The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, the project aimed to expand the world and story of the seventh main entry in the series, was Square Enix's first attempt at providing prequels and direct sequels to its beloved franchise. The results, however, were middling, to say the least. The Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children sequel movie was pretty to look at, but the story it told definitely did not do justice to the main game's narrative, and Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII wasted its potential with mediocre gameplay and yet another disappointing story.

Other entries in the compilation, however, fared a little better. Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, a Japan-only mobile action role-playing game focused on the Turks, had succeeded at making some of the bad guys of the original into likable protagonists and was widely praised, and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, detailing Zack Fair's rise through the ranks of SOLDIER, his friendship with Cloud Strife and Sephiroth, is considered as the best entry in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, despite story and gameplay issues mainly regarding combat that did impact the experience quite a bit.

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With Final Fantasy VII back in the spotlight again thanks to the remake trilogy, whose next episode will release next year, Square Enix has finally decided to give players who did not play the original Crisis Core another chance to experience Zack Fair's story with Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion, a remaster edging close to remake that succeeds at making the experience feel like an integral part of the remake project while addressing some of the original's biggest issues, finally making the game fun to play.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion takes place seven years before the events of Final Fantasy VII and stars Zack Fair, a SOLDIER 2nd Class operative who dreams of becoming a hero. Under the tutelage of SOLDIER 1st Class Angeal Hewley, Zack starts making a name for himself, heavily contributing to ending the war with Wutai and getting recommended for SOLDIER 1st Class, which is the highest rank in SOLDIER and only attained so far by a few operatives - Angeal Hewley, Genesis Rhapsodos, who deserted Shinra for unknown reasons, and the legendary Sephiroth among them.

The end of the hostilities with Wutai, however, did not bring peace. Genesis clones started appearing all over the world, and Sephiroth is convinced Angeal betrayed Shinra as well, joining up with his childhood friend Genesis, whose reason for deserting is still unknown. Tasked with investigating the matter further, Zack will eventually come to understand why Genesis and Angeal have left Shinra, the true nature of the company he serves, and the consequences Shinra's research has on its own operatives and the entire planet.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion's story is a strange one. Like in the original PSP release, the first half of the game is slow and not written particularly well, and too many times, Zack is tasked with completing some menial tasks that don't move things forward too much, despite them providing some decent character development. Having to establish Zack's relationship with most of the main cast, including Sephiroth, Cloud, the Turks Tseng and Cissnei, and Aerith, before the second half of the game, it makes sense for the story to be a little slow, but the stiff writing and the one to one conversations don't help a lot. Even so, the game manages to be engaging even during its first half, as the characters are mostly interesting from the start. Zack is a great protagonist that goes through quite a bit of development during the adventure, and seeing how characters who appear in Final Fantasy VII were before the events of the game is very interesting, especially when it comes to Sephiroth, who is much, much different compared to his future, crazed self. New characters like Cissnei and Angeal are also quite likable, despite some limited screen time, while others like Professor Hollander and Genesis leave something to be desired, the latter feeling like a more quirky take on Sephiroth, with his fixation with the LOVELESS epic, which he quotes heavily throughout the game.

The story, thankfully, doesn't stay slow for too long. The second half of the game is considerably better than the first, providing more details on events that have been touched upon in Final Fantasy VII, leading to an emotional finale that manages to be even more moving in Reunion, thanks not only to the masterful build-up but also to the audio and visual improvements featured in the remaster.

While the story was serviceable in the original PSP release, mostly thanks to the ending and its build-up, the same cannot be said for the gameplay. While exploration was mostly fine, although heavily limited by the portable hardware the game was released on, it was the combat system that made Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII almost frustrating to play, a weird mix between action and menu-based systems that worked decently enough at the start of the game, but showed all of its issues as the adventure progressed. Thankfully, most of these issues have been fixed in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion, as the game's overhauled combat feels great to play, despite still being a little on the simple side and not managing to match the heights the Final Fantasy VII Remake combat system.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion hasn't changed much of the original game's progression. Controlling Zack with a third-person view, players explore a variety of locations in the city of Midgar and the rest of the Final Fantasy VII world, moving from point A to point B as the story dictates while fighting enemies, solving simple puzzles, completing mini-games and fighting all sorts of enemies. Locations haven't been expanded in any significant way, so they all feel as small as they did in the original, but their visuals have been overhauled completely to be more in line with the Final Fantasy VII Remake aesthetics and give them a better sense of scale. While not out on official SOLDIER business, Zack is a little freer to explore some parts of Midgar, including iconic locations like the Shinra Building and the Sector 5 Slums church, to complete simple side quests, which often involve dialogue choices or completing Missions, optional combat-focused quests which can be initiated from any Save Point at any time during the game that reward players with new items, gear, Materia and more. While not much, this helps make the game feel a little less linear.

With combat making up a large chunk of the 20 hours or so total playtime required to complete the story, it was important for the developer to get it right, and I'm glad it did, as Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion fights feel nothing like in the original. Zack is not only much more mobile and feels much smoother to control, but he can also unleash a short combo and string together regular attacks with magic spells and special skills that require MP and AP for different effects, which are now assigned to six different shortcuts. Using a magic spell after a basic combo attack, for example, makes Zack hop back, and timing it right allows players to avoid attacks while keeping on the offensive. Special attack skills, on the other hand, are more powerful if used after a certain number of regular combo attacks, and some of them can also be used defensively, such as the Jump attacks, which come with ample invincibility frames. With a huge number of magic spells and special attacks, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion's combat can feel fresh even during the final few story chapters, as there are multiple Materia setups that are viable and very fun to play.

