Review: Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade (PS5)

0

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade takes this FF7 reimagining to new heights on PS5, with the added bonus of an exciting Yuffie chapter.

Upon its release in 2020, Final Fantasy VII Remake won over audiences with its inspired spin on the Midgar portion of the 1997 JRPG classic. Square delivered a  fantastic experience that did not just recreate the thrills of playing the original  game but actively enhanced specific elements to enrich the experience for both  fans of the source material and those unfamiliar.  

At the core of the experience is a genuinely captivating narrative, unfolding in a  well-realised dystopian setting and featuring a phenomenal ensemble. The major  characters are likeable but burdened with emotional baggage and are put  through the wringer in an exciting story packed with surprises. While it only  covers a fraction of the original’s storyline, what is there is fleshed out and  ultimately in service to the characters, shedding more light on their values and  motivations behind their attitude towards Shinra. It particularly benefits from the entertaining supporting cast; Jessie is a real highlight with her flirtatious  interactions with Cloud being a memorable part of the early chapters.  

The main party is effortlessly likeable, and each member brings something  unique to the table. Cloud proves to be an amazing protagonist with his actor  Cody Christian doing a beautiful job of delivering both a believable mercenary  and a sympathetic victim of Shinra’s evil. Watching Cloud develop as a person  and grow closer to the other characters is immensely satisfying.  

The English voice acting is superb across the board, with Briana White’s Aerith  being my favourite performance. These are iconic roles, and the remake’s cast  proves they are up to the task of voicing them for a new generation. The ‘Turks’  are also extremely entertaining and encounters with them turn out to be some of  the memorable moments in the entire game. Each is unique in their own way; I  was an immediate fan of Reno whose cocky persona and tendency to hold  grudges made him the perfect complement to his straight-faced partner Rude. 

Of course, the strong plot and character work would be wasted when combined  with weak gameplay and, quite frankly, I also feared Final Fantasy VII Remake would lack tactical depth  due to the move to real-time action combat. Fortunately, it manages to  accomplish the opposite by combining the action combat with elements of the  original menu-based combat and the end result is simply stunning. The hack-‘n-slash keeps the player invested in real-time while they build their ATB gauge to  unleash abilities and skills that will exploit their enemies’ weaknesses. It takes  the tension of a contemporary action game, as the player has to evade enemy  attacks and projectiles, whilst retaining a good amount of tactility with the ATB  mechanics and Materia. 

Materia plays a significant role in the gameplay as each individual piece equipped to a party member can provide a range of enhancements to that unit’s moment to-moment gameplay. These enhancements vary in functionality: equipping  Magic Materia for example, allows the unit to cast elemental spells and/or be  linked with Elemental Materia to infuse basic attacks with that specific element.  Using Materia effectively can mean the difference between a twenty-minute  battle with many cure spells cast and potions consumed or a five-minute  encounter where the enemies’ weaknesses are thoroughly exploited, leading to  them getting staggered and eliminated without any real damage to the party. It is  a smartly implemented mechanic that is massively rewarding for meticulous  players but remains balanced as there is only a limited amount of Materia slots  for each piece of equipment, though weapons can offer additional slots when  levelled up with skill points.  

Suffice to say, the base game is still an incredible experience. Gameplay is often  rewarding and tense, the characters are terrific and the story delivers gloriously  despite only adapting a select portion of its source material. 

For more thoughts on the base game, check out Matt’s Review

Graphics or Performance? 

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade raises the presentation to new heights, providing the player a choice  between a Graphics Mode, which targets a native 4K resolution and a lower-resolution albeit solid Performance Mode. The Graphics Mode looks incredible on  a UHD display, everything from the detailed character models to the heavy use of  volumetric fog and the showering of particle effects in battle look absolutely  glorious in this mode. Those who favour the Performance Mode will not be  disappointed with the framerate, as the game holds to 60 FPS even in demanding  battles and areas. It is also worth noting the game’s strong HDR implementation which when combined with the sharper image quality, is a sight to behold.  

