A little over 15 years ago, during what I’d call the ‘Golden Age of Handhelds’, marked the release of one of the best PlayStation Portable games of all times. A prequel to fan favourite Final Fantasy VII, CRISIS CORE was an action-RPG that featured what gamers dreamed to have on the go on top of expanding on a universe that’s so beloved it was given new life on the PlayStation 4. As part of that initiative, this PSP game has been given similar treatment, coming back as CRISIS CORE REUNION (“CCR”), developed and published by SQUARE ENIX (“SE”).
This remaster of sorts brings CCR to several new platforms and features changes to not just graphics but combat and visual style, seeking to bring it closer to Final Fantasy VII Remake. For what it’s worth, this really does feel like a faithful rework to the original game, and I don’t say that lightly. When I can find faults in simple conversion ports, I do mean it when I say that CCR is a fantastic release and one of my favourite SE releases from the last several years.
A SOLDIER’s Honour
In CCR, players take the role of Zack Fair, a member of SOLDIER within the Shinra Electric Company. Throughout the game, he’ll be tasked to fight off monsters, enemy combatants, summons, you name it. Gameplay is split up into chapters and missions, with the main story being a walk from quest market to quest marker, side missions are available from the game’s save points. While it might be tempting to continue with the main plot, it’s always a good idea to take on said side stories as they’ll not only make Zack stronger but also give you items that you will definitely need to take on some of the harder fights. Plus, you’ll get to spend more time with some characters you may like.
Now for the combat, encounters in this game are straightforward. In each mission, you walk down a narrow hallway and a fight will trigger. As an action game, you swing your sword, dodge out of harm’s way, and block attacks that just can’t be dodged. Depending on Materia you have equipped, you can chain together magic or physical-based magic attacks that can weaken opponents (especially if you’ve struck them with their weakness) and do tonnes of damage. And as you fight, a random slot-style mechanic known as the DNW will spin. If you’re lucky and depending on the point of the story you’re in, you’ll roll special attacks and summons as well.
This combat system played well years ago and still does today. At its core it’s a simple combat system but being able to swap out abilities plus the enemy variety keeps things fresh throughout the game’s runtime. It’s much flashier too, with plenty of particle effects spurting out of every attack that strikes your opponents. It looks great in motion too, as I never saw the game’s framerate dip once. I do have some irks with the slots for bonuses and special attacks, however. It keeps fights interesting but it’s kind of annoying how some of the game’s coolest summons like Bahamut or Ifrit are locked away, only usable at the whims of the game.
It’s no sore point like the encounter rate, however. Sometimes you can’t go five steps without running into a fight. Even if they end quick, it’s a little annoying when you want to explore a map. Still, it’s more of a thorn in the side than a fatal flaw, and the game still plays well enough that you can easily ignore that. The visuals are good but because they share assets with VII Remake, some of that game’s worst moments do show up from time to time, such as the terribly stretched plates that sit above in the skybox of the slums. I do miss the original game’s cartoon-like presentation, but this is still a good conversion I feel.
Follow Your Dreams
On the other hand, CCR is a fairly story-heavy game. When you’re not moving from fight to fight, you’re going to watching plenty of cutscenes telling a story set years before the original game. I’ll be frank, I view spinoff media and games to existing Final Fantasy titles the same way I view Disney’s direct-to-DVD sequels: not highly at all. Because more often than not, they feel like pointless peddling (Final Fantasy IV’s The After Years), bloat (Final Fantasy XIII’s sequels), or just plain awful (Final Fantasy X-2). These games were always meant to be standalone experiences that don’t need sequels, and that still stays true for Final Fantasy VII.
But I’m not done talking yet. I found CCR’s story to be much more enjoyable than other Final Fantasy sequels. Zack is a cool protagonist and I like him more than I do Cloud. It’s nice to see what things were like leading up to the base game. I do not have a strong attachment to VII, but I do feel that CCR does a good job of pacing Zack’s story and his relationship to the original game’s cast. Of course, the best way to view material like this is to treat it as its own experience and not append it to the base game. On a nicer note, this game features full voice acting and a rearranged score by the original composer, Takeharu Ishimoto. Dialogue will be hit or miss for folks, but I found it to be far more endearing than VII Remake’s horrific script. The rearranged score is a pleasant listen as well.
Ultimately, CRISIS CORE REUNION is a great game. It lands the story beats, and the combat feels good. Fans of the original experience on the PSP will find themselves right at home here and new players will have a good time, especially if they like Final Fantasy VII as a whole.
Now let’s hope Dirge of Cerberus stays buried.
|Reviewed On||Windows PC/Steam|
|Available On||Windows PC/Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||13th of December, 2022|
|Developers||SQUARE ENIX, TOSE INC|
|ESRB / PEGI Ratings||T for Teen – Blood, Violence / PEGI 16 – Violence|
CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION$49.99 / €49.99
- Fun combat system.
- Solid storytelling and pacing. Cutscenes are well-animated and voice acting is enjoyable.
- Besides a few gaffes, the visuals are solid and performance is top-notch.
- Enemy encounter rate can become grating.
- Locking away special attacks and summons to slots is not cool.