The remake of Final Fantasy VII was announced in 2015. As expected, five years later, we saw it on the shelves in April 2020. Even in last-gen, the graphics were impressive, just as we’ve grown to expect from Square. But what happens when such a game gets enhanced even more for the PlayStation 5? Are there sufficient differences to justify a new remake? Let’s dive in the details:
The gameplay of FF7 Remake Intergrade deserves the first mention as it is the strongest point of the game. It feels modern and distances itself from what Final Fantasy has been like so far, but at the same time manages to remain familiar. A very nice mechanism is the rotation of the team players throughout the game. Each character has their own skill which makes them stand out. But naturally, we all love Cloud a little more than the others. While exploring Midgar, switching characters can make a difference. At the same time, players have different spells that they can use either defensively or offensively. That brings more value to the game from a tactical point of view because you’re not just running straight ahead and killing whatever you encounter.
As basic gameplay mechanics we have Materia and the Active Time Bar. Materia is essentially the central body of FF7. For those unfamiliar with the lore of the game, this is a Mako energy blend from vital energy and the planet itself. Practically, it takes the form of spheres that are applied on an item and give the player magical abilities They can even create magical creatures that help you in battle. Of course, you can also create different loadouts for your characters. A very useful feature for the more fanatical players. This also affects how each character will shape their items.
On the other hand, the Active Time Bar has direct use in the interaction of characters in the game. It fills up slowly as long as you stay idle, but fills up faster when you attack enemies. It also encourages switching between Cloud, Tifa, Aerith and Barret. Essentially, the Active Time Bar is divided into parts, and any use of magic objects, abilities, etc. consumes some of its energy. This enhances the different playstyle of each character and gives a beautiful note to the RPG-element.
Finally, the combat is not simple. Each character has its own handling and each enemy has its own weaknesses. This creates the need to think fast to cope. Enemies seem to work in the same way as Clouds team works: they collaborate. If you want to wait for them to sit down to eat them, you will probably be disappointed. Often during battle, you can get paralyzed by an opponent’s mechanic. Status ailments are definitely a thing here. The way you defend and dodge is a bit different from how it usually works. Avoiding an attack in most RPGs is the most lucrative tactic. Not here though. It’s usually better to block attacks, because there are many different types. Blocking them gives you a nicer picture of the battle, so that you can think about how to move rather than running up and down all the time.
Next up is the story, which is a very subjective experience, observed through the characters. The main theme, just like in the original game, remains the Avalanche race. Avalanche, as a liberation group, aims to save the planet from the hands of Shinra. Shinra is harnessing Mako energy, thus forcing the rest of the planet to suffer. What struck me about the evolution of the game, is how the conditions that make people suffer through the Shinra and Avalanche disputes are projected. They all live in miserable conditions, which strongly give the element of post-apocalyptic-cyber-dystopia-that other strange word-world of the game.
Here comes a very interesting directorial correlation that piqued my interest. While the game has many different elements, in regards to its evolution there are some points where the story slows down. Through this, something happens that makes the player think of these elements. As long as you have the opportunity to explore Midgar and the Slums, there is a friction with the NPCs. Many of them condemn Avalanche, blaming the resistance for the misery they are experiencing. So the question arises whether their actions are really for the better. On the other hand, it is only logical for a revolution to have collateral losses. Through this, a deeper relationship is built between the characters, and between the player and the game. A good game leads you to feel a certain way, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade is top notch in this regard.
The characters we accompany in FF7R are familiar and beloved. The design of the FF7 character group profoundly influenced the modern game design. What we see here are not exactly cliché characters, they are the characters that started all the clichés, because everyone has been trying to imitate Square’s character design. We have the brute Barret, Aerith who relies mainly on magic, Tifa and her “special” relationship with Cloud, and obviously Cloud as a melee specialist.
It is worth mentioning that the game certainly succeeds at consolidating Cloud’s history. Cloud, as a mercenary, gives off a fitting vibe: “I just get paid to be here.” Throughout the game however, you actually get to know him and people start to show a liking towards him. This counteracts the cold character shown by Cloud and makes the player invested in his story. Another nice feature here are his reactions to Tifa and Aerith, and how they in their turn affect Cloud. Looking at images from their traumatic past, the most emblematic Final Fantasy villain makes his appearance. Yes, I’m talking about Sephiroth. Go play it to see what happens next.
