© 2007, 2008, 2022 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved. CHARACTER DESIGN: TETSUYA NOMURA

CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION modernizes a PSP classic using Unreal Engine

Mike Williams
TOSE CO., LTD. was founded in 1979 and has been a one-stop shop for outsourced development services including planning, developing, debugging, and managing games along with other digital content. As a dedicated development team with the largest development organization in Japan, TOSE supports high-end, high-quality game development, leveraging its extensive technical expertise, including the use of Unreal Engine and other state-of-the art development tools. TOSE is dedicated to working with clients to create digital content and services that can be enjoyed by a wide audience.
FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE is only the beginning of a project that will eventually be a trilogy, retelling and expanding the fantastic story of 1997’s FINAL FANTASY VII. Released in April 2020, FFVII REMAKE was an instant hit, recasting the original story using modern technology. Players had the chance to experience the adventures of Cloud, Barret, and the rest for the first time, or revisit those adventures on current PCs, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.

As Square Enix Co., Ltd. works on the forthcoming sequel, FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH, the publisher decided to also take a look at a prequel released on the PlayStation Portable, CRISIS CORE: FINAL FANTASY VII. The result is CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION, a modernized and definitive version of the game. IGN said that the game is “the best way to play one of the PSP’s most beloved games, almost completely modernizing its graphics, combat, and music in the process.”

To learn more about what went into making CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION, we talked with Square Enix and its development partner, TOSE CO., LTD. about modernizing this prequel, tweaking the new combat system, and how Unreal Engine helped them bring the game to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.
© 2007, 2008, 2022 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved. CHARACTER DESIGN: TETSUYA NOMURA
Can you explain how the team leveraged Unreal Engine to remaster a PSP classic?

This project featured a fairly unusual use of Unreal Engine. We imported the source code and the like from the original version, then used Unreal Engine chiefly for the graphics and asset data. I doubt we’d have been able to achieve such high-quality development over a short period of time if it hadn’t been for the sheer flexibility of Unreal Engine.

Were there things you learned developing FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE that helped with the development of CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION?

We were able to work with the production team for FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE to make use of a lot of 3D model data for the characters and locations that appear in both titles.
© 2007, 2008, 2022 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved. CHARACTER DESIGN: TETSUYA NOMURA
Can you talk about why you decided to add the "Reunion" subtitle?

Square Enix Co., Ltd.:
It’s not exactly a remake, but it had more work put into it than a remaster, so we looked into using a subtitle other than “Remaster.” Ultimately, we chose the word “Reunion,” which would have been familiar if you played FINAL FANTASY VII. “Reunion” implies “gathering again” and “meeting up once more”; chronologically, this game serves as a prequel or prologue to FINAL FANTASY VII, so the two games are reunited and connected to FFVII REMAKE

How much of the game was newly created, versus bringing assets forward from the original CRISIS CORE?

The characters’ bone structures and animation data were carried over from the original with some tweaks, but all other asset data—including environment, UI, and special effects—were made from scratch for this project.
© 2007, 2008, 2022 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved. CHARACTER DESIGN: TETSUYA NOMURA
How did the team decide what to add and what to keep from the original CRISIS CORE?

First, we had a few members of the development staff play the original version and compare it to modern-day game quality, then we discussed and looked into what we could improve, including specifications. We emphasized retaining the beloved portions of the original while allowing the player to enjoy the game stress-free.

For example, we added quality-of-life upgrades, like autosave and retry capabilities, battle control shortcuts, and map markers, making this version more pleasant to play than the original.

On the asset front, we created a sample battle screen and did a cutscene test when development first began to get a feel for the schedule and the volume of assets. When we checked the character event animations—which make up a majority of the game—using current device-equivalent models, we found that they were of high enough quality to still be usable today. Essentially, the characters’ bone counts are mostly the same as in the original, so the characters could be animated with the original version’s code.

We did use motion capture from the outset, but given the high quality of the artwork and the facial animations, and considering the number of bones in the original, we were pleasantly surprised that the old assets were still usable as is—a real testament to the skill of the original development team.

Combat was changed to be more active and closer in style to FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE. Can you talk about why this shift made sense for CRISIS CORE?

