With fans of Final Fantasy VII finally able to stop clamoring for a remake of the original game it only makes sense that next fans would be anticipating the return of Zack Fair and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion. Crisis Core was the adventure that was hinted at through Final Fantasy VII that finally got its full telling when the original Crisis Core was released fifteen years ago for the PlayStation Portable, and for the most part that's unfortunately where it's been stuck. While we've only had our hands on it for a few hours so far we've been very excited to learn whether Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is a faithful remake of the original, or if it heads on its own path.
Crisis Core throws players into the fast-paced story immediately. Zack is on the eve of his promotion to becoming a SOLDIER 1st Class and being sent on his own mission to Wutai to help stop the war. These narrative highs are immediately juxtaposed not only with the desertion of Genesis, another SOLDIER 1st Class, but also the departure of Angeal, Zack's mentor, with no clear rhyme or reason. These are big moments in each character's life that they've been building up to over time and the player gets to join the adventure just as the first dominoes begin to fall.
Because so much is happening immediately a lot of the lead-up to these events is obscured to the player. You're happy for Zack to obtain the title of 1st Rank SOLDIER, but it doesn't mean much without the context, similarly, the disappearance of Genesis or Angeal will pique your interest but it's the events of their upbringing and lives that you'll discover through the story that will keep you hooked. It's like being handed an incomplete puzzle and while what's there is intriguing there isn't a whole explanation for anything.
Having a chance to return to this story has been a lot of fun, especially being able to play it on the big screen. Cutscenes are now all fully voiced giving characters a chance to be fleshed out further, though there is somewhat of a disconnect between the emotion and emphasis that voice actors put on their lines when compared to the somewhat stoic standing animations of the characters in these newly voiced scenes.
One interesting aspect so far of the story, or maybe it's more correct to say it's uninteresting, is the lack of any change to the story from the base game. Final Fantasy VII Remake became quite well known for changing the canon of the original game, posing it almost as an alternate world sequel to the original game, but Crisis Core Reunion seems to be the same great adventure. Whether this will change throughout the rest of the game, especially with Zack's fate in the balance, has yet to be seen but I'm sure there will be some fans for and against this.
The biggest changes to Crisis Core so far are the quality of life improvements on the UI and combat. In the original selecting any of your attack options would require you to scroll through a bar in the lower right of the screen. Whether you wanted to attack with your sword, use materia, or even get to the consumable items you'd need to make sure you were on the right option. This caused issues needing to remember exactly the order of your materia and was just clunky. Reunion has done away will all of this by simply implementing shortcuts. At any time Zack can attack freely, but by holding down a shoulder button you can shortcut to six different materia immediately.
This doesn't just make using materia or special attacks an easier experience, but it allows you to more competently shift how you approach a battle. When fighting enemies with different weaknesses you can swap between a Blizzard Blade immediately into Fire magic, something that might have taken 4 or 5 button presses and for you to keep an eye on the lower right of your screen to make sure you're on the right selection is now near instantaneous.
Coming off seeing Midgard and the world of Final Fantasy VII Remake seeing Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is somewhat a downgrade, as a remaster and not a remake. The graphics all look head and shoulders above the original as you'd expect but there are a few telltale signs of upscaling such as a very slight hazy look of the pre-rendered cutscenes, as well as the character models looking slightly chunkier but extremely crisp. None of the above is really an indictment for the remaster as it does do what every good remaster should do, and that's to look as good as your mind's eye fondly remembers the original. A number of the environments from the missions you can take part in also put you in locations reminiscent of the Midgar slums that you might be familiar with in Final Fantasy VII Remake, it's through the remake that the games can inform each other better.
So far Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion has been everything that I've wanted from the ability to replay Crisis Core on a modern-day console. The same great story and characters are returning and the controls have been overhauled for a full-sized controller. There is still some part of me holding out hope for the world to change as we saw in Remake but I'm just not sure it's going to happen.
TechRaptor previewed Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion on PS5 with a code provided by the developers. The game is also available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC.