Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion has some welcome improvements but lacks pizzazz
We've gone hands-on with the upcoming Square Enix game, and have varied opinions about what we've seen.
While we didn't travel all the way to Japan for Tokyo Game Show, we did recently have a chance to see some of the titles that Square Enix brought to that very trade fair, during a visit to London. One of such projects was the big Final Fantasy game for the year, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion, a title that I have actually been rather excited for ever since Final Fantasy VII: Remake blew me away recently. Unfortunately, I can't say that the demo I've tested for this very experience quite left me with the same outstanding impression.
And this is because while Reunion brings various positive improvements to this more modernised style of a Final Fantasy experience, this also feels like a clear step back from Remake. But before I get onto the parts that jarred me, let's focus on the good stuff. Namely, the combat system. Final Fantasy and a lot of Japanese games in general seem to enjoy making complex UIs that offer up tons of options but in an almost overwhelming way. Remake had semblances of this, with various different methods for you to get Cloud to cast spells and use abilities, all while having to manage multiple characters at once - it could be a lot for the uninitiated. Reunion seems to have taken aim at this 'problem' by removing a lot of the fluff and serving up a combat system that is more intuitive and straightforward. Granted, this is a Final Fantasy game, so there are complicated parts still, but far fewer than there used to be.
Essentially, in Reunion, Zack has four abilities that he can choose from and use in the middle of combat, and these are bound to the Cross, Circle, Square, and Triangle buttons (on PlayStation). Once you use these, the typical things happen depending on whether it's an actual physical move or a Materia spell - meaning you 5can use Cure to heal, Blizzard to hit foes with frost damage, or other sword-slashing flurries to deal heaps of damage in one action, all while swinging your sword for extra non-ability/spell damage. It's far easier to grasp. And likewise, so are the health bars of the enemies, which are now more prominent and visible in battles. These very opponents do have some neat tricks up their sleeves however, in the form of charging power moves that you can weaken or stop entirely by dealing as much damage to the opponent as possible within the time it takes for the move to charge up. This is also super easy to spot when it's happening, as the enemy literally glows purple and will stop moving while it prepares the attack.
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There are clear efforts to improve the combat system and experience, but Square has decided to also add a chaotic feature, which I can't see as anything but pure nonsense. This is best described as a slot machine reel that constantly rotates during combat, and will occasionally stop here and there to impact the fight. It's made up of three single-digit, numbered wheels, and the number when the wheel stops determines what kind of effect will be granted. Sometimes, this is a helpful effect such as no MP cost on abilities or spells, and other times you could actually level up Zack (you need to roll 777 for this!), but as this happens during the heat of battle, it's very difficult to keep tabs on what the feature is actually doing, and therefore seems completely irrelevant a lot of the time. Otherwise, the combat is similar and familiar to what Remake offered.
As you can see, this is one of the reasons that Reunion hasn't quite blown me away as did Remake, but that wasn't all, as the far more linear structure - which literally seemed to revolve around cinematics into combat scenarios - didn't help. Neither did the actual appearance of the game, as it seemed to lack that raw beauty of Remake, despite running on the same engine (which is all the more curious). This could be down to the demo build not actually being the end product, but the only parts of the experience that genuinely made me think this was a product of a similar calibre to Remake were actual cutscenes, some of which were CGI of almost film-level quality. Yes, this is not a full remake and is rather more of a remaster, but it does feel like a missed opportunity and a bit of visual regression, all things considered.
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I will say however, that Reunion did often feel a little bit more engaging to play in the combat scenarios than Remake, even if Remake absolutely has it beat when it comes to narrative and story development. So, it's not all bad, and this is clearly still a very well-produced product that should serve as one of the top titles of December, but anyone who is hoping that this will reflect the brilliance Square delivered with Remake should get their expectations in check, because this is clearly more of a stepping stone on the Final Fantasy journey, as we gear up for the enormous 2023, bringing Final Fantasy XVI and Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth.