Review: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion

Posted 1 month ago by CJ Andriessen
Crisis Core Review

What could I do (a thousand nights without you)

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII has had a somewhat mythical status for me over the past half-decade or so. I didn’t get into the Final Fantasy VII compilation until just a few years ago when I finally played through the PlayStation original for a short-lived feature series here at Destructoid. I absolutely fell for the game and its world before I watched the credits roll on it. I wanted more, but by then, the PSP was already a dinosaur, and for whatever reason, Crisis Core never found its way onto PSN. Not wanting to drop the money on a handheld for just one game, I was left to admire what I perceived it to be from afar.

Last year, when Square Enix announced Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis, my first thought was how I’d finally be able to see Zack’s story for myself. Sure, a free-to-play mobile gacha game would unlikely be the best way to experience it, but I figured it would be better than watching a playthrough of it on YouTube. Turns out, Square Enix had a better option in store with Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion.

Crisis Core review

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion (PC, PS4, PS5 [reviewed], Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S)
Developer: Tose Co.
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: December 13, 2022
MSRP: $49.99

I will say the timing of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion strikes me as a bit odd. On one hand, the original Crisis Core was a popular enough game to establish its protagonist Zack Fair as more than a raven-haired doppelgänger of Cloud. On the other hand, the only reason anyone bothered with that version of Crisis Core was because Final Fantasy VII gave players a good reason to care about his story. If your experience with the FFVII universe started with Final Fantasy VII Remake, you might not know who Zack is outside of his brief cameo at the end of it, nor why he deserves his own spin-off over Remake‘s more established characters.

I would say to fully appreciate what Crisis Core is delivering here, you probably should have at least a basic knowledge of Zack’s role in the greater FFVII story. But given the course of the story is now up in the air, consider Reunion an introduction to a man who’ll likely play a significant role in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.

And chances are by the time you beat Reunion, you’ll like Zack a lot. He’s made to be likable, with an infectious can-do attitude and a somewhat dewy-eyed perception of the world around him. He doesn’t see the problem with the body counts he racks up on the missions he’s assigned. He just wants to be a First Class SOLDIER like his heroes Angeal and Sephiroth. I almost felt bad for him at the beginning because, having been around Midgar once or twice myself, I know that type of naiveté has no place in a world run by the Shinra Electric Power Company. His narrative arc is strong, and the game’s use of a pre-corrupted Sephiroth works well here. Just don’t be surprised if you roll your eyes at some of the most exhausting dialogue of the mid-2000s.

You’ll hear a lot of character chatter throughout the game’s 10 chapters. Not only is Reunion fully voiced, but the game is overflowing with cutscenes. It often felt like I was watching the game more than I was playing it because its actual gameplay sections are brief. Every mission Zack is dispatched on consists of a short, linear jaunt riddled with often repetitive battles that most players should blast through rather quickly before queuing up another bit of story. Occasionally, the game will introduce a quick change-up in gameplay that’s meant to liven things up, but these one-and-done moments don’t really land as well as they should. The standard combat itself has been refined from the PSP original, giving players a one-button melee combo in addition to several pieces of instantly accessible Materia. It’s clearly taking some cues from Remake, as does the UI, but Reunion forges its own identity with Digital Mind Wave (DMW) system.

The DMW is basically a multi-faceted slot machine that’s always spinning in the upper lefthand corner of the screen. If you manage to land a combination of character portraits, numbers, or both, it’ll grant you buffs, Limit Breaks, or summons during battle. The system is completely random, meaning you could get an extremely powerful Limit Break against some basic grunts you’d have no problem disposing of otherwise or struggle to get anything helpful while fighting some of the game’s more powerful bosses.

I like the chaos of it all, but tying Zack’s level upgrades to landing a 7-7-7 spin isn’t exactly fair to the player putting their time into completing his journey. I think more people would be amicable toward the DMW if Zack leveled traditionally, but as I said, I like the chaos of it all.

Reunion Aerith

What I don’t like is the structure of Crisis Core. While there’s nothing too objectionable about its main narrative missions–though the Aerith chapter is a bit of a momentum-killer–the hundreds of side-missions you are encouraged to complete don’t do the game any favors. These missions are a relic of the PSP era of gaming, consisting of short combat scenarios that’ll likely take you less than a minute to complete. Most of these missions take place in a small number of locations, and there are just so many times I can bother to trudge down the same chrome hallway, fighting the same four monsters, before I stop caring and move on.

Also, it’s 2022. Please don’t make me read emails in a game to unlock missions or other content. I barely read my emails at my real job.

The upside to completing these missions, beyond the requisite reward you earn, is some of them contribute to Reunion‘s narrative depth and world-building. The downside is there are 300 of them with little variety, and only a handful should be considered essential to unlocking Zack’s full potential. I don’t know exactly how many of these side missions I actually bothered to complete, but if I had forced myself to spend more time on them, I would probably be giving this game a lower score.

Reunion Gameplay

It’s a shame these missions are so dull because they can often be lovely to look at. Outside of those dull, barren chrome hallways, most of Reunion is quite beautiful. It may not measure up to other recent Final Fantasy games, but Tose Co. did an unquestionably fine job of remastering it in Unreal Engine 4. Though, it can also be weird to look at times with current-gen character models rigged to 15-year-old animations that are somehow more cartoonish now that everyone looks like a real person.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is a beautiful remake of a good-but-not-great game. Its structure is more well-suited for the platform it originated on, and several of the one-shot gameplay concepts it introduces don’t really land as well as they probably did in 2007. Still, it’s got charm, and I love the unpredictable nature of the DMW and how it impacts the solid combat mechanics. I don’t think Zack’s adventure will resonate with me for as long as Cloud’s did, but I am happy to have been given a chance to get to know him better before he pops up in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

7

Good

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.

CJ Andriessen
Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games.