Final Fantasy 7 Remake: INTERGRADE Review (PS5)
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: June 10th,2021
Platforms: Playstation 5(with upgrade). Playstation 4 (without upgrade)
*Game provided to me by Square-Enix
''A Mako facelift''
-Disclaimer: The follow review will contain spoilers for Final Fantasy 7 Remake and original Final Fantasy 7-
Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade is an action RPG that is developed and published by Square-Enix. Coming off its success on the Playstation 4, Square-Enix decided to re-release the game with better performance, graphical upgrades, texture fixes, as well as extra content in the form of Yuffie DLC that gives us a glimpse of what's to come going forward. But are all the changes and fixes enough to warrant buying this on PS5? or are you better off just sticking with the PS4 version for now? only one way to find out, so, let's mosey!
The Planet's Lifestream is being drained for energy by the Shinra Electric Power Company, a world-dominating mega corporation headquartered in the city of Midgar. Shinra's actions are weakening the Planet, threatening its existence and all life that inhabits it. It is now up ex-Soldier, Cloud Strife, and the eco-terrorist group Avalanche to take the fight back to Shinra and stop them from draining the planet of all its energy. But a conspiracy and mystery unfolds that shakes the foundation of their plan to its core and changes not only their lives, but the lives of the entire planet as well. A much bigger threat is out there. Can they withstand it?
As you start your journey you're thrusted into the games opening cinematic that has Cloud doing his classic flip and hero landing in front of the train at Mako reactor 1. The camera then does a smooth spin around Cloud and bam you're into the game in one smooth transition. That scene you just thought was a traditional cinematic? that was all in game and there are no smoke and mirrors here. The first time I played this scene, I was absolutely floored for two reasons, for one I was amazed that this was actually in game and not a cutscene and the other hand, I couldn't believe I'm actually playing a remake of Final Fantasy 7, it was surreal. But is it really a remake though? is it really? at least in the technical term? well... you'll just have to wait and see to find out the answer to that the further I get along with this review. Once you're off and running, this is where the first taste of combat comes into play and the first mission basically becomes your opening tutorial, albeit a less intrusive one than you're traditionally accustomed to. Gone are the traditional JRPG turn based mechanics and instead its become more hack and slash based in what feels like an evolution of the combat system from Final Fantasy 15. Your first encounter allows you to play around with your normal attacks using the square button in Operator mode, while pressing triangle brings you into Punisher mode that allows you to use more powerful sword swipes and offer a chance for you to counter attack if you time switching to punisher mode at the right moment. If timed just right, you'll counter your enemies attack and fill up the damage on not only their HP bar, but their stun meter too. Stun meter? the heck is that?. Well, stun meter acts as a way to disorient your opponent by momentarily stunning them and when they're in this state, they're more vulnerable to attacks by you and your party. Now is the time to unleash all your most powerful attacks when you're foes are incapacitated.
As you make it past the first area, it is here where you truly see the level of care and love that the developers took with each individual character. In the original Final Fantasy 7, the characters Biggs, Wedge and Jessie are side characters and loyal members of team avalanche along with Barret and Tifa. They don't have many lines in the original and are really only in the first few hours of the game and that's it. We never really learn too much about them, as far as their back stories due to their heartbreaking demise at the fall of the sector 7 plate., but that changes with the fully voiced version of their characters here in Remake. Wedge is a fun loving guy who is always trying to make a difference any way he can, Jessie is spunky, hyper and EXTREMELY thirsty for Cloud, I'm talking about someone who's been walking in the Sahara desert for 3 days without water type of thirsty, sheesh girl, calm down. She flirted with Cloud a bit in the original FF7, but in this game, its amped up to an 11. Biggs, who looks like Charlie Sheen from Hot Shots, out of everyone in the group of Avalanche tends to be more serious and thinks things through and worries about the ''what ifs'' so he always has a back up plan in case something goes south. This is where the game completely has a one up against the original, the character development. As you run through the Mako Reactor, the banter between Barret and Cloud is pure gold and their personalities are nailed to a Tee. Cloud is sarcastic and a huge jerk, he's only there for his paycheck and doesn't give a crap about Avalanche or saving the planet, but Barret is trying to save the planet and thinks Cloud being ex-Soldier for Shinra is suspicious. So of course like all men do, they try to out alpha male each other at every point they can. Whether it be Cloud quipping with attitude telling Barret to ''get help'' for believing he can hear the planet cry in pain or Barret telling Cloud he'll basically kill him if he sees one sign of him being a backstabber. The best thing about it, the dialogue spoken between not only Cloud and Barret, but with Wedge, Biggs, Jessie, Tifa,Aerith,etc, all feel like natural conversations with nothing being forced or overly cringe like the Kingdom Heart series for previous FF titles. All voice actors are actresses are amazing in this game.
When you're finally ready to plant the bomb at the mako reactor in order to destroy it, its time for your first major boss battle against a big mechanized scorpion, one in which you will learn about how to use multiple party members and their special abilities. Remember what I said earlier about bye bye turned based system? well that was half right. Square-Enix knew that not all people like the hack and slash titles and that it could potentially alienate past long time fans, So enter Tactical mode. During a battle, you're able to press X and enter tactical mode, in this mode you'll be able to slow down time and pick your attacks at your own pace, just like a traditional turned based game, as well as press R2 and L2 to switch between characters to give them commands that range from abilities, spells, items or their special attack named Limit Breaks that can be used when taking enough damage for a one all powerful attack. Switching between playable characters also works seamlessly by pressing left or right on the D-Pad to immediately switch to your character of choice. If an enemy is high up where someone like Cloud can't reach, it is then advisable to switch to Barret so that he may utilize his gun attacks like Focused Shot or Maximum fury. Its imperative that you switch characters as often as possible because if you stay one character too long, you gain enemy aggro and they will only specifically attack that character, so switch it up as often as possible!. This boss was a freaking push over in the original game, but here its some grand and epic event that has your adrenaline pumping as you're trying to figure out the right technique to beat him, all while hearing Cloud and Barret talk crap to each other back and forth while they're trying to figure out just what in the heck they have to do. When the mech is finally slain, you and barret must plant the bomb and get out of the reactor as quickly as possible. After you make it out in a slick and fancy style, you see the damage your blast has caused. Thousands are without power, houses burning and you realize to get revenge on Shinra, you've devastated the lives of innocent civilians. Whos in the wrong? is it you? or is it in Shinra. The game makes you think on this a lot.
Walking around after the explosion, you feel super bad, even though you know Shinra is the one that caused this. The bomb you had planted, a low level explosive that was used by Jessie, it is not one that could do this amount of damage. So what happened? Shinra helped detonate the bomb on a grander scale so that they can make use of propaganda and brand Avalanche as traitorous terrorists who are working with Midgar's adversaries, the Wutai. Their whole plan is to gain sympathy by branding Shinra as a victim, so that people rally around them and they can continue the war with Wutai for all that power and gil. Man, you hated them in the original but good lord, you hate them even more in Remake, you want to go full liam neeson on them. Being able to walk around the burning and destroyed areas of the sector for the first time, which you didn't get to do in the original, is heartbreaking. People can't get in touch with relatives, people wondering how are they getting home. You get to see and feel the damage you have done to these poor peoples lives. But before you get too upset, we finally get our first few deviations in the story that is completely different from the original game in the form of Sephiroth's return. In the original title, Sephiroth is more of a myth or legend, its a long and mysterious build up to find out just what hes all about and its done beautifully. But here in remake? hes like ''Hey guys, whats up, Shall I give you dis pear'' and shows up at the beginning of the game. Cloud is confused as to all hell because he literally killed this man back in Nibelheim years ago and there's no way he can be back, but here he is. After some really twisted mind games by Sephiroth where he shows Cloud his burning village and tells him how he killed Cloud's mom. Cloud snaps out of his would be hallucination and convinces himself it wasn't real. But oh god, here we go, this is where I started getting worried. Now is the time you finally meet Aerith, a bubbly flower girl from the slums but something is wrong, shes swatting away at the air.. but in her panic she grabs you and you now see what she was so afraid of. Ghosts like figures that just look like Dementors from harry friggin potter. I'm serious. Design could've been better, bucko, Avada Kedarva, just die!. These ghosts? they're known as Whispers, the arbiters of fate. Oh no... oh boy... here we go. I'll hold off on my rant for now.
