AS Crisis Core begins, trumpets blare and Zack Fair slashes his sword in what looks like a choreographed dance atop a train, kicking down soldiers clad in Shinra gear.
It’s purpose-built to evoke nostalgia for the original Final Fantasy VII, and much of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion aims to repeat the trick as often as possible.
A new remaster of a 15-year-old PSP game, Crisis Core Reunion follows the story of Zack Fair, Cloud’s “mentor” of sorts, along with Sephiroth and the larger Shinra company.
The visuals have been completely overhauled, all the voice acting has been redone, and the combat system has been improved, bringing it closer to what you expect from an action game in 2022.
It’s not perfect, of course.
The way short side-missions are doled out feels designed for handheld play in short bursts, but when it comes to lengthy console sessions, the repeating maps can end up feeling too familiar too quickly, not aided by a combat system that can feel either exciting or tedious.
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Combat is underpinned by the DMW system, also known as the Digital Mind Wave.
Depending on your emotional state and bonds with other characters, you have a chance for a slot machine-style reel system in the corner to line up something good.
Sometimes you’ll fight and you’ll get absolutely nothing, other times you’ll be healed, given unlimited AP or MP for a short time, or even summon a creature like Ifrit to attack for you.
The DMW system makes an otherwise fairly simple combat system feel more dynamic as you change your tactics to suit the bonuses that have been granted to you.
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If you were conserving MP but now have unlimited MP for twenty seconds, it’s time to spam spells while hanging back.
Other than the times where you just don’t get anything, the DMW system also presents a strange roadblock: in order to level up, Zack must land a triple seven.
You do get a decent chance of landing a triple seven on bonus spins after a battle concludes, but you’ll likely feel that you have untapped experience hanging over your head, especially when you get several level-ups in quick succession.
It is engaging though, and the improved visuals and camera angles now make this feel like a far more modern game. But this is best displayed in cutscenes.
Scenes which were previously derided as being incredibly cheesy are now… generally less cheesy.
Antagonists feel more serious, and even though the dialogue certainly doesn’t always land, it’s easier to embrace the camp instead of denying the cringe.
With the Final Fantasy VII franchise now being more popular than it was in the ‘90s, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion has given the infamous prequel a spitshine that makes it easier to accept as a canon part of the story, instead of a cynical product born to abuse nostalgia.
If you’re a Final Fantasy VII fan that hasn’t seen where Zack and Cloud begin their journey, this might be the last game you need to buy in 2022.
Written by Dave Aubrey on behalf of GLHF.
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