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access_time June 19, 2021 at 11:00 AM in Reviews by David Poole

Review | Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade

It’s been over a year since Final Fantasy VII Remake came out, and we were blown away by it when we reviewed it then. Months after the release of the PlayStation 5, Square Enix announced an upgraded version with additional content: Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade. The upgrade includes an enhancement to the visuals, a new photo mode, better performance, and an all new story expansion. Final Fantasy VII Remake Episode INTERmission gives a couple new chapters starring the thieving ninja Yuffie. With this additional content, fans will take their first steps toward the future of this saga. A future that is seemingly bright, even if this upgrade feels like it’s taking baby steps.

Before we talk about Episode INTERmission, we’ll focus on the story of the base game first. Much of what was in Final Fantasy VII Remake remains the same when it comes to the story in Intergrade. You play as a mercenary named Cloud as he’s hired by a splinter cell of the resistance group Avalanche. Working with them, he’ll go on the adventure of a lifetime, make new friends, and develop as a hero. While it uses a lot of the structure of the beginning of the original Final Fantasy VII, it expands upon it further. Taking place entirely in Midgar, what once was a handful of hours is now a full 40 hour adventure. Every plot point is much grander, and there’s even a ton of fresh stories to see.

As for how Intergrade expands upon the story, it mainly only has some extra cutscenes to introduce a new boss battle. Even then, to gain access to it, you have to unlock it in Episode INTERmission. All the other story content will take place in the new chapters. Not only will the new chapters provide new plot points, but they’ll also expand upon the original ending. It’s a great little addition for those that played the original release, especially if they upgraded from the PS4 version. Honestly, it just makes me more excited for how the developers are going to handle the next part.

As for the plot of Episode INTERmission, the game gains two new downloadable chapters that add up to roughly 10 additional hours. Yuffie makes her debut in the game, and though she doesn’t yet interact with the main cast, she is very much a part of the story. You see integral points of the narrative from a new perspective, and even interact with some familiar faces along the way. Yuffie’s main mission is to infiltrate Shinra HQ in an attempt to steal their Ultimate Materia. In the process, she’ll discover even more corporate secrets and get more than she bargained for.

Joining Yuffie on this mission is Sonon Kusakabe, a Wutai operative full of dedication and commitment to his causes. Together, the two gather the resources they need and make their way to the Shinra building to stick it to the man. During this journey, we’ll see additional characters that are part of Avalanche, and they may even become essential later on. The story does have some predictable moments, but it’s great to see some characters get more screen time overall. Even with the predictable moments, it can get pretty emotional thanks to the strong character portrayals.

Gameplay for the main game remains the same, as players will explore a fully realized Midgar in a beautiful 3D environment. While Intergrade definitely improves the visuals, it’s not as big of a jump as some would hope for. Yes, there are textures that get big improvements (a certain door comes to mind), but it’s still more or less a remaster of the original assets. Thankfully, the original was already such an amazing looking game with breathtaking visuals. Areas like Aerith’s home or Wall Market look absolutely gorgeous thanks to improved lighting and updated textures. The new areas for INTERmission do at least seem to be of higher quality. They even take advantage of the new hardware to handle the physics engine.

Combat takes place in real-time with command menus to slow it down for more strategic moves. Players will have a party of up to three characters and be able to switch between each character at will. While controlling one character, players also have access to the abilities of their other party members when they have a segment of their ATB meter full. Players can run around and attack normally otherwise, needing ATB to use abilities or items, or even cast spells. You’ll also be able to block or dodge incoming attacks to maintain a stronger defense. Those that prefer a more turn-based style have classic mode, which automates character movement and has players focus on the command menu entirely. The combat really feels like a perfect blend of old and new, making a fresher experience for fans.

While things don’t change drastically with Episode INTERmission, Yuffie’s campaign has some unique elements of their own. Yuffie can run along various walls and swing across chasms with her additional mobility. Using her throwing star, she can attack objects in the distance and claim the spoils, or even activate switches. This works well in combat as well, as throwing her weapon will allow her to attack from afar. With her weapon out, she can perform ninjutsu to attack enemies, or she can even move to it with the press of a button. It makes her combat feel distinct from the other four characters, and it’s quite fun when you get the hang of it. I only wish the game encouraged players to steal more often. The main game has a weapon for Aerith to steal from a boss, but Yuffie, as a thief, never has such a coveted reward.

Of course, Sonon makes for a different dynamic as well here. Unlike the other characters, players can’t directly control Sonon. While they can issue commands, that’s about the extent of our interaction with him. Sonon works sort of as a guardian for Yuffie. In the event that Yuffie becomes incapacitated, Sonon will sacrifice his health to give it to Yuffie. When she’s getting tossed around, he’ll jump up to catch her to get her back in the game. The big change though is in the synergy commands. When using these, Yuffie and Sonon will combine strengths to do team attacks and even combine abilities. It’s rather silly, but it makes their combat entirely unique to them.