As you progress through the story, you'll realize for the most part, the game follows the original titles storyline pretty closely, albeit more fleshed out with the characters and side quests to do. Chapters 1 to 5 cover all your missions relating to avalanche such as the mako reactor 1 bombing or brand new elements like helping jessie steal from her coma induced dad while she, biggs and wedge eat pizza. No, I'm not joking, this is literally what happens, her moms pizza prob sucked though and that's the real reason he's in the coma. Chapter 1 to 5 also introduces a brand new soldier name Roche who is loud and obnoxious and just wants to fight for fun and I freakin loved him. He never came off as evil, just someone who liked to be challenged and the bike mission to take him down was a blast to play. As I stated in my semi review of the PS4 version, the best aspects of this game are from the scenes that were in the original game but now completely more in depth, like Cloud and Tifa's promise scene in their home town, Barrets adorable relationship with his daughter marlene, Jessie/Biggs/Wedge all getting their own character development, making you grow to love them even more, which makes it that much more traumatizing when they meet their ends. You knew it was coming, because it happened in the original, but now that they all have huge personalities and you spend hours more with them, its such a damn gut punch watching Biggs and Jessie meet their end. Ugly face cry time folks. The game starts off very strong with chapters 1-5 but chapter 6 and 7 is where it hits a snail pace with lots of filler. These are definitely the missions where they said ''this game is too short, we need something to fill the time, add these''. This happens quite a few times too even besides those chapters. Such as with Chapter 10 sewers that seems to go on forever, Chapter 14 where you go back to the sewers AGAIN for a time waster of a mission that I could NOT stand at all, Leslie, I hate you. Pure game padding. Chapter 17 is also mixed bag of really awesome elements like meeting doggo friend Nanaki, most notably referred to as Red 13 and fighting against a remnant of Jenova, one of the main reasons behind everyone's problems and good lord is this fight good. Fighting can get pretty intense and holy crap as soon as the remix of the classic jenova theme begins playing, pure and utter musical bliss to my ears. So damn good. But while those elements are fun, most of chapter 17 ends up being ''pull this lever, walk, pull this lever, walk'' and it goes on way too long and every playthrough it bores me to tears.
Easily my favorite chapter in the game is hands down chapter 9. Going through this chapter and seeing Wall Market fully realized from the original game is a sight to see. Wall Market is basically a more sleazier version of Las Vegas. It has gambling, street thugs, brothel and even an underground fighting ring where you and Aerith must team up together in order to win the cash prize and be allowed to enter Don Corneos mansion to save Tifa. This whole tournament is like one big game show, a game show with death that is. It all houses one of the most intriguing boss fights in the game too, yes, there's a pun thats intended here because you literally fight a house, Hell House. Once was a random casual boss fight in the original game, but now full fledged spectacle. Its both the most W.T.F moment of the game, but also one of the best. You also get to have a dancing mini game against Honey Bee Inn's Andrea and I don't think I've laughed so hard at a game in so long. Cloud is always so serious and stoic but here he is, getting serious and dancing his heart out to win favor of Andrea to be... turned into a woman? wait... what?. Yes thats right, the only way you can gain entry into Don Corneo's mansion is to be a woman, so by impressing Andrea, you get a makeover to dress Cloud up as a girl and infiltrate the mansion along with Aerith to save Tifa. This scene was done to perfection and blows the original games version of Honey Bee Inn out of the water, no contest. But that's enough talk about chapters I like. I want to speak briefly about other mechanics in the game that relate to game play that will be key to your success or progression. This has to do with skill trees and materia.
As you level up your character, regardless who it is, you will gain Ability points. These ability points are able to be used on characters weapons that can raise the stats of your HP, MP, Attack, extra materia slots and many other choices. This is the case for every single weapon in the game. That's 24 different weapons, each with their own skill tree and each adding an additional ability to them as you master them. Focus Thrust for Buster Sword, Maximum Fury with Big Bertha, True Strike with Purple Pain, ATB Ward with Reinforced Staff. These are just some of the abilities gained and in order to gain these new skills, you must use the weapon over and over till you get enough points to max them out completely. But its so worth doing it because once you max out all weapons, you're able to use every weapon skill you've learned with any weapon of your choosing. So now all you have to do is map your attacks to your controller via battle settings and use them in fast succession for a more hectic combat pace. Well that's if you want to of course, you can still play tactical mode and do everything manually. That's what I do. Materia system is also gonna be huge to use. Much like the original game, Materia is equipped to add certain abilities or spells for the player. These are able to be equipped to your weapons and accessories you wear and can not only give you boosts in defense, but HP as well. Strategizing what to equip people with is key. For a character like Aerith, who acts like your white mage, its best to equip her with materia such as Magic Up which raises her magic power, healing materia to cast healing spells and mixing in blue materia called Magnify. Why do that? well if you link Magnify and cure together, instead of healing one person at a time, it will instead heal your entire party. The same works for her offensive spells as well, use magnify and fire together and a chain link of fire attacks every enemy. Its damn cool. Same works for anyone else too. Barret is a tank, equip him with HP up, give Cloud and Tifa first strike materia and allow them to get a huge boost of ATB at the beginning of any fight to take the advantage in any battle cause each ability you use, drains one ATB bar. Now I've been pretty upbeat about this game right? and for good reason, there's a ton to love about this game, so much in fact that I can't name it all. But now comes my turn to rant on the stuff that confused me or even angered me.
