Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII – Reunion Review (Switch)

Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII – Reunion Review (Switch)

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

In the mid-2000s, Nintendo may have easily dominated the handheld gaming space with the DS and its incredible lineup, but let it never be said that the PSP didn’t have its fair share of absolute bangers. One of the most memorable PSP titles was Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, a prequel to one of the best games Square has ever managed to produce. Mixing fast-paced hack ‘n’ slash combat with a story every bit as gripping and heartbreaking as the original Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core quickly built a strong reputation. Now that Square is about to, uh, change Final Fantasy 7, the developer has seen fit to bring Crisis Core to modern audiences to bring them up to speed on certain plot lines and characters before the launch of Rebirth next winter. We are pleased to report that this remake has been a resounding success; Crisis Core was always a great game, and now it looks and plays better than ever.

Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion, to give it its full title, places you in the role of Zack Fair, a spunky, cocky and impressively skilled mercenary who works for a paramilitary group called SOLDIER, which exists to uphold the interests of hegemonic Shinra Electric Power Company. While Shinra is of course the sinister, puppy-kicking mega-corporation you’d expect it to be, Zack sincerely dreams of being a “hero” and wants to do the right thing. However, his world begins to unravel when a high-level soldier named Genesis goes rogue and takes on Shinra. What follows is an increasingly bizarre journey into a world of aliens, clones and genetic modification that somehow manages to stay coherent and enticing throughout.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

Although this tale certainly features Tetsuya Nomura’s clumsy writing most, it’s the heart-to-heart moments between key characters that make it all worth it. For example, Zack idolizes his mentor Angeal—a stoic but compassionate SOLDIER operative who wields the iconic Buster sword—and seeing how this relationship ebbs and flows over the course of the story really keeps you engaged when another hysterically angsty, poetry-reciting villain do you roll your eyes. Make no mistake, some of the writing and characters here are like something you’d expect to find written in a moody theater kid’s fanfic notebook, but the way it all comes together in the end somehow just saves Crisis Core from feeling downright silly.

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As a portable game, Crisis Core was designed to be played in chunks. There are ten story-focused chapters you can take part in, each taking about an hour to complete, but anywhere in them you can choose to take part in missions via save points. These are each only a few minutes long and usually task you with exploring a small zone and killing a certain number or type of enemies. Each zone you enter usually has a few treasure chests hidden around the hallways, and you’ll occasionally be interrupted while exploring by the sudden onset of a random battle. Some may not like this stop and go mission-based setup as much, but we felt there were sufficient rewards for knocking out missions, and they provide a nice distraction from the main narrative from time to time.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

Crisis Core’s combat takes the form of an action-focused hack ‘n’ slash, reminiscent of the Kingdom Hearts series with its flashiness. Mashing the Y button is usually all it takes to cut most enemies to shreds, and each hit is always punctuated by a satisfying screen shake and slight rumble from the controller. You also have a selection of magical and special attacks you can deploy at will to exploit enemy weaknesses, although these attacks are limited by your available MP or AP. Crisis Core can feel a little simplistic in practice, then, but we found that the excitement of the fast pace more than makes up for any shallow combat mechanics it may have.

A key element in both combat and progression is the DMW – or Digital Mind Wave – which is a literal one slot machine which constantly runs different numbers and character images in the corner of your screen during battle. If the tracks land on certain combinations of numbers, you’ll get random buffs in battle like not taking physical damage or all spells temporarily costing zero MP. If the slots land on the image of a certain character, you get a powerful Limit Break or a summon attack to inflict massive pain on your enemies.

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At first, it feels a little strange to have this completely random and unreliable array of buffs that may or may not really help you in this fight, but we found it inoffensive in practice. You don’t have to babysit or directly interact with it during a battle, so if you adjust your battle strategy to simply not account for the existence of the DMW, then every time it actually do does something in your favor, it feels like a real bonus.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

DMW is also responsible for all of your direct character progression, which feels like an interesting callback to the SaGa series. All of Zack’s material and even his overall level can only be raised if the DMW numbers happen to match in just the right way. If there’s a specific material you’re trying to max out for a fusion, or you want to raise Zack’s level a bit to take on a tougher mission, well, you’ll just have to wait until DMW decides to give you the power surges you’re hoping for. This may sound annoying, but we suspect that there is a much more linear calculation going on somewhere behind the scenes, as we never felt that Zack’s level or material was insufficient to meet the demands of a given difficulty level.

Although much of Zack’s progress is tied to the DMW, you’re still given some freedom over his build via equipment and material fusing. Each materia corresponds to a different spell, ability, or stat parameter, and you don’t have nearly as many slots available as you do materia. It’s fun to design specific loadouts for different mission types, and we liked that there’s a meaningful sense of progression over time as you build your materia collection and gradually acquire more powerful variants. Plus, when you’ve maxed out a material’s level (or you’ve just road too many lying around), you can combine any two to create a new or more powerful variant. This system does well to offset the randomness of DMW; together they feel like a perfectly balanced means of driving character growth.

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Caught on Nintendo Switch (docked)

Being a remake, Crisis Core has clearly benefited from borrowing various assets and designs from the recent Final Fantasy 7 revisit. While the character models can sometimes have that glassy look, we were impressed with the visual fidelity here. Whether you’re battling Ifrit in the depths of a burning volcano or exploring the picturesque village of Banora, there are plenty of high-resolution textures and varied locales on display that make this feel more like a slightly scaled-down port of a current game.

The native resolution obviously makes all the models and environments look a bit ‘soft’, but this feels very much like a game that shouldn’t run on the Switch anywhere near as well as it does. It may run at just 30FPS, but that frame rate stays consistent regardless of what’s happening on the screen, which is often quite a lot. Each swing of Zack’s sword is accompanied by a series of sparks and flashy animations to really sell each hit, while the summon animations are almost comical in how over the top they can be. We applaud Square for their efforts here – a far cry from the disappointing cloud situation with the Kingdom Hearts games on Switch.


Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion is everything we hoped this remake would be. It takes a great game that was once chained to handheld-only hardware and brings it into a new generation with a fresh coat of paint. While some may be put off by the quest-based game structure or the sometimes ridiculous writing, its excellent combat, gorgeous presentation, and heartfelt narrative combine to make this one that no RPG fan will want to miss, especially those who were fans of Final Fantasy VII. Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion is a fantastic addition to the Switch’s ever-growing library of great RPGs, we’d advise you to give it a try.

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