It was just two years ago that Square Enix officially launched its journey to retell the story of Final Fantasy 7. While that story is still ongoing, part of that mission appears to be to tell all of the Final Fantasy 7 story, which includes the events of its 2007 PSP-exclusive prequel. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion is more of a straight remaster of its source material than what Final Fantasy 7 Remake was for its original version. However, there are enough quality-of-life improvements here to make this experience feel worthwhile.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion takes place before the events of the original PlayStation-era adventure, years before Cloud picked up his first Buster Sword. In fact, it tells the story of Zack Fair and his rise to SOLDIER 1st Class.
Before going any further, it has to be said out of the gate: Zack Fair is not Cloud Strife at all. They're almost polar opposites, in terms of personality. Whereas Cloud is mysterious, stoic, and almost emotionless, Zack is much more boisterous, headstrong, and lighthearted. He also borders on annoying and while he didn't cross that line for me, I can understand if he grates on others. Zack Fair is not going to be a hero for everyone. However, one thing that Zack and Cloud do have in common is that they experience noticeable character growth over the course of their stories. To Reunion's credit, Zack Fair evolves and grows into heroism. By the second half, you don't want to strangle him anymore, but instead, you want to see him reach his full potential as a hero. Plus, without spoiling any specific events from either this game or FF7 Remake, Zack's story hits differently with the knowledge of what's happening in the latter series. It strikes a different emotional chord now than it did back in 2007.
What bogs down the Reunion story is that a lot of the central plot is overly complex and almost nonsensical. By the story's final few hours, I stopped worrying about the overarching plot and simply focused on just a few characters and their specific ties to Zack. The Crisis Core story is at its worst when it tries to go off the beaten path and venture into the perspectives of other characters and how everything fits into the grander FF7 narrative. There's something to be said about keeping a story like this simple and when it just focuses on Zack, it's much more compelling.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion bears some heavy resemblances to Final Fantasy 7 Remake. There are a few instances where Reunion's cinematics don't quite hold up, from a visual standpoint, especially towards the game's final moments. However, what Square Enix was able to put together with the use of Unreal Engine 4 is remarkable. If I was simply shown a trailer and told that it was DLC for FF7 Remake, I could have believed it. The development team went a long way to make Zack Fair's story look like it could have fit into the Remake ecosystem.
That's where most of the commonalities with Remake end. Like Remake, Reunion is a third-person, real-time action RPG with randomized encounters. Players utilize a mixture of swordplay with classic Final Fantasy magic spells and special abilities. The controls for Reunion are slightly friendlier than Remake, as there are dedicated buttons for Zack's sword, items, and dodges. Zack can improve his abilities over time, but he can also find new materia and level it up as he goes. One of the cooler features was the Materia Fusion menu, which allowed me to create powerful combinations like Dark Thundaga or Hell Blizzaga and even bolster it by tossing in a few items. Experimenting with different builds quickly became one of the big highlights of this game and I wanted to see just how powerful I could make Zack by the end of the story.
What makes Reunion's combat stand out is another "love it or hate it" feature. In lieu of a traditional leveling and experience system, Reunion utilizes the Digital Mind Wave. The DMV is an almost-literal slot machine placed along the upper left-hand corner of the screen. It constantly rolls during battle and grants Zack bonuses, Limit Breaks, and Summons. That sounds great on the surface, but it also determines when Zack or any of his materia level up. While that's one way to address the issue of unnecessarily grinding for XP, I'm not sure this solution is much better. The DMV is entirely random, so you can sometimes level up twice in the span of a few minutes or you can go over an hour without leveling up at all. I would have loved to have a slight degree of control over the DMV, because leaving outcomes totally up to chance can sometimes feel annoying.
In addition to the main story, Zack can also access dozens of side missions through any save point. Missions are mainly there to help players bolster their inventory, since grinding is nonexistent. They also help players earn new Summons, materia, or earn access to new shops. The issue with the missions is that they can quickly become repetitive, especially as Zack runs through the exact same dungeon layouts multiple times. Running these missions can be monotonous, but on the plus side, at least they're short.
I had some mixed feelings by the time I rolled credits on Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion. When I played FF7 Remake, I felt like I had played something noticeably grander than its source material. I didn't get that same sensation out of Crisis Core. Instead, I felt like I was playing an updated version of the PSP original. After thinking it over, I ultimately determined that the PSP original was pretty good and given the visual upgrades and the quality-of-life changes, I felt generally satisfied by Reunion.
As a whole and in a vacuum, I heartily give this game a thumbs up. To Final Fantasy 7 fans, specifically, I have to say that Reunion is an absolute must play, especially given that nobody knows where this is all heading.
This review is based on a PlayStation digital code provided by the publisher. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion will be available on Tuesday, December 13 on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch for $49.99 USD. The game is rated T.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion
- Visually beautiful environments
- Fun and engaging combat formula
- Materia Fusion is brilliant
- Quick load times
- Zack Fair has an engaging character arc
- Side missions can get repetitive
- Cinematic quality near the end gets iffy
- DMV is totally random