By the time I spent about an hour with Final Fantasy 7: Ever Crisis, I was hit with an overwhelming wave of familiarity. Not because of nostalgia for Final Fantasy 7, though I have fond memories of that game. Rather, it was because I have seen virtually this exact same game on mobile devices for the past seven years now.
Despite what Square Enix’s frankly confusing marketing might leave you to believe, Final Fantasy 7: Ever Crisis is just a gacha game. Calling it “another possibility for a remake” maybe isn’t untrue, but it’s a bit misleading. Games like Genshin Impact or even Square Enix’s own Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent have really raised the bar for mobile games, so I don’t blame anyone for thinking Ever Crisis would be more than it is. But rather than reaching for those loftier heights of quality on the back of the Final Fantasy brand, Ever Crisis is a firmly complacent title. It is as gacha as any gacha that you’ve ever played, and we need to establish that before we continue.
So in short, Ever Crisis is probably not the game that I imagine many hoped it would be. But what if we set all of that aside and just judged the game on its own merits? Does it, at the very least, function well as a simple time killer to put on your phone?
Well, now’s as good a time as any to reveal myself as a gacha game sicko to you all.
Disclaimer: All screenshots have been cropped to fit on the page. Some shots may not be fully reflective of the game.
Reroll for initiative
My relationship with gacha games is much like my relationship with fast food. I’m never proud of having a Big Mac, but it is an itch I need to scratch here and there. During periods of my life when I had more time than money, I dipped into virtually every notable gacha game I saw just to see how meta I could make my account for free in each game. I’ve played everything from Dragalia Lost (RIP) to Arknights to Sdorica to Langrisser to BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! to… I think you get the picture.
Ever Crisis specifically comes to us via Applibot, whose bread and butter veers more towards the “put game on auto battle and watch numbers get bigger” brand of gacha games. Their most notable work nowadays is Square Enix’s NieR Reincarnation, which I did generally like. However, that one was carried by its writing and original story, which makes Ever Crisis an interesting case. Sure, jamming what appears to be the all of the “Compilation of Final Fantasy 7” into one game is an interesting hook. But Applibot is absolutely working within their usual wheelhouse here, which makes Ever Crisis feel as strange as it is unremarkable.
Learn the battle system, or not, it doesn’t matter
At first blush, I did think Applibot might do something different here. The tutorial sequence takes you through Final Fantasy 7’s iconic opening, because why wouldn’t it. You have free reign to move around and explore, plus the battle system initially appears to have some strategy. Players have to manage their ATB and select attacks that often need to counter specific enemy mechanics. For example, boss monsters will occasionally put up shields that require certain elemental attacks to dispel.
Also, you can switch between offensive and defensive stances so you can prepare for stronger attacks. I first thought this might set the stage for a combat system that could, theoretically, grow in complexity as the game progresses.
Then you see the main menu proper, where the game quickly turns into, again, a gacha. Those free-roaming dungeons become rarities as the game takes you through the same menu-based motions you’ve seen a thousand times. Select a stage, watch a cutscene, play a battle (typically involving three waves of enemies), collect rewards. Additionally, you soon unlock auto battle and X2 battle speed, both of which I have yet to turn off since. Combat is so basic that auto battle doesn’t ever do much that I wouldn’t normally do. It even stance dances perfectly and targets those enemy shields as long as you have the right elemental attacks.
The good news is that the game doesn’t use a Stamina system to progress through the story. The “bad” news is that it does use a Stamina system for all the supplemental stages you’ll need to run to strengthen your team. Character upgrade items, equipment upgrade items, items to increase level caps, it’s all here in full force. I put “bad” in quotation marks because I do prefer Stamina systems over the hours-long grinds that gacha games without them tend to devolve into. It’s still all dancing around a time-gated system, and I’m sure you know where your tolerance lies when it comes to that by now.
Final Fantasy 7 The Abridged Series
As for the story itself, I honestly dread the idea of anyone first experiencing Final Fantasy 7 like this. While the PlayStation-style graphics are charming, the structure of the game quickly devolves into Final Fantasy 7 Cliffs Notes. Sure, that intro stays faithful to the original. Then you meet Aerith on the street, get some text summaries, fight some battles, and next thing you know you’re at Seventh Heaven talking to Tifa.
The entire game seems to focus mostly on the major scenes, letting all the in-between fall to the wayside. If you’re the type of person that’s still mad that Tom Bombadil wasn’t in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, you’ll have a rough time here.
Additionally, the way the game integrates the “Compilation of” content isn’t particularly coherent. As you’re progressing through the Final Fantasy 7 story, you’ll make your way to crashing down into Aerith’s garden in the church. You see Reno of the Turks chasing after you, and then… it’s Crisis Core time? I mean, I could understand the game shooting over that way if they at least finished this immediate arc. It’d make sense to play as Zack after Aerith mentions him at the playground. But here it just cuts off any momentum the story had built up.
