Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion: The life of the self-described country boy-turned-SOLDIER-First-Class Zack Fair is not a mystery, much like the character who leads the plot. You probably have a good understanding of the legacy of this character if you’ve played Final Fantasy VII or any of its many sequels, prequels, remakes, or animated films; ironically, the weight of his sword is the only thing that comes close to it. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion, on the other hand, is the only way to experience it in its entirety.
Crisis Core Reunion, a recreation of the 2007 PSP-only Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, faithfully tells Zack Fair’s tale while incorporating major visual improvements, full voice acting, and several quality-of-life improvements. It should come as no surprise that this version is successful in turning Crisis Core into a contemporary must-play for fans of Final Fantasy VII, given that the game was already praised as a brilliant prequel and one of the best games on the PSP. Crisis Core Reunion not only makes the formerly hard to find game available on a number of new consoles, enabling a larger audience to play it, but it also changes it from feeling like a smaller, handheld experience into something that can proudly stand next to Final Fantasy VII Remake as a worthy companion.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion follows Zack Fair, a talented young man who swiftly advances through Shinra’s elite fighting force, the soldiers, to stand with other renowned heroes like Genesis, Angeal, and the infamous Sephiroth in later years. However, as details of the different tests Shinra ran on these top warriors start to emerge, the four coworkers find themselves at odds with one another very rapidly. These conflicts inevitably led to the events of Final Fantasy VII, which included Sephiroth’s descent into madness, the burning of Nibelheim, and Cloud’s participation in the entire tragedy. Crisis Core succeeds in crafting a compelling, revealing, and profoundly moving story of its own; it does not, however, only serve as a prelude to something greater.
The protagonist of the game is mostly to blame for this. Zack is vivacious and incredibly appealing, in contrast to Final Fantasy VII’s main character, Cloud Strife, who occasionally speaks softly and can be a little melancholy. The fighter is compared as a puppy throughout the game by Zack’s mentor, Angeal, who also taunts him for being overly eager and hyperactive. But in contrast to the other SOLDIERs, such as the austere Angeal, the ominous and poetic Genesis, and the stern Sephiroth, Zack is a breath of fresh air who is highly regarded inside the SOLDIER program (especially by Cloud) for his prowess, fervor, and supportive demeanor. These attributes make him appealing to our favorite flower girl, Aerith, who experiences a brief but intense love story with Zack, complete with long-distance phone calls and heartfelt letters, outside of Shinra.
The Digital Mind Wave, one of the most significant aspects of the original game, is enhanced in Crisis Core Reunion. It’s also known as the DMW, and it’s a battle enhancer that looks like a slot machine that spins continuously in the top left corner of your screen when you’re engaged in fight. Characters and summons that you encounter during the game are represented by the symbols on the slots. Characters give you limit breaks based on Zack’s relationships with them, while summons give you the opportunity to, well, summon them. You are either more or less likely to see specific characters emerge in the DMW as your relationships with them change. Theoretically, it’s a really bizarre feature, considering this slot machine is what allows you to use your most powerful attacks and level up. However, in practice, the DMW is incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling, often working out well for players while also adding an unpredictability aspect to battles that keeps them interesting.
This feature did get some criticism in the original Crisis Core for its “modulating phase,” which would halt battles as the slots filled the full screen. These phases are no longer present, however Crisis Core Reunion will still pause battles to display brief cutscenes when specific characters’ slots drop on them. Given how little time we spend with Zack, I thought these sequences were both fascinating to watch and necessary. This mechanic, where Zack’s relationships play a role in his mental state and, in turn, the way he battles, is a brilliant choice that tells us a lot about him without adding hours to Crisis Core’s story because it shows us how devoted and outgoing he is to the people around him (just look at how many texts the guy gets). The gameplay in Final Fantasy VII and Crisis Core differs noticeably as a result of all these distinctive elements, which emphasizes how dissimilar Zack and Cloud actually are.
Crisis Core also features materia fusion, which allows you to take leveled up materia and combine it with other types to create new and more powerful spells and abilities. While grinding materia out in Final Fantasy VII was arguably already fun, the implementation of this fusion system makes it even more satisfying. Rather than simply raising how powerful your Fira becomes, materia fusion allows you to create entirely new spells all together, such as combining said Fira with Assault Twister to create Fira Blade, an ability that inflicts magic damage while not using MP. Additionally, you can add items during fusion that, when equipped on Zack, alter his stats. I spent a lot of time managing and fusing my materia 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 quite as well. For starters, the game has far too many random battles. At times, I found myself sprinting with Zack pressed up against the game’s walls to avoid being in the centralized areas that trigger them. Additionally, Crisis Core Reunion has a lot of side missions. Considering the game was originally created to exist on a handheld console, it is understandable: Each of these missions last for a few minutes and would be ideal to play through if you have a few spare minutes while out and about. Removed from that context when played on a console, these missions are not as satisfying. And, considering how similar they are even if the background stories are slightly different, they quickly grow repetitive.
That being said, Crisis Core Reunion is marketed as a direct remake, so it makes sense it’s all there and I can’t fault the studio for carrying over pre-existing content too much. Even so, the game would have greatly benefited from finding ways to make this content more worthwhile and less outdated in feel. Really the only feature I would argue was woefully neglected by the studio is the game’s dialogue, which can come across as awkward and very “early 2000s JRPG” in feel. This is exacerbated by just how incredible the dialogue changes and additions were in Final Fantasy VII Remake, which enhanced already-fantastic characters as well as made the overall story deeper and more comprehensible. While Crisis Core Reunion did not set out to expand or reimagine the same way Remake did, a few alterations–and less awkward pauses 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, quirks and all, you will not be the slightest bit disappointed. It is a greatly improved version of a great game, one that all Final Fantasy VII fans eager for more story would benefit from playing. While you shouldn’t expect any new content or story revisions (sincere 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.
Additionally, Crisis Core has a feature called materia fusion that enables you to mix different types of leveled-up materia to produce brand-new, more potent spells and abilities. The use of this fusion method makes grinding materia, which was perhaps already enjoyable in Final Fantasy VII, considerably more rewarding. With materia fusion, you can combine existing spells to create whole new ones. For example, you might combine a Fira with Assault Twister to produce Fira Blade, a skill that deals magic damage without consuming MP. Additionally, during fusion, you can add objects that, when worn by Zack, change his stats. Despite not necessarily loving crafting, I spent a lot of time maintaining and fusing my materia while playing Crisis Core Reunion, and I relished every second of it.
Not all of Crisis Core Reunion’s grinds, meanwhile, have held up as well with time. First off, there are way too many arbitrary battles throughout the game. In order to avoid being in the centered locations that cause them, I occasionally found myself rushing as Zack was forced against the game’s walls. Crisis Core Reunion contains a ton of side tasks as well. Given that the game was designed to be played on a handheld console, it is logical that each of these tasks only lasts a short while and would be best completed when you are out and about. These missions are less rewarding when played on a console and removed from that setting. Even if the backstories are marginally different, they are so similar that they rapidly become monotonous.
Nevertheless, given that Crisis Core Reunion is advertised as a direct recreation, it makes logical that everything is included, and I can’t hold it against the company for heavily reusing previously released material. The game would have benefited enormously, however, if it had been possible to make this information feel less old and more valuable. The conversation in the game, which occasionally comes out as odd and has a very “early 2000s JRPG” vibe to it, is really the one aspect I would contend was horribly neglected by the developers. This is made worse by how amazing the conversation additions and alterations were in Final Fantasy VII Remake, which improved the already outstanding characters and made the narrative deeper and easier to understand. Even if Crisis Core Reunion did not aim to expand or reinterpret the series in the same way as Remake did, a few tweaks and fewer awkward pauses from Aerith would have made a big difference.
In the end, you won’t be the slightest bit let down if you walk into Crisis Core Reunion expecting a one-for-one recreation of Crisis Core, peculiarities and all. All Final Fantasy VII fans seeking more story should play this much upgraded version of an excellent game. You shouldn’t anticipate any new material or changes to the plot (sincere apologies to those of you expecting; I’ll admit I was too), but you can anticipate a stirring tribute to the sweetest man you’ll ever meet and the legacy he left behind.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion Rating