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Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion feels like Remake’s B-sides collection

Final Fantasy VII Remake plays like a perfect album. Each chapter is its own catchy song complete with memorable hooks that I can still recall with clarity two years later — moments like the musical Honeybee Inn sequence, my encounter with Hell House, or the climactic final battle with destiny. But every good record has its B-side: the sometimes less polished song that didn’t make the cut, for better or worse.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is Remake’s B-side collection.

When I went into my 25-minute demo of the upcoming remake, I was expecting something pretty close to Final Fantasy VII Remake’s over-the-top symphony. I figured it would map that game’s assets onto the PSP title while modernizing its combat to bring it a little more in line with where the series is currently. While it does all that, it’s a bit more modest than I expected. While it does feel less grand and polished, it still looks to deliver those deep-cut moments that make both a video game spinoff and a B-sides album a fun experience for fans who just want more of the art they love.

Zack attack

Though Crisis Core is a visual upgrade over the original 2007 release, its PSP DNA is pretty clear. It feels like a portable game, with pacing that’s more digestible in bite-sized chunks and cinematics that are less high-budget. During my 25 minutes, I’d trek through a linear level, fight a few battles, and meet a few NPCs via minimally animated introductions. That would all culminate in a boss battle against Ifrit in a small arena.

Like Final Fantasy VII Remake, Crisis Core is an action RPG featuring real-time battles. Zack takes center stage here and his fighting style isn’t too far off from Cloud’s. I could press the square button to perform a slash with his oversized sword and perform his version of limit breaks when building up enough power. The main difference is that Zack’s toolset is a little more reliant on spells, as he can open a quick menu to perform attacks like Blizzaga on the fly.

Zack slashes an enemy in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion.

Though the combat is familiar, it does feel just a bit more bare. That’s because players only control Zack as opposed to an entire party that they can issue commands to. Much of Remake’s complexity came from juggling party members, using their specific skills at the right moment. The switch to just one lead hero makes Crisis Core feel a bit more like a standard character action game with one-button slashing. Even in the climactic battle with Ifrit, I was still mostly spamming an ice spell and performing some repetitive slashes to win with ease.

It’s visually not at the level of Remake either, though that was telegraphed by the fact that it’s launching on Nintendo Switch. It reminds me of Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, which gave a Game Boy Advance game a 3D face-lift by subbing in some existing assets. This feels a bit like a budget release designed for players who never got to play the original, but want an easy way to catch up before Zack enters stage left in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.

Ifrit stands tall in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion.

Frankly, I’m on board with that approach. As someone who never got to play Crisis Core, I’m not really looking for a transformative experience. Unlike Final Fantasy VII, I want a remake that simply preserves that first game and lets me have as close to the original experience as I can get while still feeling modern. I got a kick out of seeing how Zack differs from the broody Cloud, as he excitedly goes into fanboy mode when meeting Sephiroth. My favorite moment came when Yuffie made an appearance, playfully mock-punching a baffled Zack.

Scenes like that carry that B-side appeal, feeling like deep cuts that bring more color to the world of Final Fantasy VII. While Crisis Core is feeling a bit more like a side release for Square Enix in terms of scope, it looks like it’ll be a fun bit of optional listening for fans who are counting down the days until Rebirth launches.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion launches on December 13 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PS5, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

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