Way better than the original. Most video game reboots don't do much more than bump up the resolution of the graphics, but Reunion is different.

One of the most anticipated video games of the year isn't really new. It's 15 years old. And it's a prequel to a game that's even older.

The new game is Crisis Core : FinalFantasy VII Reunion, released this week. It's a reboot of hand-held game with almost the same name from 2007, except with nicer graphics and sped-up battles so it can be resold for modern systems, including new playstations, Xbox and Nintendo consoles. It's also a prequel to yet another game reboot, 2020's Final Fantasy VII Remake.

If that sounds confusing, that's because it is. Video game reboots are nothing new, and there have been a lot of them lately. This year, game studios have released refreshed versions of popular titles including The Last of US, Marvel's Spider-Man and Tactics Ogre, among others.

With Reunion, the maker of Final Fantasy, Square Enix, is capitalizing on the enterprise of nostalgia. Final Fantasy, originally released in 1987, became a blockbuster when the game's seventh installment debuted in 1997. In that game, players took on the role of Cloud, an angsty mercenary working with a group of misfits to prevent the apocalypse.

Since then, Final Fantasy VII has become one of the most influential games in history, spawning spinoffs, animated movies and fan fiction. The game has been rereleased at least half a dozen times on every major platform, including PCs, tablets and smartphones. It's a juggernaut - and Reunion is playing its part in keeping that franchise going.

MOST video game reboots don't do much more than bump up the resolution of the graphics to look better on new TVs, but Reunion is different. With completely overhauled visuals and smoother gameplay, it is much better than the original.

It's a strong example of how to do a reboot with justice and keep a well-established title going with a very safe bet.

''We can see the audience for these characters and the Final Fantasy VII franchise better than if we were to do something that didn't already have a certain amount of recognition,'' said Yoshinori Kitase, Square Enix's executive producer of Reunion, through a translator.

I finished Reunion last week after playing a part of the original Crisis Core. The changes in the battles and visuals transformed the game from a so-so installment into a must-play episode of Final Fantasy, whose cachet in the game world rivals that of ''Star Wars'' in pop culture.

[To put it another way, Reunion is FinalFantasy's ''Rogue One'' - the prequel we deserve.]

Reunion is also an extreme approach to a ''remaster,'' which is a video game parlance for an old game whose graphics have been scaled up to look better on new TVs. Since Square Enix originally released Crisis Core for a handheld device, the obsolete PlayStation Portable, the graphics had to be redone for modern systems.

Now the pixelated, expressionless faces of characters in the original have been replaced with detailed, lifelike mugs; and the drab backgrounds of city streets and dungeons have become rich with text color and texture.

The Essay continues into the future. The World Students Society thanks author Brian X. Chen.


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