More But Not The Same
After the initial 2020 release, you’d imagine that there wasn’t much more to be wrung out of Final Fantasy 7 but just over a week ago, Square Enix launched Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade, a PlayStation 5 exclusive update and DLC for our game of last year. This particular iteration of the hugely popular Final Fantasy franchise is less of a remake in its own right, and more of a graphical upgrade for Sony’s newest console platform. The bulk of Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade retraces the steps of the previous release, following Cloud Strife and Alanache as they try to save Midgar by blowing the world asunder. Playstation 5 owners will, however, get an exclusive opportunity to experience the INTERmission DLC, play alongside two new characters, see a new side to Midgar, and fight a battle that might very well make the title worth shelling out for rather than spending all your spare cash at the Happy Turtle.
While the proposition of taking on an entirely new storyline with a PS5 exclusive upgrade might initially sound compelling, the cost of picking up Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade varies wildly. For fans of the series who bought in early on PlayStation 4, you’re likely to find that Intergrade is waiting for you for no extra cost, while the new INTERmission DLC will still set owners back a separate fee on PlayStation 5. Excluding the outlay for a PlayStation 5, assuming you can get one, this probably seems quite reasonable. However, in any other situation, things can escalate.
The full buy-in for Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade is around £69.99 / $114.95 right now, although this also includes the DLC. That’s a pricey entry for a game that can be picked up second-hand for a few dollars and has been around on the market. It’s worth noting that, anybody grabbing the recent addition of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake from the PS Plus game library will be doubly disappointed to find no upgrade on offer for them. All in, this means the initial outlay can be difficult to make an argument for if you grabbed a PlayStation 5 at launch and already have a PS Plus Subscription, but should you have the $70 or $20 for the DLC to hand then the new content is noticeably improved upon the 2020 release.
Port Or Re-Remake
The remake of the seminal Final Fantasy 7, which we score at 9/10, was a gargantuan leap on from the 1997 classic. While the first time around Final Fantasy 7 was torn down and entirely rebuilt, this edition is certainly more of an upgrade than another reconstruction of the new reimagining. Rather than weave in an entirely new soundtrack and re-engineer the audio soundscape to make use of the full range of spatial audio processing packed into the PlayStation 5, Intergrade sounds largely similar to its predecessor, although obviously helped by the enhanced processing power of Sony’s new console. Where the world of Midgar really shines, however, is when the graphical tweaks added to Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade take the stage. Whether it’s exploring the labyrinthian back alleys of the upper plate or faking it until you make it in the Honey Bee, the host of new visual details makes a very real difference to this title.
Lighting effects produce an entirely new view of Midgar. During the day, the slums of District 7 are bathed in sunbeams that stream through the support struts of the upper plate, while glass reflections, liquids, and indoor lighting provide a sense of depth and life that hasn’t quite come across in the past. Nighttime street lighting is similarly enhanced, breaking through the shade and giving a glimpse of the enhanced texture patterns and reflective surfaces have a flow that feels as natural as the dynamic combat that will inevitably kick into action. While the graphical enhancements added to Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade are not going to reimagine this detailed and quite gorgeous game, kicking the title into ‘Graphics’ mode provides a glorious push for 4K gameplay, everything I’ve already described, and even more particle effects to boot, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between prescribed story intermissions and the more electric player-controlled combat scenarios.
While Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade looks undeniably impressive with the graphics turned up to 10, even the PlayStation 5’s next-gen hardware can’t keep the frame rate up at a fluid 60FPS during this feat. Instead, the ‘Graphics’ mode is closer to nearly 4K at 30FPS. In busier areas and more action-orientated scenarios, the PlayStation 5 can be left scrambling to keep up and smoother system responses are available by turning on ‘Performance Mode’, with the give being the overall resolution of any ongoing action. Leaning into performance mode will keep the action at 60FPS, dropping overall graphical output to keep up and noticeably enhancing the experience for anybody playing their way through the INTERmissions DLC.
