Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade/Intermission Review

Game: Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade / Intermission DLC
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: June 10, 2021
Platform: PS5

Last year, Square Enix released the long anticipated reimagining of the classic RPG Final Fantasy VII on PS4. The Remake was an exceptional hit, providing fans with a deeper dive into the original game’s opening hours with retooled action focused game play and awe-inspiring graphics.

On June 10th, the game received its next generational boost with the PS5 exclusive (for now) Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade. This upgrade promises improved performance, enhanced graphics, and some extra features to help tide fans over until Part 2 comes out… whenever that may be.

Alongside Intergrade comes the first—and maybe only—paid DLC titled Intermission, which has players assuming the role of everyone’s favorite teenage ninja (that’s not a mutant turtle) Yuffie Kisaragi.

I’ll be exploring both in this review, so read on to see if revisiting the city of Midgar is worth it on PlayStation 5.

Intergrade

The vast majority of the Final Fantasy VII Remake experience is unchanged in Intergrade, so much so that I find the tacked on subtitle a bit redundant. If you have already played Remake on PS4, then there’s little new to experience. The game now has a “Normal (Classic)” difficulty option, which allows players to engage in more streamlined battles with greater challenge as opposed to the “Easy (Classic) option, but really that’s it.

What is provided in abundance is a host of graphical and performance enhancements that will immerse you in Final Fantasy VII’s fantastical world unlike ever before. Lighting and fog effects are the standout here, and are noticeable regardless of your setup. For those with a 4K television, the higher resolution textures are sure to impress. For many, this update is reason alone to experience the ride all over again.

For those less concerned about graphics, there is a Performance Mode included which aims to maintain 60 fps at 1080p. As a plus, you’ll also enjoy near instant load times. I tried sections utilizing both modes, and didn’t see too much of a change in performance as I did in graphics, but for those without 4K I would stick to Performance Mode if only because the quick loading is so satisfying.

A photo mode has also made its way to Intergrade. With it, players can pause the action at any time, adjust the camera, add filters, and share their masterpieces with friends. I didn’t have as much fun fooling around with this mode as I have with games like Ghost of Tsushima, mostly due to not being able to adjust the camera much during cut scenes. Most of Remakes most impressive imagery comes from cut scenes, so it’s a pity we can’t admire their beauty from a different angle.

Lastly, there is a new optional boss fight that is available towards the end of the game… but you have to have purchased the Intermission DLC to attempt it. This new challenger serves as a new ultimate challenge for you to overcome, and believe me when I say it will put your combat skills to the ultimate test. As a reward, you do get some very powerful accessories. Unfortunately, these are pretty useless at this point in the game, as you have to have maxed out pretty much every character and skill to withstand his brutal onslaught. Thus, seeing that trophy notification pop is likely the only reward most players will want.

Intermission

Most gamers will be playing the game on PS5 if only to experience the new episode featuring Yuffie Kisaragi. An optional party member in the original game, Yuffie has grown to be a fan favorite over the years so it’s wonderful to see her finally make an appearance in the Remake.

This new adventure takes place roughly midway through Remake, and while it’s not necessary to play the base game, I highly recommend it. Not only will the plot be spoiled in Yuffie’s chapters, but there is little to no explanation on game mechanics as the developers assumed players would already be familiar with how to play the game.

The plot sees Yuffie sneaking into the city of Midgar on a mission to steal the “ultimate Materia” from ShinRa. Yuffie quickly makes contact with Avalanche—the formal sect of Avalanche, not the cell that Barret operates—and teams up with fellow Wutai operative Sonon Kusakabe to help pull of this heist.

The story here is nice, even if it doesn’t seem to forward the core plot all that much. The best parts of Remake to me are when we get to see more of the world than what we experienced in the 1996 release; think along the lines of visiting Jessie’s parents on the plate, or visiting new locations in the Wall Market. We get glimmers of the bigger picture here. Cooperating with a new faction of Avalanche is wonderful, and I love that we get to see how this crew operates as opposed to Barret’s. The previous war with Wutai also has greater prominence, and I’m anxious to see how Square works Wutai into the plot of future games.

I will say it’s a bit disappointing that we don’t get to explore new places of this massive city. There are several sectors that we have not been able to visit as of yet, but instead we’re retreading previously explored areas with a new path here or there.

There is also a brief appearance of a character from Dirge of Cerberus, the spin-off title that starred FFVII’s other optional character, Vincent Valentine. Having not played Dirge of Cerberus, I had no idea what was going on as it comes completely out of nowhere. The game does a poor job of explaining just what’s happening, relying on the player to have prior knowledge of a PS2 game released in 2006. This is one of the complaints I have with Remake as a whole. The game relies so heavily on the player already knowing the plot that major characters such as Sephiroth and Jenova are barely explained. For many, Remake will be their first experience with the Final Fantasy VII saga, and I fear that inclusions of fan service like this will only needlessly confuse them even more than the already complicated plot.

