Prologue: What is CRISIS CORE -FINAL FANTASY VII- REUNION
Okay, Alright. Seems ridiculous to open a review like this, but it’s important. Think of it like a game tutorial; I’ll tell you the basics or you can skip to the next section. It’s on you if you miss my brilliant (nope) and impressive (nah) setup and callbacks.
Anywho, Crisis Core Reunion is a ‘remaster’ of the 2007 PSP game of the same name (sans the REUNION part). Crisis Core is a prequel to the original FINAL FANTASY VII and by extension, FFVII Remake. This ‘remaster’ includes new visuals, revamped controls, new Quality of Life features, a touched-up soundtrack, new voicework, and more. NOTE: besides these updates and the polish they provide, there is no new content within this ‘remaster’. None. Nada. Zilch. So set your expectations accordingly if you weren’t privy to this knowledge.
Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
Chapter 1: Oodles of Quality of Life
One of the many expectations a modern ‘remaster’ has is a smoother player experience, and boy, does Crisis Core Reunion knock it out of the park in this regard. —
First off, the menus and UI reworks. The new UI is based on FFVII Remake, bringing along the style and function that the game’s UI offers. Equipment and Materia menus are organized. The Missions menus are just as organized and have a great sort function to help you see which missions you haven’t completed or missions you missed treasure in. You can even register multiple sets of equipment so that you can easily swap between 5 different loadouts quickly. If I were to describe the main menus for this game in a few words, I’d say they are “well-organized and easy to use”.
That’s all well and good, but how do the UI and QoL extend to more than just the menus? Sure, menu management is part of JRPGs, but that’s only a measly ONE-THIRD of the main gameplay. Fair. Fret not, “well-organized and easy-to-use” also applies to UI during exploration AND combat. To touch on the functionality of the UI during exploration, I’ll change “well-organized” to “well-communicated”. I say that because not only are your button prompts, but even your map is designed to nudge you in the right direction. Not just the main objectives mind you, if you pay attention, the game gives you all the tools you need to achieve 100% completion. Getting back on topic, your exploration and map UI is top-notch. All extra content and side objectives are clearly marked with orange objective markers. Starkly contrasting with your blue map and UI. This even applies to your confirmation button prompt that shows up when you talk to people or examine things. That normally blue X-button or what have you changed to orange. These great design choices communicate to you effectively what you can do. Do you chase your light-blue Main Objective or do some extra orange stuff? Not to mention, the objective compass on the top of the screen can help focus you toward your Main, light-blue, Objective.
There are also various other QoL features that I’ll deem ‘intermediary features’. What I’m referring to are various features that bridge the gap between functions and gameplay. One is the expanded tutorials and tips sections. These give you detailed information on mechanics and give you tips on how to unlock new content such as summons and key items. This is another one of those ‘tools’ that the game uses to nudge you toward completion. Some other ‘intermediary features’ is a DMW bonus AFTER battles. Normally you get level-ups for Zack and his Materia during combat because of the DMW slot machine, however, this version has a ‘Bonus’ that you sometimes get as you finish a battle. This puts even more luck on your side and personally puts some pep in my step when shifting back to exploration (hence why I consider it an intermediary). Finally, there’s button mapping. You can (for the most part) choose what button does what for combat. I changed it to more closely resemble FFVIIR’s controls.
The great UI and QoL features do carry over to combat. I’ll brief you on that in the next chapter, SOLDIER.
Chapter 2: Combat that Makes You FEEL Like a SOLDIER
Okay, ironic title aside, the revamped combat feels so good. It’s much improved over the PSP version’s combat. That version of the game is really slow and clunky compared to Reunion. What’s great is that it’s a mix of new QoL features and completely redone controls.
First, let’s check off the QoL. Materia’s abilities and items no longer share the same hot bar. In the original, you had to select your items and Materia and place them on one bar, in Reunion you have separate Materia and item selections. You still have an item bar that resembles the original game’s but the entire thing is your items. Your Materia is tied to a shortcut menu reminiscent of FFVIIR and Kingdom Hearts. This gives you more options and less clunk. You’ll be using Materia way more than items, typically speaking. So having your Materia a button hold + button press away makes using your abilities fast and responsive. In the original game, when you got a Limit Break or Summon from the DMW it would immediately activate and be paired with an unskippable scene. Reunion lets you save your DMW ability, it’ll tie that ability to a button press so that you can use it when it’s convenient or tactically optimal. Better yet, you can skip the animations too. They’re still cool animations, so I do recommend viewing them once (or whenever you get the urge to!).
