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    Crisis Core –Final Fantasy VII– Reunion Review – Enhanced Archaic Experience, Yet Still Fun To The Core

    Developed By: Square Enix

    Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment

    Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows

    Reviewed On: PlayStation 5

    Review Copy Provided By Bandai Namco Entertainment Asia

    WARNING: Listen to our brotherly advice, we want to make sure you know that main character Zack’s normal attacking slashes come with constant flashes in attacks that can flashbang your screen like you’re a fine celebrity to a paparazzi – If you’re photosensitive or easily overloaded on visual stimuli, play in lower light settings.

    Fifteen years have passed since the original release and nothing much in the gaming industry, in my opinion, has come close to beating Crisis Core in terms of fun factor. Hence making my dirty, worn, and rusted PSP purchased just for the sake of the game all the more worth the experience that grants a short burst of ARPG goodness of Arcadey action. Therefore, it is all the more exciting that Crisis Core’s graphics are being reworked to match those of Final Fantasy VII Remake.

    In every combat and side mission, newcomers can expect this prequel to Final Fantasy VII a short burst of ARPG fun playing as Zack Fair while cringing along the lines of storytelling and lots of bland poetry. While veterans expect graphic changes, fully voiced dialogues, and accessibility options; getting staggered more easily while dying a lot more, and certain spells don’t work as much anymore or are being nerfed to the ground based on my memories of the past 15 years like gravity was used a lot more on bosses of higher difficulty. Regardless of whether you are new to the series or a veteran, there is no doubt that there is something here for everyone to enjoy.

    Noted, since this is an old game and uncles like myself do sometimes find it difficult to keep track, please let me know by dropping the comments if I refer a new feature or function that is actually an old one available on the PSP. Without further ado, here is my review of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion; from hereon, this game will be referred to as Reunion for convenience purposes.

    Gameplay – As Good As It Gets

    You play as Zack Fair, a starring rookie soldier in action working for Shinra who can singlehandedly take on many foes in real-time. Players are able to move and dodge roll Zack around during combat, slashing enemies away, casting spells, and using abilities in accordance with foes’ weaknesses and circumstances needed. Combat starts off and ends seamlessly without any load times in between which is pretty awesome.

    During combat, what I enjoyed most is the sheer fluidity Zack has as he can run and slash in a cohesive manner where slashing can always be followed up with an automatic backstep to gain some space in between when casting any spells. Moreover, Zack deals more damage if he used skill in midst of slashing a combo that deals far better damage which is candy to the eyes with the damage numbers presenting orange numbers to portray enhanced damage visually; making sparks fly. In my opinion, there are way too many sparks flying and it feels like being flash-banged distracted most of the time.

    In context, skills and magic mentioned above can be equipped in the game menu beforehand with materia gained in-game in either combat or side missions. Players can choose from a multitude of ranged magic attacks or go up close and personal with jumps or twisting spin attacks depending on their preferences that expend MP and AP separately. Most of these attacks are vibrant and look sparkly good to deliver but the status effects they bring to the enemies are fairly limited as most hard-difficulty enemies seem to be guarded against most of the status effects such as gravity, which strikes me as odd considering nerfs are only applied to multiplayer games, not to a single player game.

    The slashing alone is far too flashy, in my opinion, and should only be flashy when critical strikes occur, which rewards far better visuals than giving it constantly like Oprah. When it comes to staggering foes, it is much harder than I remembered or anticipated unless the foes are casting a spell because harder foes tend to have a shorter timeframe to be stunned by your attack and the foes are even tankier when they are dead set on attacking Zack physically firsthand, so I will have to dodge, block, and jump via skill materia just to survive more often.

    There are times when I have to double-check the game to make sure I am not playing Elden Ring, since harder-difficulty enemies tend to one-strike Zack to death immediately and I thought to myself ‘was it harder than it should be’ (even on normal difficulty)?. Well in that sense, the challenge aspect is a welcome addition to me as I do tend to observe the enemies more often and take more safety precautions before mashing and slashing away in tight combat spaces. Fortunately, as players die, they are given an infinite number of options to retake the battle as it is or a chance to re-equip materia or equipment which makes things less stressful than just restarting the whole mission.