I’m less versed in Crisis Core and the rest of the Final Fantasy 7 extended universe, so I can’t specifically explain how those plots measure up compared to the originals. But overall, Ever Crisis seems more intent on giving Final Fantasy 7 fans some nostalgic feels than doing these stories justice. I think there’s a place for that kind of experience, but I don’t think Ever Crisis quite pulls it off so far.
Let’s talk Gacha
Of course, I’m sure the big question here is just how bad the gacha is in Ever Crisis. It’s, well, definitely a weapon gacha. Honestly, the way the game introduces its gacha is one of the most abrasive I’ve ever seen in a gacha game. And in this genre, that’s saying something.
When you’re introduced to the system, you’ll see a series of banners. There are the banners you can roll on with paid currency, which of course show up first. Then there’s the Featured banner, which introduces a lot of rules. Here’s where you roll on weapons for your protagonists to use, but only by doing 10-pulls can you collect stamps. Every 10-pull can grant anywhere from 1-12 stamps, which fills out your Stamp card. Collect 12 stamps, and you can earn a specific costume.
This is the only way you can earn costumes, which do not appear in the gacha and do increase stats. However, this isn’t to be confused with getting weapons from the stamp card, which just guarantees a certain weapon will appear in your pull and isn’t an actual bonus. Also, don’t mix this up with Ticket pulls, which operate on a different banner and don’t grant stamps. So actually it doesn’t matter if you 10-pull or not here, just make sure you know what ticket you’re actually using, because there are several different ones (including many that cost real money). Still with me?
I understand all of this now, but getting there was a journey. Generally speaking, if I need to study a monetization system like I’m deep in a Wiki learning how to play a Souls game, it’s probably too complicated. There’s also an element of FOMO to this too, since stamp cards expire with no indication that your stamps will carry over afterwards. Many gacha games feature “pity” systems that work like this, but few lock unique items like costumes to them. I have zero doubt this exists to get you to spend more so you don’t miss out on that cool Cloud outfit you’re so close to getting.
Grind it out
Having said that, even though the game coaxes you to spend money, I’ve done just fine as a free player. As mentioned above, I’ve kept the game on auto battle and have progressed easily. I have to press my Limit Break buttons so they’re timed properly, but that’s it. If you’re stuck, you just have to identify which resource you need to strengthen your character or weapon and go to the right stage to farm it. This will eat your Stamina, but the game gives Stamina restoration items out like candy. I’m literally farming things as I type this.
Ever Crisis automates so much for players that the only strategy really comes from identifying what you need to grind. Hitting the “recommended party” button does all your team building for you, right down to outfitting your party with the elemental coverage you need. And for the most part, the story content has been a cakewalk. I’ll need to see how the later stages of the game play out, but you certainly don’t need to pay-to-win. Don’t get me wrong, you absolutely can pay-to-win, I just haven’t hit a wall that mandates it. Someone who just wants to see the story should get through fine for free.
I will say that, for a game that almost completely centers around its grind, it really needs to streamline its menuing. I often find myself tapping around for far too long just to, say, toss upgrade materials into a weapon. Even accessing your main grind stages requires more tapping and scrolling that most games of this variety require. I’m used to it now, but for a 2023 gacha bearing the Final Fantasy name, it feels outdated.
It ain’t all bad, I guess
It’s not like Ever Crisis completely lacks redeeming qualities. It obviously looks and sounds great, even if it does reuse several assets from Final Fantasy 7 Remake. And while the story takes many shortcuts, it is charming to see the extended Final Fantasy 7 world presented in that PlayStation-inspired graphical style. The cutscenes themselves don’t cut corners, even if the overall story does. It still looks downright quaint compared to, say, Genshin Impact, but the appeal is there.
Additionally, these more passive gacha games do kind of work. I mean, there’s a reason we see so many of them on mobile devices. It’s a primal “watch numbers go up and feel happy brain chemicals” kind of experience, similar to an idle game. For someone who wants that, Ever Crisis does the trick. It’s one for people who want to play something but also want to rewatch The Office for the seventh time.
However, the question for me becomes “why would I want to play Ever Crisis instead of other gacha games that do the exact same thing?” And honestly, aside from the Final Fantasy fan service, I’m struggling to find the answer. It’s a pretty game, and it’s the newest one on the block. But beyond that, I don’t know what to tell you. Ever Crisis is another possibility for a remake, but so far, I’m good with the one we already got.
I still want to give Final Fantasy 7: Ever Crisis a fair shake before declaring a verdict. While I’m a decent ways into the game, I haven’t seen how the game might evolve at the upper thresholds of its available content. Tune in next week for my final thoughts on Ever Crisis, and we’ll see if there’s any Mako to uncover underneath its surface.