In 2007, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core was a spin-off game; One part of a cash grab aimed at Final Fantasy 7 obsessives that were looking for something to play on the PlayStation Portable. It was a prequel-flavored slice of Midgar and the world of FF7 with real-time battles, baffling reels and enough goodwill and story lore to make it all just about work.
The story centers around a relatively minor (but popular!) character from the original game, Zack. Without spoiling the whys and whens (and 2020’s FF7R is shaking up the canon of Final Fantasy 7 anyhow), Zack has significant connections to Cloud, the big bad Sephiroth and other characters. Unfortunately, he dies before the original game starts and only appears in flashbacks.
As Square Enix tees up part 2 of its big-budget Remake project, Crisis Core Reunion gives newer players the chance to fill in the storyline blanks on Zack. He’s featured in post-credit scenes in Remake, suggesting he might be a more significant character going forward.
Square Enix has upgraded the character models, backgrounds, textures and the UI to bring some degree of graphical parity between Crisis Core and the recent Remake. There’s also voice acting across the entire storyline of the game. However, the character animations haven’t benefited from the same level of attention – it looks like Final Fantasy X’s HD remaster. That’s not so bad, but it’s a little disappointing from a PS5 game in 2022. Crisis Core Reunion has several character models that look almost good enough to appear in Remake, even if they move like characters in a PS2 game. (Sephiroth in particular, who appears briefly in the demo, seems more lovingly remastered than even Zack.)
It’s not all bad news. Now on a home console, you have two analog controllers to control camera and movement simultaneously: the PSP just had one analog nub. It makes the battles far easier to parse and focus on. And the battles were still enjoyable, if a little simple, during my demo.
Don’t expect the responsive battles and spectacle of Remake, either. Crisis Core’s slot-machine battle mechanism called “Digital Mind Wave (DMW) – no idea – is still here. During battles, it will cycle automatically through numbers and pictures of characters you meet through the game. If some of the numbers match, you can pick up health, ability points, improved chances of a critical hit and more. If the reel pictures match up, you can launch a powerful Limit Break attack that can do a lot of damage, buff your character and some other nice things. If the numbers line up as “777”, Zack will gain a level — and that’s still weird.
The battle system, like the visuals, is from a simpler time. You’ll fight with a combination of sword swings, spells, and techniques, topped up with Limit Breaks. You can block and dodge, which was crucial in the two boss battles I faced. But it all felt a little too basic.
I keep comparing Crisis Core with Remake, with its fluid animation, slow-mo menus and.. Millions of dollars of development capital. That’s a little unfair, but Crisis Core Reunion is here for FF7 fans looking dive deeper into the game’s lore — 2007 was a very long time ago.