Final Fantasy 7: Ever Crisis is finally here, and the mobile exclusive combines the Compilation of Final Fantasy 7 into a new package. Square Enix has remastered, remade, and expanded upon the lore of one of its most popular games. While it mainly works, there are issues that any game with gacha mechanics fosters when it is a free-to-play experience.
In the several hours I’ve spent revisiting the main story, the sense of déjà vu is inevitable, and it will fill you with memories of simpler times. However, you’re quickly brought back to reality as Ever Crisis is predatory in its execution, feeling far less than the superior Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition. This game was an abridged version of its console brethren. That experience was what I wanted from Ever Crisis, but it’s a far cry from what most people expect.
I get it; games like Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent have set the bar high for mobile gaming. So, it’s natural to expect Ever Crisis to soar to those heights, given the Final Fantasy pedigree. But alas, it doesn’t. Let’s establish that before we move on.
Setting Expectations Straight With Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis
So, Ever Crisis probably isn’t the remake of your dreams. However, that isn’t to say there isn’t a decent game caught between gacha mechanics and familiar gameplay elements.
Ever Crisis is developed by Applibot, who’ve worked with Square Enix on several properties, including Final Fantasy 7: The First Soldier and the NieR mobile game Reincarnation, a game I found rather entertaining, thanks to its storytelling and characters. How does a developer retell years of expanded storytelling the Compilation of Final Fantasy 7 offered without losing the magic that made it so beloved? Well, it seems like trimming some of the fat and removing the busy work, which I think Applibot does in some sections while leaving others far too lean.
From the familiar opening movie that has become burned into the minds of millions of fans, the mobile title swiftly brings you into the tutorial section that sets the stage for what to expect. The battle system appears to involve strategy, with ATB management and the need to choose attacks that counter specific enemy mechanics. For instance, boss monsters may create shields requiring specific elemental attacks to dispel. You can also switch between offensive and defensive stances, preparing for powerful enemy strikes. It all seemed promising, hinting at a potentially evolving combat system.
A middle ground for fans of all generations
If anything, Final Fantasy 7: Ever Crisis’s battle system feels like the perfect middle ground between the OG battle system and Remake’s action-oriented battle system. It’s easily a highlight of the entire experience, and I’ve been having much fun getting into the mechanics. A lot of familiar spells, skills, and enemies will make the experience that much more nostalgic and for those who want to experience the story chapters, an auto-battle mechanic does the work for you.
Combat leans heavily into Final Fantasy 7 Remake, offering the same models and attacks you’ve seen on consoles, and everything looks impressive on my iPhone. You can adjust the graphical setting up to Ultra, but you will drain your battery. Additionally, you can play each chapter with a recommended party outfitting you with the proper gear and based on the party from the original game or forego tradition and throw together the party of your dreams. With the Active Time Battle Gauge (ATB gauge) dictating how battles unfold, a modicum of strategy is necessary to win. Another element pulled from Remake is the ability to change your stance between offensive and defensive modes. Swapping between the two stances is critical to your success against a stronger opponent, as each stance boosts your attacks and defence. You’ll also have instances where enemy combatants build toward a powerful attack, and you’ll need to ensure your party is adequately equipped with attacks designated to stagger enemies. If you successfully stagger an enemy, you have a brief window to recover or unleash an all-out attack with unique abilities.
As you trudge forward, you unlock various upgrade systems that all follow the same tedious pattern. Identify what needs an upgrade, find the resources required, and then run the same stage until you can’t stand it anymore. It’s like trying to get the last drop of ketchup out of the bottle – repetitive and not very exciting.
You also have the Ever Crisis version of the Materia system, and it’s convoluted. Materia is the easiest way to counter and protect against various enemies, but building up your inventory takes a lot of work. The real setback is you’re only allowed to craft a handful of Materia before you’re effectively told to wait it out. You cannot select the Materia you want with the corresponding stats, so it’s often a guessing game.
The opening section is an exciting return to the world I’ve been enamoured with since I was a kid, and for the most part, the first half hour to an hour barely features the gacha mechanics I was expecting to see right away. Instead, as you close out the opening reactor section that sees Cloud and Avalanche lay waste to the first Mako Reactor. But then you reach the main menu, and the game swiftly transforms into a typical gacha experience. The free-roaming dungeons become rare as the game ushers you through a repetitive cycle: select a stage, watch a cutscene, engage in a battle (usually spanning three waves of enemies), and collect rewards. Soon enough, you unlock auto battle and X2 battle speed, and I’ve yet to turn them off. Auto battle doesn’t deviate much from what I’d typically do, performing stance changes ideally and targeting enemy shields when appropriate.
With that said, the tutorial sections are both good and bad. From the start, you’re immediately pulled into this world, and the way you’re shown how the mechanics work will hook you in, but it also feels like a misrepresentation of what the rest of Ever Crisis is.
A Premium Experience
As you experience the chapters split between Final Fantasy 7, Crisis Core, and The First Soldier, you see the cracks in the presentation. Instead of the setup of its console brethren, exploration features limited dungeon exploration. Sure, many locations are familiar and look as good as ever, but everything is compacted to fit a mobile experience. Levels are filled with random encounters and treasure chests, and you’ll explore the locations with field models serving as a middle ground between OG FF7 and Remake FF7.
One of the things that you’ll continually be reminded about is that Ever Crisis is a freemium gacha game. When you load up the app, you’ll be hit with a wave of banners indicating tons of tickets, crystals, and gil you can buy with real currency. Usually, I find gacha games stingy at launch and ask you to pay upfront. Surprisingly, Ever Crisis has offered a plentiful harvest of crystals, tickets, and gil to celebrate the mobile game’s launch. I never found myself tempted to spend a couple of bucks here or there because of how many items I’ve banked in just over a week. It helps that the items you’re unlocking are labelled and appropriately designated.
Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis offers three story paths for players to experience. The first path follows Cloud and his friends until the end of Midgar, Crisis Core covers a third of the narrative, and The First Soldier is shorter than I expected. For someone familiar with these stories, you know the story beats. So, it’s surprising that Square Enix decided not to offer The First Soldier upfront, given that the battle royale shuttered earlier this year and is ripe with untold stories. Immediately, Glenn, Lucia, and Matt won me over, and I’m excited to discover more about this trio of newcomers. Despite being rather tropey, the three characters are filled with personality and a shared history that begs to be explored. Most, if not all, of the advertising shows a young Sephiroth as the lead, yet we barely meet this unexplored slice of the iconic antagonist’s history. It feels like a sleight of hand to people eager to learn more about Sephiroth’s past.
Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis is not the experience I expected from Square Enix, but it shows promise for a gacha game. Square Enix is notorious for shuttering mobile games within months of launching them, and it’s hard to want to invest time into a mobile game when it feels like it’s on the bubble, ready for the axe to fall. With that in mind, as a freemium game, it makes an excellent case for existing players to throw consumables daily to use as they see fit. I hope Square sticks with this project, as it seems to have begun strong with millions of people wanting more of these characters and of this world.
[This review was conducted and completed at the writer’s expense.]
Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis is not the experience I expected from Square Enix, but it shows promise for a gacha game.
Wonderful renditions of iconics themes from Final Fantasy 7
Excellent character models an environments
Mechanics will confuse newcomers when trying to upgrade gear