The famous bombing mission from Final Fantasy VII is an all-time classic moment in gaming, and there are so many ways to play it. Soon, Square Enix will serve it up on your phone (or tablet) with Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis, which is a whole new way to experience the game. During Summer Game Fest, I got my hands on an early preview of the iPad version.
Visually, it’s a mix of the old-school PlayStation graphics and the new-age look of the remake. The game brings back that bird’s-eye, over-the-head perspective from the original when you’re roaming around, but the environments have a modern sensibility when it comes to fidelity. The sprites of Cloud, Barrett, and the others have that nostalgic look and feel of the PlayStation era, but at the same time, their models are heavily improved. You can actually make out their faces in the overworld, and there’s more detail to their bodies.
As you roam around and re-experience the story, you’ll run into random encounters with enemies. In the fights, you’ll see more detailed models of your characters and the enemies. It’s not quite at the fidelity of Final Fantasy VII Remake on a PlayStation 5, but it’s pretty close.
Combat still relies on the active time battle system that Final Fantasy is known for, but the execution is geared more toward touch-screen-friendly controls. I had a selection of attacks in front of me, like Braver and Thunder. Once I had enough ATB, I could execute one of them on the selected target. Every couple seconds, Cloud would automatically attack an enemy, though those auto-attacks don’t do as much damage as a skill.
In the demo, I only played as Cloud. Barrett joined my party, but party members aren’t directly controllable. They do their own thing, though he reliably cast magic spells that would target the enemies’ weaknesses, when possible. The only thing I could control with Barrett is his limit break. If I use it at the same time as Cloud’s, the damage multiplies, and I imagine it gets even stronger with a third party member.
During the boss fight with the Scorpion Sentinel, Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis introduces two new battle mechanics. At a certain point, the boss put up an armored front, and the only way to break it was to run down a counter. One of Cloud’s skills would deplete this counter by two, and when it hit zero, I was free to do more damage. It’s a simple mechanic overall, but I could see it easily ratcheting up the tension when you have to choose between, for example, curing a teammate or removing a boss’s buff.
When the sentinel started charging up its tail laser, the game also introduced a phase shift mechanic, which swaps your party between offensive and defensive positions. In the offensive position, your attacks do more damage. As you might expect, the defensive stance mitigates damage, which came in handy for the sentinel’s charged-up attacks.
Honestly, there’s a lot about this system that reminds me of Final Fantasy XIII, but that isn’t a bad thing. You have to remember that Ever Crisis is a mobile game, and I found this system just engaging enough without feeling too overwhelming for playing on a touch screen. It’s a simpler approach to combat that really condenses the experience, but it still remains faithful to what ATB is all about. It’s not quite turn-based, but timing is still important, and using your ATB on the right moves at the right times is crucial to your success.
If I were itching to experience Final Fantasy VII again, I could easily see Ever Crisis being a great option for that. I finished the bombing mission in about 15 minutes, and that includes dialog, random encounters, and traversal. It’s an abridged yet engaging way to enjoy the story. Sure, it’s not the “full” experience, but that’s not really the goal here.
While I wasn’t allowed to pull up menus, I noticed that some skills had plus signs at the end of them, like “Braver+.” To me, this implies that there are tiers to these skills, though how you get them isn’t clear. We do know, however, that the game will have lootboxes that give your characters new weapons and costumes, should you want to relive Cloud’s finest moments in a samurai getup. Whether the microtransactions will go beyond that, I can’t really say quite yet.
Ever Crisis could be the perfect way to relive a classic. Barring any potential weirdness from monetization, I could see myself returning to this game every month or so to see what they do next. I haven’t seen all of the Final Fantasy VII spin-off content, like Dirge of Cerberus, but this mobile game could remedy that whenever it releases. The closed beta is live now, and you can pre-register for the game on Android and iOS.
Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis was previewed on an iPad at Summer Game Fest Play Days. All screenshots are provided by Square Enix.