Final Fantasy 7 fans were surprised to see some of Square Enix's announcements earlier this year. While a follow-up to Final Fantasy 7 Remake was entirely expected, few expected the publisher to also reveal that it was releasing a remake to Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7, which originally released on the handheld PSP in 2007. Just like I hadn't played the original Final Fantasy 7, I definitely hadn't played the original Crisis Core, so I had a vested interest in trying out Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion takes place years before the events of FF7 Remake. This story follows Cloud's old friend from his SOLDIER days, Zack Fair. There's no Cloud to be seen in this demo, nor is his presence truly felt, because the thing about Zack Fair is, he has a completely different personality. While Cloud is stoic and overly serious, Zack is the total opposite. He's much more laid back and playful, as evidenced by an opening scene where he was confronted by a much younger Yuffie. At this point in the FF7 mythos, Yuffie is merely a young child, but still aching to fight on behalf of Wutai, so Zack's reaction is to simply humor her and play dead after she "attacks" him.
At the time of this story, Zack is also a heavily inexperienced SOLDIER. While he's perfectly capable of holding his own, as I'll get to in just a moment, he's still fairly green compared to his contemporaries. Watching Zack's development is only a part of what makes this Crisis Core narrative fascinating. Seeing this world's characters at this specific point in time will also prove interesting. The one character especially worth watching is Sephiroth, whose role in this story is less the one-winged scourge bent on destroying the world and more the military hero that people once lauded and idolized.
Visually, Crisis Core bears a big resemblance to Final Fantasy 7 Remake and other more recent titles in the franchise. However, this is no mere extension of the FF7R formula. Zack Fair's combat is a little more complex, though is still largely based on a mixture of real-time action with the Final Fantasy series' magic and summon system. However, unlike Remake, players will find slot reels spinning along the top-left corner. This is called the Digital Mind Wave. The DMW slots will occasionally stop and grant buffs depending on their combination, whether it's brief invincibility, damage buffs, or free magic.
The DMW will also sometimes stop on character images instead of numbers. Images are tied to Limit Breaks and can grant Zack some powerful attacks. In keeping with Zack's lighthearted personality, these Limit Breaks are also theatrical, as they'll always be preceded by a Dragon Ball Z-like cutscene. These are fun to watch the first few times, but can wear thin in longer battles, but fortunately, players can skip them if they've seen them one time too many.
One thing to note is that bigger enemies and bosses will have their own debilitating attacks. Players will get a warning if a powerful attack is about to be delivered, which has a twofold purpose. It gives Zack an opportunity to find safety, though this is a risky tactic, depending on what's coming. The other option is to relentlessly attack the enemy as they prepare this onslaught. It's possible to reduce the potency of the enemy's incoming attack, causing its damage to diminish significantly. In fact, if Zack's able to hit the enemy with one of their weaknesses, it's possible to nullify any damage from the enemy's incoming attack entirely. This certainly proved to be true at the end of the demo when Zack took on an out-of-control Ifrit summon. Hitting it with a Blizzard spell as it prepared to deliver a powerful fire attack led to the incoming damage being reduced to almost nothing.
There's a long way to go before Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth releases, but those looking for more of the FF7R story will likely find something to tide them over with Crisis Core. As an outsider to the Final Fantasy 7 series, Zack Fair's story already has me interested and I'm intrigued by what we see out of him, Sephiroth, and other members of the FF7R cast. The story goes back in time as Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion comes to PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch on Tuesday, December 13.
This preview is based on a PlayStation 5 build provided by the publisher at an on-site press event.