    This means that the Reunion game design understands that Zack has limited slots of materia (six) and equipment (four) and that the type of enemies varies from mission to mission. Which does not seem obvious in their weaknesses as not all robots are weak to lightning by example. However, at times one shift in materia can turn the tide of combat almost instantly.

    Speaking of materia, it starts with fire, ice, thunder magic, and stats boost. It can be leveled up as you wear it longer during combat, or fused with different types of materia to get better or different types.

    The funny and awesome thing is leveling up Zack and the materia depends on the slot machine numbers called the Digital Mind Wave aka DMW (a representation of Zacks mood and mind with flashbacks scenes). Running on the side (top left specifically), DMW lines up a series of images of characters during combat and number that if matches all three images and numbers will grant you limit breaks, summons, stat boosts as well as level up Zack and his materias. So don’t worry about paying for it (no real payment/ gacha mechanics involved), it’s just a matter of paying attention as it unfolds a series of unseen flashbacks Zack has with certain characters he interacted with before.

    This DMW system grants an extra incentive to watch what’s on Zack’s mind and the motivation he had at any point during combat as he fights to the bitter end.

    Obviously, it is natural that the longer you stay in combat, especially against harder opponents – causes the slot machine numbers to run longer in the background. This not only levels you up quicker but also gives you more limit break and spell-summoning choices once the images line up – making combat feel more exciting. Which is the best implementation in the game by far even during the ending. However, chances are players may already exploit this mechanic by AFK-ing on the side and letting the slot machine run on its own.

    Graphics, Level Designs And Cinematic – Almost A Remake

    Allow me to address the obvious first – the in-game visuals in this game are impeccable. With detailed models and rich environment churning out gritty textures of floors, rocks, and reflective glint of puddles of water in the caves. Even more so of when combat starts and hitting sparks just keeps flying all over the screen to give it an elevated boost of visual fidelity.

    3D models especially Zack, Sephiroth, Cloud, and Aerith looks amazing in the in-game cutscenes, but some characters like Angeal, Tseng, and Genesis look abit tad inconsistent with smoothly pale skin that differs from one scene to the next.

    Unfortunately, most NPCs are given less love and attention even in a remake model due to their appearance as uninspired generic character creation models littering the map with copy-pasted models all over. The cinematics alone as well as summoning cinematics seem to have been copied and pasted as well directly from the PSP port that felt grainy, old polygonal, and felt off-putting. Yet specifically Fury bahamut summon FMV looks so much better than the rest.

    It’s ironic that back in the PSP days, I enjoyed watching cinematics more than in-game cutscenes, but on the PS5, it’s the other way around. Noted that it took me a while to find the right screen brightness slider option as it can easily sway between being too dark in the environment or too bright to make everything flat, and nothing in between.

    UI Design – Remade Clearly Accessible, But Not Enough

    Other than the enhanced almost remake-like graphics, the UI design felt modernly slick with finely tuned overlaying design, elegant fonts and in par with the menu in Final Fantasy VII Remake’s design. With easy to the eyes crystal clarity look of a semi-transparent blue overall, with peppered of mini translucent lines of curved polygons in a hive-like design running in the background.

    On the gameplay aspect, I remembered that limit breaks and summoning were instantaneous triggers that can get intrusive over time. Instead, the game saves and sets the triggers in button prompts, such as triangle for limit breaks and R3 + L3 for summoning, and both cinematics can be skipped at any time, thus retaining that smoothness in combat flow. Furthermore, PSP version bosses’/harder enemies have short instantaneous trigger of special attacks but this time Reunion comes with a charging ability special bar. So players must attack the boss completely to reduce the damage it deals when it triggers or destroy the charging bar to interrupt it completely. Both are pretty amazing features as it allows me accessible control and turns the tides at any moment of the combat flow, especially during harder difficulty side missions.

