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Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion Is a Worthy Remake of the PSP’s Best RPG

crisis core: final fantasy vii reunion
Image Source: Square Enix
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Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion Is a Worthy Remake of the PSP’s Best RPG

Check out our official preview of Crisis Core: FFVII Reunion ahead of its release.

Square Enix’s Crisis Core remake is just as good as you remember it because if you, like me, have very fond but inaccurate memories of blasting through Midgar with Zack on the PSP back in 2007, going back to that original game now will likely be a bit of a shock. Jagged hair ends, slightly pixelated edges on our main characters’ clothes, and those dead lifeless eyes (definitely not mako-infused, those)… The original Crisis Core was lauded for its beautiful graphics when it first released, but I’d be lying if I said they still held up well today.

Booting up Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion this past week, it was like being transported back to 2007. The iconic train opening sequence, Zack’s flippant “Oh yeah!” as he somersaults out of the chopper, it’s all there. Beat for beat. My rose-colored memories of Crisis Core on the PSP came flooding back when I gained control of Zack for the first time; it felt like finally going home after being away for years. Your fondest memories of, well, anything will always seem perfect in your head, and Square Enix has captured that feeling wonderfully with Reunion.

Crisis Core serves as a prequel to the legendary Final Fantasy VII. It takes place years before Cloud becomes the cold mercenary we know him as, and the story focuses on SOLDIER 2nd Class, Zack Fair. Unlike Cloud, Zack is warm with a sunny disposition. He’s the kinda guy you always want around because he’s just that fun and goofy, though he isn’t afraid to show some serious emotional growth over the course of the story as well.

zack in crisis core reunion
Image Source: Square Enix via Twinfinite

This game offers us a look at iconic characters through a different lens; you’ll get to see Sephiroth before he went completely nuts, and even the lovable Yuffie makes a cameo appearance here and there. I can’t dive too deep into the particulars of the story due to embargo restrictions, but suffice to say that even if it can be a mess at times, it’s well worth seeing through if you want the full FFVII picture.

Graphically, Crisis Core Reunion looks stunning. It’s not quite on the level of the FFVII Remake of course, but it comes pretty close. The character models have been polished to a shine, and the rough edges are gone. I should point out that there’s still a certain robotic quality to the way the characters move, particularly in the less important cutscenes, but eh, I can forgive that, given how good the rest of the game looks.

It’s in the combat transitions where Crisis Core really starts to show its age. The game features real-time battles, but the transition from exploration to combat isn’t exactly smooth. You’d be running down a pathway with Zack, only to reach a slightly more open area before the female AI voice pipes up, “Activating combat mode”. Hack and slash your way through your foes and when the battle ends, the AI voice goes, “Conflict resolved”. It doesn’t sound so bad on paper, but repeat that about eight to 10 times in a single level, and it gets old quickly.

The transitions were even worse on PSP, yes, but bringing them back to current-gen consoles certainly felt like an odd, and very dated choice. 15-year-old me might’ve been able to put up with it since it was the only game I played for months, but 28-year-old me is crankier and more impatient with these sorts of things. I definitely wish Square Enix had done away with the transitions, and allowed for a more seamless flow between exploration and combat.

character menu in crisis core reunion
image Source: Square Enix via Twinfinite

The good news is that combat itself still feels fantastic in Crisis Core Reunion. The controls are fairly basic, where you press square to attack, X to dodge, and circle to use an item. Things get interesting when you start mixing magic and special attacks into your combos, and all of a sudden, fighting feels much more dynamic and exciting.

Reunion also introduces a new mechanic called the Ability Gauge, where a pinkish red bar will appear on the boss when it’s charging up a powerful move. You’ll have a short period of time to deplete that gauge by dealing as much damage as you can, and if you manage to deplete it entirely, the boss’s move gets canceled. Even if you don’t manage to break the bar, you’ll still reduce the damage that Zack takes, which is a very nice concession that I would’ve loved in the original game. Crisis Core could be pretty unforgiving on the PSP, where bosses had insanely powerful moves that could almost one-shot you with no warning at all. The Ability Gauge gives Zack more of a fighting chance, and the game feels less frustrating as a result.

And yes, the DMW is back too. This was easily my favorite part of Crisis Core, as it was the game’s most unique feature. For the uninitiated, the Digital Mind Wave is a slot reel-style limit break system that’s displayed in the top left corner of the screen. Zack gains SP as he defeats enemies, and SP is in turn expended to spin the reels. Whenever the images and numbers line up, you can get special buffs like no AP or MP cost for a limited period of time, as well as powerful limit break moves associated with whichever images get lined up.

bahamut strain in crisis core reunion
Image Source: Square Enix via Twinfinite

The DMW’s images are mostly character portraits of the people Zack meets along his journey, and his emotions will affect which characters pop up more frequently as well. So, for example, in chapter 2, Zack’s mentor Angeal weighs heavily on his mind, thus causing Angeal to show up more frequently on the reels. Every so often, when the reels match up, you might get to watch a very quick scene of a flashback that Zack had with that particular character.

If there’s one thing I love about video games, it’s when they use in-game mechanics to tell a story that can’t be done in any other medium. The DMW serves a very functional purpose for Crisis Core’s combat, but it also lets us know in subtle ways how Zack is feeling or what he’s thinking about at any particular moment. It’s been left largely untouched in Reunion, though there are much fewer combat interruptions since the game no longer comes to a short halt whenever the DMW hits one of the game’s many lesser effects.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is a worthy remake of one of the best PSP games ever made, and even from the brief amount of time I’ve spent with it, it’s easy to tell that longtime fans of the original aren’t gonna wanna miss out on this. A word of warning to the newer players, though, especially the ones who jumped on with FFVII Remake: this won’t look quite as good or as polished as Remake, and some design decisions left in here can feel painfully outdated. With that said, if you’re at all invested in the FFVII saga, Crisis Core is a must-play.

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