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Final Fantasy VII Remake

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: June 10, 2021


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PS5 Review - 'Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 15, 2021 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is a reimagining of the iconic original game that re-defined the RPG genre, diving deeper into the world and its characters than ever before.

Buy Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade

In the era of last-gen-to-next-gen ports, it isn't a huge surprise that Final Fantasy VII Remake gets a PlayStation 5 version with extra bells and whistles. (In fact, the original Final Fantasy VII in English was upgraded over the original Japanese release with new bosses and items.) Is Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade worth buying if you've already played the original? Possibly not, but it's a darn fine upgrade nonetheless.

For the most part, Intergrade is the same game that was released on the PlayStation 4 in 2020. The major improvements come in the form of upgraded visuals, with the game offering a buttery-smooth 60fps Performance mode and a 30fps Quality mode that can support 4K TVs. The graphics have also been touched up, with some of the more egregious cases of bad texture work having been improved or outright fixed. (Yes, the infamous texture-less door now has a texture!) Overall, the improvements are extremely nice. Remake was already an excellent-looking game, and Intergrade is a huge improvement upon it. There are a few iffy places here and there, but nothing sours the experience.

Perhaps the biggest selling point for Intergrade is the inclusion of a new side story DLC starring the ninja Yuffie, one of the two hidden party members in the original game. This story follows her adventures immediately prior to her introduction in the original story. Along with fellow Wutai ninja Sonon, she sneaks into Midgar with the intent of stealing a super-powerful material from Shinra's base. They're aided by one of the main branches of Avalanche, who consider the protagonists of the main game to be dangerous extremists. The story introduces Yuffie and fleshes out some of the side material from the main game, and it adds some links to later games.

Overall, the Yuffie side story is a fun little romp. It's largely silly, and Yuffie treads a thin line between annoying and adorable, which is carried largely by her excellent voice acting. You see new aspects of some cast members, and it's interesting to see the events of the main game from another perspective. The story is even largely free of the semi-controversial Whispers from the main story. The only real downside is that in exchange, it features a shocking amount of Dirge of Cerberus content, which might be a turnoff for people who aren't fans of Nero the Sable. To be fair, he's better executed here than he is in Dirge of Cerberus, but the man is still wearing a jockstrap mask on his face.

Unlike the main game, you only have Yuffie as a playable character in the DLC, which had the potential to be dull. Fortunately, Yuffie is the most enjoyable character to play in this combat system, and she has the largest back of tricks. Yuffie's weapon is a giant shuriken, which she uses by default as a close-range slashing weapon for fast and powerful combos. She can also throw it at enemies, and it sticks to them for a short period of time. While the shuriken is embedded in her enemies, any attack she does will be a magical long-range ninjutsu attack, which can be shifted to any elements, so Yuffie always has a way to hit enemy weaknesses. You can also end the ninjutsu phase early to bring Yuffie zooming forward for a quick attack against the enemy and returns her to melee range.

Yuffie's skill list is shockingly diverse. In addition to the aforementioned ninjutsu-shifting skill, she has some cool tricks. For example, she has a special shadow-dodge attack that uses a small portion of her ATB bar but allows her to dodge otherwise unavoidable attacks. She can also perform a Perfect Defense by blocking at exactly the right moment, which can nullify damage and be upgraded to provide buffs. Her strongest attack, Banishment, is a skill that gains power as you use other skills, so you can charge up and then launch. (It can also have its element changed.)

While Yuffie is the only playable character, she isn't alone in battle. New character Sonon joins the fray alongside her. Sonon isn't playable, but he functions as a normal party member. He can be equipped with material and items, given commands, and even has his own set of weapons to give him new skills. His skills are largely built around supporting Yuffie, so he can do things like draw attention to himself or focus on a single enemy for huge damage. Should Yuffie go down, he'll sacrifice himself to resurrect her. Yuffie can command him to Synchronize with her, which causes him to follow up all of her attacks and allows access to special combo moves. The downside is that Sonon's ATB bar fills slower while synchronized, and he doesn't draw away enemies from Yuffie during large melees.

The result is a strikingly fun character who is pretty good at everything. You can shift at a moment's notice from long-distance mage to melee fighter, dodge, parry and block most attacks, and seamlessly chain together various skills for maximum effectiveness. If Yuffie is remotely as strong when she finally joins the party in the second part of Intergrade, then she'll be one of the best possible party members for any situation. As it stands, she's a testament to how solid the combat system is that you can have only a single character and the game remains fun to play through the entirety of the DLC.

The DLC itself is around five hours divided between two chapters. The first chapter is a mix of hanging around town and going through some minor dungeons, while the second is a chapter-length dungeon with multiple boss fights. The first half feels stronger than the second, but that's mostly due to the broader selection of characters. You also get cameos from almost every major character, with two notable exceptions. There are also a couple of minor side-quests, such as finding lost fliers for a Happy Turtle barkeep.

The major side-quest is Fort Condor. Based on the minigame from the original Final Fantasy VII, Fort Condor is a simple RTS title. You create a "deck" of units and enter a battle against the other player's deck. You can play units by using ATB Charges, which fill slowly over time, with more powerful units requiring more ATB. Once placed, a unit automatically moves forward and attacks the enemy. Each unit is either a defense, ranged or vanguard class. The classes have a weapon triangle where vanguard beats ranged beats defense beats vanguard. Your goal is to destroy more of your opponent's towers than they can destroy yours before time runs out. It's sort of competitive tower defense title. You can customize your deck and your board, the latter of which determines your ATB charge, health, how many different unit types you can hold, and the special one-use magic spells that you can access. The first chapter has multiple opponents of different ranks who you can take on, leading to a climactic final battle against the Grandmaster.

Fort Condor is a mix of fun and frustrating, but it's a good diversion that adds extra playtime and gives us a reimagined glimpse of a classic FFVII minigame. It's enjoyable to come up with a solid strategy that counters the opponent's plans and setups. It can be frustrating if you get one of the opponents who has a "superior" board and you feel the need to cheese more than strategize to win. It wore thin by the time I faced the Grandmaster, but thankfully, it manages to avoid overstaying its welcome.

Beyond that, the DLC also has a Hard mode, which is functionally identical to the one in the main game. That includes more difficult enemies and removing the ability to use items. Like the main game, this is a largely enjoyable challenge that requires you to master the mechanics — something that is quite fun with Yuffie's diverse skill set. When you play her well, you zoom around the battlefield while avoiding attacks and unleashing ninja magic in a delightfully epic-feeling way. There are also Hard mode challenges for Fort Condor, which are less exciting but still a nice addition. Finishing the DLC also adds a new optional boss to the main game: Dirge of Cerberus' Weiss. It's a pretty fun boss fight, so it's a solid addition and a nice bonus for those looking for fresh content.

Overall, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is a solid package. It's not quite worth buying at full price if you've already played the original, but the upgraded original game and the DLC combine to create an excellent experience. Remake still holds up as a really fun game a year later, and Yuffie's side story shows that the developers still have plenty of ideas on how to keep the combat fresh for a sequel. If this is your first time playing Final Fantasy VII Remake, then Intergrade is absolutely the version to get.

Score: 9.0/10

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