    In other forms of accessibility, side missions are accessible directly by pressing a triangle in any save points in the game which are basically set in a bite-sized straightforward maps of running around fighting random encounters and killing a boss in order to complete. I feel that these grindy side missions can be so much more to fill in that gap of background storytelling with recordings or holograms to tell more about Turks, troopers, and Shinra. Even more so, the main story’s minigames of sneaking, sniping, squatting, time button smashing, and many more can be placed as part of the side missions to keep things moderately fresh.

    Other than that, the button changes for the game is easily accessible in main menu as I think personally holding on to the default L1 button to change the lock on target is a hassle during the fast paced combat. Thankfully, the items, magic, and skills buttons are easily accessible during combat like Final Fantasy VII remake buttons, which I remembered being clunky on the PSP. As well as an informative tutorial section that teaches not only the gameplay mechanics but also about more materia fusion options.

    In the email reading sections, however, like its NPC’s design of 3D models; things take a turn for the stale as it really feels like reading spam emails. Which is a shame because it serves as Zack’s way of interacting with his teammates and friends alongside fleshing out their backgrounds and communication chemistry.

    As a result, Zack felt like that famous guy on Whatsapp who never replies to family and friends or any potential suitors – playing hard to get. Or that uncle who doesn’t know how technology works and thus never replies to any of the messages. I mean at least my uncle/aunt sends flower images every morning. Again, it’s pretty baffling that the email mechanics don’t fit well with the storytelling while the combat DMW does. Imagine Aeriths sending eighty-nine handwritten letters to Zack, but all she could do was send him a new email for him to respond to.

    Another one of my main gripes is that the materia fusion section has to be manually placed and scrolled down one by one to view the results of the said fusion. Whether it is an enhanced version of materia or a completely new take. I find this to be the least accessible function as each same type of materia at times have different results in both stats and materia.

    Besides the side missions accessible via save points, there is also a side quest in the main game that is not noted in any part of the options menu to be tracked since it is highly missable content.

    Writing – Just Didn’t Age Well

    From what I remembered, there is little difference between the lines said in this game and the PSP version from the past. Though it feels original from the source material – it just doesn’t fit well and always behind cryptic words or dull poetry to mow down the interests and also keeping things less relevant to the current times.

    Other than Sephiroths motivations and character development turning from good to evil and Zack’s likable personality. Most of the actions of characters and aspects felt like a big question mark as it is often glossed over by being written as being honorable, being a hero, and just following orders without questioning to retain that cool demeanor. Yet, lacking the ‘why’ justification needed to deepen the understanding to the core – as no story is not worth hearing. All the more present are certain written contradictions of when Zack says in the cinematic that he only uses the dull/blunt side of the blade to avoid it being worn and torn. While in-game it is seen that Zack still uses the sharp side of the blade in combat which made me chuckle in disbelief.

    In that sense, the writing not only lacks rechecks but also the Final Fantasy VII remake treatment that explores the motivations and backgrounds of other characters left behind previously. And that is a shame, because I really want to see a lighter touch of storytelling on Turks like Cisnei and troopers such as Zack’s friend named Kunsel. Perhaps it should be included in side missions instead as those maps appears rather empty in and out without further context that can be filled. Because overall, Yuffie side mission seem to be the most flavorful side missions than the rest of the bunch.

    Noted that some certain descriptions of materia and equipment lacked concise information, such as ‘enables special attack spells’ or ‘increase parameter break up to 3 times’, leaving me scratching my head in frustration and asking Mr google what’s what.

    Sound And Music – Yes, For Real

    Most of the game’s music tends to hit me differently in both normal side missions maps and main story pieces that tends to lean on the alluring piano pieces, percussions, violins, and acoustics guitar that’s not only easy to swallow but also serenadingly pulling my heartstring with a gentle harmonious touch. Eventually ramping up to shredding heavy bass guitar, percussions, and some scary operatic vocals chiming in once the battle commences. But not all locations are as impactful pieces compare to the rest such as slums but that’s alright as the piece pretty much portrays the bleak atmosphere and naivety hope in the air. Sometimes I do wish I can just switch it back to its original song at any point of the game in the options menu just to keep things nostalgic.

