I never thought I’d be the person that insisted people play a PSP-exclusive spin-off. Thankfully, I no longer need to be, as Square Enix is bringing Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 to Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One and PC via Steam. Now you have no excuse not to play FF7’s prequel adventure. Sorry.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 is Part of the ‘Compilation Of Final Fantasy 7’. Like a sort-of Star Wars Extended Universe but for FF7 heads, the Compilation includes the game’s novels and movie tie-ins as well as the games themselves. Of those, Crisis Core is one of only a few that delve into the world of FF7 before we join Cloud and the gang for one of the best JRPGs of all time. While, to fans like me, they all matter (even the Japanese-exclusive mobile game Before Crisis, I’m afraid – it’s a cursed existence), Crisis Core has become the most important – integral stage setting for the adventure that was to follow.
Moving beyond PS1
FINAL FANTASY 7 REMAKE REVIEW
“But, if it came out after Final Fantasy 7, surely it can’t be that important?” I hear you ask. Sure, Zack was important in the original FF7, but played mostly a bit part, appearing in some short flashbacks. But, thanks to FF7 Remake’s twists and turns that double down on embracing the Compilation (from posters to even fighting style animations), it’s more important than ever. If you want to get the most out of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, next year’s sequel to FF7 Remake, getting up to speed on your Crisis Core is a must.
Of course, that twist at the end of Final Fantasy 7 Remake was huge, and means that, like it or lump it, Zack is going to hang over the rest of the FF7 Re-series more than ever. It’s not all about him, though. Throughout Crisis Core, Zack gets around, establishing relationships with the core cast that really set up who they were before the fight against Shinra. Zack strikes up a friendship with Cloud when he was still an awkward infantryman; gets chummy with Sephiroth back when he was still a decent co-worker, and not a genocidal supervillain; cosies up to Aerith as romance blooms between them; and even gets the cold, calculated Tseng, leader of the Turks, to open up his heart just a little.
Playing as Zack himself throughout Crisis Core, we might be marching towards an inevitable doomed fate (or, I suppose, are we, given where FF7 Rebirth is going?) – but getting closer to these other characters really helps bring them to life. It doesn’t just change how you think about the PS1 original, but will be a vital part of FF7’s retelling. FF7 Remake has already brought those characters more in-line with how they appear in Crisis Core to create something that feels like a continuous story that sits alongside the prequel.
Similarly, what we’ve seen of Crisis Core Reunion has gone the other way, reworking visuals to be more in-line with their FF7 Remake/Rebirth appearances (like the iconic Buster Sword). With half of FF7 Rebirth’s announcement trailer being focused on Zack, the stitches between the two are drawing ever closer, creating a tight experience where it all matters.
A reunion, reborn
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s announcement trailer also makes it clear that Cloud and Sephiroth’s history is going to be hugely important, the game seemingly beginning with a flashback sequence where the two visited Cloud and Tifa’s hometown while still in SOLDIER. It’s an event that’s already been remade once – as you also play it from Zack’s perspective in Crisis Core. What’s different in Rebirth from Crisis Core, and what’s the same, will be quite telling – and it makes it clear that SOLDIER’s expanded history in Crisis Core will remain important.
The elite, Mako-injected group remained somewhat mysterious in the PS1 original, but as one himself in Crisis Core, Zack’s quest is all about SOLDIER. Starting as a rookie, he rises up the ranks to try to catch-up to Angeal, Genesis, and Sephiroth – the best of the best – while creepy science experiments throw all sorts of monstrous spanners into the works. Project-G is the main culprit in Crisis Core, something already referenced throughout FF7 Remake. Deepground too has made an unexpected early appearance in FF7 Remake, whose history is also linked to Project-G and Genesis.
As important as Sephiroth is to setting FF7’s events into motion, so too is Genesis. Even if he doesn’t make a direct appearance in Rebirth (it now seems very possible that he will, though), knowing who Genesis is will once again re-contextualise everything about SOLDIER and Shinra, right the way through to that very opening sequence in FF7 Rebirth, where Cloud and Sephiroth step out into the mountains.
But sure, maybe it’s not all about the lore for you. That’s okay. Crisis Core is still well worth playing. Final Fantasy 7 Remake made us fall in love with Midgar all over again, and just getting to spend more time hanging out there and getting to know this world’s characters as Zack is simply a chill time. With plenty of side-missions, there’s no better game for just taking in the sights and uncovering secrets, even if that includes learning how Sephiroth gets his hair so shiny, or learning about the epic play Loveless, advertised in the background of the original FF7, which also so happens to be Genesis’ favourite piece of literature.
For a long time, Crisis Core has been cumbersome to sit down and enjoy as a modern fan. Never released digitally, you had to play it on an original PSP, and some of the combat and visuals haven’t aged all that gracefully. Now spruced up and more accessible than ever, if the world of FF7 is one that still makes your heart swell, you owe it to yourself to explore it in more detail and make a new pal in Zack Fair. He’ll make you Gongaga.
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