Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion Review - Dive into the epic story of Zack Fair

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion Review - Dive into the epic story of Zack Fair

Crisis Core

A milestone in the Japanese role-playing game genre appeared at the end of the 90s: With Final Fantasy VII, adolescents and adults not only experienced a well-polished story with a fair amount of criticism of environmental polluters and corrupt government members, but also accompanied a gang that became friends, who over the course of the game get together. Interpersonal and thus emotional passages met intelligently set plot twists, which resulted in an epic journey around the protagonist and the ex-SOLDIER member Cloud Strife. Some time later, in 2007, a subsequently produced prequel was released, which tells the history of Zack Fair, who has slipped into the background in the main game, and his connection to the ShinRa group and its special unit SOLDIER. Exclusive to Sony's first handheld, the PlayStation Portable, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII has always been waiting for a worthy reboot, to free the title from the chains of the PSP on the one hand, but also to allow us be able to accompany the charming Zack once again on his journey to finding meaning in life and the question of what it actually means to be a hero. With Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion, the Square Enix team has now developed a special kind of remake or remaster, which is in the middle of both definitions and would enable us to experience Zack's story again. In this test you can find out whether his journey will still inspire us in 2022 and how the implementation on the Nintendo Switch was successful.

Can a SOLDIER- Join the hero?

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion forms part of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, a collection of various cross-media titles that elaborates on the universe, characters and story of the seventh installment in the JRPG series and provides more background . Appropriately, Square Enix planned to release the PSP remaster between the modern Final Fantasy VII Remake and the upcoming second part of it, which is called Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. In this way, the publisher also offers new fans of the series the opportunity to delve into the past of the respective protagonists Cloud and Zack. Zack Fair wants to become a hero – one wonders just how much longer?

As mentioned at the beginning, in Crisis Core you slip into the role of Zack Fair, a young fighter from the special unit "SOLDIER" of the ShinRa company, which is draining planet Earth of all energy. That's not what the prequel is supposed to be about at its core - the main game is dedicated to this topic; In Crisis Core, Zack discovers the background of his actual origins and those of his two colleagues, but gets wind of ShinRa's machinations. Seven years before the events of Final Fantasy VII, the second class SOLDIER is sent on a mission to find his missing colleague Genesis. He accompanies two high-ranking soldiers: the dreaded Sephiroth and another "new" fighter in the franchise: Angeal. Arriving in town, the team encounters clones of the missing soldier Genesis and thus encounters the mysterious "Project G" for the first time. An exciting journey begins about one's own origins and the existence of Zack Fair, but also of the other SOLDAT members. Since the title relies heavily on the story unfolding and the dynamics between the characters, but also on ethics, morality and the question of what "life" means, I don't want to anticipate too much, at least in terms of content. For fans of the series, the storytelling will be reminiscent of 1997's Final Fantasy VII, while incorporating narrative elements from the new Final Fantasy VII Remake. So you encounter a lot of dialogue with Zack, which is now fully set to music in the remaster. While the quality of the voices of the main characters is really respectable, it unfortunately drops a lot in the case of rather unimportant secondary characters. For my taste, that's not too bad, I'm generally happy about the new overall successful soundtrack.

The pre-rendered cutscenes are a feast for the eyes.

This also plays an important role in the remaster: The fact that all characters have finally been given a voice in all situations conveys the emotions and relationships between the characters in its own way, which was rather slightly inspiring when reading the dialogues beforehand. This makes Crisis Core - Reunion look a bit modern and sometimes even makes you forget that this is a game from 2007. In other parts of the game, however, you will be reminded of this: Unlike in Final Fantasy VII Remake, in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion you get into your own, sometimes very short cutscene almost every five meters, which you have to watch. to fully experience the history and background. In the long run, it can be exhausting to be constantly pulled out of immersion in this way. Short interruptions are particularly annoying in the fairly manageable areas, which are each divided into smaller sections. There is at least one short clip of conversations at almost every change of territory - this disrupts the (modern) flow of the game enormously and is a reminder that Crisis Core was born on the PlayStation Portable and under its technical limitations. If these interruptions don't bother you, you can look forward to a well-written story with charming characters, which you will quickly take to your heart, even if you don't know the series. Every now and then the dialogues are a bit overused "typically Crisis Core", but shouldn't disrupt the flow of the story too much and sometimes provide a laugh or two.