All of the new QoL is great. That alone would have improved the original game’s combat flow immensely. That’s not the end of the improvements though. Zack’s speed and agility have received a CONSIDERABLE upgrade. Zack moves faster, attacks faster, EVERYTHING faster! That’s already good enough, but the cherry on top: your attacks, abilities, and defensive options actually chain together. Bam, all the QoL and speed are neatly tied together by making everything flow. These changes create an action battle system that almost gives FFVIIR and Kingdom Hearts a run for their money. I have so much fun with the combat I kept doing missions like I had a crack addiction, because just PLAYING the game was that fun for me. The only thing that could conceivably hold it back is some of the PSP design that remains…
Chapter 3: Cut From a New Cloth, With Some Wrinkles…
I love this ‘remaster’ of Crisis Core. Its shiny new graphics, amazing QoL, revamped combat, and nicely redone soundtrack are all great. That lovely veneer is hiding some things though… This is still a PSP game at heart, and you can really feel it at times.
They do look visually similar, but Remake’s visuals and especially presentation are superior. Crisis Core Reunion still looks great, mind you. It just isn’t as refined or modern. The models in Reunion are of comparable quality but you can definitely see they are rougher in some areas, such as a lower polygon count. The environments look good but aren’t nearly as detailed or complex as Remake’s areas. All of this stems from Reunion’s PSP skeleton. Even the PSP game’s animations are reused. That is what was most jarring to me. I get the characters and environments being slightly lower quality due to the budget and time differences between the two projects. I even understand why the PSP animations were used, SQUARE does consider this a ‘remaster’. Reusing the old animations may even be a contributing reason for slightly lower-quality character models in Reunion. The animations aren’t bad, per se. They have their charms, certainly. The animations are dated and starkly contrast with the modern visuals.
I don’t dislike the gameplay at all, but it’s still dated in some ways. Exploring is basic. Zones are broken up and much smaller than something like FFVIIR. Missions are clearly designed with portable play in mind. That kind of makes sense for Nintendo Switch, but even games on that console don’t specifically follow that kind of design. Encounters are still basic. While not random, the monsters still don’t roam around even if the mission target monster is visible. Not to mention that there are a ton of basic minigames spread out randomly. They aren’t bad at all but they are limited. At least the goofiness is charming! Everything outside of combat should have received some extra polish too, but I’m guessing that would require even more extra work. Who’s to say that changing how zones, encounters, and missions work would even agree with the PSP code base? Most of the changes are visual or menu changes to be fair. None of these are necessarily bad, but they are still qualities of an older game that stand out with all of the newnesses that’s been applied.
Chapter 4: The Voice of an Angel or a Monster?
Crisis Core Reunion is sporting a shiny new dub and a remixed soundtrack. All dialogue is voiced now too! From DMW events to NPC dialogue. That all sounds great, huh?! Well, this stuff always stirs up some controversy sadly.
A point of contention with the game that I’ve seen since the reveal is the new voice-acting (for English, anyway). The same thing happened with Final Fantasy VII Remake as well. I, personally speaking, don’t care. It’s not that I’m a new fan, or that I didn’t play the older games. I’m fine with trying new things. I like the old English voice track a fair bit. Rick Gomez as Zack was amazing. And uh… I don’t feel strongly about anyone else in the original. I prefer the new cast in Remake entirely. Almost the same goes for Reunion as well. I do miss Rick Gomez, but Caleb Pierce does bring a new kind of energy to Zack. The old game has its share of bland or awkward reads and has its share of amazing or iconic lines. Huh, guess what? This game does too! Who would have thunk? Voiced and acted media can be a mixed bag that relies on preference. Some games I play have great casts and bad direction and vice versa. I think FFVII Remake has stellar VA work, but it probably isn’t perfect under scrutiny. I recommend not being a hater and going in with an open mind. It’s fine to still prefer the old dub. It’s great in its own way!
