Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion Review – Required Reading – Game Informer

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Final Fantasy VII is experiencing a strange identity change. Ongoing remakes are changing the original canon in bold ways while spin-offs like the 2006 PlayStation 2 game Dirge of Cerberus are being folded into the main story for bigger roles. And then there are the new spin-offs, like First Soldier, the online mobile battle royale kicking off early next year, and there are plans for another remake called Ever Crisis, a mobile game that follows Final Fantasy VII’s timeline. Will check again. Revolving around the Lifestream, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion emerges as a surprisingly faithful remake of the 2007 PSP game, smartly focusing its changes on gameplay while keeping the story intact. And everything.

Crisis Core takes place before the events of Final Fantasy VII and follows the story of Private First Class Zack Fair. For those venturing into Midgard for the first time with Final Fantasy VII Remake, Zack’s story is an important element of Cloud and Sephiroth’s relationship, and playing Crisis Core illuminates and covers up Zack’s surprise cameo at the end of the remake. As someone whose main contact with the universe of Final Fantasy VII was with the remake, I’m grateful to know who Zack is and his whole deal ahead of future entries.

However, learning that story is often a chore. Crysis Core has a great ending that leads into Final Fantasy VII in an exciting way, but the journey to reach that final cutscene, perhaps unsurprisingly, feels like a game from 2007. The updated voice performance is good, but the presentation is stilted and slow. I found myself wishing I could watch the cutscene at double speed as the characters awkwardly shifted into different animations during agonizing pauses in dialogue. The cadence of the dialogue is rough, but the new visuals are great and almost bring it up to remake quality.

This tight cadence extends to the overall pace as cutscenes often feel interrupted by quick combat sequences, or a series of combat sequences felt interrupted by slow-paced cutscenes. Neither leads appropriately to the other, giving the whole game a start-and-stop feel.

The star of Reunion, however, lies in the battle scenarios that are smartly executed the most. Slaying monsters with your sword, executing magic attacks, and calling in special abilities is engaging and intuitive. It lacks the impressive versatility and variety of the remake’s excellent combat, but it looks close enough that you might believe they’re the same at a glance.

The Digital Mind Wave (DMW) is the main distinguishing feature of Crysis Core which randomly rewards you with powerful attacks or temporary upgrades based on a constantly playing slot machine in the corner of the screen featuring characters you meet during the story. The advantage of DMW is that sometimes you have access to powerful attacks when you need them most. The downside is that it’s completely random, so there’s no way to use it strategically. On occasions when I was in conflict with a boss or powerful enemy, I would replay the fight until I had the opportunity to randomly summon the fire monster Ifrit, or a comparable attack, which would be removed from the encounter. Not a satisfactory way to deal with it.

For the ongoing Final Fantasy VII re-examination, which Square Enix has officially dubbed The Anthology of Final Fantasy VII, Crysis Core feels like essential reading. Its place in the larger story is important and will likely grow in importance going forward, but making your way through those story moments sometimes feels like a school assignment. Reunion is a well-executed remake of the 2007 game that blends fun combat with an edgy story with an interesting and narratively important final act. If you’re planning on starting or continuing on the Final Fantasy VII Remake journey, be sure to do your homework.

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