The Crisis Core remaster is exactly what Final Fantasy 7 needs

Crisis Core, Zack and Cloud meet
(Image credit: Square Enix)

All it took was half an hour of playing Final Fantasy 7 Crisis Core Reunion to regress to my 14-year-old self. As jagged-haired, massive sword-wielding Zack zips about the screen, performing feats of derring-do worthy of only the best kinds of anime protagonist, I find myself grinning ear to ear. Square Enix has actually pulled it off, the loving remaster I’m looking for.

Crisis Core is a much-beloved prequel to Final Fantasy 7. The original PSP version of the game treated fans to a tale that explores the personal journeys of key characters in the setting. In addition to providing a robust, responsive real-time combat system with a strong emphasis on movement and mobility, Crisis Core offered a gripping story that earns its place among the JRPG greats. 

Following Zack, a supersoldier in the employ of the nefarious Shinra Electric Power Company, we are treated to a bittersweet and moving exploration of the inner workings of Final Fantasy 7’s corporate dystopia. We see, up close, the personal psychological cost of working for the upper echelons of a hypercapitalist, military-industrial conglomerate. Crisis Core treated these heavy and difficult themes with nuance, ensuring that even the most horrific members of the game’s cast are afforded moments of genuine humanity.

Given its significance to the mythos, it’s only natural that I approach this remaster with an inventory full of skepticism. After all: you can’t repeat the past. I adore the original, so had to know if Reunion does justice to its predecessor. After all, it’s clear that Crisis Core Reunion plays a pivotal role in the remake’s future

Activating combat mode

Crisis Core, Zack fights a Bomb, with combat UI

(Image credit: Square Enix)

The original Crisis Core tells the story of a young man’s journey from elite corporate supersoldier to principled freedom fighter. Even if you haven’t played the original, Zack’s story is well worth a look, boasting the kind of gripping emotional thrill-ride one would expect from a high quality JRPG. That said, it’s fair to say that Crisis Core’s combat is what helps make the original shine. The remake is no exception. 

The combat feels spectacular on PS5. Square has stuck to the central mechanics of the original. You move Zack about the fight in real-time, frantically dodging and striking between enemies, weaving together iconic spells and abilities from a scrolling items and abilities menu reminiscent of Monster Hunter Rise. These fundamentals remain just as strong in 2022 as they were when the original was released on PSP. 

That doesn’t mean Square has stuck within the lines, everything about Crisis Core’s battles is louder, more luxurious, and less restrained. Even the humblest spells look gorgeous. Zack's adroit dodges and strikes have all the bombast and vivacity you could want from a modern JRPG. The luscious particle effects would be at home in a modern Final Fantasy.

However, Reunion is not flawless, the age of the systems behind the game do show when it comes to its animations. Though some have clearly been tidied up, you will occasionally see the jerkiness of movements originally crafted in 2007. Fortunately, it never gets in the way of the game. It’s a reminder this is a remaster, which speaks to how well Crisis Core holds up after 15 years. 

Overall, as in The Last Of Us Part 1, Square Enix achieves the truest and noblest goal of a remaster: making things look how they do in your glossed and varnished memory, not how they actually were. 

Far from Loveless

Crisis Core, Zack being briefed on Genesis

(Image credit: Square Enix)

As with combat, Crisis Core's cutscenes have been lavishly recreated in Reunion. Square Enix preserves the art style of the original while making the cinematics themselves look better than they ever could have done at the time. From Zack’s mentor, Angeal, to the enigmatic and brooding Shinra Soldier Genesis, the cast of Crisis Core’s melodrama look glorious in their latest incarnation. Finally, you can see the pores on thirst-trap Sephiroth's skin. The character models themselves wouldn't look out of place in Final Fantasy 7: Remake. 

However, there are limitations in this restoration. While I could overlook it in the combat, the original animations show their age in the cutscenes –. it’s jarring to see PS5-era characters move about with jerky PS2 era movements when you’re looking at something stage-managed and choreographed.

One area that had me worry for the Crisis Core remaster, is the recasting of some of the original voice actors. From what I’ve played so far, the new cast does an excellent job – and Square has brought Briana White, who played magic-wielding, flower-peddling Aerith in the Final Fantasy 7 remake, to reprise that role in this remaster. While Caleb Pierce brings an air of playfulness to Zack, I can’t help but miss Rick Gomez's more earnest approach to the role in the original.

Infinite in mystery

Crisis Core, Sephiroth and Cloud fight

(Image credit: Square Enix)

With the Final Fantasy 7 remake, game director Tetsuya Nomura, famous for his influence on Kingdom Hearts and for his character design work across the Final Fantasy series, made significant changes to the story, including an entirely new ending. Nothing I see in Crisis Core Reunion suggests significant changes like that, but there’s a chance they’re set to occur later in the game. However, it seems to me the developers have aimed to keep the form and spirit of Crisis Core’s original PSP incarnation. 

What I’ve played of Crisis Core Reunion has convinced me this remaster is a lovingly-crafted retelling of the original story, complete with all the angst, drama, and character development that made it special. Now it would be great if I could just stop grinning when I think about it. 

Cat Bussell
Staff Writer

Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on,, and, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent. 

Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure. 

Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.