Midgar sprawls out over the horizon, the sky swathed in industrial smoke and the covering of night. The camera pans between steel beams as the Shinra logo comes into view, and from the horizon a helicopter lurches forward. The familiar notes of “Bombing Mission” begin to play. As that helicopter door slides open, Zack Fair steps forward, only moments later hurling himself towards the moving train below. He grins with excitement as he barrels into enemy soldiers, leaping from one train car to the next until he stylishly flips down onto the train platform below. It’s an almost beat for beat recreation of the opening from Final Fantasy VII, and it immediately informs players of how integral a character Zack is to the overall narrative of the game’s extended universe. Once a character mostly swathed in mystery, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion tells the story of what transpired before Avalanche, before Sephiroth’s fall, and before Cloud Strife took up the iconic buster sword as his very own.
The narrative follows Zack during his early days at SOLDIER under the tutelage of Angeal Hewley, SOLDIER 1st Class. The first few hours of the game are colored with his enthusiasm, as he has yet to discover what Shinra developed as part of its SOLDIER program. Shortly after the game kicks off and Zack finishes his first major mission to suppress a revolt in Wutai — a sovereign nation rebelling against Shinra — his mentor goes missing, and with him another SOLDIER 1st Class, Genesis Rhapsados. Promptly promoted in their absence, Zack is assigned to track them down, with the later task of eliminating them.
Through this, Zack wrestles with his own involvement in SOLDIER, coming to the sobering realization of what Shinra is and stands for as he pursues his own meaning of honor and what his personal dream, and legacy, actually are. Zack’s journey is one of introspection and reconciliation, only aware of what his actions have wrought once it’s too late for him to turn back. But his is the story of change — of trying to do and be better by the people around him — and what good he can still leave behind in the world once his journey comes to an end.
Regarding gameplay, missions are relatively short, with Zack traversing a single, mostly linear area to complete an objective. This is largely reduced to killing specific enemies on your map, which can either be relegated to a handful of encounters at a time or fighting a more ferocious boss monster. Sometimes, it can be a mix of both. Completion time will vary between players, which you aren’t graded upon for your overall rank as SOLDIER 1st Class. That said, upon Zack realizing his dream of obtaining that highly coveted rank, players will be graded during the mission itself. For finishing random or specific battles without taking damage, Zack will receive a hefty HP, AP, and MP boost for the duration of that mission. Unique kills, such as using AP skills or Magic, will also go towards your boosted stats. This encourages players to perform well during these short battles to carry those stats into the final fight of that particular stage. However, if you grind enough, these boosts feel mostly inconsequential in story missions, which really aren’t too difficult at all.
Most of the challenge in the game is relegated to side content like fighting Ifrit or Bahamut to unlock them as summons through the DWM (or Digital Mind Wave) mechanic. Players will notice a slot machine type reel on the left-hand side of their screen while they fight. This is the DWM. Getting certain characters in a row will allow Zack to unleash unique attacks, with number combinations like 777 granting invulnerability to attacks for a limited period of time. These can sometimes come in clutch, and add a layer of randomness to the combat system that strangely enough enhances it. If you’re struggling in a fight, sometimes it’s best to bide time and heal until your AP or MP costs are completely removed for a brief window through the DWM, or if you’re granted that lucky 777.
There is also a densely layered Materia system which allows for players to meld and create their own with specific stats assigned to them, and of course their own levels. Leveling up Materia constitutes equipping them while in battle and simply grinding away. (You don’t need to use them; don’t worry.) You can fuse Materia at any level once the function is unlocked, but it’s highly advised you level up your Materia to five-stars before you consider fusing them. Since it not only benefits the stats your new Materia will inherit, but also unlocks stronger spells. While it sounds relatively complex, it is fairly simple and has a lot to offer in terms of build variety you can have. Especially as you unlock more Materia slots to equip an assortment of spells, attacks, or even passive stat buffs.
That said, my thoughts from my preview largely haven’t changed. Crisis Core: Final FFVII Reunion is a great game, but that is mostly due to the fact that Crisis Core in itself was already a spectacular spin-off and a fairly competent action game. Unlike previous attempts Square Enix made at releasing older titles, the developer hasn’t changed anything significant about the game outside of its visuals and a few localization choices that smoothed out a few lines of awkward dialogue from the original.
However, Square Enix’s decision to go forward with full voice acting for the entire game is a huge benefit. This for both accessibility options for those hard of seeing, and to add a little bit of extra flavor to the Shinra compound. Players can also remap buttons and change a few settings in the game, such as picking between the Japanese and English dubs. That said, the transition to the new voice cast for the Final Fantasy VII extended universe has proven to be a bit hit or miss concerning their performances. Zack specifically doesn’t carry the same attitude, though his new voice actor does a decent enough job at times to almost make you forget that an entirely new person has filled the role. However, other times it just doesn’t stick, and it can be especially jarring if you’re familiar with the original dub for Crisis Core, which was pretty good to begin with. It isn’t hard feeling the absence of that particular cast if you’re familiar with them.
But this is largely the only issue some may take with Crisis Core: FFVII Reunion, because everything else is great. The game is fun, because the original was, and it has plenty of side quests to keep players engaged for roughly eighty-plus hours of gameplay depending on how fast you roll through missions. It also proves a great point of entry for those looking to jump into either Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VII Remake. While knowing the events of either of those games will enhance your overall experience, Zack’s story is for all intents and purposes a prequel. Crisis Core: FFVII Reunion provides players with enough exposition about the world to get you primed for other entries in its extended universe. The rearranged music is pretty fantastic as well, as it hasn’t lost any of its kick or energy with its slick guitar riffs and more somber acoustic tracks.
Crisis Core: FFVII Reunion is a benchmark for how Square Enix should handle its remasters going forward. It provides a nice quality of life upgrade with full voice acting for the entire game and doesn’t change much about it outside of its visuals. This is a game that largely rests on the laurels of its original release and remains good because of Square Enix’s lack of overall changes. It was a blast from the past in the very best way, and also exemplified that while Crisis Core was a great game in 2007, it’s just as good of a game in 2022.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion will come to the Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows PC on December 13, 2022.
Reviewer’s PC Specs
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X 12-Core Processor
- RAM: 32.00
- Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 3080Ti