Republished on Wednesday, 13th July, 2022: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of July's PS Plus Extra, Premium lineup. The original text follows.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is the PlayStation 5 version of Final Fantasy VII Remake, boasting enhanced graphics and better technical performance. Needless to say, it takes the adventure up a notch, and when you throw Episode INTERmission into the mix, it feels like Remake has evolved into a more complete package.
In this review, we'll be covering both Intergrade and INTERmission in separate chunks, with a full conclusion at the end.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
For the uninitiated, Final Fantasy VII Remake retells — and reimagines, to no small degree — the opening several hours of the original Final Fantasy VII. It charts the actions of AVALANCHE, an organisation that rallies against the tyrannical Shinra — an all-powerful energy company that's quite literally bleeding the planet dry in order to sustain its dominance. The entirety of Remake takes place within Midgar — a massive industrial city that houses Shinra's main operations.
You play, primarily, as Cloud Strife, a seemingly uncaring mercenary and former Shinra SOLDIER — an elite fighter infused with processed power from the planet itself. The game opens with Cloud currently employed by AVALANCHE, as the group carries out its first assault on one of Midgar's energy reactors, with the intent of blowing it up.
It's still a fantastic opening act that really sets the tone for the rest of the release. Final Fantasy VII Remake is at its absolute best during these more focused story sequences, where it combines likeable characters, smooth cinematics, and an excellent combat system to great effect. Outside of these high quality chunks, however, Remake remains a bit misguided in its structure.
Stretching the first few hours of Final Fantasy VII out across a whole 40-hour game was always going to be Remake's biggest challenge, and unfortunately, its worst moments still feel like needless filler. At times, the elongated storytelling does work, providing the cast with better character development, and more involved roles within the narrative. But then there are also points where it's clear that Square Enix was trying to pad things out, lest it end up with a shorter game.
Now don't get us wrong; the highs of Remake far outweigh the lows overall, but the quality is still inconsistent. For every booming, utterly brilliant boss battle, there's a few minutes of completely uneventful corridor traipsing and parody levels of gap-squeezing. Some of Remake's environmental design is so linear and uninteresting that it can start to feel like a really weird walking sim.
Fortunately, there's more than enough incentive to push through Remake's weaker parts. As alluded, the action is top notch. A hybrid combat system, which fuses real-time movement and attacks with command-based magic and abilities, is quite possibly the best thing to happen to Final Fantasy in years. Switching characters, striking enemy weaknesses, and dealing massive stagger damage to your foes is supremely satisfying. Between its big budget story scenes and bombastic battles, there's a brilliance to Remake that shines through the clutter.
And on PS5, it helps that Remake can run at a buttery smooth 60 frames-per-second. Intergrade comes with two graphical modes: performance and fidelity. The former boosts the frame-rate to 60 at the cost of resolution (we think it's at or around 1620p, which isn't bad at all), while the latter provides 4K support at a capped 30fps. Oh, and a photo mode has been added, which is always a nice touch.
Indeed, your Create button's probably going to get a decent workout with Intergrade, given that the game can often appear stunning. On PS5, the enhanced lighting effects are a real treat, especially during nighttime scenarios where Midgar's electrics flicker into the life. When it looks good, it looks damn good.
But try not to stare when you're out and about in the slums, because a lot of those terrible textures that plagued the PS4 version are still present. Some of the most meme-worthy examples have been fixed — the door to Cloud's apartment, for instance — but finer environmental details, like scrap piles, grass, and shop signs, are still shockingly blurred.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade: Episode INTERmission
Accessed directly from the game's main menu, the frustratingly named Episode INTERmission is a separate campaign starring Yuffie — a young ninja from the distant land of Wutai who's on a mission to infiltrate Shinra headquarters. Together with a new character named Sonon, Yuffie travels through a number of rundown Midgar districts, and it makes for a fun, if somewhat short-lived adventure.
Before we get into it, it's worth noting that INTERmission is not included with Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade if you upgrade for free from the PS4 version, and must be bought separately. If you're a first time buyer on PS5, however, INTERmission comes with Intergrade.
Episode INTERmission consists of two story chapters, both around two to three hours in length. The plot itself takes place during the main story of Remake, just after Cloud and co pull off their second reactor bombing. The DLC actually ties into the central narrative quite well, providing extra context on what's happening around Midgar at the time, as chaos begins to ensnare the city.
Overall, INTERmission is a nicely paced mix of story, linear adventuring, and crisp combat. Yuffie's agility means that she can perform contextual platforming, which makes exploration feel more dynamic than what you'll find in the main game. She can swing across gaps, run along walls, and hurl her giant shuriken at distant objects. Put all of this together, and the DLC's level design definitely benefits. It's nothing mind-blowing, but it forms the basis of a solid romp.
Combat is pretty interesting as well. Sonon is your only other party member, but he can't be controlled directly. This isn't as big a change as it sounds, though, since you're still free to give Sonon commands. The trick is to utilise his abilities alongside Yuffie's attacks, creating a rewarding kind of rhythm. What's more, Yuffie is capable of both close quarters and long range combat, making her Remake's most in-depth character gameplay-wise.
At first, wrapping your head around Yuffie's quirks can be a little overwhelming — especially since she starts out at level 25 with a range of materia and abilities already unlocked — but the DLC has a good difficulty curve that gives you time to find your footing. She can also 'synergize' with Sonon, which leads to some extremely flashy special attacks — perfect for landing the finishing blow on a particularly stubborn boss.
As for optional stuff, there are only a couple of side quests to pick up in Episode INTERmission. One sees you hunt down leaflets in and around the Sector 7 slums — which is about as interesting as it sounds — and the other tasks you with mastering the new Fort Condor minigame.
In a similar vein to the collectible card games of past Final Fantasy titles, Fort Condor encourages you to seek out and defeat fellow players while amassing an increasingly powerful deck. In this case, your deck is made up of different Shinra units — cute little polygonal representations of the real thing. In Fort Condor matches, you place your units on a small map in order to both attack your opponent's base and defend your own.
It's rather basic real-time strategy, but it makes for a fun minigame. Different types of units have different strengths and weaknesses, so it's mostly about counteracting your opponent's deployments. Stronger units are more expensive to summon, and while the minigame does start to favour all-out aggression in later matches, there's still enjoyment to be found in tinkering with your squad. With a reasonable understanding of Fort Condor, you can beat just about everyone in an hour or so — but it's a decent distraction.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is the best way to experience the return of Cloud and company. Remake remains a game of ups and downs in terms of quality, but by the time the credits roll, its most memorable moments shine through — of which there are many. Meanwhile, Episode INTERmission won't blow anyone's mind, but it's an enjoyable adventure that slots neatly into the existing story, and fans won't want to miss it.