PSP limitations in storytelling, but little in gameplay

The remaster is told in three types of cutscenes: Upscaled, pre-rendered videos that are nice to watch and two variants of In-Game Clips. They are also a feast for the eyes with the completely redesigned character models and textures in the environment, but the PlayStation Portable also makes itself felt here: In many situations, the characters behave very clumsy and unnatural - just like on Sony's handheld from back then. This disturbs the immersion a bit, but this little retro vein still has its charm, but it is not comparable to the way the main game remake from 2020 was.

The heart of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion is the powerful combat system.

Even if the PSP limitations are very evident in the storytelling, they are hardly noticeable in the actual gameplay. The Reunion version of Crisis Core relies on an active combat system, as it did then and in the 2020 remake. But while you will find an ATB bar system in the 2020 remake, in Crisis Core Zack attacks with various skills that you equip in the menu without having to fill any bars. These range from classic materia like lightning and poison to physical attacks like an area-wide spin attack. Depending on the type of opponent, it is wise to have different Materia elements in your luggage, but maybe also equip one or the other support skill to protect yourself from physical attacks, for example. Thanks to the two additional shoulder buttons on the Nintendo Switch, you can use the many skills as shortcuts and really softly, instead of having to laboriously find your skill in the bar like in 2007. This translates into smooth action gameplay that feels even more massive and better than Final Fantasy VII Remake. While the game stalls briefly to enter "Battle Mode" when you randomly encounter enemies, this only briefly prepares you mentally for battle. In almost every larger sub-area you will encounter a random fight again when you return - if the combat system weren't so incredibly fun, the random encounters would also be negative, but I have nothing to complain about here and was happy about every opportunity to Zack into the ring rise.

Different materia and equipment bring a strategic wind to the game.

The selectable abilities in battle depend on which materia you have equipped : As in the original, you will also find offensive, defensive and a material that allows you to perform physical skills. Each of these materia comes with a passive effect, such as extra defense or attack points, so you can strategize beyond the active ability to see which stats suit your playstyle better. This is further supported by accessory slots that allow you to equip things like buffed bracelets or other gear. Unfortunately, you can't change your weapon - but that's for story-related reasons and I didn't think it was bad. With countless combinations of materia and gear, you'll find your own playstyle, ranging from button-mashing to mage; this leads to a very sophisticated and quite deep combat system, which hooked me to the Nintendo Switch. The icing on the cake was Materia Fusion, which lets you fuse different types of Materia together to create an entirely new or boosted Materia of the same type. What you get out of this is a little random, but after a few tries you'll get the hang of it.

The DBW lottery has a jackpot

What makes Crisis Core unique, apart from its own story and exclusive characters, is the so-called "Digital Wave of Consciousness" system (DBW): Imagine a lottery, which combinations of pictures and numbers the depicts Crisis Core characters. If you win the "jackpot", you will receive passive reinforcements for the current fight, such as temporarily endless magic and ability points - this means that you can use the same ability in succession, since it is "free" for the period.<

In the prequel, too, there are a number of impressive limit breaks to be seen.

With other combinations of images and numbers, you get so-called limit breaks , which fans already know from the original: These are extremely powerful skills that you either get through characters you know or through unlocked Espers. Espers are monsters that you can summon and that do this powerful attack for you; here, for example, the fire devil Ifrit or the god Odin will come to your aid. These are introduced with chic sequences, which you can optionally skip. Only: How do you get these summonses? You get some of them in the course of the story or by continuously activating the DBW, but you get most of them in the included mission system, which you can tackle at any save point. These missions loosen up the story a bit, but actually always consist of eliminating monsters in a certain area. As a reward you will receive money, materia, equipment or summoner materia. There are really a lot of them, so that you are provided with tasks in the long term - on the other hand, it is a pity that this mission system integrates poorly into the world of Crisis Core and serves as a virtual "training" in a simulation for the members of SOLDIER .

Now the final question remains: How gallantly does Zack fight his way through the monsters on the Nintendo Switch? First of all, I can give the all-clear: Technically, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion is probably one of the well-optimized implementations for the Nintendo Switch. The frame rate of the remaster does not break for a second. The new visual effects during battles are razor sharp and look amazing even in HD; however, the resolution slews down every now and then to keep the frame rate up - something we've already seen in other titles on the hybrid. Thanks to the Unreal Engine 4, a technology is used for this, which unfortunately makes the picture look a bit grainy, similar to Monster Hunter Rise, but keeps the constant 30 frames per second without even breaking a sweat. As with monster hunting, this is fortunately only a minor annoyance and does not represent a major shortcoming.

Auditively, Crisis Core is still convincing even after 15 years. The soundtrack is used emotionally to support it and appears at the right moment in the cutscenes, which often leads to goosebumps. As mentioned above, the English dubbing can also be heard (at least for the main characters) and is a respectable addition.

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