or away from the screen. Clearly the team were limited by how much they could actually change and upgrade, making it feel less like a remake and somewhere closer to a cheap paint job without sanding down the cracks beforehand.

Despite that strange decision, there’s still plenty to like about Crisis Core, especially for those who may have missed out on the experience in the first place. Given his importance within the lore of FFVII, being able to replay Zach’s at times emotional tale is a welcome one, with the last few hours especially driving home the feels. The story still holds up, even with its quirky side-quests and unusual sense of humour (a staple of Japanese RPGs, really), and the added visual upgrades, another top-notch orchestral score and a number of added touches that brings it more in line with FFVIIR’s style makes this the best way to play Crisis Core.

Zach being the only person in history who doesn’t know the song…

Final Thoughts

Zach’s tale remains one of the best of the handful of Final Fantasy VII spin-offs, and this remaster of sorts does a solid job of bringing it across from its humble portable beginnings into the bigger, bolder modern console generation. It’s still showing its age in a number of places, but the changes to the combat system makes for a more rewarding and enjoyable time for those new to the experience or returning players keen to be reminded of its emotional story.

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Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion Review
Not a monster
It does feel a little patchwork in places, but Crisis Core is a reunion worth going to. The emotional gut-punch of a finale remains one of the best in the long running series, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
The Good
Visually on par at times with Final Fantasy VII R
Key changes to combat and UI are welcome
Zach’s story is as emotional as ever, despite its quirkiness
Upgrades to music and sound effects complete the package
The Bad
Some animations are showing their age
The decision to lay new models atop old frameworks is an odd one
Some of its narrative quirks could have been improved
8
Get Around It
  • Square Enix
  • Square Enix
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
  • December 13, 2022

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion Review
Not a monster
It does feel a little patchwork in places, but Crisis Core is a reunion worth going to. The emotional gut-punch of a finale remains one of the best in the long running series, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
The Good
Visually on par at times with Final Fantasy VII R
Key changes to combat and UI are welcome
Zach’s story is as emotional as ever, despite its quirkiness
Upgrades to music and sound effects complete the package
The Bad
Some animations are showing their age
The decision to lay new models atop old frameworks is an odd one
Some of its narrative quirks could have been improved
8
Get Around It
Written By Mark Isaacson

Known on the internet as Kartanym, Mark has been in and out of the gaming scene since what feels like forever, growing up on Nintendo and evolving through the advent of PC first person shooters, PlayStation and virtual reality. He'll try anything at least once and considers himself the one true king of Tetris by politely ignoring the world records.

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