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Crisis Core – Final Fantasy 7 Reunion Preview: Zack Fair Is A Cute Little Puppy

No matter how hard you stare at its gorgeous visuals and fancy user interface, Crisis Core – Final Fantasy 7 Reunion is still a PSP game at its heart. Most environments are a maze of confined corridors and bland textures, enemies attack in a predictable rhythm, and the majority of cutscenes take forever to play out as you jump between loading screens and camera angle changes to experience even the most basic of moments. It’s also super corny.

Despite all of these archaic niggles, there’s a nostalgic warmth at the heart of Zack Fair’s adventure, and a necessary context that fits snugly alongside the collection of remakes we are currently seeing come to life. His tragic journey and the surrounding stories will no doubt be essential to Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, and given where it fits in the overarching timeline, a remake of this caliber is coming along at the perfect time. But is it actually worth playing, or should you settle for a comprehensive recap video on YouTube instead? It’s complicated…

For this preview, I can only talk about the first three chapters of Reunion, which is a relatively small slice of a game that only just begins to introduce core mechanics and characters. Zack is a second class SOLDIER partaking in routine missions with his mentor Angeal, wielding a pin needle of a sword against Wutai soldiers as the war effort draws to a close. He is confident, cocky, and oddly oblivious to the corporate dystopia he has committed his life to. There is an innocence to his behaviour that will soon be ground down to cynicism, brought to life by an English dub that feels straight out of 2006 with its cheesy and inconsistent delivery. Yet it works, and as someone who never played it back in the day, I was drawn into its world.

Downtime between missions allows me to explore Shinra HQ and the dieselpunk streets of Midgar, walking along the same concrete that will soon be obliterated by powers so corrupt they are currently inconceivable. NPCs walk around with robotic functionality, dishing out quests and canned lines of dialogue you’d expect from an RPG of this era. None of it feels natural or modern, but I soaked it all up regardless. Compared to

Remake it will be hard for new players to step into Reunion without rolling their eyes, but those who grew up with FF7 or are eager to fill in long empty gaps will find so much to love here. Zack is a wonderful hero, and the supporting characters he surrounds himself with are the ideal mixture of new and familiar. Cloud and Aerith are yet to show up, but Angeal is a compelling mentor, and angelic twink Genesis is an ideal foil to Sephiroth’s infamous brooding. The writing won’t win any awards (although looking at The Game Awards nominees…), and Remake is far more sophisticated in its plotting, but part of me is glad they didn’t overhaul absolutely everything, otherwise it just wouldn’t feel right.

Crisis Core’s combat is a streamlined version of Remake, with only a single attack button and four assigned materia and skills to choose from at any given time. It grows repetitive rather quickly because battles are random, but it’s shaken up by the presence of the DMW. Known as the Digital Mind Wave, this mechanic is essentially a slot machine starring various characters that dishes out buffs, limit breaks, and summons at random intervals. Moves and memories are unlocked as you progress, showcasing small cutscenes during battle before unleashing hell upon your opponents. It remains a cool idea years later, but it’s also very random, meaning boss battles can often be a matter of panicked luck as you wait for the slots to roll in your favour. If you don’t, I sure hope you have enough potions and ethers.

Most story sequences involve you walking forward, fighting some dudes, walking forward, watching a cutscene, fighting some dudes, walking forward, playing a minigame, and fighting some more dudes before heading back to Shinra HQ for tea and biscuits. There is a clear structure here, one likely required due to its portable origins that sadly can’t be changed without dumping everything out and starting again. I hope the remaining chapters shake things up or offer a little more ambition, but the side missions and hub areas I’m given access to in the opening hours hint towards a very sterile structure.

This is mostly fine, and I should have expected as such, but those jumping into Reunion will be better off knowing that this doesn’t feel like a modern JRPG, and really isn’t trying to. It doesn’t occupy the nostalgic sweet spot of the PS1 era, nor is it the polished brilliance of the current generation we’ve become so accustomed to, but an evolutionary middle ground that is both welcome and alien in its experimentation. I have always longed to play Crisis Core, biding my time for a remake instead of spoiling myself with the original hardware. Now it’s here, I am partially underwhelmed but also ever so excited to see where the adventure goes next.

After three chapters, the narrative, trite as it may be, has hooked me even in the wake of repetitive combat and side missions that are achingly dry in their execution. Zack Fair’s boundless enthusiasm and the tragic fate that awaits him is something I need to see – I owe myself that much. Square Enix has also changed so much with Remake and Rebirth that I bet there is a twisted surprise waiting at the end of all this.

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