After a prolific last quarter with new IP releases and the return of a few niche ones, Square Enix returned to one of their biggest names at the tail end of 2022 with Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion. Out for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC and even the Nintendo Switch, we tried it out on a PS5.
With Crisis Core, a remaster of an earlier PSP game, Square is returning to the world of Final Fantasy VII yet again, after the successful remake released earlier. It’s no wonder when you consider how well the original FF7 was received and sold, but Crisis Core is less of a household name because it was a PSP exclusive when it launched. Relying less on nostalgia, we were wondering if it would be able to captivate fans just like the remake did.
Our protagonist for Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is Zack Fair, member of an elite squad called Soldier, which is part of the Shinra Electric Company. It’s a team whose members have superhuman strength, speed and reflexes, so as extremely valuable assets they’re mainly used for ‘special assignments’. One of them, dubbed Genesis, has now gone rogue, and it’s up to you and the team to go after him. Seems simple enough, but before you know it you’ll run into cloned versions of the rogue agent and one of your own – who has a connection to Genesis – disappears.
Gameplay-wise, despite all of the new bells and whistles, Crisis Core is the same narrative experience we had on the PSP, and of course the story remains unchanged. That matters in the sense that the game originally felt like it was developed with handheld gameplay in mind – quickly going from one story beat to the next to keep the total game size and length at a manageable level for an ambitious 3D title. There were plenty of optional elements to go for, but sticking to the core story could get you through the adventure in about a dozen hours. As a result, character and plot development don’t go as in-depth as we would’ve liked, and ultimately the story – though very entertaining – doesn’t resonate as much as FF7’s story does. It’s also not as suitable as an entry level FF7 game because of its somewhat rushed nature – we’d recommend starting with the remake first.
Of course part of the story not being as memorable as FF7’s is because you’ll spend a good portion of the campaign in combat, which is an area where they did tweak the original a bit for this remaster. The UI has been streamlined, and the combat itself feels more in line with what we saw in the Final Fantasy VII Remake – adding special battle stances that let you dish out slower but extra powerful attacks. Combined with the added comfort of the DualSense controller, it makes combat a bit more enjoyable than it did in the PSP days. Ironically, it’s also why Crisis Core feels shorter now than it did before, but that’s a good sign – and if you’ve played before, then playing around with the Materia Fusion mechanics (to boost certain stats) is a fun way to mix up the experience on your second playthrough.
Which brings us to arguably the most important element of this release – the updated audiovisual layer, which is one of the most impressive examples this side of the word “remake”. Considering that this is ‘merely’ a remaster, it’s remarkable to see how close they managed to get to the quality of the Final Fantasy VII Remake. It’s also miles ahead of the PSP version and offers far more than the HD treatment that other remasters try to get away with – both the scenery and locations look great, and the only slightly iffy element is the fact that some of the animations aren’t that fluid. Even though the character models look vastly improved and characters are fully voiced now, they don’t move as smoothly as in a native PS4/PS5 game.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion itself runs very smoothly though, powering on at 60 frames per second even at a 4K resolution. And from the new CGI cutscenes to the streamlined UI and from the gorgeous scenery to the new battle mechanics, this is a very polished release and the best way to play a forgotten PSP gem.