The turnaround time from announcement to the fast-approaching release date for Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion is something that’s really impressed me. When it was announced, Square Enix promised a tentative “Winter” date, which as we know can mean anything as long as it drops before March 21. Imagine my surprise when it was then further revealed we’d be returning to the adventures of Zack much sooner than expected. You see, Crisis Core’s upcoming remaster is just weeks away at this point.
With a December release in tow, Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion promises to be many things – the likes of which include being “more than a remaster” with upgraded visuals across the board and a retooled battle system. As for what that means in actual practice? Well, I was given a go at the full retail release recently to find out.
Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion opens very much the same as the PSP original – you get the CGI cutscene fielded by then Visual Works, along with the introduction of protagonist Zack, who is as ridiculous as ever. It’s important to note that these scenes remain unchanged – in fact, they’ve gone and used the original footage, just upscaled for this new release. That’s all well and good though, it’s unfair to expect a full re-render of the CGI assets. That said, if you’re expecting the fidelity out of anything Square Enix has put out since the PS3 era, you might be disappointed. These cutscenes do, however, hold up in their own way and there’s a good lot of them.
After the opening is finished, we’re treated to our first look at the remaster proper. It’s a moment that mirrors the beginning moments of Final Fantasy VII Remake – Zack vaults off the train and the visage of Midgar comes into clear view.
As it was with Final Fantasy VII Remake, the visual upgrade is impressive. Gone are the low-resolution graphics from the original PSP version, and in their place a beautiful attention to detail. The environments have been redone with new assets, there’s upgraded textures across the board and new models from the characters to the enemies and summons rendered in 4K and 60 frames per second on PlayStation 5. It’s a revamp like some of the other Final Fantasy remasters with a few extras such as a more modern lighting system and HDR support. These things help to pretty up the original base PSP skeleton of the game, which largely remains in environment designs, animations and overall design philosophy.
Whilst the original Crisis Core concepts remain in play, what has changed is some of the gameplay features. Those who played the original will remember the action-based battle system – that’s still here but there’s a good amount of polishing that’s gone on to make things smoother for the player by executing basic combos. For example, abilities can become more effective if they’re used after performing a normal attack. The tutorial recommended trying that with Assault Twister, which is one of the Materia you start with. The cheeky little bonus for adhering to this revolves around a simple mantra: the more successive attacks you hit before it, the stronger it becomes. It has a certain weight to it while playing.
The rest of Reunion plays out much like what I remember on the PSP. For the purpose of this preview, I went through the first three chapters and so far it feels like most of what I remember. You’ve got the main meat of the story to experience that focuses on Zack’s adventures, and then smaller pick-up-and-play side items such as the mission content that was clearly designed for a portable experience. Not that that’s a bad thing, of course, it’s just something to think about when considering the game’s origins. These gameplay experiences on console feel fine enough with the additions made to the battle system.
There’s some other quality of life things too like redone menus, a post battle assessment that pops up after resolving a conflict, and as is usual with these remasters, a revised soundtrack. Other features include Normal and Hard Mode options and the ability to play with English or Japanese voice over. I chose the former, since Square Enix decided to recast everyone and have them more in-line with their Remake counterparts.
That said, these are just my initial impressions based off the first three chapters, which conveniently added up to around three hours of play time as I got used to playing again. We’ve gone ahead and captured some screenshots so you can see it for yourself, but Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion is shaping up just fine for those who played the original and want another go, or new people looking to experience more of the Final Fantasy VII universe before the next part of the Remake series comes out. I know I will be doing just that.
Disclaimer: PlayStation 5 preview code provided by the publisher Square Enix.