Back on the PSP, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was critically and commercially acclaimed. This little action RPG was meant to act as a prequel, filling in the gaps of Zack Fair’s backstory from the 1997 PS1 classic. But for those who didn’t play Final Fantasy’s seventh entry, they’d be inadvertently spoiling themselves on one of the most infamous plot twists in gaming history. What a hoot!
Fortunately, I wasn’t one of them. But others weren’t so lucky. Since this game resonated with so many PSP owners however, fans had been clamouring for an HD remaster to bring this title back with a fresh coat of paint. Then, 18 years later, their prayers were finally answered. Crisis Core Reunion is available now and has made several significant changes to the PSP original.
Taking heavy inspiration from Final Fantasy VII remake in terms of visual design and gameplay, this remaster’s combat and camera are now significantly more free-flowing. Actions are assigned to specific buttons and can all be chained together through a shortcut menu, even granting players extra damage if they finish combos using command materia. Also, abilities like dodge roll and guard don’t take up AP here. The DMW slot and stat-buff system don’t disrupt the momentum either, plus limit break and summon animations can be skipped entirely, which is a neat touch.
Before I start blurting out even more changes; for those unaware, combat in Crisis Core Reunion is a huge component. It makes up an overwhelming majority of the game’s runtime, and luckily, it doesn’t suck. Just get used to hearing “conflict resolved” every time a battle is completed. It will grow on you though, so don’t worry. Throughout the adventure, Zack Fair will continually run into mobs of enemies and need to combo attacks and magic/abilities called materia for maximum damage output. It’s a fairly simple system, but is quite addictive to play once the chance-based, Digital Mind Wave (DMW) mechanics enter the fray.
A slot machine constantly rotates during combat, handing out stat-buffs like knock-down resistance or temporary no MP/AP costs, as well as traditional Final Fantasy limit breaks and summons that can absolutely turn the tide of battle. In action, it encourages a healthy amount of experimentation, with several balanced materia loadouts (you can customise 5 in total) to take advantage of these perks. On a similar note, one aspect they’ve included in Crisis Core Reunion is the chance to decrease a boss’ limit break strength or completely stop it outright. This window of opportunity rewards players who focus on elemental weaknesses and utilise the game’s offensive mechanics to their fullest, rather than just mashing the attack button.
The Price of Freedom is Steep
Said bosses can be quite challenging too, especially on ‘Hard’ difficulty, which is now playable from the very start. To put things into perspective, a fully charged limit break can one-shot Zack, even at full health. Conversely, normal encounters are more of a mixed bag. Some enemies can be spammed to death with materia, while others can straight-up stunlock Mr. Fair into the lifestream. Speaking of materia, two pieces can also be fused together to create some interesting variants like ‘Dark Fira’ or enhance your pre-existing magic/abilities when the option to add items into the mix is available.
The mission structure of continually fighting battle after battle is fun at first, but it does start to become dull following hours upon hours of back-to-back bouts. The problem is, Crisis Core Reunion doesn’t contain much variance to keep things fresh. Sure, there’s a section where you have to chop down missiles with specific timings and a sloppy stealth section that feels very stiff. But apart from those, it’s mostly right back into the action that doesn’t contain the same amount of depth as Final Fantasy VII Remake, for comparison. Completionists will loathe the side missions too, which are essentially just hallway battles ad nauseam. In all seriousness, it will take around 70+ hours to finish all 300 of them. While players can unlock some handy rewards like extra summons and accessory slots, you’d honestly have to pay me megabucks to keep playing through these. Good Lord. Some cameo appearances from characters like the young Yuffie Kisaragi are nice, although it’s not enough to salvage the side missions.
The story of Zack Fair rising up the ranks to become a 1st Class SOLDIER operative does have it’s moments, but the narrative itself isn’t super engaging until the final few chapters. There definitely are some juicy lore nuggets and the comedic banter between Zack and his mentor, Angeal is top-tier… that is, when he’s actually around to talk. Though as a whole, the narrative can be skipped for the most part.
Wear, Tear and Rust
The glow up between the original and Reunion versions is night and day, with the big-time impact of magic and giant anime swords swings almost on par with FFVII Remake. Although, certain animations still have that early PS2 awkwardness to them, and the upscaled FMV cutscenes display some jaggy artifacting that’s hard to ignore. Loading screens are rife on the PlayStation 4 as well, often breaking up traversal a little too much for it’s own good. The 30FPS cap on Sony’s last-gen console is also very noticeable too.
At the same time, as much as I like Zack as a character, his new voice actor doesn’t quite match up to Rick Gomez’s previous performance. The rest of the newly recast voice actors brought over from Remake mostly hit the right notes, but it’ll be particularly hard to adjust for old-school fans of Crisis Core on PSP. In case you were wondering; when Genesis says “Shinra lapdogs!” it does sound a lot more natural. No more meme material here, folks.
The music has seen a complete overhaul from the ground up. Original composer Takeharu Ishimoto has expertly rearranged the soundtrack with more modern and brighter-sounding instrumentation. Most of the renditions are demonstrably better, albeit some of them, like the remix of Final Fantasy VIII’s ‘Those Who Fight’ come across as a little too chirpy at points. It’s hard to explain without hearing the track, though parts of it just don’t hit right. But overall, Crisis Core Reunion’s blend of electric guitars and orchestral-style instruments makes for a particularly rocking/upbeat type of atmosphere.
Crisis Core Reunion has significantly updated the PSP original. Battles have cut out the unnecessary hiccups and actions can be chained into each other for a more free-flowing combat system. Although, the near-constant battling throughout the story and side missions does become a massive chore over time. Zack Fair is a great character, but his new voice actor doesn’t quite hit the mark set by the original’s Rick Gomez. The story itself is also pretty mediocre, apart from the final few chapters and some lore scenes that diehard fans will appreciate. Those who fall into this category will love the game, but for everyone else, it might be a tougher sell.
The numerous additions included in Crisis Core Reunion are impressive. However, even if the combat is more enjoyable, graceful and weighty with fewer stoppages to boot, the repetitive gameplay loop of battling down long hallways does start to fizzle out. The story will please rabid fans of Final Fantasy VII, but for everyone else, the general narrative only gets good around the 70% mark. A little too late for most.
his game was reviewed using a download code provided by Square Enix. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.