Retro Games Rediscovered: Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion

The title of this series may be misused here, given that this game was released in 2022/23(JP/NA). But hear me out. Sure, Crisis Core – Final Fantasy VII- Reunion dropped this year, but the original Crisis Core released in 2007 in Japan, and 2008 in North America. 

Still not tugging on those retro-strings? Then let’s try this; the subject matter of this game is the precursor to Final Fantasy VII. The series changing RPG that was released on the original PlayStation in 1997. There we go! Now we’re rocking that retro vibe.

Kinda-sorta, maybe? Am I reaching?

Don’t judge me, Aerith.

So, full disclosure, I am one of those, “Final Fantasy VII is the best RPG ever made!” people, and I’ll die on that hill. Sure there are better RPG’s, like the Mass Effect series, and I openly admit that fact. But FFVII means a lot more to me, and therefore it is numero uno. It was released in a difficult stage of my life, and during this time I took solace in RPG’s heavily. I grew up in the Nintendo(NES) era, and while I enjoyed platformers, RPG’s were where I gravitated. Again as an escape. The Final Fantasy series was my go to, and I loved getting wisped away to these far off lands of exploration, magic, crystals, and coup’s against empires. But when Final Fantasy VII came out, along with most fans of the series, I was absolutely floored. Things were changed almost completely.

We were in a new realm now. One with polygonal spiky hair. But yeah, a new realm all the same. Gone were the fantasy-scapes of far off lands. Instead were cities that resembled science fiction. The black, white, and red mages were gone, replaced with a more ‘general use’ system. It all still worked under the ‘Fantasy’ moniker. It was just a different era. And it set the stage for multiple games in the series to have a more SciFi/fantasy type vibe. Man, I must’ve played FFVII a half a dozen times to completion. I had saves on multiple memory cards. Each play through had well over 100 hours. Though admittedly, I do not know exactly how long my play throughs were. As the save clock’s timer maxed out at 99 hours. 

Crisis Core

My PSP and the original UMD game

‘Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion’ is a remastered version of the PlayStation Portable(PSP) game of the same name. Just, uhh, minus the ‘Reunion’ part. I originally played this game on that handheld system. In fact, I specifically bought a PSP to play this game. I have a bit of a track record with this action and Final Fantasy VII actually. I told myself that I would only buy a Playstation if the long rumored(almost 10 years) Remake were actually released. So on the week that Remake was do to drop, I purchased my Playstation 4. The first home Playstation system I have owned since the first edition PS2 back in 2000.

And I guess I will have to buy a PS 5 soon, just so I can play the next part of the Remake series. Bastards… Promising us it will be ported to PC on release, and then backtracking…

Anyway, before we get too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a look at the trailer for Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion.

This is the Japanese trailer. The English dub just sounds so bad to me… With a Japanese cast as good as this, why would you listen to the English dub? I guess you could HERE if you wanted too

The Story


This story takes place a handful of years before the events of Final Fantasy VII, largely in the plate-city of Midgar. Well before the famed hero, Sephiroth lost his mind, destroyed the sleepy mountain village of Nibelheim in his search for information about his past, then went on to seek the destruction of the world. In addition to some characters we already may know, Crisis Core introduces many new ones. Many that were alluded to in the original game.

The protagonist is Zack Fair, a country-boy SOLDIER Second Class in the service of Shinra. Zack is headstrong to a fault, and is quite jaded about things around him. He is regularly sent on missions with his mentor and Class First, Angeal, as he himself tries to earn promotion to First Class. Zack’s skills were particularly utilized in the Wutai War.

Did anyone order the smoldering intensity with a side of justice?

While the original game follows Cloud, the members of Avalanche, and a ragtag band of anti-Shinra characters, Crisis Core very much follows the Shinra side of things. Specifically the legendary SOLDIER’s; Angeal, Sephiroth, and Genesis. With the latter actually being the primary antagonist in this game. The game also sees many familiar faces, in the form of the Shinra leadership, the Turks members, a young Yuffie, Tifa, Cloud and a couple more. There are also a few callbacks to characters like Cid, Vincent Valentine, and whatnot(These are missable easter eggs*].

*There are plenty of easter eggs, in fact. In one such(during a mini-game), you learn the origins of Seventh Heaven. That bar in Sector Seven Slums that Tifa runs. But again, it is missable.

While this game, for the most part, is not about him specifically, this story fills in the blanks as to why Sephiroth went nuts. It also details much more about Sephiroth and Cloud’s past. Specifically how Cloud became who he is in FFVII. Cloud and Zack’s friendship becomes much more understood as well. Crisis Core also does well to explain Shinra’s darker motives. Going into their dark experiments with Mako energy and whatnot. It also further paints Professor Hojo in a darker light.