I also wanna touch on the remixed soundtrack. I’m not an expert with vast knowledge of music theory or anything, but I do like most of the redone soundtrack! Hearing the real guitars and better bass to most of these songs was great. I do think some of the pieces that are swapped to an orchestra lack personality and sound a bit busy or overdone. Still, good quality, mind you.
Chapter 5: RvR!! (Reunion vs. Remake)
Crisis Core Reunion is made with Unreal Engine four, reuses assets from Final Fantasy VII Remake, and has new assets made in the same style as FFVIIR. I’m not complaining at all! It makes perfect sense to do. This fact, however, creates good grounds for comparing the two games.
I already touched on the visuals of the two games. Crisis Core Reunion still does a bang-up job. Just the PSP-ness holds it back. Remake has no holds barred (sans the PS4 version door).
Both games’ soundtracks are good, but Remake’s has way more songs. And more BETTER songs… Once again this is Crisis Core showing some of its age. At least Reunion has a pretty good English Dub! Not Remake good, but still good!
I’ve heard how cringe and bad the dialogue in Crisis Core is for years. I disagree. I think the weakness lies not in the quality of writing, but in the quantity and presentation. Remake just has more dialogue and a smoother presentation. The amount of space on a PSP UMD was limited and the PSP didn’t have the capabilities to do the kind of camera work and transitions that were possible on PS4/5 with Remake. I do wish Reunion did receive updates in the presentation department. That’s what makes dialogue stilted to me. It’s not the content of the words but the pace and presentation of the game.
FFVIIR completely revamped the original FFVII with a new battle system. The original Crisis Core was an action RPG like FFVIIR. OG Crisis Core is just a clunky mess of an action RPG. Reunion already adds some QoL and much-needed speed, but the addition of the Remake UI and updated Buster Sword mechanics are super nice. The Buster Sword has a new attack stance, similar to Cloud’s Punisher Stance in Remake. It’s a nice touch for continuity and fun to boot.
The next Chapter will contain mild SPOILERS for Crisis Core and Final Fantasy VII. Nothing too direct, but skip to the Final Chapter if you don’t want to read Thematic and implied SPOILERS!!!
Chapter 6: “Men Cry Not For Themselves, But For Their Comrades.” (Story)
I’ll start by saying I like Crisis Core’s story a lot. Reunion hasn’t changed it at all. Even the presentation is the same. In terms of pacing and camerawork, that is. Most of the issues I have with the story come from the lack of updates in this regard. Crisis Core is a good prequel in my eyes. The themes and emotional plot beats really sell this for me too. I won’t recap the story or go too deep into detail. I’ll discuss my feelings about it. I hope that you, the reader, judge what I say on your own merits. If you’ve already played the game then you already have a valuable opinion! So please treat mine with value and respect as well.
As a prequel game, there’s a lot that could have gone wrong. A lot did go wrong for some people, but honestly, I disagree. The events from the original Final Fantasy VII are expanded upon with light shed on them due to the new viewpoints and details. The themes are different but form a dichotomy with one another. Crisis Core even has a million dumb, but fun mini-games just like the original Final Fantasy VII. I enjoy that weird and wonderful things like that are kept! Even some great silly monster designs stay! Those are important to the identity of FF, especially when considering the legacy of FFVII itself.
