I barely remember the original Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. And for good reason, too: It was a game that landed a whopping 15 years ago on a console that’s been somewhat forgotten, the Sony PSP.
I remember playing it and I remember that the title character, Zack Fair, had a relationship with one of the most legendary Final Fantasy characters of them all, Cloud. And that’s all I can recall.
Not that that matters as I sit down to a demo of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion. Set to land on Dec 13, it’ll be available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation consoles, Xbox consoles, and PC. A remaster of the original game, it’s a reminder that the PSP had quite a few sleeper hits. And as I play through this demo, I almost feel like the original Crisis Core might have been ahead of its time.
As the game opens, I’m playing as Zack Fair, essentially a dark-haired version of Cloud, and the action opens on a cutscene that instantly showcases the upgraded visuals of Reunion. Tiny details are evident on Zack’s clothing, and the night backgrounds are sharp. The original Crisis Core was a good-looking game for the PSP era, but this title befits the big-screen treatment it’s going to get.
Moments later, as Zack opens the door into a battle against a pair of twin ogre bosses, the battling system provides even more reason for excitement – and a reminder of how forward-thinking the original game was. Back in 2007, when Crisis Core arrived, turn-based RPGs were beginning to shift from cool to niche. The genre was in a state of flux, one that would eventually birth the closer-to-real-time setups games like Final Fantasy VII Remake.
What’s on display in Crisis Core Reunion is an addictive and fast-paced system. Like so many RPGs, you trigger a separate battle setup once you enter battle, but from then on, it’s real-time attacking. You control every single slash Zack makes, sprinkling in evasions and materia spells as you go. The X-factor in all of this is a slot machine that constantly spins in the top left corner of your screen. Essentially, it grants you somewhat random bonuses, allowing you to use Zack’s limit here, letting you cast spells with zero MP cost there.
It’s a swift system that’s easy to pick up but challenging to truly master, and the only thing I wish they’d introduce to it is a grading system for each battle, just to let you know how well (or not well) you’re brawling. Even without that, though, this is electric fun, and a subsequent battle against Ifrit, a classic Final Fantasy summon, looks absolutely terrific as well. The two large battles I face feel fair and fast-paced, offering challenge without crushing me.
The latter stages of the demo showcase a bit more story, introducing me to Angeal and the legendary Sephiroth, and they serve to showcase an appropriately Final Fantasy VII vibe. Of all the Final Fantasy games, VII had the strongest feeling of conspiracy and uncertainty and loneliness to its story. This demo showcases a game that flawlessly captures that feeling – and it ends with appropriate gravitas.
The original Crisis Core may have flown under the radar. Don’t let Crisis Core Reunion do the same in December. – New York Daily News/Tribune News Service