You’ve got me to thank for CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION existing. Having finally completed the original Final Fantasy VII for the first-time last year, I went out and bought a PSP for two reasons. Firstly, to replay some classics I had forgotten about, and also to play through Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII for the very first time. Two weeks later, CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION was announced. It is sods law, but, you’re welcome.
As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of Final Fantasy VII being first released, a remaster of the previously PSP exclusive Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was announced. After my time with it though, I have one lingering question in my head: Is this a remaster or a remake? To call this a remaster is doing it a disservice, but has anything substantial enough been added to call this a remake? CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION falls somewhere in the middle of these phrases, but don’t let that distract you from one of the finest Final Fantasy spinoffs.
But there is another elephant in the room to discuss. CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION is a direct prequel to the original Final Fantasy VII, and not Final Fantasy VII Remake. So, despite the same voice actors being used from Final Fantasy VII Remake, along with a similar UI and more to be mentioned, CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION is still the prequel to the original game.
Let’s save the discussion for why Final Fantasy VII Remake is still AWOL from Xbox consoles for another day though.
CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION tells the doomed tale of Zack Fair. Zack’s name pops up infrequently during the main Final Fantasy VII, but his presence is felt throughout. In Crisis Core however, his story of a rise through the SOLDIER ranks is front and centre. He is joined by comrades Angeal – who currently wields the iconic Buster Sword – Cloud and of course, Sephiroth. Their major concern is another member of SOLDIER known as Genesis.
The game starts at the back end of the war against Wutai, and this could be seen as a template for the rest of the game. Without descending into “fan service” territory, Crisis Core is chock full of these moments and places that you will recognize from Final Fantasy VII: Costa del Sol, Nibelheim, Junon and more. It helps flesh out the world and fill in the blanks leftover from the main game.
Many players will know little tidbits of Zack’s story, and when these moments occur you can’t help but smile.
Not only that, but plenty of characters are given a new light. The likes of Tifa, Aerith, Hojo and more return, with many of them now being voiced by their Final Fantasy VII Remake counterparts. When it released on the PSP, Crisis Core didn’t feature full voice acting, but this is no longer the case. Some of the more cheesy lines do produce a slight cringe on your face as you play along, but these are a staple of JRPGs in general. The voice acting though is of a very good standard.
Another new feature is the combat in CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION. Again, due to the limitations on the original PSP release, the action-RPG combat was a much more fiddly affair. This has now been alleviated and once again channels the Final Fantasy VII Remake in terms of gameplay.
The Digital Mind Wave, or DMV, is still present. This slot machine type modifier during combat is used in a variety of ways: for summoning, Limit Breaks, temporary buffs and also levelling up. There are two reels; one with portraits of characters you’ve encountered and summons. If these line up you can perform the appropriate summon or Limit Break.
The other is a number based one. If the numbers match on the reels, they can begin to level up the materia you have in the corresponding slot. If they reveal a ‘777’ on the reels, then Zack will level up.
It’s a peculiar mechanic, particularly with levelling up. Killing monsters doesn’t reward EXP like a traditional RPG, but instead gives out SOLDIER Points, or SP. These feel a bit arbitrary though. Each spin of the reels costs 10SP to do so, but you will quickly have thousands of them, and because the reels occur involuntarily at all times, you won’t really notice any SP has disappeared.
You will have also probably deduced that levelling up is left to choice too. There is some sort of mechanic running in the background to ensure you don’t level up too fast or too slow, but how this works I don’t know. On a number of occasions though, just when I thought I had not levelled up for a while, I would level up in consecutive encounters.
Aside from the regular encounters and the main plot are 300 additional missions to undertake. These short, sharp missions can be completed within a few minutes each and are again a spillover from Crisis Core originally being on a portable console. You will have to roam around the same six or seven maps to kill a specific enemy, whilst battling random encounters. 300 may seem like a lot, threatening repetition, but the rewards are largely worth it. With the combat being as much fun as it is, these extra missions are a welcome way to flesh out the 15-20 hour story.
One aspect that has definitely improved over the original is the graphics. This is where the question of whether it is a remake or a remaster comes into play, as the work gone into this is clearly more than a simple asset update. Graphically, CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION isn’t too far away from the standards set by today’s AAA releases. It is only slightly let down by the pre-rendered cutscenes. These will have looked visually impressive on a PSP, but now look inferior to the in-game action. Technological advancements, eh?
Final Fantasy VII is regularly seen as the greatest game in the fabled JRPG franchise, yet it is hard to argue against CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION being the best spinoff. The improvements to the graphics and combat elevate this remaster above, whilst retaining the best features of, the original.
This isn’t the only Final Fantasy VII spinoff, but it feels all the more important now with the events happening in Final Fantasy VII Remake and Rebirth, telling the backstory of Zack Fair to a new generation of gamers. Maybe when Vincent Valentine turns up in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, we can get the remaster of Dirge of Cerberus too.
CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION is on the Xbox Store