Crisis Core focuses on Legacy. Angeal passes his legacy to Zack, who then passes it on to Cloud. That’s not all though. Zack’s legacy affects so many others. Every single person in your DMW was touched by Zack. Even Angeal, Sephiroth, and Genesis have an overbearing legacy over everyone. Their legendary SOLDIER status and the nature of their ties to Jenova and Shinra. The legacies of Jenova and Shinra are even what sets all the events of the entire COMPILATION OF FINAL FANTASY VII. The theme of preserving your legacy and beliefs is great. It also ties in nicely with one of the themes of Final Fantasy VII; identity. Identity is one of the main themes of FFVII. The whole game is about the characters learning about themselves and each other all while trying to grow and accept each other. Everything that everyone does in Crisis Core, Final Fantasy VII, and Remake, involves the legacies and identities of every character interacting and coalescing. This seems vague and lame when I describe it in that way. What makes these legacies and identities matter is the EMOTION behind them. Nothing matters if you don’t care. Also, both have themes of anti-capitalism and environmentalism, but we’ll just ignore that 🙂
That last section was hamfisted. I meant well! Now it’s… Negativity Time! Ding ding ding ding ding! I’m not sure if I like Genesis or not. I like the lore stuff with Project G and all that jazz, but Genesis seems like a worse, proto-Sephiroth. Part of what makes Sephiroth interesting is how his digging into his past and the history of Shinra drives him mad. Crisis Core makes this even better by characterizing Sephiroth well and letting you see him before he was a psychopath. Genesis being nearly the same way is kinda lame. His incessant quoting of LOVELESS is irritating sometimes. I do dig the mystery of some of it, and it is neat that he’s as obsessive with this poem as I am with Final Fantasy (lol). Genesis also has a cool design and made me laugh out loud when he tripped Zack just to screw with him. He’s funny and kinda cool. I do not vibe with his role in the story at all. I wouldn’t mind him returning, in fact, I hope he does, but they need to give him more to chew on.
Something Final Fantasy succeeds at is tying gameplay and story. FFIV has characters’ stats and abilities that reflect their standing in the story, FFXV’s link attacks and party chains enforce the themes of friendship, and Crisis Core stakes its main emotional crux on the DMW. The DMW shows you unique scenes between Zack and his friends all while being a key component in battle and leveling mechanics. The emotionally-charged ending on paper is already great. The DMW integration makes it stellar.
I wanna add that I clapped like a seal and popped off when I got to see Genesis, Angeal, and Sephiroth fight. Still one of the most amazing things ever made. Made me feel like a teenager again.
Chapter 7: Protecting My Honor (My History With Crisis Core)
I didn’t play Crisis Core on PSP when it launched. I got a Nintendo DS that year! I didn’t get a PSP until about 2014. Maybe? I bought a PSP and Crisis Core off of a buddy for like $30 or something (good deal, huh?) Funny enough, I bought him that copy of Crisis Core because we talked about FFVII: Advent Children a ton and he liked Zack (woooow he sold a gift). I knew I was missing out when I got him the game, but I didn’t have a PSP. I was pumped when I bought them from him (interestingly, I bought Pokemon Crystal and a GBA from the same friend a few years prior for cheap).
I played so much Crisis Core. I remember being crouched over that PSP for hours. I actually went and checked my old save while making this review. I had 40 hours clocked. Huh… It’s definitely a good chunk of time, but I swore I played more than that! I dropped over 20 hours on the review copy! And accomplished more! When viewing my old save I also judged teenage me for being trash at builds. My equipment and materia loadout were subpar but also funny.
This was a great time for me game-wise. I was around 14 or 15 and that’s when I got hardcore into Final Fantasy, anime, and all things Japanese. I’d been preferring that stuff up to this point anyway. I lacked awareness of it until then, I suppose. I especially played a ton of Final Fantasy around this point; playing the GBA entries, FFVI on my Wii, Tactics on PSP, and FFXII on PS2. This is when Final Fantasy became my favorite thing, probably ever.
I think it’s important to put my biases out there. I’m not gonna pretend I can be unbiased. I can look at things from multiple perspectives and judge different aspects of something in more than one way. Despite that, in my heart, I will always have personal biases. So I won’t lie and act like I don’t enjoy what I don’t enjoy. I won’t say something is flawed in the same ways others do if I don’t believe that. Final Fantasy; all of its iterations, all of its flaws, all of its strong points, have shaped my taste. I end this section and move this review closer to its ending by saying this; I believe you look at things as they are, the good and the bad, and decide whether you want to take it or leave it.
Crisis Core Reunion Review – Final Chapter – Conclusion (What Does It All Mean?)
I loved Crisis Core. I can admit the PSP original is janky. Reunion fixes a ton of that. Some things aren’t up to modern standards, and some aspects of the story aren’t as good as I remember. I’ll take it though.
Crisis Core Reunion Review Related Links
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This is an important factor as well: I played the game on PC, so the ins and outs of that version should be examined. Check out the BONUS Chapter of the Crisis Core Reunion review covering the PC Settings here!
Disclaimer: Square Enix provided Final Weapon with a copy of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion for review purposes.