“Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion” is a rejuvenated edition of the original game, first launched by Square Enix in 2007 for the PlayStation Portable (PSP). The plot revolves around Zack Fair, an elite member of the combat unit, SOLDIER, under the umbrella of the gargantuan Shinra Corporation. This was my first venture into the realm of this game, and in preparation for this review, I took time to familiarize myself with the source material that portrayed the original production, allowing for an informed comparison.
Does Reunion hold its own as a well-crafted and immersive gaming experience? In our thorough assessment of “Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion”, we’ll give our verdict on whether the developers were successful in enhancing the 2007 version. Considering the passing of time and the evolution of gaming, could they effectively retool and elevate a game that was once confined to the limitations of the PSP format? Could they transform it into a current, engaging experience that could erase any signs of it being a product of a bygone era? Let’s find out together.
Table of Contents
An In-depth Journey through the Storyline
“Crisis Core” is an intriguing backstory that sets the stage for the world of Final Fantasy VII, originally released way back in 1997. This engaging narrative immerses us in the tumultuous conflict between the formidable forces of Shinra and Wutai. We also delve into the complex histories of iconic characters, such as Sephiroth and Zack Fair, unfolding the details that shaped their characters in the ensuing saga.
Discovering the Origin of Super Soldiers
One of the intriguing facets the prequel unravels is the intriguing origin of super soldiers. The plot enlightens us about the creation of these formidable warriors, powered by JENOVA cells. It is this discovery that played a vital role in shaping the storyline and defining the conflict.
Additionally, the game takes us on a journey through significant events that transpired in Nibelheim, which are crucial to understanding the intricacies of the story. Before diving into Crisis Core, I was unfamiliar with these elements, and I confess, I was somewhat perplexed while playing Part VII.
The core storyline of the game is smartly divided into ten substantial chapters, bookended by a thought-provoking prologue and a compelling epilogue. This organized structure guides players through the plot, and it’s estimated that the journey to completion will approximately take around 12 hours.
A Well-Crafted Story with a Few Twists
The narrative is, for the most part, beautifully crafted, keeping the player engaged throughout. However, it’s worth noting that there are a few instances of temporal leaps throughout the story, which can, on occasion, lead to a bit of disorientation. Despite these minor hiccups, I did not find myself growing weary of the game. On the contrary, I found myself eagerly anticipating the unraveling of the events as set out by the creators. Each new chapter served up a fresh serving of the intriguing tale, keeping me hooked throughout the journey.
A Fresh Coat of Paint for Zack Fair
The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII was a bold endeavor designed to expand upon the imaginary universe of Final Fantasy VII. This extensive project aimed to offer a deeper insight into the events that unfolded before, during, and after the original Square Enix’s renowned JRPG. The compilation included a wide range of productions, spanning from the somewhat underwhelming Dirge of Cerberus featuring Vincent Valentine, to the motion picture Advent Children, which served as an interpretive guide to the original game.
However, amongst these explorative productions, the most significant and impactful was, without doubt, Crisis Core. This is primarily because it brought to light the intriguing story of Zack Fair, a pivotal character in the Final Fantasy VII universe, who previously had limited exposure due to a variety of factors that could potentially spoil the surprise for those unfamiliar with the original 1997 JRPG or its recent Remake.
When to Dive into Crisis Core
Given the direction taken in the Remake, it might be tempting to delve into Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion prior to anything else. However, if you’re entirely new to the Final Fantasy VII universe and wish to experience this realm through the original JRPG first, it would be more beneficial to dive into Crisis Core only after completing it.
Fans who were apprehensive about potential deviations from the original storyline can breathe a sigh of relief. The Reunion is a faithful resurrection of Crisis Core, reimagined merely in the Italian adaptation of the subtitles, now being more authentic to the original Japanese script as opposed to the English dialogue.
Smooth Translation and Continuity in Voice Acting
The new translation is noticeably smoother, adhering to grammatical correctness, making for a more seamless reading experience. Square Enix has also put considerable effort into the game’s dubbing, calling back the voice actors from the Remake in both English and Japanese versions, thereby establishing a strong sense of continuity.
This commitment to continuity is also evident in other aspects of the Reunion, most notably in its artistic direction. The aesthetics now closely align with the visual language of the Remake, creating a cohesive visual experience across the games, and bridging the past with the present.
In this latest iteration, Square Enix has breathed new life into practically every character, enhancing their realism, not only in facial characteristics but also in their animations and 3D models. This transformation is immediately apparent when looking at Zack, especially if you’ve experienced the original Crisis Core. There, the protagonist shared much in common with his Kingdom Hearts counterpart. However, Remake enthusiasts will particularly notice the changes when characters such as Yuffie, Aerith, and Tifa come into play.
Modifications in Existing Characters and Creatures
Characters like Angeal and Genesis, who didn’t have their moment in the Remake, have been partially modified. Even more transformation is evident in the creatures drawn from the summoning materials. The creative minds at Square Enix have entirely revamped the common creatures with the Remake, such as Ifrit or Bahamut, and refined all the others.
The objective is unmistakable: the aim is to standardize the stylistic elements of both works, creating a sense of continuity, and thus, making Reunion effectively the go-to version of Crisis Core for new generations or those who never had the chance to play it, perhaps due to not owning a PSP.
Connecting Reunion and Remake
There are numerous links between Reunion and the Remake, not only in the refresh of the graphics, which extends beyond the 3D models to the general resolution, the detail in the environments, and the completely revamped effects and lighting.
In terms of music, Reunion borrows some tracks from the Remake, while others have been rearranged, and still more remixed by Takeharu Ishimoto, who has revisited the score to create a more modern soundtrack that resonates with the spirit of the Remake.
Square Enix has also reworked the interface, which, in its structure, design, and font, is strikingly reminiscent of the Remake. Starting with the on-screen tutorials, each menu or screen is now more readable and spacious than its 2007 PSP counterpart.
Performance and Visual Quality
All these changes would have been more than enough to applaud this revival. Having tested it on PlayStation 5, we can confirm the game performs excellently, which is impressive, considering the extensive technical reworkings. In our test, we did not encounter any performance issues: Reunion runs smoothly at 60 frames per second and, with its 4K resolution, at first glance, appears like a modern title. Only the keenest eye will spot a certain clumsiness in the movements and modeling of some minor enemies or NPCs, which, surprisingly, Square Enix has voiced even for the most mundane dialogues.
Merging Past and Present
Instead of just giving Crisis Core a visual overhaul, Square Enix has chosen to also rejuvenate the gameplay, resolving its more controversial aspects to bring it in line with the action-driven philosophy of the Remake.
In the original PSP version, players selected the basic attack and abilities or spells linked with the equipped Materia from a horizontal list, while simultaneously maneuvering around the battlefield and evading enemy attacks with a petite roll.
Redefined Control System
Square Enix has significantly reshaped the control system. It has improved the troublesome camera control from the original game by assigning it to a handy analog stick, while the other stick controls Zack. The attack and dodge commands now have their dedicated buttons, and the powers of the equipped yellow and green Materia can be summoned using simple button combinations.
This new setup vastly enhances Crisis Core’s gameplay, drawing it closer to that of the Remake. Controlling Zack is now far more intuitive and satisfying. New game dynamics, such as the one which empowers any Materia summoned at the end of a basic attack combo, or the indicator that can be drained to weaken or completely negate the bosses’ most potent attacks, encourage an aggressive yet thoughtful approach.
However, all these improvements would have been in vain if Square Enix hadn’t made adjustments to the OMD system – a unique feature in Hajime Tabata’s title that was both a blessing and a curse.
The Revamped OMD System
On paper, the OMD system (short for Operative Mental Wave) is a clever integration of gameplay and narrative. It works much like a slot machine, continuously spinning, aligning scores, and symbols related to characters Zack has encountered. Optimal combinations offer temporary bonuses, enable the use of powerful summons or attacks, and can trigger character or Materia level ups, given Zack has reached a certain experience threshold.
The OMD system occasionally interrupts fights to showcase flashbacks, elaborating on the relationships between Zack and other characters. To maximize each connection, significant gameplay time is required. However, unlike in the PSP version where most positive alignments temporarily halted the combat, in Reunion this rarely happens. The slot machine now resides peacefully in the top left corner for the majority of the time, without interfering with the action.
Faster Load Times and Convenient Options
It’s also worth mentioning that the lightning-fast load times enabled by the Sony hardware, on which we tested the game, contributes to a smoother combat experience. Even when a summon or an Over-the-limit attack momentarily pauses the fight to display the related scene, the interruption feels less intrusive. To further enhance player convenience, these scenes can be skipped by pressing a button or completely turned off in the options menu.
Maintaining the Original Game Structure
Despite the revisions to the combat system and OMD, “Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion” is fundamentally the same game that debuted in 2007. That means it retains an older framework that harks back to its initial mobile format.
Originally intended to be titled something along the lines of “Before Crisis” and later morphing into Zack’s adventure, the game’s structure does feel a bit antiquated. The story, divided into eleven chapters, unfolds across larger zones that are further broken down into “rooms”. The game must load these areas from time to time and even though this takes mere seconds, the repetitive structure can become irksome over an extended play period.
Nevertheless, the exploration operates similarly to Final Fantasy VII Remake: Zack can interact with non-player characters (NPCs), gather information, and complete tasks.
Most of the sidequests are found in a separate screen accessible from save points, emphasizing the game’s mobile roots. These missions are designed to be bite-sized, ideal for quick completion. Players can assess the difficulty level and potential rewards before accepting a quest. Once accepted, they’re teleported to an arena or labyrinth of identical corridors and rooms where they battle enemies to accomplish their objective.
Despite all the improvements we’ve outlined, this aspect of the game remains unchanged, becoming repetitive and uninspiring over time.
Although the game offers a good variety of enemies and an interesting level of customization – which is achieved through Materia fusion and finding the best accessories – Reunion still struggles with its secondary content. These elements particularly challenge completionists and persistent players.
Content and Narrative
Regrettably, this forms a significant portion of the game’s content. The campaign can be completed in roughly 15 hours. Apart from various iconic moments, like the encounter with Aerith or the memorable conclusion, the subplots that Crisis Core introduces (and not always resolves) aren’t especially thrilling. This is primarily due to some truly eccentric supporting characters, with Genesis Rhapsodos being a standout.
The narrative, while well-integrated into the adventure, serves to provide more context to certain aspects of Final Fantasy VII (Remake) and its complex mythology. For example, Crisis Core delves into the character of Sephiroth and the implications of the SOLDIER project more deeply than many other franchise titles. The effort that Square Enix has put into creating this Reunion suggests that it plays a crucial role in the ongoing development of the Remake project.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion
"Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion" successfully revitalizes the original game with enhanced visuals, smoother translation, and improved gameplay mechanics. The game immerses players in an intriguing storyline, delving into the origins of super soldiers and expanding on the Final Fantasy VII universe. The character overhaul and visual upgrades bring new life to the game, aligning it with the aesthetics of the recent Remake. The control system has been refined, making it more intuitive and satisfying, while the revamped OMD system adds an interesting gameplay element. However, the game retains some aspects of its older framework, leading to occasional repetitive structure and uninspiring side quests. Despite these minor drawbacks, "Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion" is a well-crafted and immersive gaming experience, especially for fans of the Final Fantasy VII universe.
- Revitalized visuals and enhanced character models breathe new life into the game.
- Smooth translation and continuity in voice acting create a seamless and immersive experience.
- Well-crafted storyline with intriguing backstories and character development.
- Improved control system, bringing it closer to the action-driven philosophy of the Remake.
- The revamped OMD system adds an interesting gameplay element and integrates narrative moments.
- Occasional temporal leaps in the narrative can lead to some disorientation.
- Repetitive structure and uninspiring side quests can become tiresome over time.
- Some eccentric supporting characters may not appeal to everyone.
- Secondary content and subplots may not be as thrilling as the main storyline.
- Limited content, with a completion time of roughly 15 hours.