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February 2023

Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Dec. 13, 2022


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PS5 Review - 'Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 6, 2022 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion takes fans on an exciting journey through the origin of the FFVII saga in an all-new action-packed experience.

Buy Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion

It's weird to write about a game that is a giant spoiler. You can't discuss Crisis Core without spoiling several of Final Fantasy 7's biggest twists. When the game was decades old, that wasn't too much of a concern, but with Final Fantasy 7 Remake's remake-slash-sequel setup, there's a good chance players might not be aware of all of the twists. Fair warning before I go on — Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core Reunion will give away every mystery in the original FF7 if you've somehow managed to escape those spoilers.

Reunion tells the story of a spiky-haired soldier who wields an oversized sword and lives in the technomagical city of Midgar. In this case, you're not following Cloud Strife, but Zack Fair, the character whose legacy Cloud carries on in FF7. Zack's history overlaps with Cloud's in several significant places, and fans of FF7 already know how his story ends. Crisis Core is a great example of how knowing the end of a tale doesn't ruin the journey.

It's strange to discuss the plot of Crisis Core because it shouldn't work as well as it does. The main plot involves a poetry-spouting Sephiroth wannabe who was never mentioned in the original game. Interestingly, Reunion shines when it fleshes out the backstory and history of the FF7 cast. Zack is a shockingly likable character, a good-natured dork who wants to be a hero and help people, but knowing his inevitable tragic fate tempers that. He and Aerith have genuine chemistry and are adorable together, and you really understand his and Cloud's friendships. One of the surprising standouts is Sephiroth. Crisis Core gives you a glimpse into what the man was like before he turned into an insane, world-destroying psychopath. He comes across as human and likable enough that it adds genuine weight to his inevitable fall.

Prior to Remake, Crisis Core was really the only game in the FF7 extended universe that remembered how goofy the original title was. While the main story is dark, it's tempered by silly minigames, amusing jokes, and lots of fun references to the original. It's made from the same place of genuine heart as FF7 Remake, and while it doesn't hit quite as well as that game, it's a good way to revisit the world.

If I have one complaint, it is that the game still uses the same script as the original PSP version. The PSP translation was stiff and awkward, especially in some of the characters' performances. Coming from Remake's top-notch localization, it is a bit of a shame to go back. It isn't enough to ruin the experience, but considering all the hard work spent on making it visually similar to Remake, it's a shame it didn't go all-out.

The combat system is straightforward. Zack can attack, dodge and block, and by equipping materia, he can also perform special attacks. Magic spells take MP, special skills take AP, and items can be used by setting them up on a menu before battles begin. In the original version of the game, all materia and skills were set onto the item menu, but now you can set up multiple skills that can be accessed through a shortcut menu, allowing you to chain them instantly into combat.

Battles largely consist of going into a small arena and beating the crap out of enemies until they fall over. Enemies tend to have gimmicks, and some are more distinctive than others. A swarm of bees can't be easily damaged by physical attacks, while bombs gradually grow and explode. Bosses have special cinematic attacks that do massive damage. In the original version, your only choice was to eat the attacks, but Reunion causes a special bar to appear beneath the enemy while they are charging their attack. Attacking the enemy lowers that bar, and the lower it goes, the less damage an enemy does. If you can lower it all the way to zero, you can interrupt the attack entirely.

Probably the most distinctive element of the game is the Digital Mind Wave (DMW) system, which takes the form of a constantly spinning roulette wheel at the top of the screen. Depending on which jackpots you land on, you'll gain bonuses. These can range from infinite MP for a short period of time to invincibility. In certain situations, you'll also gain a Limit Break by matching up three character slots, which Reunion lets you bank to use later instead of requiring it to be used right away. As the game progresses, you'll unlock summons, stat bonuses, and more. Certain combinations also upgrade your materia and levels.

At first glance, the DMW system feels frustrating and outside of your control, but it isn't. The slots are weighted heavily in your favor, and you'll get bonuses regularly. Levels might seem random, but there's a sort of invisible EXP meter that means you'll eventually be guaranteed a level no matter what you do. Thankfully, the other big problem with the system in the PSP game has been solved. In the original version, the game paused whenever the DMW spins, constantly dragging the gameplay to a halt. In the Reunion version, the game never pauses except rarely when the DMW shows a cut scene of character interaction from Zack's memories.

The DMW no longer interrupting combat completely changes the pace of combat, making pretty much every encounter go significantly faster. The combat changes may sound minor, but they are significant. Being able to effortlessly combo different materia together while dodging and blocking completely changes how smooth the combat feels. It adds more action to the action-RPG and encouraged me to use skills I had previously ignored. Being able to interrupt enemy moves also meant that it felt viable to go with a glass cannon, full-offense style. (By the endgame, you'll need to use the same tools as the PSP version. Costly Punch is still a must.)

That said, these advantages do have consequences: They make the game even easier, and it wasn't super-punishing in the first place. I had a much easier time taking on harder challenges with lower stats in Reunion than I did in the PSP version. The game begins with Hard mode unlocked, and I strongly recommend starting with that unless you get frustrated. The game might be improved, but the core design is still based on the limitations of the original version.

For all the improvements that Reunion makes, it can't hide that it's still a PSP game at heart. Almost everything has been improved, but the core design still is the same game made with handheld limitations. That means a bulk of the content is effectively cut-and-paste missions in a handful of locations that are designed to be played in short chunks. This isn't a full remake, and as with other similar PSP ports, you're going to encounter those limitation everywhere.

The game is still plenty of fun, but the limitations linger over everything. The side missions being short, bite-sized repetitive chunks is a lot less appealing for a console than a handheld. To avoid burnout, you need to stop yourself from trying to mainline all of the missions as soon as you can. With the combat system changes, you can reach the optional superboss before Zack ever picks up the Buster Sword.

Visually, Reunion is a solid upgrade over the original. While it still uses a lot of the art design of the original FF7, there's a fair amount of effort put into making sure areas look somewhat similar between it and Remake. There are a few areas, like the Shinra HQ, where the difference is stark but not enough to be serious. The redone character models look quite good, but sometimes, the character animations feel a bit awkward since they were designed with the original models in mind.

Crisis Core has an absolutely phenomenal soundtrack that contains both new songs and remixes of FF7 songs, which almost all hit the mark. "The Price of Freedom" is probably one of the best Final Fantasy songs, period. The voice acting, on the other hand, is a bit weak. The game reuses the actors from Remake wherever possible, and they do a pretty good job, but sometimes, their lines feel like they were read out of context. Zack's actor is extremely inconsistent, sometimes knocking it out of the part and sometimes wiffing entirely. It's not terrible, but having the comparison of Remake shows the difference that audio direction can make. There is a Japanese voice option available, and it seems to flow a bit better.

Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core Reunion manages to be a lot more than the sum of its parts. There are a lot of things that you can complain about, from the dumb antagonist to the legacy of its PSP roots. It's a credit to the game that despite those flaws, it is still probably one of the best Final Fantasy spin-off games on the market, and Reunion is by far the best way to experience it. It should do a good job of tiding over fans until at least Final Fantasy XVI.

Score: 8.5/10

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