Square Enix:
We made the combat style of CRISIS CORE –FFVII– REUNION closer to that of FFVII REMAKE, keeping in mind that a lot of the folks playing this title would likely already have played that title. After a lot of tweaking and retweaking, I think we ended up with a good fusion of the original version’s combat and that in FFVII REMAKE.
© 2007, 2008, 2022 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved. CHARACTER DESIGN: TETSUYA NOMURA
The Digital Mind Wave system was a roulette wheel that allowed protagonist Zack to access his ultimate Limit Break attacks, with certain attacks presented with full-screen video in the original game. That system is still present in CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION, but now it mostly occurs in the top corner of the user interface. Was there a great deal of iteration to land on this change?

Yes, it involved a lot of trial and error. The player is controlling Zack and focusing on fighting enemies, so the Digital Mind Wave UI couldn’t interfere with the battle and we had to find a way for its statuses to be easy to read.

We made minute adjustments to the UI layout and all kinds of aspects of the DMW result display: timing, animation, color, and luminosity. The design is also such that, even from a story progression standpoint, the player can enjoy DMW events without slowing down the tempo of a given battle.

Can you talk about revisions made to the assets and user interface in the transition from the PSP's small screen to modern televisions?

Since we wanted more detail in the character and environment assets, we used post-process effects and filters to produce clearer graphics and support higher resolutions.

We built on the original version’s UI, revising and optimizing it for all screens. We were conscious of making the design and handling similar to FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE, so that players who’d experienced that game would immediately feel comfortable with this one.

We emphasized a pleasant play experience by improving the unwieldy parts of the original version, enhancing handling and response, and adding various useful features. We also optimized texture resolution and other visual aspects for each platform.
© 2007, 2008, 2022 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved. CHARACTER DESIGN: TETSUYA NOMURA
Why was Unreal Engine the right choice for developing CRISIS CORE –FFVII– REUNION?

Since the source code for the original PSP version was written in C++, we thought Unreal Engine would be a good choice since it also supports C++. When repurposing the source code, we didn’t use Blueprints for the game logic, instead implementing it with program code alone. Considering that
Unreal Engine is able to handle old source code implementations written only in C++, we felt it was the ideal environment for porting over past titles.

With FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE having been developed in Unreal Engine and CRISIS CORE –FFVII– REUNION essentially being able to run using the original version’s programming, we were able to consider upgrading asset graphics separately to some extent. Our artists found Unreal Engine to be the right choice for its intuitive controls and ease of use. The Unreal Engine Marketplace was a major factor, too: being able to purchase various samples and learn from them led to improved quality throughout this project.

Was the team able to leverage many assets from FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE for CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION?

We were able to make use of a lot of 3D character and environment model asset data from FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE. I think it would have been difficult to upgrade the graphics in that limited timeframe otherwise.
© 2007, 2008, 2022 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved. CHARACTER DESIGN: TETSUYA NOMURA
CRISIS CORE –FFVII– REUNION was released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. What was it like using Unreal Engine to develop the game on multiple platforms?

Since Unreal Engine handles the different requirements for each platform, there’s no need to even be aware of the platform from an implementation standpoint. It made development a breeze. ROM creation was easy, too, which meant we could check the code on every hardware platform comparatively early in the process. And since we could fine-tune parameters—like display resolution—on a per-platform basis, performance tweaks were no problem, either.

Did the team have any favorite Unreal Engine tools or features?

Processing load on the Nintendo Switch was a big issue for us on this title. We used the following tools to measure processing load as we worked to address it. They were extremely easy to use, allowing us to both measure and tackle processing load in an efficient way: As a result, we managed to bring high-quality visuals to the Switch version, too.

Sequencer has abundant features and allows for speedy editing—a must-have tool for a title like this one with so many cutscenes. It made quick work of lighting, post-process effects, and material tweaks. Blueprints and Widgets also contributed a lot to development. Implementation of a viewer for debugging character models, check tools for environment data, texture swaps and packing for assets purchased from the Unreal Engine Marketplace: the ability of each artist to implement detailed tools like these for themselves helped improve the pace of development.

Thank you for your time! Where can people learn more about CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION?

Square Enix: In North America and Europe: https://ffvii.square-enix-games.com/en-us/games/crisis-core/

In Japan: https://www.jp.square-enix.com/ccffvii_reunion/

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