Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion Preview
Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion is a remake I’ve been waiting for a decade for. The original release was a PSP exclusive, so this is the first time this adventure has left handheld consoles. Does the story of Zack Fair, Sephiroth, and the beginning of the end for Shinra Electronic Power Company still hold up? Yes. Yes, it does. At least, the first three chapters sure do, and I can’t wait to play the rest.
Having said that, there is one major caveat. If you aren’t familiar with Final Fantasy VII, you’ll probably find the game’s opening confusing. There’s a lot of background to cover and Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion doesn’t really try to fill new players in. Fortunately, Final Fantasy VII is one of the most famous games ever made–and also recently got a modern remake–so I can forgive this decision. Plus, even if the game’s setting and lore aren’t immediately explained, the character introductions are top-notch. And this title’s characters and gameplay are its heart and soul.
In this game, you take on the role of Zack Fair, SOLDIER Second Class. Like any good JRPG hero, Zack is a bright-eyed idealist with special powers who dreams of saving the world. Unfortunately, those special powers came from joining SOLDIER, the private super soldier program of Shinra Electric Power Company. And as the game continues, it becomes clear that becoming a SOLDIER has some nasty side effects. To make matters worse, Zack lives in a world that’s half cyberpunk drama and half Lovecraftian horror fantasy. As things spiral out of control to their fated conclusion, Zack’s choices will determine the fate of the Planet… and Cloud Strife, the iconic protagonist of Final Fantasy VII.
What Do Angels Dream Of?
The game opens with Zack being dispatched to Wutai to help wrap up the war there. Despite Zack’s optimism, it rapidly becomes clear that he–and Shinra–are not the good guys in this fight. Wutai is a Japan analog desperately fighting off “civilized” invaders who want to colonize their land and install mako reactors. And while mako reactors are a fantastic source of power, they come with as many bitter side effects as the SOLDIER transformation does. Then the top SOLDIERs in the company start going rogue, one after another, and things get much worse for Zack.
As a prequel, this title makes a great companion to Final Fantasy VII and Remake alike. I gotta say, it hits different to hear One Winged Angel kick in during a climactic fight–and find yourself shamelessly rooting for Sephiroth. The visuals have been updated and the soundtrack is newly-arranged. Furthermore, this remaster features fully voiced Japanese and English dialog.
As I said, the characters are easily the highlight of this experience. I’d go so far as to say that if you don’t like Zack, you probably won’t like the whole game. But if you do like energetic idealists charging headlong into disaster, you’re in for a treat. Zack is a deeply endearing character and his perspective on the sordid affair of the Wutai War and the following defections is incredibly engaging. Final Fantasy VII is a story without a true hero. Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion shows that even having a real hero to follow wouldn’t be enough to stop the tragedy.
Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion is Basically a Spectacle Action RPG
So far, this game is incredibly fun to play. In the world of Final Fantasy VII, SOLDIERs are functionally one-man armies who can singlehandedly turn the tide of war. Playing as Zack sure made me feel like one. The game’s enemies are usually met in random encounters or introduced with a scripted cutscene. Despite this, the scale of the conflict–and the desperation of your opponents–comes through. Nobody wants to fight a SOLDIER, and after tearing through half an army like tissue paper, I can see why.
The decision to attach Limit Breaks to a slot machine seems ridiculous, and it would be if the rest of the combat wasn’t so much fun. Each battle had my heart racing, challenging myself to do as much damage as possible to the enemy formation before I had to start dodging. Technically you can block as well, but I vastly preferred to roll out of the way of enemy attacks. Materia spells and basic attacks are linked to the same buttons. This isn’t half as confusing as it sounds, especially if you link your healing Materia to the ‘use item’ button.
The slot machine can also unleash a wide variety of beneficial status effects. Getting the right buff at the right time can completely change the flow of battle. Run out of MP? If you can hold out until you get a free MP buff, you can still abuse spells. It’s great. And finally bringing down a Limit Break always feels awesome, even if it’s overkill. The downside is that, when playing on Normal, I kept getting awesome stuff in the slots just as a battle finished.
A Prequel Worth Waiting For
This is basically a spectacle action RPG. Every chapter brings bigger enemies, more threatening environments, and higher stakes. The fact that the original game was on a handheld console is very obvious, but I found the jank charming. Most of it, anyway. The constant loading screens did rapidly wear out their welcome. Fortunately, the loading screens were never very long.
The remastered FMV cutscenes are gorgeous. There were a few moments when something seemed off about Sephiroth’s face. But it’s Sephiroth, he’s supposed to look not quite right. Sadly, the in-game models are a little rougher. Everyone looks like they have full-body freckles for some reason, but they’re still remarkably expressive. Zack’s energetic body language, the neon lights of Shinra, and the beautiful environmental design make for an immersive experience.
I really enjoyed the soundtrack. It’s appropriately energetic, frantic, foreboding, wistful, and mournful in turns. Final Fantasy VII has a history of nice music, so I’m glad to hear that trend continuing. The game comes with a digital artbook and a mini soundtrack. The artbook features a lot of nice pieces as well as concept art for the characters, enemies, and locations. However, both are shown within a separate application. This might be a dealbreaker for some.
All in all, Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion is shaping up to be a fun experience for Final Fantasy VII fans. I don’t think I’d recommend it to a complete newcomer to the franchise. But since Final Fantasy VII Remake is coming out now, it’s easier to get into the series than ever.
***PC code provided by the publisher***