As a vital piece of the Final Fantasy 7 lore and universe, it always seemed inevitable that Square Enix would somehow re-release Crisis Core, the FF7 prequel that first released for PSP in 2007. The release, which FF7 steward Tetsuya Nomura says promoted internal discussion about whether it’d qualify as a remake or a remaster, does sort of defy categorization – but now I’ve played it for myself, I’m going to try anyway.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion is a remaster. It’s perhaps not quite ‘more than a remaster’, as Square Enix has suggested, but it’s a bloody impressive run at tidying up and improving a game that was on a handheld console that, ultimately, was less powerful than the PS2.
In stills, Crisis Core definitely does look like more than a remaster, though. What you have here is low-key PS4 quality character models that wouldn’t look out of place in FF7 Remake proper dropped into the PSP game. In many cases, it seems like Square Enix has made clever use of the FF7 Remake asset – directly using some models and textures from that game, just back-porting them to this 2007 title. In stills, and even sometimes in motion in combat, it looks pretty damn impeccable.
The PSP nature rears its head when characters move, however. These are higher-quality character models dropped onto the same animation rigs that appeared on the PSP, which sometimes leads to a sort of uncanny effect where these incredibly high fidelity characters are animating in a rudimentary way that feels 15 years out-of-date. Because it is. Characters stand dead-eyed and rod-straight, their mouths flapping as newly re-recorded voicework is delivered.
Interestingly, it exposes how much of the magic of FF7 Remake is in its animation – the voicework is of a similar quality, and in many cases from the same actors – but without the nuanced animations to sell the characters, the performances don’t land quite as well.
Elsewhere, though, this is one of the best and most canny remasters I’ve ever seen. I’m particularly enamored with the fact that the development team have decided to bring everything ‘in line’ with FF7 Remake – which sounds like a simple proposition on paper, but must have been quite a testing task in reality.
This doesn’t mean the way the game plays has changed (this is decidedly the same Crisis Core), but it means that every UI element has been tweaked and twisted to make it the same or deeply similar to FF7 Remake. Certain things, like the post-battle script which reads out enemies defeated and items gained, are literally identical. It makes this game feel like part of the same universe – which, of course, it is. Between this and the seemingly borrowed artwork and models, it ties this much older game in with FF7 Remake perfectly.
As for the game itself? It’s still good! It’s a more scrappy action RPG, but one can see how Crisis Core was a crucial step in the development of the systems and ideas that later got expressed to such brilliant results in FF7 Remake.
While certain systems have been tweaked to make the game a little more manageable and feel a little more console-like, it doesn’t appear at least from this short hands-on that the encounters in Crisis Core have been materially changed – which means you can expect slightly more stilted, smaller-scale action than in FF7 Remake. But that’s fine – this is a remaster. For more remake, we’ll have to wait for Rebirth. And that’s fair enough.
Crisis Core features a story worth experiencing. Of all of the extra-curricular FF7 lore expansions released in the 2000s, this is the only one that is truly worth everybody’s time.
This remaster repackages it in a sharp, good-looking way. Like I said, it’s one of the best-looking and most impressive remasters I’ve ever seen. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still visibly a PSP game, though. If you go in with that in mind, you’re likely going to have a blast.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 - Reunion will launch on 13 December, 2022 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC (via Steam).