    In minor hiccups, the sounds in-game and cinematics sometimes tend to have minor breaks due to intense scenes such as slashing or explosions which leaves me pondering if it’s a porting issue or a sound department left unchecked.

    It is a big plus that the game is fully voiced, with no awkward silences in between scenes and gameplay, as well as decently delivered voices in general. Just that at times I find that the main actor’s delivery of Zack’s voice felt a little too enthusiastically young, lacking a deeper tone in development, and shrieking shout that lacks to bridge in the emotional delivery especially made worse with the odd script writing. In other words, it feels like a boy telling another boy by the name Cloud that he is going to lead by example.

    What I Liked About Crisis Core –Final Fantasy VII– Reunion

    Graphics – Remake to elevate the experience, redefine 3D models, amazing level design and textures

    UI – Accessible and making combat fluid. Skippable cutscene, summons, and limit breaks.

    Gameplay – Seamlessly never-ending Fun with Multiple materia of skills and magic to try out while slashing enemies with added effects.

    Can be pretty challenging – Considering that the enemies feel tankier, one hit kills and is not easily swayed by stagger, and status changes such as harder enemies in side missions can completely negate gravity spells.

    Modern UI design Function – Retaking battles upon death and the choice to re-equip equipment and materia before restarting the combat. Skippable cutscenes, cinematic, summons and limit breaks.

    Overall decent songlist and decent voice acting – Decent voice acting overall. Songlist are either over-the-top epic or just memorable.

    Clear Tutorials – Perfect for recap purposes and noting on possible materia fusion examples.

    What I Wished Was Better

    Main character voice work and sounds – Zack Fair lines said felt boyishly awkward. Some mild hiccups of sound breakings in intense moments.

    Slash attacks – Should have a controlled level of flashes hitting the screen or else its a constant flashbang throughout. Perhaps its better with just critical strikes or hitting weaknesses to give rewarding visuals.

    Side missions – While plentiful, it felt just plainly straightforward compared to the main story with storytelling and side minigames. It should have a bit more backstory telling of other characters such as Turks and Troopers alongside some minigames from the main story.

    Questionable 3D models – Tseng and Angeal character models appear inconsistent smoothly pale and lack details from one cutscene to the next and NPC’s 3D models appear like a generic cut and paste from a character creation screen.

    Cinematics and FMV – Looks dated and grainy , but oddly summon spell Bahamut Fury FMV looks good.

    Some objects 3D – Looks old and degraded such as barrels in the slums.

    Materia Fusion – While a lot of things are accessible, Materia Fusion, on the other hand, is really manual hard labor to scroll into each materia to find out the results.

    Missable side quests – These are not the side missions in the save points but NPC’s interactions in the main game to perform a certain task, which should have their own note in the main menu screen.

    Writing – Storytelling that felt dated, cryptic meanings and cringeworthy poems. Some materia lack proper concise description.

    Emails options – Are just more of a spam box and can be so much more if Zack figures out where is the reply button.

    Verdict – Embrace Your Dreams

    For me, this is almost a dream come true where remake-like graphics meet Zack Fair once again to introduce newcomers and rekindle fans of what’s behind Cloud’s motivation plus what is he fighting for. Despite the fact that the in-game graphics and combat mechanics do definitely elevate the experience even further than ever before. Other aspects of writing, side missions, and cinematics remain stagnated in the process which can feel dull, and at times, leave it out of place behind the times.

    In that respect, despite having the hiccups; this is very much a reason why this is considered a remaster rather than a remake. And suffice it to say that there is still plenty of fun to be had alongside modernized graphics – just wish it can be so much more.

    To me in this series, my dream is that another remake of Final Fantasy VII titled Dirge Of Cerberus starring Vincent Valentine should also exceed expectations beyond just a remake of graphics and seamless gameplay, making it hopefully another gem to behold.

    Score: 7.5/10

    He is actually very shy, introvert but no choice, have to go out to buy games. He likes food and food likes him. He somehow manage to find a job with the right time accommodate to gaming. He has a very short attention span, therefore has to finish a game fast or else a simple pun can distract him for the entire day. Yes a Pun, he loves puns as much as he loves games; easily distracted, whichever comes next.

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