Zack's improved mobility and the range of viable combat options aren't the only things that make Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion considerably better than in the original. The Digital Mind Wave system, a slot-machine-like system that grants Zack access to buffs, Limit Breaks, and Summons, no longer interrupts the flow of battle every 10 seconds, and both Limit Breaks and Summons animations can be skipped entirely.  After a certain point in the game, Zack also becomes capable of switching stances to unleash powerful attacks while reducing damage and avoiding interruption, a nice callback to Cloud's fighting style in Final Fantasy VII Remake, which ties the two games together while providing some new combat tools that are quite fun to use.

The enemy design also has been completely overhauled to better work with the new combat mechanics. Not only every enemy looks visually like the enemies seen in Final Fantasy VII Remake, but they also have more complex combat patterns, new abilities, and elemental weaknesses and resistances that better define them and force players to switch their approach every now and then. Stronger enemies also come with powerful abilities that require some charging time, and if Zack manages to damage these enemies enough, it is possible to weaken the abilities and even prevent enemies from using them altogether, another nod toward Final Fantasy VII Remake's Stagger mechanics that helps Reunion feel like a proper prequel to the story of Cloud and his companions.

While all these mechanics come together well, players hardly need to take advantage of all of them at the normal difficulty level, as battles are pretty easy, with only a few late-game exceptions. Playing in Hard Mode, however, makes these mechanics shine, as Zack goes down in just a few hits from bosses and even some regular enemies. To make things more manageable, the game offers the Materia Fusion mechanics, allowing players to create new Materia by fusing two and granting each one specific stat bonuses such as increased HP, MP, AP, Attack, Magic, and so on to make Zack better at certain things. Some of the Materia synergize quite well, such as the Darkness Materia that lets Zack deal damage in exchange for HP and the Drain Materia that lets him steal HP from enemies, so players do have plenty of fun options at their disposal. With some optional Missions being quite challenging, creating an optimal build is extremely important to clear them, even at normal difficulty.

When it comes to visuals, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion is a massive improvement over the original PSP release. While in other remasters, Square Enix did not do much else other than offering a resolution bump or an interface rework, the Japanese developer has completely redone the original game's character models, locations, and lighting to make the game's aesthetics look closer to those of Final Fantasy VII Remake. As such, Midgard and the Shinra Building look quite different from those of the original, while other locations retain their general look while looking considerably better than in the PSP version. As expected, not being a full-on remake, the visuals don't look as good as they do in Final Fantasy VII Remake, as character models, for example, are not as detailed, lip-synching is far from being the best we have ever seen, and animations outside of combat are quite stiff. The remastered movies, unfortunately, don't look as nice as the real-time visuals, as their resolution and framerate are noticeably low.

The PC port of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion is definitely a solid release, although it could have been much better when it comes to options, as there are only a handful of settings that can be tweaked - Texture Quality, Shadows Quality, Anti-aliasing, and Ambient Occlusion. The game also comes with 30, 60, and 120 FPS locks, and while an unlocked framerate option would have been preferred for obvious reasons, support for high framerates is most welcome, as it makes the game feel quite smooth. Running Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion at framerates higher than 60 FPS should be no problem for most modern system configurations, as the game had no trouble hitting 100, 120 FPS at 4K resolution, high settings during combat on the system used for the test (i7-10700 CPU, RTX 3070 GPU, 16 GB RAM).

Like the visuals, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion also overhauls the audio with new arrangements by original composer Ishimoto Takeharu that do a great job at updating the original music without making any major changes. Voice acting has also been completely redone, with actors who voiced characters in Final Fantasy VII Remake reprising their roles. While it can be hard to get used to the new voices, every actor delivers a solid performance, although the stiff writing in some sequences and weird pauses mid-sentence do have a negative impact.

While some issues persist, such as bad story pacing in the first half of the game, mediocre writing, and limited scope, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion does a great job of modernizing the original game without taking away what made it so unique. The vastly improved visuals and the combat system overhaul make Reunion the best way to experience Zack Fair's story and one of the best remasters released by Square Enix to date.

PC version tested. Review code provided by the publisher.

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8.5
Wccftech Rating
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion

With vastly enhanced visuals and audio, a major combat overhaul that finally makes the game fun to play, and a great ending, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion is, without a doubt, one of the best remasters released in recent years. While some of the original's issues haven't been addressed, such as the bad story pacing and mediocre writing, they shouldn't stop any Final Fantasy VII fan from getting the game. The price of freedom is steep, but it is one worth paying.

Pros
  • Solid visual and audio overhaul
  • Huge combat system improvements that make the game fun to play
  • Tons of viable customization options
  • Plenty of optional content
  • Great ending with an amazing build-up
Cons
  • Mediocre writing that impacts voice acting as well
  • Bad story pacing in the first half of the game
  • Small locations and limited scope
  • Side Missions become repetitive after a while
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