Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis has so much potential

I was already intrigued, but a recent hands-on demo has me even more sold on the direction this game is taking

Final Fantasy VII Remake is a brilliant game, but it also takes some big swings with the iconic JRPG’s story, which will only continue in its sequel, RebirthAs a result, not everyone is on board with that direction, although I very much am as a diehard VII fan.

It’s for that reason, though, that I think Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis is such an interesting project. As a mobile retelling of the entire Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, including the base game, its prequels (Crisis Core and Before Crisis) and sequels (Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus), it has the potential to give purists more of a “faithful” remake. And based on my time with Ever Crisis at Summer Game Fest, it seems like Square Enix and developer Applibot are handling that approach well.

Outside of a curious intro in which Cloud and Zack fight Sephiroth at the Nibelheim Mako Reactor, the demo is focused on the original VII‘s iconic bombing mission. After using VII Remake‘s opening movie, the art style shifts to the chibi character models we’ve seen in trailers. While it’s a somewhat jarring transition initially, that aesthetic ultimately does fit Ever Crisis well, paying tribute to the original game’s polygonal characters. Meanwhile, Lisa Fujise’s character portraits are sharp and pop nicely alongside the chibi figures. All in all, it looks and feels like the original VII, just with updated visuals.

The combat, on the other hand, is where things get more different. Here, the game adopts fully proportionate 3D models that are lifted straight from Remake, and thanks to the beefy specs of modern mobile devices, it looks fairly close to what we’ve seen on PlayStation 4 and 5. On top of that, battles take a somewhat different flow from what we’ve seen in the original VII and Remake. At its core, it uses Final Fantasy‘s classic Active Time Battle (ATB) system in which a character’s action bar slowly fills in real-time before they can execute a command.

FFVII Ever Crisis charactersBut in Ever Crisis, characters perform their standard attacks automatically, so your job is instead to manage abilities. For example, three ATB bars will let you cast mid-tier offensive magic spells like Thundara, but six bars are required for the second-level healing spell Cura. This replaces the traditional Mana Points you’d find in other RPGs. The game also introduces another mechanic, enemy shields, which require special moves to break them, so you’ll have to adapt accordingly. In conjunction, these components create a simple but effective risk-reward system in Ever Crisis, challenging you to decide on the fly whether to go for quick hits or bank for more powerful offensive and defensive moves.

All the while, your party members will carry out actions automatically, with you only controlling their more powerful Limit Breaks. Using these in conjunction will even give you a damage multiplier, further adding to the importance of timing. I was initially a bit put off that I didn’t have full control over my party, but I soon realized this was a smart way of streamlining the combat for mobile while still adding a level of strategy. What’s more, I can imagine things will only get more dynamic when you’re using someone else besides just Cloud and Barret.

Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis combatWe’ve also gotten confirmation that Square Enix is only using monetization for loot boxes related to weapons and costumes. The latter element is a bit goofy, admittedly, seeing characters wearing all kinds of outlandish outfits, but relegating in-app purchases mostly to cosmetics is reassuring. Hopefully, the better weapons aren’t difficult or impossible to get without these purchases. If nothing else, though, Square Enix confirmed there is no stamina-type system to limit how much you can play at a time unless you fork over real money, which would be frustrating and just kill the pacing of the game.

I’m definitely eager to see more from Ever Crisis. Between the original Final Fantasy VII, the 2020 remake and Crisis Core, the bombing mission is pretty well-worn territory, so this demo doesn’t reveal too much. What I’m more curious about is how Square Enix and Applibot will adapt VII‘s less iconic moments, and not just those from the base game. How will the developers translate Before Crisis, a Japan-only game made for flip phones, to modern powerful mobile devices? Better yet, what creative liberties will they take to turn Advent Children, which has only ever been depicted in movie form, into a playable experience? That’s to say nothing of the game’s promised new original story content penned by original VII and Remake writer Kazushige Nojima, including fascinating details about young Sephiroth.

Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis SephirothIn this way, Ever Crisis can have its cake and eat it, too. It can be more faithful to the original VII than Remake while adding some extra material and taking more chances with the side titles that people either didn’t like as much or never even played, to begin with. Meanwhile, for fans who want even more, Rebirth will still come out in early 2024 and lead into the untitled final installment of the Remake trilogy. For now, though, I’m excited for the final version of Ever Crisis when it launches later this year.

Those interested in trying out the game can pre-register now on App Store and Google Play for the chance to participate in an upcoming closed beta test set to run from July 6th to 13th, 2023.

Image credit: Square Enix