Charlie loves her video games as much as she loves dumb, charming JRPG protagonists: probably way too much. You can often catch her spending too much time being emotional over LGBT stories in games. She also thinks Yakuza 6 is the best one.
April 10, 2020
Last year Square Enix and classic JRPG fans were absolutely spoilt rotten. Final Fantasy VII Remake hit the PlayStation 4, completely remaking the Midgar section of the beloved RPG adventure. It was a sure-fire hit of a reimagination. Fast forward a calendar year and some months and the remake has made its way to the PlayStation 5. Now titled Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade: Episode Intermission, this new version comes with all the goodies prior along with a DLC that allows players to play as the stylish ninja Yuffie.
With this, Episode Intermission has just about all the highs (and some lows) that last year’s Remake did. Both of these stem from the fact Square Enix really want to indulge their fanbase. Sure, I’ll eat out of their hand any day. I’ll line my stomach with whatever Final Fantasy VII content they want to throw at me. Bring it on.
In its simplest form, Episode Intermission is an absolutely apt excuse to return to Midgar. Exploring the slum city now through the shoes of Yuffie, the lowly’s town heartbreaking lower-class magic sinks in quickly. A city populated with weirdos, cats slicking in and out of alleys, people selling their wares on the streets all while the people of Shinra rest comfortably on the plates above… those views are breathtaking as ever playing on the PS5. We absolutely have Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade to thank for that.
I was a newcomer to the universe of Final Fantasy VII with the remake. It didn’t take me long at all to get acquainted and fall in love with Cloud and his ragtag crew. The same can absolutely be said for Yuffie and her new sidekick Sonon. Sporting a Moogle hoodie and green sweater, the childish, materia-obsessed ninja is so undeniably charming. Despite often being ridiculed for her young age, Yuffie is a fighter to be taken seriously with quips and kicks that pierce as efficiently as her ninja stars. I couldn’t think of a better Final Fantasy VII character to check in on in a brief, somewhat bridging Intermission DLC than her.
It’s high time I touch on how Episode Intermission takes the indulgent nature of Final Fantasy VII Remake and runs with it even further. This indulgence really works in the teasing about the crossing of characters’ paths and messing with timelines for wherever the hell these subsequent parts of the Remake plan to go. This time around, more examples ring through and they’re great moments. Yuffie can walk up the steps of Tifa’s bar and Avalanche hangout, Seventh Heaven, only for an inexplicable powerful gust of wind to stop her from entering. She can hear whispers of the blonde spiky-haired mercenary Cloud, while seeing glimpses of Tifa and Barrett from a distance. This is as far as her journey takes her – It’s not yet time for her to join the inner circle. Seeing her just a step behind is an excellent tease of what’s to come.
Where the indulgence occasionally hurts Episode Intermission is that it still has some of the same problems Final Fantasy VII Remake had. Despite cutting the fat, leaving your time with the DLC to being in the ballpark of 4-6 hours, some of the side distractions aren’t as pleasurable or necessary. Fort Condor, the in-game tabletop experience that puts you on a battlefield where you have to deploy units and dominate the ground from the opposing AI, is really one of the only exceptions in this.
Other distractions have you hunting down posters around Midgar, sneaking past a dog and the likes. I managed to get halfway through these side missions before I couldn’t help but feel the needless nature. Where these sidequests in the original, full Remake were welcome excuses to spend even more time with Cloud and friends, they become less cute in an already briefer experience. I’ve been through this before. There’s nothing all that new in padding with more quests. A more focused Final Fantasy experience works quite well. Though it undoubtedly could still do with even more trimming of the fat.
The other fact of the matter is that, as charming as Episode Intermission is, it doesn’t particularly need to exist. It’s clear more than ever in this DLC that runs parallel to some of the events of the remake, that it really seems Square Enix looks to be ignoring the “show, don’t tell,” philosophy. Final Fantasy VII is lucky it’s such a beloved and charming title with a rich history. I can’t picture a remake of any other game getting away with some of the stuff this does. Square Enix wants to damn well tell fans every granular detail in this retelling. I can only hope it pays off down the line when it all wraps up a considerable number of years from now.
The combat on offer for Final Fantasy VII Remake was already stellar. After taking some time and applying that to someone of a different skill-set, Square Enix has managed to outdo itself. Fundamentally the combat is the same: hack and slash at enemies with your basic attack, dodge when required, use a heavier attack and then slow the pace down to a near halt when it comes time to heal, use magic or do other special abilities. This works in an absolutely new way for Yuffie with her combination of martial arts and throwable ninja stars, boomerangs and the likes.
Namely, you can rack up quite the combos and even do some Devil May Cry style combat juggling midair if you’re apt enough. You see, your throwable weapon can linger against the enemy, spinning and colliding with them on the spot, slowly chipping away at their health. This can occupy them while you use your more basic attacks on other foes, leaving crowd controlling all the more fluid and easy to wrangle. Press the face button you used to fire that very throwable weapon and you can hone back to the weapon’s location, pulling your focus right back to the beginning. More than ever, it’s satisfying and rewarding to get a grip and hold on the battlefield.
“A city populated with weirdos… people selling their wares on the streets all while the people of Shinra rest comfortably on the plates above… those views are breathtaking as ever playing on the PS5.”
What does change this time around is the fact that your companion in combat can’t be as directly controlled. No longer do you swap between who you play, you simply can only command Sonon to also raise a little hell alongside you by opting for them to use an ability, magic or heal when their AB gauge is full enough.
This sounds like it’ll be both a tough pill to swallow and a step back from the Remake, though it really isn’t. Combat can already get quite busy solely controlling Yuffie. Sonon is more than capable enough to be just your failsafe, throwing you a heal or slam an extra commanded attack in two in those tense moments you’ll so desperately need it.
I have given a fair go at a majority of the Final Fantasy games at this point. It’s with Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade and subsequently Episode Intermission that I personally feel Square Enix has really nailed the combat. My hat is well and truly off to them coming off the back of this DLC. Hacking and slashing at enemies in Final Fantasy has never been as fun as this.
I’m at such a weird, wonderful place with Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade and Episode Intermission. I feel confident enough at this point that I can read Square Enix like a book. I see how over the top and indulgent this continuation of its trademark title is. Still, I can’t help but lap up every droplet of VII’s new universe. I can’t recommend it enough for someone who loves Final Fantasy VII. I just wish it were Episode Intermission were also on PS4, being made available to an even wider audience. The love damn well needs to go around.
Wrapping up my time with Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade and Episode Intermission, a few things are abundantly clear. Square Enix knows how to expertly overproportionate things and they know their fans. They’ve absolutely honed in on the combat to make it the best yet. Also, I can only imagine how gorgeous Midgar in a new light must feel to longtime fans. However, it at times dips a little into being greedy with your time when you consider the side activities on offer.
Final Fantasy VII Remake and its DLC carry the feeling of majesty throughout. Yes, it’s at times arguably unnecessary. Yes, it’s ridiculous that this even exists. Still, I can’t wait to be along for every turn of the future Final Fantasy VII ride. Bumps and all.