Final Fantasy VII Reunion brings the gang back together for the first time

I have a secret to tell: I’m not a fan of Cloud Strife, the hero of Final Fantasy VII. That’s where I said it. He’s too moody, too stoic, and I never really connected with the character for an RPG. As much as I love the game for what it has done for the entire industry, which is putting Sony’s PlayStation on the map, the main character has always been a sore point for me. Therefore when Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII debuted on the Sony PSP, I’ve embraced it so much. Zack Fair wasn’t free from his own problems, but at least he was personable. This game, which featured a new prequel chapter featuring some of the characters from Final Fantasy VII, made the PSP a must-have for fans and is still considered a turning point in the series.

To prove my point, the combat introduced in Crisis Core was later refined and carried over into the vaunted and amazing Final Fantasy VII Remakeso it only makes sense that Square Enix would go back and remaster the original Crisis Core, now dubbed Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunionas gamers worldwide patiently await the next chapter of the main FF7 remake, which will hopefully be released sometime in 2023.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is not a full fledged remake like its amazing cousin. Instead, it’s a remaster of the original game with some notable additions like new cutscenes, redesigned character models, and full voice acting. The core gameplay is pretty much intact as far as I can remember, and it’s a pleasure to go back and play through this story on a big screen.

Screenshot via Square Enix

Speaking of which, the story revolves around Zack Fair, a member of SOLDIER who hopes to rise to the ranks of the 1st class like his idol Sephiroth. Zack is cocky, but he’s also very loyal. When his mentor Angeal seemingly sides with an AWOL soldier named Genesis and abandons Shinra, it sets off a series of events that will take Zack to many familiar places and faces, all on his quest to uncover the truth about Angeal and the experiments from Dr. Hojo – the same experiments that are still ongoing when players enter the world of Midgar Final Fantasy VII.

As mentioned, reunion offers a different combat style that’s more in line with hack-n-slash action games than a traditional JRPG. Fifteen years ago, switching battles in a game with the could have been considered heresy final fantasy label, but in 2022, fast-paced swordplay and real-time spellcasting are old hat—most importantly, they’re well received Final Fantasy VII Remake. Zack zooms across the battlefield and smashes enemies with a quick button press, with spells, various potions, and other items just a button or two presses away.

In addition, the DMW, or Digital Mind Wave – a slot machine-like mechanic that constantly spins in the top-left corner of the screen and is paid for in battle with SOLDIER points (or SP) – allows Zack to use special abilities, gain certain buffs, and summon even massive summons as long as the three slots line up with the right faces. The DMW runs standalone, with the player monitoring the results while attacking, blocking, and dodging enemies in a skirmish. If three of the same Eikon heads appear, Zack can cast a summoning spell and count on the full motion video of the attack to be skipped – luckily. I mean, I love to see Ifrit raging just like the other one, but after the 50th or 60th time it starts to get old.

Screenshot via Square Enix

The DMW also features the faces of characters Zack meets on his journey, and building relationships with those characters amplifies their impact when they meet. Aerith can heal and offer status clears, Angeal and Sephiroth offer devastating offensive moves, and various members of the Turks offer a bit of both. Finding and populating the DMV with characters is one of the many “side quests” in reunionand each new character makes Zack’s mission easier.

Zack’s journey wouldn’t be complete without side missions, which come in the form of short VR simulations that can be accessed from any save point. These missions offer rewards like items and materia, and even summon materia, making them worth completing. They also offer Zack the opportunity to level up, as his growth is tied to the randomness of the DMW – certain conditions must be met for him to level up. Scheduling the missions to save points is an odd choice, as Zack can literally end his story before a tough boss fight and dive into several short missions to collect much-needed items or get stronger. I often wait until I’m back at a base and then burn through a bunch of missions at once, but there’s an opportunity to do that during a chapter.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion features full voice acting with the same cast as Final Fantasy VII Remakeincluding Tyler Hoechlin (Superman & Lois) as Sephiroth and Briana White as Aerith, among others. Unfortunately for Zack Fair, the voice actor sounds a bit too much like a mix of Sonic the Hedgehog actors from the games and feature films, and I’m constantly reminded of this when he’s speaking or trying to show emotion. It’s a bit distracting from the game, and the actor behind the voice, Caleb Pierce, will reprise the role Final Fantasy VII – Rebirth, so I guess it’s just something I need to get used to. As much as I loved Zack’s character 15 years ago, it just isn’t the same with this new voice. Again, this is a personal observation from someone who is still playing Sonic Frontiers regularly.

Screenshot via Square Enix

The revamped graphics and new score really help improve the game reunion to the level set by Final Fantasy VII Remake. Having played this game on both the PSP and PS Vita it is absolutely delightful to see the action on a large 4K display. Indeed, if there was one thing I could say to entice a person to give reunion a go, it’s how gorgeous the visuals are. Some of the FMV cutscenes are taken straight from the original game (don’t worry, you’ll be able to tell), but for the most part, developers Square Enix and Tose have done an excellent job updating the visuals and merging the new one Final Fantasy VII Remake Chapters for a seamless experience. If anything, play through reunion should serve as a harbinger of what is to come in the next two chapters of Remake.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion isn’t a full remake, but this HD remaster still holds its own against its stronger cousin. Replaying Zack Fair’s story rekindled many of the decades-old feelings I felt when I first tried this title on PSP, and this remaster presents the definitive version of Zack’s story in a way that no one could have predicted 15 years ago. It’s a must for fans of the Final Fantasy VII Narrative, both the old version and the new, and if you’ve always wanted to plunge into this massive, often complicated story but were afraid of getting lost, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is a great starting point. I envy all newbies just starting out because this is a story you won’t soon forget.

This rating is based on the PlayStation 5 version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Square Enix. Final Fantasy VII Reunion brings the gang back together for the first time

Lindsay Lowe

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