Aside from the combat and exploration, Yuffie’s episode also comes with a new mini-game. This comes in the form of the Fort Condor board game. In this game, players will deploy little toy fighters to try and take down their opponent’s forts. It takes some inspiration from the original Fort Condor tower defense feature in the original game, and does well to translate here. Players will utilize three different types of fighters, each type working in a Rock, Paper, Scissors system. When you build up ATB in the game, you’ll be able to summon a unit to move toward your opponent. Whether you fight their opposing units or attack their base directly all depends on the circumstances. It makes for a fun little game, even if it can be a little easy.

One more little element to mention for Episode INTERmission is the new summon: Ramuh. I will say that it feels sort of like we were deprived of Ramuh from the original game. With so many mechanical enemies, the developers probably didn’t want to give players a summon with a distinct advantage. Even so, it’s great to finally have him here, though still exclusively in Episode INTERmission. Hopefully this means that for the next part, he’ll be joining forces with the likes of Ifrit and Shiva as well. Even with his inclusion here though, it’s unfortunate that he’s the only summon in the new episode.

Moving on to the audio, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade has one of the best soundtracks around. A good portion of this comes from the main game and the various remixes and arrangements of classic songs. With that in mind, the main game also has a series of original songs that sound fantastic as well. When it comes to Episode INTERmission though, some take quite a departure and go in a different direction. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s definitely interesting to go from the piano melody of Aerith’s theme in the main game to the insane rock of the Happy Turtle song. Luckily, we also get some new arrangements of other classic songs like Yuffie’s theme and the Fort Condor theme.

When it comes to voice acting, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade the same fantastic voices from last year are unchanged. Cody Christian, Briana White, Britt Baron, John Eric Bentley, Erica Lindbeck, Tyler Hoechlin and more deliver wonderful performances, some of whom even reprise their role for new dialogue. New to Episode INTERmission is Suzie Yeung as the spunky Yuffie, Aleks Le as Sonon, Daman Mills as Weiss, and more. Yeung delivers a genuine voice to the ninja, making her sound overly confident despite what she’s up against. Even with that confidence, there’s an extra layer of emotion that Yeung taps into that pulls at your heart strings. Le also does well as Sonon, even if his character comes off as the ultimate yes-man. Overall, it’s an amazing cast that makes for a strong ensemble, and they really elevate the presentation to new levels.

Speaking of presentation, one thing we have to mention is the extra stylish cutscene in Episode INTERmission. While the majority of the cutscenes are consistent with the main game, there’s at least one moment that really goes all out anime. Like some of the new music, this extra scene feels both out of place and right at home. It only works because of the silliness of Yuffie’s story and character. Even if it was unexpected, I couldn’t help but smile at the lengths the developers went through to make Yuffie stand out, and they definitely succeed. It does make me wonder if we’ll be seeing more scenes like this when we get to later parts, as it might start to clash with the tone of the main story.

Other improvements come with the enhanced performance mode, making the game run in a steady 60fps. If you prefer to play with higher resolution, the graphics mode runs the game at 30fps, but with a more crisp and refined look. Every detail, every fiber, and every scratch looks beautiful with the graphics mode. It was difficult to choose which mode to play in simply because they both offered strong results. Of course, the real winner here is the lightning fast load times. Thanks to the SSD of the PlayStation 5, load times are nearly instant, making you get in the game extremely fast. This is especially welcome when doing more difficult battles that have you retrying multiple times.

One thing that fans have requested is a photo mode, which Intergrade happily obliges in. I was often taking screenshots in the original game, so I was very happy to see the game getting an official photo mode. While it does give players more control in gameplay scenes, it doesn’t hold a candle to something like Insomniac’s Spider-Man games. There are a good amount of filters, but other elements like not being able to tilt the camera 90 degrees or even get a good close up hold it back. When the camera gets too close to a character, they disappear completely, making a full screen portrait impossible. It’s better than nothing, but it would’ve been nice to see a few more options implemented.

Overall, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is a great upgrade to an already amazing experience. The main game is even better with sharp visuals, enhanced performance, and speedy load times. We even get an extra photo mode and a challenging new boss fight that digs deeper into the lore. As for Episode INTERmission, the star attraction, it adds a fun new story to enjoy. Yuffie is a joy to witness, adding a charming ray of sunshine to the setting of Midgar. She gives us a small glimpse of the story’s future, but it seems like it’ll be worth the wait. Hopefully, Square Enix can manage to meet the expectations of fans for the next part.

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10

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