I found myself favouring the higher framerate but frequently switched between  them to gauge the differences. The core visuals are almost identical, but the real price  to be paid for extra performance is sharpness, as the Performance Mode is  noticeably blurrier than its image-quality focused alternative. Individual player experiences will vary depending on preference and, arguably more importantly,  their display. For example, while the Performance Mode’s blurrier presentation  could stick out on a larger native 4K TV, the same output would look great on a  1440P monitor. 

In addition to these two modes, Intergrade also offers a boost to the lighting,  which is instantly noticeable in the Wall Market, almost every inch of the area is  now drenched in neon lighting emitting from shop signs and individual light  strips. It looks surreal in action. Unfortunately, the same love is not given to the  Sector 5 Slums, which remains the weakest looking section of the game. I  understand a slum is not the most fabulous looking place on the planet, however,  I would have appreciated more detail in the texture work.  

Intergrade’s final improvement is the loading times. It is a transformative  difference, the game is playable faster from the home menu, save files load in a  second and a half and the loading screens have disappeared. The only time I  personally came into contact with a loading screen was after skipping a cutscene  I had already seen at the beginning of a chapter. This is an enormous upgrade  over the PS4 version, which took upwards of forty seconds to load into areas. 

Wutai Wonder 

Players that buy Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade will receive, in addition to the  aforementioned improvements, the INTERmission expansion featuring the Wutai ninja Yuffie.  

Her real-time action combat is the most satisfying in the game, utilising both  short and long-range attacks, making her a considerably versatile unit in battle. Yuffie is able to bind any element to her weaponry using the ninjutsu ability from  the Command Menu. This allows her to carry more ability-based Materia like  Steadfast Block and Deadly Dodge since the spots usually reserved for Elemental  Materia are no longer filled. The combination of these traits makes for a  delightful gameplay experience although later stages of Chapter 2 provide some  of the tougher encounters the game has to offer.

It almost jumps the shark in a  combat simulator section which skirts the line between challenging and unfair but for the most part, the time spent with Yuffie and her companion Sonon is a delight. Its worth noting that Sonon is not a playable character, however, the  synergy mode allows the two to collaborate on individual enemies and use  special synergised versions of existing abilities for increased damage. In that  respect, it never feels Yuffie is fighting alone despite direct control of her partner  not being available to the player. 

Sonon’s stoic demeanour balances out Yuffie’s eccentric persona incredibly well  and they make a great duo. Bonding over their shared Wutai background and  hate for Shinra, I found their relationship to be genuinely touching at points due  to strong performances from the English voice actors and smart writing ensuring  their relationship avoids cliché. Though the story is scaled back slightly from the  base game’s narrative, it manages to sell the stakes of their mission and  importance of “sticking to the man” as is so eloquently described in the tutorial of  an included minigame. It is more personal and the last hour is some of the best  Final Fantasy content ever delivered, with an epic boss fight and climactic  cutscenes perfectly setting up for the next chapter of the narrative.  

INTERmission also improves on what is in my opinion, the game’s only  discernible flaw: Side Quests. The two included side quests in Chapter 1 of the  DLC are both incredibly enjoyable, especially the Fort Condor mission. Fort  Condor is a surprisingly addictive tower defence mini game. While I have never  been a fan of similar mobile games like Supercell’s Clash Royale, I found this to be  quite fun and smartly constructed with genuine tactical depth. Knowledge of the  game’s enemies is useful as the mini-game counterparts share the same  weaknesses and the inclusion of variations of enemy units like an Elite Security Guard and a regular Security Guard which requires less ATB to deploy, as well as  multiple boards with different advantages ensure it feels like a fleshed-out game  in its own right.  

Summary: Packed with technical improvements and a superb single player  expansion, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade further cements its spot as  one of the greatest remakes in gaming history.

Score: 5 stars

Title: Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix

Platforms: PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release date: 10 June 2021

A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.

Share.

About Author

Arman is a writer who enjoys his broad spectrum of entertainment, with the specific exception of any anime ever conceived. He likes his physics in video games and still mourns the lack of GOTY recognition for Fire Emblem: Three Houses at the 2019 Game Awards.