Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion Review – Conflict Resolved
Much like protagonist Zack Fair himself, the story of the self-proclaimed country boy turned SOLDIER First Class is not one shrouded in mystery. If you’ve dabbled in Final Fantasy VII or any of its various spin-offs, prequels, remakes, or animated films, chances are you understand the weight of his legacy — which happens to be rivaled only by the weight of his sword. But if you’re looking for the definitive way to experience it, look no further than Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion.
A remake of the 2007 PSP exclusive Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core Reunion is a faithful retelling of Zack Fair’s story with dramatic visual upgrades, full voice acting and several quality of life changes. Considering the game was already heralded as a fantastic prequel and one of the best titles on the PSP, it comes as no surprise that this version is triumphant in making Crisis Core a modern must-play for Final Fantasy VII fans. Not only does Crisis Core Reunion port the once rather hard-to-find game to multiple new consoles, allowing a larger audience to experience the title, it transforms the game from feeling like a smaller, handheld experience to something that can proudly stand alongside Final Fantasy VII Remake as a worthy companion.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion follows Zack Fair, a capable young man who quickly rises as a soldier – Shinra’s elite fighting force – to stand alongside other legendary heroes such as Genesis, Angeal and the later infamous Sephiroth. But when information about the various experiments Shinra conducted on these elite warriors begins to emerge, the four colleagues quickly find themselves at odds with one another. Inevitably, these tensions set in motion the events of Final Fantasy VII, including Sephiroth’s turn to madness, the burning of Nibelheim, and Cloud’s involvement in the whole ordeal. However, Crisis Core doesn’t just exist as a precursor to something bigger, as it succeeds in weaving its own engaging, intimate and emotionally impactful narrative.
Much of this is due to the game’s main character. While Final Fantasy VII’s leading man, Cloud Strife, tends to be soft-spoken and a bit moody, Zack is bubbly and exceptionally likable. Throughout the game, Zack’s mentor, Angeal, compares the fighter to a puppy and lovingly teases him for his hyperactivity and eagerness. But compared to the other SOLDIER members – such as the stoic Angeal, dark and poetic Genesis and no-nonsense Sephiroth – Zack is a breath of fresh air who is widely idolized in the SOLDIER program (especially by Cloud) for his skill, zeal and encouraging nature . Outside of Shinra, these qualities also endear him to our favorite flower girl, Aerith, who shares a brief but strong love story with Zack, complete with long-distance phone calls and tender letters.
In Crisis Core Reunion, the emotional impact of all these events is amplified thanks to the fact that the entire game now has full voice acting. While some voices may take some getting used to, as they differ from the original Crisis Core performances, the new voice actors do a fantastic job of making the story more engaging than ever before. This voice acting also has a profound effect on how we view Sephiroth as the story progresses – Tyler Hoechlin’s performance makes him even more likable as the truth of his birth slowly comes to light and his downward spiral becomes more heartbreaking. On that note, I was happy to hear several of the show’s new voice actors lend their talents to the characters appearing in Crisis Core Reunion, including Tifa, Aerith, Tseng, Reno, Rude, and several others. This is all part of Square Enix’s effort to make Crisis Core more cohesive with Final Fantasy VII Remake, which it ultimately does with gusto.
This feat is also achieved by how much care the team put into visually upgrading Crisis Core. Each location is lush, intricate and has been tweaked to more closely resemble the world we see in Final Fantasy VII Remake, making the game’s trips to Junon, Costa Del Sol, Nibelheim, Shinra Manor and Gongaga – areas we have yet to venture into the remakes, but want to see in the future – a bit surreal. In Crisis Core Reunion, we’ll presumably get our first look at just what’s ahead in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, which, if you’re a die-hard fan, makes the game well worth playing in its own right. As someone who has spent the last few years yearning to see what walking through Shinra Manor will feel like, or how grand the streets of Junon can feel when Cloud is tasked with parading down them, it was an emotional experience to see even less graphically. intensive glimpse of what is on the horizon.
Crisis Core’s gameplay systems remain intact, albeit streamlined and redefined in fantastic ways. Those unfamiliar with the gameplay will find it unusual but exciting. Instead of Final Fantasy VII’s turn-based system, Crisis Core Reunion features fast-paced, action-style battles. While the game’s simplistic hacking, slashing and blocking is a fun time in itself, with challenging enemies that require quick reflexes and quick planning, Zack can also equip up to six pieces of materia, giving him spells and abilities to use in battle. In the original Crisis Core, cycling through all of these combat options could be daunting, as you were forced to use R1 and L1 to cycle through them all, then press X on which one you wanted to use. In Crisis Core Reunion, this has been completely overhauled, as you can now hold R1 and assign all of these abilities to different buttons to make combat less frustrating and more efficient.
Crisis Core Reunion also improves on one of the original game’s most notable features: the Digital Mind Wave. Also referred to as DMW, it’s a constantly spinning slot-style battle booster that lurks in the upper left corner of your screen during battle. The icons on the slots are characters and summons you encounter throughout the game, with characters giving you boundary breaks based on Zack’s relationship with them, and summons giving you the ability to, well, summon them. As your relationship with certain characters changes, you are more or less likely to see them appear in the DMW. In theory, there is one incredible strange feature as this slot is responsible for letting you dish out your hardest hitting moves in addition to leveling up. In execution, however, DMW is extremely fun and satisfying, and generally works quite well for players, while introducing an element of randomness into matches that keeps them fresh.
In the original Crisis Core, this feature received some criticism for its “modulating phase”, which would stop matches as the slots took up the entire screen. These phases no longer exist, although Crisis Core Reunion will still interrupt battles to show short cutscenes when the slots land on certain characters. Considering the time we get with Zack is so short, I found these cutscenes not only fascinating to watch, but necessary. As an outgoing person who is extremely devoted to the people around him (just look at how many texts the guy gets), having this mechanic where Zack’s relationship plays a role in his mental state – and subsequently the way he fights – -is a brilliant choice that tells us a lot about him without adding hours to Crisis Core’s story. All of these unique characteristics create a palpable difference in Final Fantasy VII and Crisis Core’s gameplay, driving just how different Zack and Cloud really are.
Crisis Core also features materia fusion, which allows you to take materia and combine it with other types to create new and more powerful spells and abilities. While grinding out material may already have been fun in Final Fantasy VII, the implementation of this fusion system makes it even more satisfying. Instead of just increasing how powerful your Fira becomes, materia fusion allows you to create entirely new spells together, such as combining said Fira with Assault Twister to create Fira Blade, an ability that deals magic damage while not using MP. Additionally, you can add items during fusion that, when equipped on Zack, change his stats. I spent a lot of time managing and fusing my materials while playing Crisis Core Reunion, and despite being someone who doesn’t necessarily love crafting, I enjoyed every minute of it.
However, not all of Crisis Core Reunion’s grinds have aged equally well. For starters, the game has way too many random battles. Sometimes I found myself sprinting with Zack pushed up against the walls of the game to avoid being in the centralized areas that trigger them. Additionally, Crisis Core has Reunion a lot of side missions. Considering the game was originally made to exist on a handheld console, it’s understandable: each of these missions lasts a few minutes and would be ideal to play through if you have a few minutes to spare while out and about . Removed from that context when played on a console, these missions aren’t as satisfying. And considering how similar they are even if the backstories are slightly different, they quickly become repetitive.
That said, Crisis Core Reunion is marketed as a direct remake, so it makes sense that everything is there, and I can’t fault the studio for porting over pre-existing content too much. Still, the game would have greatly benefited from finding ways to make this content more worthwhile and less outdated. The only feature I would argue the studio has neglected is the game’s dialogue, which can come off as awkward and very “early 2000s JRPG” in feel. This is reinforced by how incredible the dialogue changes and additions were in Final Fantasy VII Remake, enhancing already fantastic characters as well as making the overall story deeper and more understandable. While Crisis Core Reunion didn’t set out to expand or reimagine in the same way that the Remake did, a few changes—and less awkward breaks from Aerith—would have gone a long way.
Ultimately, if you go into Crisis Core Reunion expecting a one-for-one remake of Crisis Core, gimmicks and all, you won’t be disappointed in the slightest. It’s a vastly improved version of a great game, one that any Final Fantasy VII fan eager for more story will benefit from playing. While you shouldn’t expect any new content or story revisions (apologies to all of you who were hoping, I’ll admit I was too), you can expect a powerful ode to the kindest man you’ll ever meet and the legacy he passed on.