Gaming

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion Team Discusses Changes Coming To Game And If Zack Or Cloud Is The Better Character

Despite the original game first releasing 25 years ago, there’s arguably never been a better time to be a Final Fantasy VII fan. 2020’s Final Fantasy 7 Remake was a critically-acclaimed triumph–one that completely altered what a video game “remake” can be by not only stripping away the game’s less-than-modern elements, but introducing the idea of a multiverse. Even better is the fact Remake was only the beginning of Square Enix’s push to revitalize the original game, and two additional Remake installments–Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and a currently unnamed third and final chapter–are on their way to complete this retelling of FF7.

However, Square Enix isn’t stopping with merely bringing Cloud Strife’s journey to a new generation of players. After all, behind every spikey-haired man with a big sword is an even spikier-haired man who wielded that sword first.

A remake of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 is coming, and with it the story of First Class Soldier Zack Fair. Originally released on the PSP in 2007, Crisis Core is a prequel spinoff to Final Fantasy 7 that adds a lot more context to the stories of Cloud and his former best friend Zack, a character who is seemingly going to be getting a lot more love in the Remake trilogy. GameSpot sat down with character designer Tetsuya Nomura, executive producer Yoshinori Kitase, and producer Mariko Sato to talk about the upcoming remake. While the team says Crisis Core Reunion will be a “faithful retelling” that sticks to the series’ original timeline, it looks like there will be plenty of quality-of-life changes that will make the game appeal to new players and Crisis Core veterans alike.

In the trailer for Crisis Core Reunion, the Buster Blade has been altered to look like the one seen in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Is it safe to say that this version of Crisis Core takes place in the series’ new timeline?

Nomura: The Buster Sword design originally in Crisis Core is based on the [animated Final Fantasy VII sequel film] Advent Children design; however, this time around the design for the Buster Sword is going to be based on Final Fantasy 7 Remake, just to make sure that Crisis Core Reunion is aligned with Final Fantasy 7 Remake and there’s no discrepancies there in design.

With the remake being based on the original Final Fantasy 7, we wanted to sort of keep that all aligned, where Crisis Core is a peripheral story to the original Final Fantasy 7’s story.

Zack crouches beside his mentor Angeal.

Part of what made Final Fantasy 7 Remake so beloved was that it offered a closer look at fan-favorite characters and had exciting new experiences. What kind of new experiences and changes can fans expect to see in Crisis Core Reunion?

Sato: Crisis Core Reunion’s story is actually going to be a very faithful retelling of the original story, so there’s no additional story content. With regards to the visuals, the game assets were all created all-new, from scratch, and we balanced the game so that it’s easier and more intuitive for players to play on the modern consoles, and kind of have a good gameplay experience in current times, so that’s something to look forward to.

What kind of balance changes did the team implement?

Sato: So there are a lot of changes overall that we can go over right now. Things like the hard mode, which was in the overseas version to start with, is now going to be included in the game from the beginning for all regions. And then there’s also a new dash function that’s been added and new shortcuts to magic abilities and things like that.

You know, we wanted to remain faithful to the battle experience of the original Crisis Core, but we also looked to the Final Fantasy 7 Remake and tried to close the gap between that experience and the Crisis Core Reunion battle experience. So it’s kind of a very good combination of the original battle system and something close to Final Fantasy 7 Remake. We also heard a lot of fan feedback regarding what could be improved, and we tried to reflect as much of that as possible in Crisis Core Reunion.

With regards to the DMW system, there used to be a kind of a movie that came up when that system was in play, but we’ve implemented a skip function for that. So a lot of things like that.

Due to the original Crisis Core being on PSP, a lot of Final Fantasy fans might have missed playing it originally. What makes Crisis Core Reunion an essential game to play this time around?

Nomura: With the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Zack made an appearance as a really important, key character in the story. So with playing Crisis Core Reunion, I think that fans will be able to really see the kind of impact that this character Zack had on the story of Final Fantasy 7. When they get to know Zack, and just kind of a more fleshed-out story, then when this connects to when they go and play Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, it will be a kind of an enlightening experience for them. They get to kind of see an expanded version of the story by playing it.

