If you’re a huge fan of Final Fantasy VII, there’s a good chance you might have played Crisis Core.
If you haven’t, however, perhaps because you’ve never owned a PlayStation Portable, then Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is for you. A remaster of the game first released in 2007, this is a prequel to what is considered by many to be one of the best RPGs of all time. And while it very much veers into fan-service territory, for those wishing to flesh out the world and story presented in Final Fantasy VII, it’s essential.
Though “essential” in this case doesn’t mean that Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is a game that’s going to take your breath away. It’s a far cry from the stellar experience provided by the original Final Fantasy VII or indeed Final Fantasy VII Remake. In fact, it’s pretty important to take on board that this is a remaster rather than a remake. There are no story changes here or any other massive deviations. It’s just Crisis Core with much-improved visuals and some other new additions and tweaks.
Throwing players into the boots of Zack Fair, a SOLDIER member who dreams of being a hero, the events of Crisis Core play out years before the events of Final Fantasy VII. Genesis, one of the strongest members of SOLDIER alongside the Buster Sword-wielding Angeal and Sephiroth, has gone AWOL, and soon you get caught up in the dramatic events that follow. It’s a story of dreams and honour that will take you to many places that will be familiar if you’ve played Final Fantasy VII at any point. You’ll meet many familiar faces, too.
What makes Crisis Core very different from Final Fantasy VII, however, is its action-focused gameplay. With its story split into numerous chapters, most have you travelling through largely linear environments, defeating enemies as you go. Forget about random battles; the enemies here mostly pop up at pre-set locations. And instead of selecting commands and waiting your turn, it’s up to you to move around the battlefield and make effective use of your skills.
Related: The Best RPGs on PS4 and PS5
In the early hours of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion, the combat can feel very basic. Zack can perform a combo with his sword, as well as dodge, guard and use items, but other than that you need to rely on the abilities afforded to you by your equipped Materia. You also have limited Materia slots available at the start, too. Give it time though, and you soon have more slots at your disposal, giving you additional options. Even better, multiple loadout slots are available, allowing you to create multiple Materia set ups for different situations. It’s just a shame you can’t switch between them during combat.
Magic Materia, such as Fire, grants you use of magic spells that require MP to be used. Ability Materia on the other hand, requires AP to be used. In any case, it’s up to you what you focus on, with a range of equippable accessories available to boost your parameters to suit. Ultimately though, success in some combat encounters can feel like it relies on luck just as much as it does skill, thanks largely to a slot machine-like system that grants the use of powerful limit breaks attacks and summons.
Basically, as you engage in battle, a slot machine whirrs away in the upper left corner of the screen, and the three images and numbers it lands on will have numerous effects. Match numbers and you’ll find some of your Materia levelling up, for example, while getting three matching icons will result in a Limit Break or Summon being made available for use. As you progress though the game, new images are added to the machine, increasing the range of outcomes possible.
The result is that combat is always unpredictable, for better or for worse. It has to be said that the combat in this remaster has been made notably more engaging than in the PSP original though. It’s faster, deeper, and much more fluid. A new defensive stance has even been added, allowing for auto-guard and powerful attacks just like in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Still, the combat isn’t anything special. It’s enjoyable but nothing more.
To break up the fighting, a whole host of minigames have also been shoehorned into Crisis Core, ranging from striking down shells with your sword to collecting treasure chests as they travel down a waterfall while avoiding enemies that stun you. Some are undoubtedly more enjoyable than others, but they’re all worth seeking out and completing thanks to the rewards they offer. They also help pad out the game’s running time.
Head straight through Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion and you’ll likely see the credits roll in around 10-12 hours. With a wealth of optional content including a whopping 300 missions, however, those seeking to see and do everything it has to offer will certainly get their money’s worth. There are multiple difficulties to tackle, too.
If there’s one thing about Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion that is likely to have you screaming at the screen in horror, it’s Zack’s English voice acting. This time around the whole game is voiced, though while most characters are matched with decent efforts, Zack’s voice is horrendous. You honestly might want to opt for the Japanese voice acting just to avoid it.
As HD remasters go, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion goes above and beyond what’s expected in many regards. Its visuals have been lovingly brought up to date, and the combat has been tweaked to make it much more palatable to modern audiences. But some aspects of it, like its suffocating linearity, haven’t aged well at all. And then there’s Zack’s terrible voice acting. Still, if you’ve never played this chapter of the Final Fantasy VII story, or wish to re-live it, this is the best way to do so.