Final Fantasy VII Reunion has a lot to offer as a remaster
As remasters go, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is one of the more carefully considered examples. To make a title originally built for the PSP feel at home on current-gen machines, Square Enix hasn’t just given it an HD facelift; there are significantly updated graphics, sound and even some gameplay mechanics.
The result is a sort of halfway house between the flashy production values of Final Fantasy VII Remake, and the compact ambitions of the 2007 game. For the most part, it makes for a pleasant compromise, although some remnants of the original translate better than others in the jump from handheld gaming.
For the uninitiated, Crisis Core acts as a prequel to Final Fantasy VII, following the adventures of Zack Fair, a character who only featured briefly in flashbacks in the main game. As a member of the Shinra Corp’s elite military unit, SOLDER, Zack’s fortunes are intertwined with those of Cloud and Sephiroth, the hero and villain to come.
Still, Crisis Core is more of an action game with light RPG elements than a full-fledged RPG, with Zack starting out in battle alone hacking away at monsters and baddies with his oversized sword.
CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION | Start date trailer
Reunion doesn’t change any of that, but first impressions certainly hide that this was once a PSP game. The main character models, for example, have been replaced with fresh ones that could pass for their Remake counterparts if you squint, and you’ll notice that the menus and tutorial hints have the same styles as the 2020 game.
The combat has also been spruced up and immediately feels much more dynamic. The camera stays closer to the action and is now fully controllable, as Zack shifts around as if charged with extra power himself, his blade combos landing with verve and ferocity.
There are also adjustments to the systems. The bread and butter of Zack’s fighting style is a responsive dodge-dial repeat pattern, but without fuss you can trigger any of six equipped materials – from spells like fire or cure, to deadly special techniques – by holding L1 and pressing the assigned face or right shoulder button.
Another clever new touch comes into play as larger enemies prepare to unleash their most devastating attacks. Where before you had to take the hit, you can now damage your opponent while they charge up to reduce the power of their attack or cancel it completely.
Underlying these new flourishes is a bedrock of customization options, allowing you to dress up Zack in countless ways. Deciding which materials to bring into battle from among the many you collect throughout the game, along with which accessories to equip, can make all the difference when facing stubborn bosses.
Or if you’re feeling underpowered, maybe it’s time to fuse some material together to create higher level versions and new options. Regardless, there’s a lot to play with, and the reuse of the materia system from turn-based party battles to fast-paced action remains one of Crisis Core’s great successes.
“The main character models have been replaced with fresh models that could pass for their Remake counterparts if you squint, and you’ll notice that the menus and walkthroughs have the same styles as the 2020 game.”
And yet, only sometimes do you really need to strategize, as most matches are over almost before they’ve started. Dodging and slashing will lead you to victory more often than not, especially since many enemies telegraph attacks, giving you time to circle and kick away as they can’t keep up.
Some have a little more nous, but that doesn’t matter when you face the same types over and over and learn which spells and techniques destroy them most skillfully. In fact, according to the story, some of the enemies are literally clones. “Too many copies,” Zack comments at one point. Pretty.
The repetition in combat is especially evident when it comes to side missions, of which there are a couple hundred or so. At least they’re convenient, in that you can dip in and out of them instantly from any save point, even when you’re in the middle of a chapter, to increase your level and gear. But each one only features a few battles against monsters you’ve already fought, and wading through more than three or four in a row is a tedious process.
This is where the limitations of a remaster, even a good one, become apparent. Because, of course, beneath all the improvements, Reunion is still a game tailor-made for the PSP. So while these quests were once ideal for short sessions, where you could knock off a handful between other engagements, a more focused session in front of a console reveals them as a largely mindless grind.
The game’s locations are similarly affected by the shift, with Crisis Core crushing and breaking up the world of Final Fantasy VII into convenient chunks that feel meager when magnified on a big screen.
The main missions are a stop-start affair, with very light exploration around tiny maps, and mostly pointless distractions outside of combat that don’t create much sense of place (a sequence where you track down a kid who stole your wallet is endlessly boring). The metropolis that is Midgar, meanwhile, which you return to between missions, has been reduced to a handful of sparsely populated streets.
Unfortunately, the remaster also failed to do anything about the quality of the English script, which was never Crisis Core’s strong point and is largely unchanged here. There are still conversations that barely make sense, like you’ve skipped a line between answers, and some extremely clumsy phrasing.
“Reunion is still a game tailor-made for the PSP. So while these quests were once ideal for short sessions… a more focused session in front of a console reveals them as a largely mindless grind.”
Square Enix has gone to the trouble of re-recording lines with new actors, including some of the cast of the Remake, but it matters little when they are disguised by the old dialogue and speech patterns that have to fit the original animations.
Finally, and perhaps arguably, we’re still not convinced that the narrative in Crisis Core really adds much value to Final Fantasy VII as a story. It doesn’t help that Zack is an annoyingly cocky protagonist without much depth to his motivations.
But also, the retrofitted plot, which matches the flashback scenes of the main game, does little to make characters like Aerith and Sephiroth more interesting, while the addition of fellow elite soldiers Genesis and Angeal only confuses the story already told. “No story is not worth hearing,” says Angeal. May be. But some stories may not have needed to be told.
Then again, we’ll take any excuse to go back to Midgar and the surrounding regions because they’re so rich in artistic design and lore. And whether you’re tinkering with materia setups, reliving iconic moments from an alternate perspective, or soaking up the superb music, Reunion should hold your attention. Plus the quality of the remastering is not to be sniffed at, making for a decent snack between larger portions of Final Fantasy VII.