It’s magnificent to see Yuffie take a much more central role in this episode than ever before. I hadn’t realized it until playing this that Yuffie makes for a compelling lead. The developers really allow her to shine, and they strike a brilliant balance with her being a skilled assassin and a quirky teen. I especially like that Yuffie sports a kind of Moogle outfit for the majority of the adventure, as the disguise helps accentuate her cute and fun nature with her vicious fighting style.

The character of Sonon plays the straight man to Yuffie’s comedic antics. He’s there more to be the voice of reason when Miss Kisaragi wants to charge in and take out an entire ShinRa squad on her own. He’s likeable, and certainly works to counter her exaggerated personality, but overall he doesn’t contribute enough to the story to be essential. Where Sonon’s biggest contributions come are in battle.

Combat is the most striking change between the Remake and Intermission. For this episode you will be solely controlling Yuffie. Her quick, lightweight stature lends her to be a much faster combatant than Cloud, and because she’s the only character you control, she excels in nearly all areas. She primarily attacks with her large shuriken to deal heavy close-to-midrange damage, but with the press of the triangle button she becomes a long range threat, pelting enemies with a steady stream of painful projectiles. Holding down triangle in mid-combo also lets Yuffie quickly put distance between her and her target, making for some fun evasive combat where the ninja strikes in close and then swiftly retreats.

Yuffie is also a proficient magic caster, but more importantly one of her skills allows her to imbue her projectiles with a chosen element, freeing up MP for healing and other spells. It is in this way that Yuffie can deal a devastating amount of damage, rapidly stunning them with close combat and then moving away to cripple them with their elemental weakness.

Sonon is controlled entirely by the computer, and often he serves to distract the enemy away from Yuffie with minor taunts and abilities. Most importantly though is his ability to synergize with Yuffie. By pressing the left trigger, Yuffie and Sonon will both attack the target, dishing out even more damage than before. Doing this will fill Sonon’s ATB bar a bit more slowly, but also much more reliably than when left to the mercy of the computer. Once both characters have their ATB bars full, the player can unleash improved ability attacks that can really shatter a foe’s stagger meter. It’s in this way that the developer’s wisely made Yuffie an all-around powerhouse, which is fitting considering that in the original game she can easily become overpowered with the right setup.

Intermission packs a lot of extra content into its short runtime. The game offers a brand new summon to battle and command in the form of the master of thunder, Ramuh. The iconic creature relies heavily on electric attacks, and most of the battle consists of dodging and outmaneuvering these attacks rather than blocking and withstanding them as you may be accustomed to with other boss fights. He’s not too difficult to defeat however, as it’s completely doable towards the very beginning of the episode. The only real frustration is that Sonon’s AI doesn’t have the concept of tactically dodging, so he can go down quick if the player is unlucky.

Fort Condor, the acclaimed tower defense game from the PS1 original, also makes its debut in the Remake, this time as a type of competitive board game. It plays much like the original, with two opponents selecting a team of pieces that will either defend their bases, or attack the enemy’s. Each piece has a strength and weakness, much like units in a strategy title, so players will need to choose their teams wisely so that they have the advantage. I only wish there was more of this, or that buying Intermission carried the board game over into the base game. After a dozen or so matches, I had beaten every opponent and obtained all available units. I can’t wait to see what Square does with this in the future, as I’m a sucker for side games like this in games. Gwent, anyone?

Also, there is a very difficult box breaking mini game similar to Cloud had to do in the base game. This test leaves little room for error, and demands the players have absolute control of Yuffie’s quick movements and hard hitting abilities. If you want to achieve the highest score for the maximum reward, be prepared to be trying this for a couple of hours.

Intermission is only available on PS5, which is a bit baffling to me. The addition doesn’t take advantage of most of the PS5’s key features, such as the remarkable rumble technology of the dualsense controller. You do get a little jingle from the advanced speakers whenever you pick up one of the collectible items—which scared the crap out of me when it first happened—but this is a tiny detail that could easily be nixed if it didn’t work on PS4 hardware. My only guess is that the team did not want to invest further time in using lower resolution textures in building the PS4 game. That, and all the money Sony promised them to keep it exclusive to next gen consoles.

Intermission currently goes for $19.99 USD for roughly 8 hours of additional content, although the story can probably be finished in half that. I still think that it’s worth it, considering what a delight it is to spend time with Yuffie in this spiffed up version of Midgar.  The only people I think would be disappointed are the most casual of fans, and in all honesty I don’t think Remake was created for those not willing to be invested in the long haul. I highly recommend giving this a go if you enjoyed Remake enough to see more, because that’s exactly what you’re going to get from this DLC.

Sources: Square Enix

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