It is an unfortunate compromise to have to make at times, especially as I have the luxury of a NIVIDIA 3000 series GPU to power through these types of choices on PC. That said, despite not building Final Fantasy 7 Remake for the PlayStation 5 specifically, the PS4 would never be able to reproduce the resolution, lighting, and texture enhancements that Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade exhibits, which means that the new photo mode is a serious time sink. Seriously, with all the visuals dialed up, this is going to be as bad as my Horizon Zero Dawn archive.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade is substance as well as style. Announced in full detail earlier this year, the new INTERmission DLC invites players to take a different route through Midgar and follow the adventures of a young Wutai ninja name Yuffie. Accompanied by the equally capable Sonon, Yuffie’s trek around this world takes players on an adventure entirely separate from the main campaign.
While the INTERmission DLC might only be a couple of chapters long and take 6 or seven hours to complete, it is remarkable how different it feels when compared to the main game. While the uptown of the Plate and the slums of District 7 largely look unchanged from Intergrade, the characters and writing contribute to this contrast. Against the unrelentingly dour Cloud Strife, Yuffie is a breath of fresh air. This new protagonist brings an offbeat and up-tempo delivery that belies the serious nature of what’s going on in the wider world but makes INTERmission feel like an adventure you want to jump headfirst into. The overall narrative follows through on this feel with a mostly black and white approach to proceedings. It’s easy to pick out the antagonists and the faceless security of Shinra are a welcome punchbag as Yuffie simply barrels into trouble and picks fights with a variety of unique opponents, all while aiming to steal the ultimate Materia.
Both Yuffie and her partner in crime Sonon shake up the combat experience too. While the controls remain largely unchanged, Yuffie is a brand new type of warrior. As a member of Wutai’s elite corps of ninja operatives, her Unique Ability allows her to throw a massive throwing star at enemies. After unleashing this star, Yuffie can follow through with closer range ninjutsu and elemental abilities to overpower enemies. This extra elemental ability enhances the standard set of spells items and abilities to provide a flexible mix of standoff attacks and swift melee damage that challenges players to act fast and pick the correct moment to attack. It’s unlike any of the combat styles used by the core set of Final Fantasy 7 characters and makes fantastic use of the more real-time twist on the 1997 combat systems. Sonon, on the other hand, wields a large polearm and comes trained directly by Yuffie’s father. His attacks aren’t as diverse as Yuffie’s but provide the nimble ninja with a stable partner, capable of soaking up damage and providing plenty of support when it’s needed.
Even though you’re not going to be taking control of Sonon while battling giant mechanical monsters or thumping the odd rat, you’ll be able to give Sonon commands, use items, unleash ultimates, or use abilities. This might sound constricting but unlike other parties, which act like a separate but supportive team, Sonon and Yuffie two synch their actions and pair elegantly matched sets of moves into a flurry of attacks that make mid-battle choices, like what elemental ability to use, far more impactful than I’ve previously experienced.
The Rest Of The World
Of course, Midgar is bigger than these visitors and what makes INTERmission especially satisfying is watching the world that we already know from a different perspective. Learning new games, interacting with the core of Avalanche, and observing the more famous party members of Final Fantasy 7 Remake reeling from the events of the main narrative arc is undeniably charming, and provides an exceptionally enticing reason to pick up the DLC. The natives of District 7 might be background noise to those still trying to save Aerith, but Yuffie’s external view lets INTERmission explore the fallout from our earlier actions as this snatch and grab heads straight out of town.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade and INTERmission are both fantastic new ways of experiencing and already great game. For those of you that haven’t had the opportunity to play through the 2020 version of Final Fantasy 7 Remake then this is the best way to experience a tale that still isn’t quite over yet, and while the Intergrade update is a wonderfully slick coat of paint, the INTERmission DLC is by far and away the best reason to return to Midgar again, getting al the visuals with a brand new take on the destruction you’ve just unleashed on this city. Head over to the PlayStation Store to pick up the ultimate way to play Final Fantasy 7 Remake.