Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis Review – The Lifestream In Your Pocket

    Title: Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis
    Developer: Square Enix, Applibot
    Release Date: September 7, 2023
    Reviewed On: Android
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Genre: Gacha, RPG

Have you ever played one of those games you just know you’re going to have to explain for the rest of your life? In case you haven’t heard, Ever Crisis is a free-to-play mobile game that aims to adapt the original Final Fantasy VII universe into a single title. This includes, chronologically, The First SOLDIER, Before Crisis (a Japan-only feature phone game that predates smartphones and thus never made it to America), Crisis Core, Final Fantasy VII, Dirge of Cerberus, and Advent Children. Given that the First SOLDIER storyline is entirely original, it may include more content, such as the various novellas released around the game.

This does mean that the game is not canon to the newer Remake universe aside from the prequel content. Still, it is very likely that nothing in Ever Crisis is going to be particularly meaningful to the Remake trilogy. Instead, this title aims to tell the entire original story with a few nice additions. The game is launching with the beginning of Final Fantasy VII (up to the party leaving Midgar), the beginning of Crisis Core (up through the mission to Wutai), and the first part of the First SOLDIER original storyline.

Starting with the story presentation, it’s exhilarating to play the limited dungeon-crawling parts that faithfully recreate the style of prerendered PS1-era maps, with Ever Crisis opening with a condensed version of the bombing mission that prologues the original title. There are random encounters, chests to open, and all maps created from scratch rather than being upscaled from the original assets. The updated versions of the chibi-fied field models are also a nice bonus.

The first real frustration of the game comes in just how far down the dungeon-crawling has been cut. Obviously, the Crisis Core section currently only covers one area from the original title, but from FF VII, the game glosses over Mako Reactor 5, the Midgar Sewer, the Train Graveyard, and the climb to the Sector 7 Plate, with none of them being explorable.

Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis 5

The other major issue that most will have with Ever Crisis does not take long to appear, so I will address it in full here. This is a gacha-based freemium mobile game, so it will frequently ask you to put money into it. I’ve honestly found it pretty easy not to be tempted. Every single draw I’ve done, even with the basic tickets, has yielded at least one max-rarity item, and nearly everything else you’d be buying can be grinded for instead without too much fuss. It’s also much more straightforward than in Square Enix’s other high-budget title, War of the Visions, because the only currencies are free crystals (blue), paid crystals (red), and Gil. Crystals are for exchanging or doing gacha pulls, and gil is spent on weapon upgrades.

The random gacha rolls are for weapons, as all the characters are given to you as you reach them in the story mode. However, having abysmal luck with your pulls will result in you needing to put in a little bit of extra legwork to keep characters without high-tier weapons from holding your party back. Given enough time and patience, you can upgrade lower-rarity weapons into their higher-power forms.

Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis 4

Once you enter combat, Ever Crisis transitions into a much more Remake-flavored graphical style, which looks exceptionally impressive on mobile phones that can handle Ultra settings. You control just your lead party member, as in Remake, through an adaptation of the Active Time Battle system where each equipped ability (determined by which weapons and Materia you’ve got on) costs a certain amount of the ever-filling action bar. The game also has you switching back and forth between an Attack and Defense stance to either deal or save yourself from huge damage.

Of course, being a grind-heavy mobile game, there is also a double-speed and auto-battle mode, and the player is encouraged to take advantage of this if their party is comfortably strong enough to take on whatever challenge the player attempts. The auto-battle is reasonably competent, yet I noticed that it’s been made worse since the beta – it no longer applies buffs, so it’s basically useless to give your computer-controlled friends any buffs. They’ll heal just fine, but a Barrier Materia is completely wasted.

Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis 1

As for the story, the only one here really worth getting into is the First SOLDIER plot, as it’s the only original content at launch. This prequel tale takes place roughly fifteen years before the main title and introduces a new trio of SOLDIER operatives. Glenn is the hotheaded himbo leader, Matt is the reserved, analytical engineer, and Lucia is the professional presence that glues the squad together.

The characters are basic but definitely effective, and you get to spend a fair amount of time with them as their mission goes off the rails at every possible point. They’ve been sent to a remote island to scout a location for a new Mako reactor, and after their helicopter is attacked and crashes on a seemingly deserted smaller isle off the coast, they start to discover the presence of a living civilization.

This story is being billed heavily as an origin of sorts for Sephiroth, whom you meet near the end of the current content. Still, I appreciate the approach of continuing to give us the outside perspective rather than playing its cards too soon by putting you right into his head. In my opinion, Sephiroth is best utilized as a mythic figure first, and I’m not sure whatever answers we get will be as compelling as the mysteries still surrounding him anyway.

Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis 2

My two biggest concerns with this title are both related to its longevity. I’m still mourning the loss of both Tales of Crestoria and Tales of Luminaria, which prided themselves heavily on the ambitious stories they were going to tell over many years of service – only for one of them to not even run for twelve whole months before shutting down. I’m worried that the same is going to happen here.

Conversely, I’m also worried that this game is aggressively monetizing the wrong aspects of itself. Ever Crisis does not look like a cheap game to run, but the many, many opportunities it pushes at you to spend its paid currency will essentially just make grinding easier or allow you to acquire new weapons. Getting all the characters for free is nice, yet the efficiency passes are too pricey to consider weekly, and the weapons don’t make a huge difference in your power level. My solution to this would be to make the booster passes monthly rather than weekly (for the same price currently being charged) and to put character costumes into the gachapon system to entice players more.

Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis 3

Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis is releasing at a precarious time for mobile games. What it’s promising is enticing, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it thus far. But when Square themselves just recently shut down multiple other titles, some less than a full year into service, it’s hard to be that optimistic about its future. I hope their gamble here pays off, and this becomes as big a hit as they’re clearly looking for because it’s one of the best in its genre of the year.

Review copy purchased by outlet or reviewer

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