When Final Fantasy VII Remake was first released, die-hard fans were upset. Sure, we had just received one of the most beautiful game to ever grace the PS4, but this, some fans though, was just a remake of the first disc. This was unacceptable, they felt. In reality, the situation is a little more complicated than that, but the fact remains that FF7R is purely the adventure of Cloud, Tifa, Barret and Aerith through Midgar. Red XIII is in it, but not playable. Cid, Vincent and Yuffie don’t even get a look in.
Intergrade is the first step in throwing a Remedy at that.
This DLC is a bit of a strange beast and reviewing it has been no easy task, inextricably linked as it is with the generational upgrade the game has received to PS5. This was the first stumble as, having platinumed and since deleted FF7R last year, I had to redownload the PS4 version of the game so I could port my save across. Then came the update: a whopping 81GB download needed to play the game in all its newfound glory. I
It’s important to note here that if you got the PS Plus version of FF7R, you aren’t eligible for this free upgrade. I’m not sure why — that decision just feels miserly.
With everything fully installed (and I mean fully), I was finally able to dive into Yuffie’s Episode: INTERmission. Was it worth all the downloading and the complications of cross-gen PlayStation gaming?
The short answer is yes, it is absolutely worth it — especially if you haven’t played the base game. The graphical overhaul for Intergrade takes what was a stunning game and just makes it sing in ways we haven’t seen before. It’s like how the Mona Lisa looks incredible from any angle, but when you place it under the right frame under the right lighting, that’s when it really pops.
Everything is smoother, clearer and more detailed, delivering a consistent upgrade to quality on a game that already looked phenomenal for so much of the time on. I very rarely remember that photo mode is a thing, but I found myself pausing the game and just soaking in the detail on several occasions throughout. It really is sublime.
If you haven’t played FF7R yet, I envy you the chance to experience it in this level of detail for the first time. You’re in for a genuine treat.
Intergrade also offers an intermission from the main story, allowing you to take control of Yuffie, ninja extraordinaire, as she arrives in Midgar. For those unfamiliar, our young heroine hails from Wutai, a nation at the brink of collapse after losing a war against the Shinra Corporation (the company that effectively owns most of the planet, including Midgar — it’s base of operations). Yuffie isn’t just here for revenge, she’s here for the Materia she needs to empower her people once more and release Shina’s grip on the planet.
Despite a tragic backstory, Yuffie is a breath of fresh air after playing as the brooding blondie, Cloud Strife – their common ground is that they’re both extremely skilled in combat. She’s fun and vivacious, eagerly (though inelegantly) setting about her mission, striking a fantastic balance with the other party from the main game. How she will be woven into FF7R Part 2, which picks up right where FF7RI ends, is an exciting prospect.
Through INTERmission, Yuffie meets the people of Midgar’s Sector 7, rubbing shoulders with some fan favourites, including members of the organisation Avalanche. By the end, she has almost grow an appreciation and mutual respect for the denizens of the slums, inching closer to the Yuffie we know from the PS1 classic.
It’s hard to say any more than that, as that way spoilers lie, but what I can say is that even at seven hours, Intergrade feels very short. The reason for this is that the first five or so hours is spent running around Sector 7, picking up fliers and challenging everyone to a game of Fort Condor.
I must admit, I hated the Fort Condor mission in the original PS1 game. The tower defence game was shoehorned in, it didn’t feel right and it was about as fun as all those submarine sections we all try so hard to forget about. Fortunately, this time around, they’ve made Fort Condor more playable by redesigning it from the ground up.
The new Fort Condor is an auto-battler board game. You pick a board style which grants access to the materia and buffs that suit your style of play, and a collection of units to throw into battle. The buffs include things like increased ATB speed, more ATB segments and more units you can bring into combat, and units are split into three different colours: blue (defence), green (ranged) and red (attack). From here on out, it’s rock-paper-scissors all the way.
Although this is more fun than original Fort Condor, it’s still a bit soulless. Sure, there’s more variation and depth, but we’re talking about the relative depth of two puddles here. For each battle there’s one specific strategy you need to use against each enemy or you’re going to lose. At first it was vaguely interesting, but it dwindled into repetition very quickly.
When you’re not running around finding people to beat at board games, Yuffie is running around fighting enemies with her signature boomerang-style ninja star. While still powerful, combat doesn’t feel as fluid as it did with Cloud, and her range of weapons feel less inspired than those you’ll find in the main game. The same can be said for her new sidekick, Sonon, who is a little muted at best. I had hoped that with two new characters we would see multiple new summons, but alas we’re left with just Ramuh.