It’s been a long decade and a half since Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII launched for Sony PSP and expanded the FFVII lore with a major prequel. Square Enix and Tose have picked a pretty daring moment to finally bring the game back for a modern remaster, since it has no connection with the ongoing and massively popular Final Fantasy VII Remake saga. But regardless of the timing or the confusion it might cause for some, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion stands in review as an excellent remaster of an awesome game. As long as you aren’t expecting much new gameplay content, you’ll be satisfied.
A Simple Story Emotionally Told
In Crisis Core Reunion, you play as congenial Shinra SOLDIER Zack Fair, whose only aspiration is to protect people and become a hero. This is intriguing and ironic, since Shinra will become a major villain of Final Fantasy VII, and the great strength of Crisis Core’s narrative is how it recontextualizes the bad guys of FFVII. Shinra employees aren’t all mustache-twirling sadists; a lot of them just want to earn their paycheck. Even silver-haired terror Sephiroth becomes an endearing friend to you, at least for a while.
But for those who aren’t familiar with FFVII, Crisis Core still tells a solid standalone story of a warrior just trying to do his job while staying true to his convictions as his friends seem to betray him one by one. Not all of the characters are particularly memorable, (I constantly mix up the names of two other SOLDIER characters, Genesis and Angeal.) but they mostly exist to shape Zack into the person he is at the heart-rending conclusion of the story. And since this is a prequel, it doesn’t demand existing knowledge of Final Fantasy VII — although playing Crisis Core first could ruin major plot twists of FFVII. Tread with caution.
Running on PS5, Crisis Core Reunion improves tremendously on the visuals of the PSP release, with fairly detailed models for major characters and breathtaking new animations for summon attacks from guys like Ifrit and Bahamut. It’s understandably not as beautiful as Final Fantasy VII Remake, as there are some stiff animations, and environmental textures can vacillate between mesmerizing and super muddy in the same moment. Still, it’s a beautiful game overall, with nice lighting and reflections and a pretty stable frame rate. Some CG videos have also been imported from the PSP, which are grainy but beautifully executed.
Meanwhile, the audio is crisp and impactful, and the new soundtrack arrangement is as catchy as ever. In terms of literal number of songs, the soundtrack could stand to be more varied, but everything that is here is terrific. The game also has full voice acting now, and I found it to be pretty solid across the board.
With Fantastic Combat, Buster
Combat is fast and thrilling in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion, with tight controls that make it easy to attack, block, dodge, or use special abilities mapped to specific buttons. Zack can equip materia and accessories with a wide range of effects for high strategic customization. In addition to letting you cast magic, materia also lets you equip physical abilities, increase your stats, or trigger other effects. You can even level up and fuse materia for new or stronger effects. The potential for customization is so awesomely high that you can use it to defeat high-level enemies that would otherwise kill you in one hit.
Further enriching gameplay is a slot machine system that constantly spins in one corner of the screen, offering random useful bonuses like temporary invulnerability to physical attacks or 0 MP cost for magic. It can be a fun and unpredictable life-saver. Some special attacks (like the aforementioned summon attacks) can also be activated from the slots, and they’re all tied to characters you’ve met during your journey. You can even kind of level up some of these attacks through repeated use.
A vast multitude of enemy types keep battles fresh, and while the story is pretty concise, there are about 300 short and optional side missions with different rewards you can attempt from any save point. Every mission involves going through segments of the same handful of maps over and over again to battle enemies, which isn’t quite as monotonous as it sounds thanks to the constantly escalating difficulty. Indeed, cobbling together the right combination of materia and accessories to overcome an enemy who is completely demolishing you is extremely satisfying. In general though, the difficulty feels fair, especially because the game always tells you when a special attack is coming, even if it’s coming from off-screen.
It’s possible to become extremely overleveled from optional missions early on and steamroll the entire story, which is fun for its own sake. It also helps to sell just how powerful and capable Zack is, even compared to other Final Fantasy heroes.
When you’re not fighting, Reunion has lots of weird but charming minigames that pop up when you least expect them, even including at the end of the game in-between serious plot beats. At random moments, you can expect to unlock things like squat competitions or betting on how many people will walk by in a crowd. These little efforts to add variety are appreciated, even if they’re largely inconsequential.
In terms of game content, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is almost identical to the original Crisis Core. One difference is that you can immediately retry any battle now after dying, which makes the game and side missions in particular more lenient. You can also now attempt to weaken or outright prevent enemies’ super attacks before they trigger. Optional higher-level enemies can kill you instantly with their super attacks, so devising strategies to prevent that is again thrilling and satisfying. (One more, albeit superficial change is that the look of Zack’s Buster Sword has been arbitrarily updated to match the look seen in Final Fantasy VII Remake.)
I finished the game in about 27 hours with 70% side mission completion, so this is still a bite-sized game owing to its PSP origins (and the game’s price reflects it). However, trying Hard mode could extend your playtime, and there is also New Game+. That I noticed, I never found any substantial content that wasn’t in the original release, so it makes sense that Square Enix has mostly chosen to describe the game as a remaster as opposed to a remake. Square and Tose didn’t reinvent the wheel. They just pimped out the wheel like crazy.
The Review Verdict on Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion
Ultimately, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion doesn’t do anything too crazy beyond massively upgrading the visuals and expanding the audio. And frankly, that’s good enough. The original PSP game was excellent with its strong central character and carefully crafted combat, and the addition of a right thumbstick on modern controllers to control the camera is a huge upgrade all by itself. By just taking this foundation and freshening up the graphics and sound, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is both one of the most successful video game prequels and one of the best action RPGs in general.
A PlayStation 5 review code for Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion was provided by the publisher.