Remember when I talked about the whispers earlier? welp, were back to that now. This is easily one of the worst aspects of the game to me. Every time you move through the game and push the story along, they show up to keep you from something interesting. They are not in the original, so adding them here came off as if Nomura put in another one of his M Night ''what a twist!'' moments. In a nut shell, their job is to make sure fate and course of history is not changed at all. They want things to proceed as they did in the original FF7 games story, beat for beat and do everything they can to stop you from trying to deviate away from that goal. You learn of their ultimate goal towards the end of the game when speaking to Red 13 and Aerith. You're on a set path, no way off it, the only way to change your future of the original FF7 game, which got pretty grim, is to defeat them and change history forever. But here is where I have a few other gripes, from chapter 8 to 16, Aerith is her normally bubbly happy self, then out of nowhere, she has a complete character change and shes all knowing, all powerful sage type of character that knows everything out of nowhere. I did not like this as it felt too sudden. But.. I have my theory as to why this is. But If I tell you it might open up the rabbit hole. I do not believe shes the Aerith of this timeline or another event took place which caused her to see into the future of things that are going to happen. Which you will find out shortly in Chapter 18. Oh man, Chapter 18. its like playing an entirely new game, everything you witnessed in the regular game seems sorta grounded, characters struggle, occasionally pull off cool moves, but now they're jumping like anime ninjas, slicing through literal buildings and soaring through the sky. This scene is nearly an identical rip off to an ending scene of the movie Advent Children. Sephiroth throwing a building, check, Cloud slicing through it, check, Barret flying away from an impact with nearly the same exact animation as the movie? check.
Its all a total mind scramble and kind of in a way makes you feel like they betrayed you. You were told this was gonna stay true to the original game, but this strays heavily from that promise. Its like a slap in face.. that is until you realize, oh my god. It was right there in front of us the whole time, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, is literal. Its the story being remade, not the game being remade. Yes. If you haven't guessed by now, FF7 Remake is an actual sequel title, now with branching off timelines where Zack Fair lives instead of dies. I'm still annoyed by the whispers, don't get me wrong but I've always wanted a sequel to FF7 in actual game form and now I got it, just at the expense of the original games story. Conflicted for sure, because this can either go the Kingdom Hearts route of a mess of a story or become something amazing. There's definitely big plans coming ahead, with more hints coming in Yuffie Intermission DLC, which ill be covering very soon and giving my theories on just where were heading. Such as I think the Sephiroth in this game is actually the Sephiroth from the timeline of Advent Children. So stay tuned!
After you've beaten the game, there's still much more to do. Find the ween little boy named Chadley and take on VR missions that allow you to take on summon monsters like Shiva, ifrit, Leviathan and a fat boy chocobo or take on the shinra VR missions on normal mode and hard mode to get extra prizes like an accessory that starts you off every battle with a limit break. You're also free to play any chapter to go back and finish all the side quests you want for extra story arcs like what dress tifa will wear, what dress aerith wears, dialogue outside aeriths house etc. Beating the game on hard mode also gives you books for each character that awards AP to max everything out. Definitely worth it. I did every single thing possible during my PS4 playthrough, including beating the hardest challenge in the game which made you fight 5 enemies in a row on one health bar, all the summons, followed by the secret boss. But it was SO worth it. Even after doing this I still couldn't stop playing, clocking in with a total of 142hrs, now over 160hrs when combined with Remake. You won't get bored any time soon.
When its all said and done, Final Fantasy 7 Remake manages to do what I didn't think was possible. It actually took elements from the original game and made them even better this time around. Amazing character development, smooth and engaging combat that feels like the better version of Final Fantasy 15, deep combat and upgrade system that allows you to mix and match materia and have a freedom of using any weapon you want based off your favorite abilities, blissful music that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, reimagined midgar that immerses you in its atmosphere and with Intergrade here, improved performance, better texturing, smoother frame rate and.. they fixed the infamous door! game of the year. Sure I had my gripes about some of the pacing issues with filler and game padding, the whispers being annoying, characters personalities just changing randomly but overall, I genuinely loved this game to pieces and I can officially say ''childhood not ruined!''. So with this long long long build up, its a no brainer if you have a PS4 or PS5, my verdict is clear. GameNChick says BUY NOW