Genesis’ turn was the catalyst for Sephiroth’s slow descent into going batshit-burn-a-village-down-and-take-over-the-world-crazy. And while the two were social with each other, they did have a troubled history. In fact the two were often at odds with one another. In one particular scene, prior to Genesis turning against Shinra, the two SOLDIER First Class operatives faced off against each other in a pretty epic battle. During the battle, Genesis sustained some wounds. And following the battle these wounds didn’t heal properly. After some tests, it is discovered that his body is degenerating. Which opens up the group to many questions about their pasts. Shortly after this revelation, Genesis goes rogue. Eventually taking Angeal, his childhood friend, with him. This leaves Sephiroth as the only First Class.

Zack, who was soon after given a bittersweet promotion to First Class, was tasked with hunting down the wayward SOLDIERS along with Sephiroth. He was also left asking a lot of questions. Questions that would eventually lead him to questioning pretty much everything he believed.

Cue the emo guitar break


Crisis Core is billed as an Action-RPG, but I see it only as the former, for the most part. Your “role” in this game is a given, and there isn’t much room for other roles. You are a solo character for the entirety of the game. So you are the Fighter, the Healer, the Tank, and the Mage all in one. You are a SOLDIER after all. Honestly, I don’t recall any situations that had story altering decisions at all.

The materia system is slightly similar to the original game, with the exception that you don’t necessarily equip materia to your equipment. You just equip the materia itself. Combat and magic usage is simple, with spells and special moves tied to certain key bindings. 

Equipped accessories don’t change your appearance at all, and you only have two possible swords in the whole game. The first a generic SOLDIER long sword. The second, the famed Buster Sword, which comes into your possession via story progression. This famed sword, we learn, has a backstory, and is kind of key in the story.

The Hell Materia are OP as fuck. They cast pretty much every status ailment(including Death) along with the elemental attack. They are also AOE. So great for mob control.

A new mechanic to the Final Fantasy series is the DMW, or Digital Mind Wave. During combat sequences, in the upper left hand corner of the screen, there is a curious slot machine that continually spins. There are pictures of famous characters, such as Sephiroth, Angeal, Aerith, and Reeve. As well as summons like, Bahamut, Odin, Chocobo, and Cait Sith. If it lands on all like pictures and/or numbers it will trigger various effects. Such as: granting immunity to magic or physical attacks, boosting stats, boosting materia, triggering special attacks, and triggering Limit Breaks. There are often cutscenes tied to the more special stuff. And the various levels of ‘special’ have different cutscenes. After a while you start skipping them, because they are repetitive.

Even the Summons, that are so ubiquitous to the Final Fantasy series are triggered by this DMW.  That’s right, after you earn his Materia via battle, Bahamut getting summoned to aid your battle is completely based on a slot machine algorithm. Yay! The DMW is a completely luck based system, and you have no control over it with the exception of boosting stats that positively or negatively affect the DMW. 

You learn various characters special moves along the way through the DMW. In this instance a Level 2 Sephiroth Octoslash is triggered. You can also see a previously triggered ‘No Ap/No MP Cost’ effect.

Leveling up Zack is also triggered by the DMW. That’s right! While there is an EXP system in place, that is completely invisible(literally you don’t see it), you have to wait until you land on ‘777’ to level up. So you may be sitting on a massive bank of XP(though not know it) and have to wait like 5 battles before you can trigger the ‘777’ by chance. In which you may level up multiple times. It is kind of odd. 

When I first played this game on the PSP I was kind of dumbfounded by this DMW system, and largely ignored it. I was kind of hoping they would have done away with it for the new version. But it is kind of what makes this game’s combat system unique. For better or worse. To be fair, back then there was a lot going on on that, small by today’s standard, PSP screen without this slot machine constantly spinning and drawing your attention away.  It was also rather difficult to read the tiny text on the PSP. Subtitles were a nightmare. Nowadays, this game is much easier to work with on the PC or Steam Deck.

At the top is an iPhone 13 for scale. So all the stuff in the above screen shot was happening on this small PSP screen. Oh, believe me there was squinting and stuff was missed.

The game’s progression is incredibly linear, even by JRPG standards. The “grind” system that we all know and love/hate for leveling up; where one would go out onto the world map and run around waiting for random encounters to kill for their XP and GIL, is replaced by ‘Missions’. ‘Mission’ are accessible by save points, and they are literally tasks that Shinra sends you out on. This is your primary method of grinding for levels. And while the difficulty of the missions may go up and down, the boards in which you are working on these missions are the exact same throughout the entire game.

