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Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis was revealed during the 2021 State of Play livestream. Now that the game has entered closed beta, we can finally see what Square Enix has been cooking. As a fan that's been playing Final Fantasy for over a decade and a half, starting with Final Fantasy IX (working forward and backward), I've sunk my teeth in every spinoff and sequel to every mainline title since. This also includes Crisis Core on the PSP, Dirge of Cerberus on the PlayStation 2, and reading through fan-translated transcripts of Before Crisis, a Japanese-only mobile game.

But today, nobody should have to jump through hoops to experience everything within a single main entry. This is why we turn to Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis, a mobile title set to encompass the entire VII compilation, from the movie Advent Children to mobile games never published to the West, like Before Crisis. But the million-dollar question is whether or not Square Enix is just trying to print dollars using VII's popularity and hype, or do we have a quality game on our hands? Below we will break down the good, the bad, and the ugly with Square Enix's latest mobile title Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis.

Above, you can view our 35-minute recording of FFVII: Ever Crisis' closed beta gameplay in action; episodes are about 2-3 minutes each, and if you're a Final Fantasy VII Remake fan, you will be happy to see your favorite radical activist group, Avalanche, receive some much-deserved screentime. Overall, performance is satisfactory on Ultra settings, outside of the server connection being (sometimes) unstable (this is a beta), but there were no noticeable bugs, a good sign of things to come. Sadly, this beta didn't include any controller support — keep in mind that this is still in testing, and the final product may differ.

However, the short length of the game's missions and the constant combat rating checks have primarily made the gameplay loop an awkward experience. Random battles are thrown in to challenge your prowess; sometimes, you might find yourself stuck and feeling incredibly underpowered. Eventually, even Cloud's default Buster Sword starts dulling. Thankfully, there's no stamina cost to play through the story. Still, there's a catch, as the game's combat gets exponentially more difficult, forcing you to spend stamina to overcome that barrier.

ATB makes a return but is held back by the lack of customization and freedom

In the beta, battles use a modified ATB (active time battle) system. You can maneuver the party's stance and choose when to initiate your ally's Limit Breaks, but you can only control one character's actions (at a time).

Magic Points (MP) aren't part of the system. Instead, your abilities and spells all have a meter cost. You wait for the meter to charge and then tap a target to cast or perform your spell/ability. It's a bit watered down since you can't use items, skip your turns, and can only guard utilizing the party's stance change. Eventually, the combat starts feeling sluggish, so it's better to turn on 2x speed auto-play while slicing through Shinra grunts.

Preview of Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis battle screen

Materia makes a return, but expect it to be streamlined. Only three open slots are available, and there's no linking or creating chained effects; it's just a fancy way of choosing your magic, skills, and the associated stats. It's disappointing to see this shift, but it's not surprising for a game promoting vertical investment for stat checks.

Preview of Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis Materia slots and equipment menu

It's not a Final Fantasy VII title with loot boxes; it's a straight-up gacha game

Here's where things turn into a bloaty monetized mess. You're not earning lootboxes to collect fun-little Easter eggs and vanity items — much like you'd see from the Dissidia Final Fantasy NT's treasure system. Instead, Ever Crisis is a full-fledged gacha. You're pulling for more than just cosmetics. You're vying for 5-star weapons with unique skills requiring duplicates to power up. And don't be fooled by the "costumes" as these grant passives that further empower your characters.

Preview of gacha acquired costume Murasame Battle Garb in Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis

And if you're not willing to shell out money to buy the premium currency, expect to grind by completing daily and weekly missions while soaking up all the one-time rewards earned through story mode. In a gacha game, nothing is free, including your time.

Preview of all the missions and achievements in Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis

The incredible graphics, art, and music are a high point in Ever Crisis

Thankfully the beta showed that Square didn't cheapen out with the art direction; it has thoughtfully considered how to bring together all forms of VII in one package. Fujise Risa handled the new illustrations and portrait designs for Ever Crisis. Overall, the art has a crisp look and reminds me of Nomura's art from The World Ends with You.

Preview of Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis in-game graphics and dialogue portrait

In Ever Crisis, the character models are redesigned entirely; no more blocky figures and discombobulated facial expressions. However, these models only appear during cutscenes and maps but become replaced by fully rendered Final Fantasy VII Remake-like models while in battle. So graphically, the game offers a lot of polish, even when the transition between model styles is a bit jarring.

Preview of battle engine graphics in Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis

The music is incredible and contributes to recreating the classic Final Fantasy experience, from victory fanfare to the heartwarming scenes with Tifa — everything's there and untouched. So do yourself a solid and plug in some quality earbuds — you won't regret it.

Square Enix won't let you forget this is a live-service game

I wanted to love Ever Crisis, but sadly I am bombarded by reminders that this is a gacha game, first and foremost. Even when my tolerance for gachas is higher than most, the overall beta experience still felt like a tease. Episodes were too short, the immersion started slipping after pushing the one-hour mark, and the story-telling, even if it's faithful to the source materials, still felt like an abridged version at best.

I was initially attracted to Ever Crisis because it brings new localized content like Before Crisis and fleshes out young Sephiroth's backstory. Still, given Square Enix's abysmal resume for supporting gacha titles, I do not know if we will ever reach that point. Remember that Square Enix had no issues pulling the plug with Final Fantasy VII: First Soldier, an FFVII-themed battle royale that never made it to its first anniversary, and Echoes of Mana, another gacha crossover, made it a year but died shortly after.

In reality, we may never see the light of day for the rest of the compilation because of how it's structured, meaning there's no telling if or when updates will roll out. And I sure wish buying story chapters for offline play was an option on the table; this way, I'd no longer need to fear the day the Square Enix grim reaper comes knocking on my digital door. So if you're planning to try Ever Crisis, I advise you to tread this budget compilation cautiously.