Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion takes the PSP prequel to Final Fantasy 7 and updates it for a modern audience. Square Enix really had no other choice, as it looks like Zack Fair, the star of Crisis Core, will be a big player in the Final Fantasy 7 remake trilogy. Unfortunately, there’s no handy way for new fans to play through his story.
The original game never got a digital version for whatever reason. So there was never an official way to obtain it on PS3 or Vita. So the only avenue to play it now is to find a UMD and a PSP (but not a PSP Go) or resort to piracy.
Fortunately, Square Enix did a great job on Reunion. Unlike some of its recent retro projects (Chrono Cross), this game skirts the line between a remaster and a total remake. While it’s almost 1:1 with the original regarding the story and level design, the graphics, models, and combat have been significantly upgraded.
The plot is carried over in its entirety from the original Crisis Core. It tells the story of Zack Fair, how he deals with a rebellion in the ranks of SOLDIER, and covers the five years before Final Fantasy 7.
I like Crisis Core as a standalone game, but it adds a lot of confusion to the overall Compilation of Final Fantasy 7 metaseries. The elements that expand on events we heard about in FF7, like the Wutai War, are much appreciated. However, Genesis and Angeal aren’t compelling characters to me and just serve to muddy Sepiroth’s backstory.
Regardless, I didn’t notice anything missing in Reunion. On the contrary, the game now features full voice acting, which is an excellent upgrade over the original. There are also some slight edits to cutscenes that add or subtract a moment here and there. Of course, all the original side quests and other content is available as well. I noticed the script was given a once over, and lines are changed here and there but don’t count on a bunch of new stuff appearing or a full script rewrite.
Remaster or remake?
In contrast, the visual update that Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion brings is substantial. Crisis Core was impressive on the PSP but hasn’t aged the greatest. Even when upscaling on an emulator, it’s not a game that looks great on a larger screen.
I’d like to learn exactly how Square Enix went about designing the visuals for Reunion. There are enough differences between it and the original that it’s obvious many of the backgrounds are made from scratch (as opposed to upscaling the old ones). Many details pop out that weren’t there on the PSP, and the lighting is much improved as well.
However, the environmental geometry seems like it comes straight from the PSP. The game still has a very linear, corridor-based layout, and from a brief comparison, the loading transitions are in the exact same locations. You’d think one of the big advantages of bringing Crisis Core to modern platforms would be the elimination of at least some loading points. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, that’s not the case here. As a result this game loads more than FF7 Remake despite the environments being more compact.
Unfortunately, the model quality varies at times. In particular, the character models look a bit odd. Some, like Sephiroth (who I assume is reusing his FF7 Remake assets), look fine. On the other hand, Angael reminds me of Scott Stapp in his prime. That’s not to say any of the models are horrible. However, I expected them to be more uniform in quality.
The cutscenes are another area where Reunion is a mixed back. The original FMVs were produced in HD, and it looks like Square Enix did a quick upres and threw them in as is. As a result, they have a bit of a blurry, soft feel that doesn’t contrast well with the sharp new visuals. The in-game graphics are frequently sharper and higher quality than the FMVs, which isn’t a huge deal, but again, there’s a lack of uniformity between the two.
Spin the wheel
Combat in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion is basically FF7 Remake lite. It’s a much smoother experience, and camera control being on the right stick is very welcome.
The Digital Mind Wave (DMW) slots return, but they’re less intrusive this time around. The difficulty has been scaled to where I didn’t feel like some fights depended on getting good rolls. They also tend to be more generous, and it seemed like I got limit breaks and summons more regularly than in the original.
I have mixed feelings about the DMW, and I wouldn’t have minded it being eliminated completely. It limits your ability to strategize, and I think a full implementation of the system from Final Fantasy 7 Remake would have spiced things up for fans of the original.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion: The Final Verdict
Crisis Core Reunion is not quite a remaster and not quite a remake. The upgraded visuals breathe new life into the game, but there are little reminders here and there of its PSP origins. However, with a $50 price point, Square Enix is at least somewhat acknowledging that it’s not rebuilt from the ground up.
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth will almost certainly reference events from Crisis Core. So, a playthrough is practically required for those looking forward to the next installment of the FF7 Remake series. Considering the condition of some of Square Enix’s past remasters, Crisis Core Reunion impresses. I hope this is an indicator we can expect the company to take more care with this sort of title in the future.