Once upon a time, Final Fantasy VII received a collection of media dubbed “The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII”. This featured several sequels to the game in the form of a third-person shooter, a film, some light novels, and more. Perhaps the most notable of these was a title on Sony’s first foray into handheld gaming called Crisis Core, now remastered as Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion.
With Final Fantasy VII’s remake, Square Enix has firmly stoked the fires of the Doom Train and finally come to the station known as Crisis Core again. Will Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion be a loveless cash-in? Let’s Soldier on and find out.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion spins the narrative of events that eventually lead into the JRPG behemoth known as Final Fantasy VII. This time, the focus is on charismatic goof Zack Fair who starts the story by trying to become a Soldier 1st Class to stand side by side with his mentor and friend Angeal Hewley.
The pair are tasked with a mission putting them deep into the enemy territory of Wutai. They are sent to look for a missing Soldier 1st Class called Genesis Rhapsody who happens to be best friends with not only Angeal but a certain Masamune-wielding One Winged Angel. Naturally, there is more at play here and Angeal also ends up going AWOL triggering events as far-reaching as Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus.
Many fan-favorite characters cross paths with Zack as he aims to bring Angeal back and stop Genesis. You’ll naturally work alongside the Turks, Sephiroth, Hojo, and Cloud Strife, as well as bumping into everyone’s favorite Materia thief Yuffie and the sassy flower girl Aerith. That said, the main stars here are the original characters.
The complicated relationship between Genesis, Angeal, and Sephiroth is the engine that powers the narrative in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion. This is paired with the intrigue that is Zack’s life before the events of Final Fantasy VII and his relationship with Aerith. Alongside this, you also have the dynamic of Soldier Vs The Turks and the new Turk Cisnei who develops a friendship with Zack, despite the professional rivalry.
Evil C.E.O, Wacky Scenario, Sound Familiar?
It’s interesting to see the world of Final Fantasy VII from the eyes of the Shinra Corporation and see their inner workings, rather than just imagining them as the traditional evil corporation. Not that this paints them in a more positive light, but it does offer a few more dimensions to the tyrannical group than what was presented in the original game.
While all the above is great and there are some quite impactful, dramatic, exciting, and amusing scenes, Crisis Core: Reunion does have some goofy writing at times. It’s even often publicly mistaken for a “Nomura” written game with just how off the wall it becomes at times. Be it Genesis’ response to everything being a poetry line, a legion of clones, or several events which leave you wondering why it wasn’t mentioned in Final Fantasy VII, at times it’s just best to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride. A lot happens in this prequel and the more you question it, the more you’ll miss out on what frankly works as a stand-alone narrative to a point.
Activating Combat Mode
Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core Reunion is a third-person action RPG, unlike the original turn-based Final Fantasy VII. This means the fights are more frantic while remaining quite tactical. They feel more involved than in a traditional turn-based combat system.
You have a standard attack, block, and dodge. Items can be chosen and used. There are shortcuts to use magic or abilities too. Full 360-degree movement coupled with these means that you can quite easily avoid taking damage and the game expects this of you at times. It feels like a more grounded version of the popular character action game genre, home to titles like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta.
Tweaks have been made from the original release to make the combat feel much closer to that of Final Fantasy VII: Remake. Married with the graphical enhancements and effects flying around from every sword swing, you’ll be right at home if you’ve played the Remake.
What is unique to the combat in Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core Reunion is the DMW (Digital Mind Wave) system, which is very similar to a slot machine. The slots roll as you are in combat and depending on what they land on, it can have various outcomes. Sometimes you’ll get a brief period of unlimited MP, and at other times you can perform a strong attack called a Limit Break or a Summon. Even leveling up is tied to this system, cleverly done so that you never feel like it’s too down to luck when you hit your next level.
Magic and Buster Sword
Magic a.k.a Materia and actions are performed using the on-screen shortcuts and you can only have a certain amount on your character at any one time. This can make or break some fights if you go in with either under-leveled Materia or the wrong setup. It’s a balancing act of Magic and Actions due to their not only being an HP bar but also an Action Point bar.
As Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core Reunion only gives you Zack to play with, you don’t have the party dynamic to work with. This means that you have to balance Zack to be a “Zack of all trades”, either with magic, items, or abilities. Again this is likely a limitation of the original hardware, but aside from a few difficulty spikes here and there, the game is more than manageable on the standard difficulty. When you go into the harder modes, you should already have an idea of what you need for where.