With the Remake being a three-part series, we are positioning Crisis Core Reunion as a prequel to that whole story. So it’ll be great for players to get to know a character in that story on a deeper level.

Zack in combat.
Zack in combat.

What are some of the challenges of remaking Crisis Core at the same time so many other Final Fantasy 7 projects are in the works?

Sato: From the get-go, we had wanted to make it available for multiple platforms, so we based it on the original Crisis Core–but we did understand that a lot of the players who might be playing Crisis Core Reunion would have played FF7 Remake as well. So we wanted to make sure that the players that played FF7 Remake wouldn’t feel any sort of disconnect or anything like that when they went in to play Crisis Core Reunion.

While it is a faithful retelling of the original and we stuck very close to the original as well, we wanted to, as mentioned earlier, kind of close the gap between Crisis Core Reunion and Final Fantasy 7 Remake, in terms of the battle system and visuals. We’re hoping that that will, in turn, make this a smoother and more fun experience for players who are coming from Final Fantasy 7 Remake. We’re actually in the midst of just brushing everything up right now. What you saw in the trailer, we’re brushing all that up as well. So we’re hoping to bring an even-higher-quality game with amazing visuals and gameplay experience when the actual product is released.

What led the decision to release Crisis Core on multiple platforms while the core Final Fantasy 7 Remake trilogy remains on PlayStation and PC?

Kitase: So the original Crisis Core was released for the PSP only, so it was kind of a limited experience and it’s not very accessible to players today. So the reason why we decided to bring it on multiple platforms this time around was because we wanted as many players as possible to be able to play this game.

And going back to the original Final Fantasy 7, the original Final Fantasy 7 is available on multiple platforms as well: PlayStation, Xbox, even [Nintendo] Switch. So we wanted to make sure that the players of the original could go ahead and jump into the Crisis Core experience as well, by making it available on multiple platforms.

Why release Crisis Core as a standalone game and not a DLC chapter for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth? Will other supplemental Final Fantasy 7 games, like Before Crisis and Dirge of Cerberus, get the same treatment?

Nomura: With the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, it’s a bit difficult to incorporate Crisis Core as an experience into the Remake because players have to embody Zack. And if that’s only included as a separate, smaller chapter, then it can only really be presented as a summary or digest of everything that happened.

On top of that, just with the schedule surrounding the whole Remake project, it was better to create Crisis Core Reunion as a separate title, and not just incorporate it into the Remake experience itself.

With regards to Dirge of Cerberus, timeline-wise, it takes place after Final Fantasy 7, so it is kind of difficult to build it into the current, ongoing 7 Remake story. But, there are some characters from Dirge of Cerberus that appear in the Final Fantasy 7 Remakes, so that’s something that Dirge fans can look forward to.

Crisis Core antagonist Genesis Rhapsodos.
Crisis Core antagonist Genesis Rhapsodos.

What has been your favorite part about revisiting this game through the Remake trilogy and Crisis Core Reunion?

Kitase: *laughs* So, you know, with the original Final Fantasy 7 and Crisis Core as well, I’m really happy with how both of them turned out. They’re both very beloved titles, so no complaints there. But, you know, game graphics and consoles in general have advanced so much–and they’ve advanced so quickly as well! So players today, that didn’t play the original, or weren’t part of the generation that had access to the original games, might look back at it and feel like it’s more of a “classic” game–it’s an older game.

So, I’m thinking about how we can continue to ensure that Final Fantasy 7 is beloved for 20, 30, or 50 more years to come. I really wanted to see these titles realized with more beautiful graphics, more modern-day graphics. And with Crisis Core Reunion and Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth–and with our Remake–I feel like we’ve been able to realize that. We’ve been able to kind of reimagine these original titles with a modern-day feel, and a wider range and generation of players can enjoy it. So I’m extremely happy with being able to be a part of this project.

Okay, so my co-worker wanted me to ask, who do you think is a better character: Zack or Cloud?

Kitase: *laughs* That’s a difficult question.

Nomura: They’re both very attractive characters, so it’s really difficult to choose. It might not be possible to actually choose between the two of them.

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