Last year’s Final Fantasy VII Remake did the impossible, and turned a long-anticipated and heavily-scrutinised game, which had a famously troubled development, into a smash-hit critical and commercial success. While it only covered the first chapter of the 1997 original Final Fantasy VII, the Final Fantasy VII Remake fleshed out the city of Midgar so confidently that it completely justified turning this small section into its own full game. Of course, with the PlayStation 5 on the horizon, it was only inevitable that we get a remaster on the newer platform, and Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade has rocked up a year later to add some extra content and some extra polish to a victory lap for Square-Enix.
Buying or upgrading to Final Fantasy VII Remake can be little confusing, so here’s the deal. If you own a PS4 copy of Final Fantasy VII Remake, physical or digital, that you purchased, you can upgrade for free to Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade via a special download on the PlayStation Store. However, if you didn’t purchase Final Fantasy VII Remake and instead got it as part of PlayStation Plus earlier this year, you’re out of luck – this free upgrade won’t work for you, and you’ll need to buy the full PS5 game. This free upgrade also does not include the extra content in Intergrade, which itself is dubbed Final Fantasy VII Remake Episode Intermission, and which you’ll also have to purchase separately through the game in order to play. If none of this applies to you and you’re purchasing for the first time on PS5, then congratulations, this is all a lot simpler and you can just play the game with all content included.
Intergrade, in general, just turns Remake into its best self. While last year’s release looked generally very good on PS4, it had some frame-rate issues, blurry textures, issues with pop-in and an obvious (but traditional) pre-rendered skybox. On PlayStation 5, the game looks like how it was always intended to look, with pop-in virtually gone and most dodgy textures replaced with much higher quality versions. A new super-high resolution skybox is still kind of obvious, but still manages to impress with a detailed view of the dieselpunk city of Midgar. There are new effects like volumetric fog and enhanced lighting, and yet load times are orders of magnitude quicker. There isn’t full use of all of PS5’s features, as the DualSense doesn’t really get much of a workout outside of some simple rumble effects, but it’s without question the definitive release of the game. Intergrade features two graphics modes, ‘Quality’ which prioritises 4K resolution at 30FPS, and ‘Performance’ which prioritises 60FPS frame-rate over resolution. Performance mode is really where the game truly shines, as the high frame-rate complements the fast-paced gameplay, especially when using the new characters Yuffie and Sonon.
Episode Intermission is a 5-8 hour expansion to the original game, selectable from the menu, and consisting of two additional chapters featuring classic character Yuffie and original character Sonon. Sonon himself isn’t directly playable, but can be issued commands via the in-game menu, and he is fully equippable with different gear and materia. However, Yuffie is star attraction here, and she’s a much faster fighter than Cloud or any of the other characters. Remake’s excellent combat system, which melds real-time action with more tactical commands, takes on a new flavour here as Yuffie excels in juggling weaker enemies into the air, as well as lodging her 4-point giant Shuriken into distant bad guys then unleashing ninjitsu attacks to punish them further. She’s a fun character to get your head around, and there are some tough battles to test your ability to use her, including a new Summon battle with Ramuh.
Intermission itself feels like a remix of existing elements from Remake, from a different perspective. The story follows Yuffie during the events of Remake, a side-character who was optional in the original FF7. She’s a ninja from Wutai, sent on a mission to Midgar to co-operate with the local militant rebels, Avalanche, and steal prized materia from the Shinra corporation. The new content takes place mainly in the Sector 7 Slums, with some exploration of the junkyards and structures around it, and a mission inside the deep recesses of Shinra’s HQ. Yuffie is a fun character that could easily become annoying if amped up too much, but the game does a good job keeping her endearing, especially through her chemistry with her mission partner Sonon. The story itself, while connecting with some of the dumber elements of the expanded Final Fantasy VII universe, holds your attention and forms a fun little intermission (as the name states) after the dramatic weight of the main game. Although, that’s not to say it doesn’t try and land an emotional gut-punch by the end.
An interesting addition to Intermission is the inclusion of ‘Fort Condor’ – previously an optional side area in the original FF7, which held a rudimentary RTS game. In Intermission, Fort Condor is now represented as a popular board game, which Yuffie can learn and challenge opponents in. It’s not quite Final Fantasy VIII‘s Triple Triad, where you could challenge virtually anyone, as here there are four tiers of specific players you can battle, some of whom are familiar faces. The revised gameplay holds some resemblance to the original, but thankfully moves much more quickly, as you deploy units to take out your opponents three towers, taking advantage of the rock-paper-scissors classes. It’s fairly simplistic and fairly easy to get good at, especially as you learn to play aggressively, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun completing the questline involving it, although it’s over far too soon.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade improves the already spectacular graphics of last year’s game with extra polish, and in general performs much faster and more fluidly, making this the version to buy. The Intermission content, while not revolutionary, is also great for fans of the main game and especially for weirdos who are really into the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII stuff, and holds enough content to justify a purchase for existing FFVIIR owners. Although, make sure you don’t end up paying full whack if you can get part of the upgrade for free. For people who have yet to buy Remake at all, this is the time to get into it – Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is a beautiful upgrade one of the best RPGs Square-Enix has turned out in recent years. Now, we just need them to start working on Part 2.
-Incredible update of last year's game with even more polished visuals -Load times are now blisteringly fast, and on 'Performance' mode, the game runs at a constant 60fps -Additional content in Intermission is welcome, including tough new battles, new characters and new mini-games
-Intermission is more of a remix of what you've already seen, than offering anything truly new -Fort Condor remains a simplistic mini-game