When Final Fantasy VII Remake first came out in April of 2020, I wrote that its visuals were mind-boggling. It was tempting to halt your progress and simply gawp at the rich tone and texture of Midgar. As it stands, the game didn’t really need a visual overhaul for the PlayStation 5, but Square Enix has gone the extra mile anyway, delivering Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade.
Looking past the odd name, Remake Intergrade is essentially an enhanced version of Final Fantasy VII Remake for Sony’s new-gen console. It features several technical buffs, including faster loading times and expanded graphics options. There’s also some haptic feedback improvements that you probably won’t notice, and a Photo Mode that is, while appreciated, quite clunky.
For the visual upgrade alone, Intergrade is a great excuse to play a great game in its ultimate form, especially if you didn’t catch it last generation. The main upgrade from a visuals standpoint is that you can now switch between two different Optimization modes. ’Graphics’ offers stunning 4K visuals, with ‘Performance’ maintaining a fluid 60 FPS at all times. And listen, 4K is great and all, but I’m confident that once you switch to Performance, you will never want to look back.
At its core, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is a fast-paced action game, and it feels like I can appreciate the combat even more thanks to the framerate bump. As you’re spinning through the air as Yuffie or clobbering goons as Cloud, 60FPS just makes the combat that much more legible.
Beyond the remastered visuals, Remake Intergrade also includes an entirely new side story called Episode Intermission. It takes about five or six hours to complete and focuses on Yuffie Kisaragi, a character who will be familiar to fans of the 1997 original. Kisaragi fights like a ninja and, as a result, is a lot more agile than the other playable characters like Cloud and Barrett from the base game. This goes hand in hand with the Performance optimization mode, with the high frame rate bringing her dance-like combat animations and elemental effects to life.
Yuffie is a hectic fighter, and I found that there were quite a few quirks to get used to at first. You’ve got short-range physical attacks, but then you’ve also got long-range shuriken attacks, and there’s a middle ground between the two that you have to pin down with combos to really make the most of her move set.
I died a lot in the early game and found it to be quite challenging at first, but you’ll soon get used to it as you progress. Episode Intermission is meant to be played after the main campaign so you will be familiar with the combat system by the time you play it. But just keep in mind that it may be a trial by fire if you’re a returning player who hasn’t engaged with the game in some time. I’d recommend playing through the start of the main campaign again so you don’t get blindsided by it. Personally, I used the Chapter Selection system to jump into a variety of chapters across the main campaign to see how they play out with the graphical bump. Boss battles were given a new lease on life, and it was fun to try and put together Photo Mode action shots in some of the game’s more striking combat arenas.
Once you wrap the main story, the narrative in Episode Intermission is easy to get into. Thanks to meticulously animated cutscenes and fantastic voice acting, Yuffie’s enthusiasm is physical and infectious. She makes for a wonderful main character who is easy to root for but complex enough that her constant quips don’t grate.
The later story beats in Episode Intermission will definitely excite the lore nerds too, especially those desperate for Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 2. I’ll save you the spoilers, but it’s worth playing for that alone if you’re a Final Fantasy wiki geek. There are juicy moments in this episode that have ramifications for the entire project, so I’d argue you can’t really miss it if you want to know everything about this brave spin on a stone-cold classic. Just make sure you’ve beaten the main game first, as the side story assumes that you have. It might even be worth reading a plot summary and refreshing your memory so you can make the most of it.
But beyond the broad strokes, there were also a number of little callbacks that seek to reward returning players in Episode Intermission. It was nice to overhear NPCs talking about parts of the base game story that I’d already completed, offering their commentary on events that they technically weren’t present for. It’s these tiny details that will delight fans, as it felt like I was being rewarded for my efforts to complete such a sprawling JRPG. You could call it fan service if you were being cynical, but Episode Intermission definitely has greater ambitions than that. It even lovingly recreates the Fort Condor minigame from the original, complete with cutesy polygonal characters and a series of challenging battles spread throughout the episode.
I thought Episode Intermission was a great reintroduction to Remake after beating it on PS4 last year. It made me realise how dynamic the Remake combat system really is, especially when you knock the difficulty up and start forcing yourself to manage items and cast particular spells to defeat tricky bosses. Yuffie’s style pushed me out of my comfort zone and led to some truly tense battles, and the side story has left me with a renewed desire to play the next instalment, whenever that may be.
If you’re a veteran of the original, you may think that you’ve seen it all before, but Square’s unique approach to remaking one of their most beloved games is truly warping the canvas that the original was built upon, and that’s why you need to play Final Fantasy Remake Intergrade. I say this as someone who has no skin in the game. My first Final Fantasy VII experience was with Final Fantasy VII Remake, but I found it so compelling that it has pushed me to pedal backwards and immerse myself in the lore.
It may be something of a slow burn, and a long while yet before we see the end of it, but the fact that Square Enix is committed to building a new ‘Remake’ universe with such high production values and engaging gameplay should warm the hearts of every Final Fantasy fan. Final Fantasy Remake Intergrade is well worth the price of entry for both returning fans and FF7 newcomers. Now comes the tricky part… waiting for Part 2!
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is out now for PS5.