When battling normal enemies the fights can be over before you’ve even had time to blink, whereas the bosses can either be pushovers or giant sponges. You can’t see the enemies before you get into combat and each and every time, without fail the combat starts with the screen and voice telling you “Activating Combat Mode”, followed by the victory cry of “Conflict Resolved”. Anyone familiar with the original release already knows how much you hear this through the roughly 25-hour story but anyone unfamiliar will soon be hearing those words in their sleep.
What you need to remember about Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core Reunion was that originally the game was designed with the Playstation Portable in mind. It has a gameplay flow more akin to a portable title and short bursts. On top of this, it was built around the limitations of the handheld hero.
The main story usually just has you following frequent checkpoints with the odd basic puzzle here and there to stop it from feeling like another corridor simulator like Final Fantasy XIII. There are plenty of mini-games thrown in as well such as Missile Cutting and Squatting. Sadly we don’t see the return of Chocobo Raising or Racing here. There’s no trip to the Golden Saucer in this adventure.
Side Quests are now put into a handy menu called Missions. These are bite-sized missions that usually just involve you finding a key enemy to fight or throwing you straight into a boss fight. They don’t tend to last too long and there are quite literally hundreds of these to tackle. They feel slightly disjointed from the main campaign and if you’re like me and get hooked on how quickly they are to tackle, you can end up quite overleveled by the time you remember you have a couple of AWOL Soldiers to track down!
Despite how obvious it is that the title was designed for short bursts of play, it still has an absolutely addictive hold. The story won’t fail to grip you, and the combat was already a high point of the title, but the new tweaks mean it’s more fun than ever. Very little about the gameplay is particularly original, but it’s presented in such a way that it never feels tedious to get into fights or explore the Shinra Building and the various locales you’ll end up in because it’s all very to the point rather than being drawn out.
You’ve Never Looked Better. Isn’t That Right Zack?
It’s no secret that Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion has had a bit of a facelift. While I’m sure it still would sell even in its original style, Square Enix has taken the initiative to tweak the visuals, add many new effects and touch up the textures in the game to make it a much more presentable dish to the modern console gamer.
Yes, the game looks fantastic and the cutscenes are still just oozing that SquareEnix quality. The textures are all HD, and the new character models all fall in line with modern standards, but the added effects in combat and the lighting are what push Crisis Core forward as quite a bit of a looker. The character models especially look much closer to what was presented in Remake, instead of looking like their Kingdom Hearts counterparts, and that is in part to the new lighting and ambiance that has been added to the game.
We Have A Zack At Home….
Unfortunately, the graphical improvements don’t quite pay off across the board. Some scenes are of much higher quality than others and this makes the visuals feel like the quality jumps around a bit at times. This is understandable for the CGI cutscenes, but the in-game cutscenes that jump into gameplay can be quite jarring.
The music as always is phenomenal, but it’s the tracks from the original game that will tug on anyone’s nostalgia cords. Hearing One Winged Angel again or the main theme from Final Fantasy VII crop up will certainly stir emotions from even the most rock-solid of gamers. In one particular scene, the music is used that well you can’t help but be overcome by emotion, and this is coming from someone who didn’t have that much of a relationship with the original game.
Finally, the voice actors have all been recast to follow Final Fantasy VII: Remake. While most of these voices are fine, Zack’s unfortunately has been recast for the worse and is actually quite damaging to some scenes that should feel impactful. While this was always going to be a challenge with the Crisis Core script in general, having to spend 30 hours with Zack who ranges from an eye-rolling performance at worst to YouTube voice-over at best is a detriment to what is for the most part a solid job all around. Fortunately, the game also comes with the Japanese Dub and why wouldn’t you go for that one when you have the vocal talents of Japanese Music Legend GACKT voicing the main protagonist?!
Having the chance to play one of my favorite Final Fantasy experiences, with updated graphics, tweaked combat and in 60FPS on the Playstation 5 and Steam releases was an offer I just couldn’t wait to take up. I’m so happy that it has turned out, for the most part, better than I expected.
Due to the original device limitations, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion was always going to feel a little different than a traditional title. This is helped somewhat by Crisis Core always having gone beyond the average handheld title. Surprisingly, it isn’t held back at all by the disjointed gameplay loop and instead presents an addictive and fun condensed adventure with real heart and some wacky Square Enix writing to boot. Dodgy voice dub aside, it’s fantastic that this title is now more wildly available to gamers. Whether you missed it the first time around or played the original, you owe it to yourself to step into Zack Fair’s boots and take the fight to Genesis one more time.
CRISIS CORE: FINAL FANTASY VII REUNION IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Square Enix for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.
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Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk