Zack Fair’s adventure on the PSP might have debuted in 2008, but I didn’t get around to it until 2015. By that point, I knew just about everything regarding the original Final Fantasy VII. That includes that hidden scene where players learn a bit more about Zack, a bit more about Cloud, and a bit more about Cloud’s famous Buster Sword. In other words, I knew how Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII would end. Spoiler alert, I also knew how Crisis Core Reunion: Final Fantasy VII would end. Personally, I had no reason to play through this remake. There were even times I questioned why in the heck I was playing it at all during some of the middle chapters due to some annoying gameplay features. But, I’m glad I saw it through to the end. Having gone through the Final Fantasy VII remake, the ending in Reunion felt even more impactful.
If you played the Final Fantasy VII Remake, then you’ll notice a lot of graphical similarities in Reunion. The game is a stunner. The modern look transition well for Zack’s adventure. He and the rest of the cast look great; gravity-defying hairstyles and all. The enemies range from small to massive, the spells have just enough flair to showcase Square’s abilities yet they’re never distracting, and special attacks such as Limit Breaks and Summons are extra flashy. The latter two come with long animations that can be skipped with the push of a button. Music is a mixture of old, familiar, new, remixed, and enhanced. Finally, voice acting is on point. There are English and Japanese language options. Praising Square for presentation is old hat but I feel like it’s necessary.
Zack Fair is a member of SOLIDER, dreams of becoming a hero and a member of SOLDIER’s elite first class. Zack has a contagiously optimistic attitude, unlimited potential and a smile that never seems to leave his perfectly proportioned face. Zack and his partner Angeal are on a mission in Wutai when they learn that a member of their team, Genesis, has gone missing. Strange enemies that look like Genesis are running amok and only the people of SOLDIER can put as top them and uncover the secret of Genesis disappearing. Zack will put his best foot forward, even if most people already know the tragic results.
Zack’s quest takes him through a variety of familiar locations, as well as a couple of new ones that never got mentioned in Final Fantasy VII. Seeing these familiar areas and events from a fresh set of eyes makes the campaign worthwhile. Crisis Core offers a unique look at the world many have come to know and love. Zack is an ideal main character. His energy and optimism carry him from dangerous mission to dangerous mission as he fights both for and against the corporation known as Shinra. Getting to know Zack, seeing a different perspective of Sephiroth and meeting other new characters is great. What’s still not great is Genesis. Genesis has flashy red hair and a matching outfit. He has a unique sword and has the look of a cool antagonist. But when he opens his mouth, all of that gets thrown out the window. If someone from Square is reading this, I ask you: “What. The hell. Were you thinking?” Genesis will spout random verses from an in-game play called LOVELESS in attempt to appear debonair, deep and deranged. Instead, he sounds demented. He fails miserably and takes so much away from the otherwise entertaining plot.
Most of the time in Crisis Core is spent moving the story forward as you embark on various assignments. As a member of SOLDIER, Zack has access to a shop at any time. He can equip a variety of Materia and accessories. At one point in the game, he gets the ability to combine Materia in order to create new ones with added effects. Finally, he can go on side-missions to earn new items, Materia and accessories. Since the main quest is relatively short, the side-missions are there to extend the game’s length. They’re also their to turn Zack into a one-person army. There are hundreds of missions ranging in simple to maddening that will reward Zack with a ton of bonuses. You don’t have to play them if you don’t want to, but doing so does make the main campaign much easier. I spent way too much time on these because of my stubbornness. Even when enemies would OHKO Zack, I would rather reassess Zack’s set up before quitting the side-mission and returning to the main quest.
Crisis Core Reunion’s combat is similar to how it was in the PSP. Battles are highly random and running away can be a chore. But, when you’re in the mood for combat, it’s a lot of fun watching Zack slash, blast, burn, freeze and/or other various actions with his sword and equipped Materia layout. AP allows him to use skills from yellow Materia. Green Materia lets him cast magic at the expense of his MP. He can also equip blue and pink Materia for passive effects. Crisis Core is an action/RPG, so the typical battle will have Zack moving from enemy to enemy and performing an action. For the most part, combat is frenetic but straightforward. Mash attack and chances are you will win. The same can be said about most bosses. Every boss has a super-powerful attack that requires charge time. Unleashing enough attacks on it will cancel this attack. Sadly, this idea feels tacked on. Either the boss’ charge will deplete immediately or you’ll be smacking it to no avail; only to get hit by said attack.
One feature I was concerned about making a return was the Digital Mind Wave. In the top left corner of the screen is a roulette that constantly spins during battle. On it, you’ll find characters that Zack has met and numbers. If two numbers match, Zack will get some sort of ability boost. If the character faces on the left and right side match, the game will enter a Modulating Phase. The roulette will spin and if all three faces match, Zack will perform a Limit Break and get an increase in maximum HP, MP, and AP. If, while in a Modulating Phase, two numbers other than 7 match, one of Zack’s equipped Materia will level up. If all three numbers are 7, Zack will level up. I know it sounds random, but Zack’s level ups and Limit Breaks occur somewhat naturally throughout the game. Enemies leave behind SP when they are defeated in lieu of experience points. So, as you get more SP, you’ll continue to enter the Modulating Phases. Summons will occur randomly with the DMW, as well. If you played the PSP version, then you might recall the DMW halting combat. That is no longer the case here. So in some twisted way, the DMW has been improved.
Thanks to going through over half of the missions (again, I was stubborn) I was able to demolish all the challenges in the final chapters. I logged nearly 30 hours of game time as a result. I played the game on Switch so I’m sure trophy hunters will have a heck of a time getting everything. As for me, once through was plenty. It’s easy to get burnt out on the missions and feel like the actual story is an afterthought. That’s ultimately what happened to me. Still, the ending still gave me all the feels. It really got me pumped for what’s to come in the next installment of the Final Fantasy VII Remake. This is why I think Final Fantasy VII fans of any capacity will enjoy Crisis Core Reunion. Some of its story beats will raise a brow or two, but seeing how everything comes together (again with a modern vibe) adds to the impact of this classic title.
Overall, 7.5/10: Crisis Core Reunion: Final Fantasy VII does a lot of things right and wrong. For fans of Final Fantasy VII, this mixture is worth the journey.