Literally, there is a desert scene, a cave scene, a generic warehouse/stronghold scene, and a Midgar Slums scene. That is about it. To cut out the monotony of it all, they control where you go on these maps by erecting invisible(yet totally visible) walls to stop you from turning down the wrong path. Thanks? So one mission may see you in the western portion of a map. While the next may see you in the eastern portion of the same map.

Where am I going, again?
Why can’t I go this way? I can literally see a road and stuff in the distance.

It seems like brought up a lot of criticism, but with all this said, and after some thought, I really didn’t mind any of this. I had to take a bit of a step back when I began to think critically about all this stuff. Remember this game was originally designed for a portable gaming console back in 2007. So stuff like reusable mission maps may have been due to storage constraints on the UMD game media. Who knows?


The Final Fantasy VII soundtrack, composed by Nobuo Uematsu, is one of my favorite video game soundtracks ever. I used to listen to that original MIDI-esque* soundtrack on a daily basis. I used to go to sleep with it playing. The Crisis Core soundtrack, much like the Remake soundtrack, has a different composer. Though it does contain various necessary callbacks to Uematsu’s original work. As a whole, the Crisis Core soundtrack is great, and a fitting addition to the series.

A straight callback to Uematsu’s work

*The original soundtrack was not exactly completely MIDI. The game and the game console was capable of higher quality audio, but had they gone that route the load times would have been astronomical.

The Japanese voice acting in Crisis Core is top notch. The English dub, not so much. Though I have a historic dislike for English dub’s going back to the mid 1990’s. These dubs just sound so scripted and forced. But the Japanese, as it should be, is very natural. Crisis Core features a veteran cast of voice actors including the wonderful Maaya Sakamoto, who has voiced Mari from the new Evangelion movies, Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII, various iterations of The Major from Ghost in the Shell, and of course Aerith. I believe she was the first to give voice to Aerith. And I also believe that was in a Kingdom Hearts release.

Genesis’ voice through me for a loop. I was halfway through my playthrough of Crisis Core when I realized who was voice acting him, and when I figured it out, I actually had to pause the game and go get my wife. Genesis is voiced by Japanese musician/artist/all around eccentric GACKT. He has an incredibly recognizable voice, and it was bugging me from the start of this playthrough. It makes sense why I didn’t recognize him back in 2008. I didn’t even know who he was back then. Nowadays, voice recognition is something I use professionally, so I pick up on cameos from Japanese celebs a lot more now in games(and anime). I’ve caught a ton in the Yakuza series in the past few years.

Adding Another Chapter To The Legacy

Crisis Core adds extra dimensions to a story and characters that we grew to love/hate in the original entry.

We see Sephiroth in a rare positive light(for a while at least). We see Cloud at his weakest, yet most talkative. We meet Yuffie for the first time, in a completely comical fashion. We meet a younger Aerith and learn a lot more about the depths Shinra was going to in their research of her.

We even see a 15 year old Tifa dressed as a cowgirl*, because why not?

*I always thought the cowgirl thing was a little strange, but that outfit is actually explained in the book “Final Fantasy VII Remake: Traces of Two Pasts‘, which looks into Tifa and Aerith’s pasts. I am currently reading this at the time of typing this. It dropped in North America recently.

While it has a slightly more deeper story, the cowboy outfit was selected by coincidence on the day that Shinra representatives Zack and Sephiroth arrived at Nibelheim.

Crisis Core, along with other entries such as: the various side story games or Remake, the Advent Children movie, and the various books, brings new depth to an already iconic universe. With that said, I am not sure I would recommend this game for someone, unless they had already played either the Original FFVII or the Remake. Or at least they were partly familiar with the FFVII story. Crisis Core doesn’t do much for “world building” as that had already been well done in the original entry. So starting here may be a little overwhelming. While you get some explanations about various things. You are kind of expected to already know a lot. I mean there are webpages and online encyclopedias devoted to FFVII universe. It is kind of a lot.

As a fan of the series, who has dumped unknown hundreds of hours into the various game entries in the Final Fantasy VII world, having read a couple books, having seen the movies numerous times, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Playing it stoked the flame to start another playthrough of Remake. Which is probably good timing, seeing as I’ll have to source a PS5 at some point this year so I can play Final Fantasy VII Rebirth when it comes out.

Zack is featured in this teaser, in a callback scene from Crisis Core. The timing of Crisis Core Reunion’s release was very calculated, it would seem.

Screenshots, including the cover pic, are from my Steam playthrough

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]

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All of these are true except for one:

Robert is: a Hobbyist, a Music Lover, an RPG Gamer, a Mustard Lover, Chaotic Neutral, a Japanese Speaker, a Veteran, an Otaku, a Table Tennis Player, an Anime Fan, an Aviation Professional, a New York Rangers Fan, a Chaos Lover With Loyalist Tendencies.

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