by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
What Came Before
The history of Square Enix's Final Fantasy series is a long and storied one, the original in 1987 was supposed to be the 'last hurrah' of Square, but managed to single-handedly save the company. As such, it has been rewarded with a simply massive following, even to this day it is considered to be one of the biggest JRPG series of all time and its influence can be seen just about everywhere.
One of the most famous and beloved games in this extended franchise is Final Fantasy VII, originally released in 1997 this game blended magic and technology in many ways - and achieved enough popularity to have essentially its own mini-series of games, movies, and books that extended outwards of it. This is collectively known as the Final Fantasy VII Compilation, and it is one of these entries that this reviewer is looking at today: Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - Reunion.
Reunion is a remake of a 2007 Playstation Portable game bearing the same name - minus the 'Reunion' suffix, of course. This has become a trend that the Final Fantasy VII remake series is all too fond of at this point (Remake, Reunion, and the upcoming Rebirth). This game follows events beginning seven years prior to FFVII itself, events that shape the world that Cloud and his allies will eventually be fighting to save.
An important aspect to Crisis Core and thus Reunion is the concept of dramatic irony - that the players are well aware of things that the characters are not. Crisis Core follows Zack Fair, an up and coming SOLDIER that has an eagerness to be not just 1st Class, the highest ranking for the enhanced individuals within the SOLDIER program, but to be considered a hero. He idolizes Sephiroth, widely considered to be the most powerful and heroic of them all. And he meets and forms a close bond with Aerith Gainsborough, a girl from the slums of Midgar. With the original game having released ten years after FFVII and Reunion releasing two years after Remake (Which itself only covers about the first third of FF7), many who are looking to pick up Reunion will already be aware of events that occur during the course of the game simply by virtue of it being a prequel. That in no way takes away from the buildup of events, and in fact allows for players to almost dread things that are to come, knowing what occurs and how it turns out.
The story in Reunion plays out in cutscenes primarily, and will often have flashbacks that show certain events that have caused the build up of a dynamic between characters. For example, fellow SOLDIER Angeal has several flashbacks where we see Zack from his perspective, an overly enthusiastic and energetic hothead who seems more like a puppy than a warhound like a SOLDIER is meant to be.
The biggest difference in Reunion compared to playing Remake is something called the DMW, or the Digital Mind Wave - which replaces the 'Limit Break' system. The DMW is located in the top left of the screen when in combat and takes the appearance of what looks to be slots with the faces of characters Zack has met. Those he hasn't met appear as silhouettes. This system has several uses and can provide Zack with a lot of benefits - like causing his health to go over the limit or the cost of his spells to be temporarily zero. When all three line up as one character Zack achieves a Limit Break. Typically accompanied by a cutscene, these are powerful attacks that can turn the tide of a battle. The DMW is essentially random though, so players won't always have access to it when it is needed - unlike the Limits in Remake which are achieved through doing damage and being dealt damage.
Another big difference in Reunion's combat is simple - dodging is encouraged. In Remake more often players will find that blocking or countering is far more efficient since most character dodges aren't the best at getting out of range - but Zack's dodge roll in Reunion is fairly acrobatic and can avoid quite a bit of damage as a result.
These changes, as well as not having party members to swap to, make Reunion quite a different experience to play compared to either the original FFVII and its turn based battles (sort of - the Action system is relatively similar to turn based combat) or the more recent Remake battle system which involves quite a bit of pausing mid-combat to make use of spells and skills. Combat can feel rather repetitive however, and besides the occasional 'minigame' such as cutting rockets out of the air, there isn't much to break that up.
In all, Reunion is a fun way to revisit the universe of Final Fantasy VII and let players experience some of the events that would eventually lead to the main story that gamers have known and loved for over 20 years. Reunion is a fantastic remastering that lets a new generation of players witness more of the stories within Midgar and allows for even more build up throughout the series as the next release looms ever closer. For anyone even somewhat interested in this world, whether they're first time grunts entering Midgar for the first time, or SOLDIER 1st Class who have played either the original or other games in the series of FFVII, this game provides a good way to experience a world of science and magic merging, and starts a tragic tale that has lived in gamer's hearts ever since the initial release in 1997.
As always, follow Hooked Gamers on Instagram for news updates, reviews, competitions and more.
A compelling story in a much loved universe
Repetitive Combat, Somewhat Stilted Voice-Acting