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Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion Review: Gameplay Impressions and Speedrun Tips

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured Columnist IVDecember 6, 2022

Square Enix

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion is a revival of a cult classic in the form of a remaster that also functions as a prequel amid a remaster effort to one of gaming's powerhouse series.

A remaster of the game by the same name, sans reunion, that originally released on the PSP in 2007, Reunion from developer and publisher Square Enix takes critical modernizing steps while retaining the core of what made the original so beloved.

An action role-playing game within the Final Fantasy universe that sits nicely in the game between bigger releases, the execution of the game's goals will ultimately decide whether it has widespread appeal beyond the loyal fanbase of the series.


Graphics and Gameplay

Reunion is a remake in the biggest sense of the word due to the visual jump it makes, though the improvements to gameplay thanks to new hardware sure don't hurt, either.

Upscaled to HD and with new 3D models as the notables, Reunion is obviously a massive, massive upgrade compared to the visuals from more than a decade ago on a handheld system (which were very good for the time, by the way).

While the game doesn't necessarily match other modern Final Fantasy efforts and remakes visually, details like new summon animations really pop out.

But when comparing the visuals to other games, things fall short, of course. While there is a fun new layer of detail to everything, animations and even facial expressions seem stiff. There is a clear downgrade in visuals for non-important characters in some areas, too.

There's a give-and-take with the surrounding details too. Lighting and shadow work impress at times but textures in some spots seem grainy.

When it comes to presentation, though, it's about perspective. It's important to keep in mind the source material and that it's an upgrade within that framework and the comparison to next-generation games isn't totally fair.

Where zero complaint remains even all these years later is the hum-worthy soundtrack and some very strong voice acting, the latter of which puts it rightfully in line with the other remakes.

Also worth a mention is a strong camera system that fits the style of the game well. Players usually get a strong warning before an attack from off-screen arrives, giving plenty of time to adjust.

That's nice considering an otherwise updated combat system. The typical attacks, dodges and blocks remain, though what made the original so beloved was the inclusion of materia and accessories.

For those unfamiliar, materia is the magic system that permits not only attacks, healing and support magic, but also equippable physical abilities that boost stats and more.

Behind the scenes, combining materia in strategic ways can lead to big stat boons and powerful abilities. There's a very nice depth to the strategy portion of the game's genre here, with out-of-combat decisions mattering just as much as those on the fly mid-combat. No two battles will play out the same, just as the options present mean no two players are likely to outfit their characters the same way.

Of major note is the Digital Mind Wave (DMW), an RNG system slot machine that runs in the corner. This can provide massive boons to the player if they roll the right numbers or symbols, to the point of immunity or level-ups, but can also work against the player. Gamers who had a love-hate feeling with the arbitrary RNG system 15 years ago will find it much of the same, for better or worse.

Overall, there's a bit of a steep learning curve to the combat system. But by the time players start to get in a groove it's hard to shake the rhythm, to the point it becomes obvious when defeats occur and difficult to complain.

The combat system has massive layers of depth to it because of functionality, too. A quick battle restart after a loss, plus the ability to switch up loadouts before restarting the battle can mean repeatedly practicing and eventually overcoming battles and encounters while under-leveled.

Controls as a whole feel solid for what the game is, which is better than players of the original remember. Since the PSP only had a single analog stick, they clunkily had to use shoulder buttons to pan the camera outside of battle and had little to no camera control in battle. That's solved here and the mapping and responsiveness of it all feels very modern. Plus, holding a shoulder button in tandem with one of the four face buttons on the right to do an ability is much easier than scrolling through a menu of items.

In all, the game hits the right marks on these fronts and really earns that remaster label.


Story and More

Like any Final Fantasy effort, Reunion is complex but compelling.

On paper, Reunion falls under the Final Fantasy VII Remake project umbrella. So it technically serves as a prequel to a three-part remake, which narratively gets players ready for the events in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.

The very short of it is main protagonist Zack Fair of the SOLDIER organization sets out on a quest that loops in mainstays like Sephiroth and Angeal Hewley.

As always, it's fun to see things from another perspective, which provides a humanizing look at the Shinra side of things. Veterans of the series know where it goes with the corporation and its Mako reactors that drain the planet, but the view from the other side was always interesting.

Whether the game's lengthy campaign is the main draw for most players is tough to say, as many might join the fray for the fun combat system. But rest assured this is true to the original in most respects and every bit as satisfying for those on the hunt for more story material within the universe.

The game does seem to have a bit of a balancing issue, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on one's preference. There are many side missions, with plenty available early in the game. Focusing on those while saving the main story missions can leave players over-leveled in a hurry, making the story missions a touch too easy.

But the good news? Players can avoid that issue rather easily. In a credit to the game's combat system and ability to mix things up, going on these side quests through the same areas over and over again is actually pretty fun, especially as the difficulty increases alongside the player's skill.

This wrinkle to the experience, by the way, is very much a design choice for a handheld game from 15 years ago. As such, players can take down some of the missions in a matter of minutes, so don't feel too intimidated when there are pages and pages of them available.

For some players that's going to feel repetitive, but that's the give and take of grabbing a mobile classic and throwing it on bigger hardware.

Reunion is technically sound, without major notable hiccups. There are plenty of options, including the helpful ability to remap face buttons and tweak sensitivities. Plus, a strong tutorial archive helps players who need to brush up on one of the game's many systems.


Speedrunning Tips

The original Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII wasn't a major speedrunning hit, but some of that comes down to its mobile hardware that wasn't nearly as widespread as bigger consoles.

Even so, that a game this big had world-record runs in the five-hour range registers as both impressive and a good sign for Reunion's speedrunning legs.

For those hoping to get competitive in this area, some of the usual staples apply. Cutscenes, and especially those pesky memory ones, are skippable. Picking and choosing side missions, if any at all, will remain a must. Properly routing those will come down to player goals for certain builds.

In combat itself, blocking is a tad unnecessary in a normal playthrough as it is. Which means speedrunners should be doing little of it at all while going all-in on offensive heavy builds. If all else fails, should the slot machine system backfire during a battle, it's easy enough to restart and get right back at it.

Given the wealth of build possibilities because of the benefits of resource combinations, Reunion should hold itself just fine in the action/strategy section of speedrunning communities.


Conclusion

In the simplest sense, Reunion is a remaster done right.

Reunion looks much better than the original, to the point of competing with modern releases. Control changes thanks to the evolution of hardware boosts the experience. One could argue it gets bonus points for pulling the game from a mobile console onto next-generation hardware, too.

Still, this wouldn't be possible if the same great base formula hadn't withstood the test of time all these years. The gameplay is a blast once players find their rhythm and straight-up difficult to put down.

It's a testament to the quality of the remake, though, that this beloved classic won't feel like such an underdog when talking about Final Fantasy as a whole anymore.