I started my Final Fantasy journey with Final Fantasy X. That journey with Tidus through Spira taught me so much. From not letting people dictate who I am to what friendship and the power of perseverance really mean. It also taught me that I just freaking love JRPGs. One, in particular, I immediately tried exploring was the rest of the Final Fantasy series. I had issues getting through them. Being a dumb kid, the graphics and the ATB systems felt quite foreign after the turn-based fully 3-D and voice acting of X. Hearing so much about XII, I knew I had to try it. It wasn’t until a release on the PSP that it all fully clicked. Final Fantasy X was my introduction to the series, but Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII was what solidified it as one of my all-time favorites. Fifteen years later, we all get to relive it again via Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion on modern consoles, thanks to Square Enix.
Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion is a prequel to VII, taking place several years before Cloud’s adventure. It follows Zach Fair, SOLDIER Second Class, who, trained under Angeal, learns the ways of SOLDIER. However, after starting to go on more and more missions, events beyond his control unfold. Another ace of SOLDIER, Genesis, defects and creates an army of clones. Angeal defects. And Sephiroth slowly becomes reclusive. Zach gets roped into every single event that happens, including the rise of Cloud, the fall of Sephiroth, and the start of almost every major plot point in one of the greatest stories told by Square Enix.
While the story sounds deep, it was funny to see the writing hasn’t changed. Guess that’s the perk of working on a remaster. We are stuck with the cringy writing of yore. While it didn’t ruin my experience, do not go into this game expecting a 30-40 hour epic like VII. Over 8-10 hours, the story I described above occurs over chapters, and boy does it not make sense sometimes. After 15 years and not being a dumb kid anymore (well, maybe just a dumb adult), I picked up a lot more on why its short length kind of doesn’t work in its favor. Particularly with how Zach allies himself with the three other major characters. He flip-flops so much from thinking they’re villains, to being good again, to almost dying time and again. The several time jumps also exacerbate the difficulty of connecting to these characters before the grander game.
Even then, the writing isn’t really as major of an issue as I’m making it out to be. My issue is with the voice acting. To make the voices uniform with Final Fantasy VII Remake, all voice actors, including Zach, have returned to reprise their roles. While I don’t fault the voice actor for Zach, his line delivery has almost changed the meaning of some of the lines delivered. Sometimes even taking Zach from a suave edgy, mysterious soldier to a more confused young soldier. Now, this could just be growing pains. It could also be the developers wanting to take Zach in a new direction… given how Final Fantasy VII Remake ended. Overall, this could just be growing pains after a change from a character who was already voiced in his original game.
Where Reunion shines though, is its update to its gameplay. Square Enix has modernized Crisis Core‘s hack-and-slash combat in such a great way. It feels smoother, the materia is much easier to use, and there are some fantastic quality-of-life changes. Particularly with the Digital Mind Wave, or DMW, system. Crisis Core had a unique mechanic for not only buffing Zach but to lead to the summons and special abilities. On the top left of the screen, a Reels-like system would spin with icons of characters Zach has encountered throughout his journey. While interesting in its own way, it led to unskippable cutscenes in the PSP version.
And thank god they’re skippable now. Previously putting odd pauses to combat, the summons and abilities not only have skippable cutscenes but they also can be engaged WHENEVER YOU WANT! They’re now tied to a press of a button (or buttons with summons) to trigger allowing them to be used at times that are most optimal for the player! This is exactly what has made the combat feel modern. Giving a choice to the player instead of having frequent chances at repeated story-based cutscenes unlocked by chance. Even then these cutscenes are so beautiful in glorious HD. The cinematics teams have delivered some of the coolest HD summon animations we’ve quite possibly ever gotten.
But not everything got modernized, like the leveling. The quite odd “chance” based leveling system returns, which does feel like an odd choice, even if it was part of what made Crisis Core so unique at its original release. To level, you must get triple 7s in the DMW system. It sounds like a complete chance, yet actually occurs after passing an experience threshold. Thing is, you have no idea how much experience you have. The choice to keep the leveling system the same feels like an odd limitation of keeping this as only a remaster, even though other parts were changed for the better.
No better cutscene is a prime example of this than the Angeal, Genesis, and Sephiroth fight that happens about a third of the way through the game. Previously, this pushed the PSP to its limits. On modern consoles, it’s even more breathtaking. The destruction and the choreography of this one cutscene is the prime example of what makes the Final Fantasy CGI cutscenes so great. And the fact that we got a completely refreshed version made this re-release so worth it. Seriously, if you don’t play Reunion, just go look up this cutcene alone for one of the coolest 3-minute cutscenes you’ll ever see in a game to date.
However, to my surprise, one of the oddest omissions from this remaster was no chapter selection. A feature that was present in 7 Remake is just absent here. This is quite odd when there is so much side content locked away by talking to random NPCs you may pass at any time. Even the mini-games, which several are one-and-done events, require a separate save to repeat in case of failure at a perfect score to repeat them. Or, like me, you’re gonna have to replay the whole game again to get those achievements that were missed. This isn’t a glaring omission, perse, however just quite odd that a game that’s so chapter focused with events and secrets that are easily missable require a complete playthrough just to repeat. Especially when just 2 years ago its predecessor launched with this exact feature.
Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion is not only a perfect example of what a remaster should be, but also the perfect way to play this classic game. Plus, it being available on so many platforms makes it the most approachable way for anyone who wants to experience this nonsensically beautiful mess. While it not a perfect game, I have been reminded why Crisis Core holds a special place in my heart. This is a special story that’s growing in new ways, and being able to experience it all again with almost remake-level updates to almost every aspect of the game while keeping its heart and soul the same is something truly special.
Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion is available now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion
- Rating - 9/109/10
Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion is not only a perfect example of what a remaster should be but also the perfect way to play this classic game. Plus, it being available on so many platforms makes it the most approachable way for anyone who wants to experience this nonsensically beautiful mess. While it not a perfect game, I have been reminded why Crisis Core holds a special place in my heart. This is a special story that’s growing in new ways, and being able to experience it all again with almost remake-level updates to almost every aspect of the game while keeping its heart and soul the same is something truly special.