New Yuffie DLC – exclusive for Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
While in fact the main story is no different from the PS4 version, this particular DLC is only available within the Intergrade version. And it is one of the strongest selling points of the game. Specifically the new chapter, INTERmission, which takes place approximately in the middle of the story. As its name implies. For fans of the game, the fact that you can play with Yuffie is a pretty big deal. The chapter consists of 2 episodes and can be completed in 3-4 hours if you are in a hurry. Probably 6-7 if you want to do everything. Not bad for this title. It is worth mentioning that the evolution of the DLC does not affect the central story.
The DLC consists of scenes and battles that we have also seen in the Remake of the game, just from a different perspective. However, the fact that you play against many new important bosses with Yuffie and her unique ninjutsu technique is definitely enough to hype hardcore fans. There are many cut-scenes that play an important role and then there’s the epic tease at the end. We won’t be spoiling it for you though. For the fans who will be playing INTERmission, prepare for a serious mental breakdown. Finally, after you completed the chapter, several end game challenges for Yuffie and post-game content are unlocked.
Graphics: The transition to the new generation
And while the DLC has its own role to play in Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, the direct comparison is in how incredibly better the game looks on the PS5. There are of course some extra scenes, but there’s no comparison there. However, there are 2 graphics modes: one for native 4K with lower frames (30), and one with 60 frames and lower resolution (closer to native 1440+). Both serve their purpose, but everyone has a different preference. In both cases the result is beautiful and already a big upgrade compared to the PS4 version. Final Fantasy has always pushed ahead in the field of graphics, so as beautiful as the result may be in Intergrade, it is exactly what we expected to see.
And the visuals are really amazing. Shadows, lighting, animations, are all beautifully designed. Bright flashes can be seen anywhere in Final Fantasy, be it in the movies, the games or even in the comics. Such lights, if not well designed, can easily tire the eye. While on the PS4 they were good and emphasized the content, with the PS5 graphics they are just gorgeous. HDR is working its magic. In cinematics especially, both the melee actions and the features that make Remake come to life, are very strongly emphasized.
Is Resolution the key to everything?
Among the modes that the game provides, I personally loved Graphics mode. Everything that appeared on my screen was beautiful and meticulous down to the smallest detail. The handle of the Cloud Sword, the leather surfaces on the character items: everything is overly well designed. All of this is displayed through the smooth movement of the PS5; things almost seem real.
While Performance mode gives a greater ease due to 60 fps, FF7 is not a game that necessarily needs a high frame rate. There is a notable difference between the two modes. The battles and movements are smoother in Performance. However, in some cases Performance does not seem to be fully optimized in its graphics. As a fan of the graphic presentation in this game, I preferred Graphics mode to really enjoy the game’s beauty to the fullest. I was not particularly bothered by the lower frames in combat anyway.
Regarding the environment, again the increased Volumetric Fog in the Slums was the most remarkable. The whole environment in the game is beautiful as the illustration is successful, but the atmosphere born in the Slums won me over.
Music and Sound
The music and the SFX mix perfectly with the graphics. First of all, SFXs have a role to play: they do not exaggerate, nor do they lack anything. They apply exactly to the description of the operations, giving the player the information they need. Adding the realistic element, together with the Sci-fi note, shows that they are adequately executed.
Voice acting and dialogue
The game has a lot of cinematics and cut-scenes to reflect the value of a voice actor. At no point was the performance bad or degrading to the scene. Games with a long history like FF present an additional difficulty, in that the acting needs to be as close as possible to the pre-existing performances. The actors really have to embody through their voice the drama and the elements that are projected on the screen. Although the dialogues were sometimes very cringy, the actors succeeded in the task at hand.
The music has been upgraded as well. It would not make sense anyway to keep the original pieces as they were. So we now have a soundtrack that is a remix of the original. A trap is created at this point. Whenever you do a remix, it has to be as good as the original track. Otherwise you just ruin the original work. I was glad to hear the remixes are very well and beautifully orchestrated. Giving off a nostalgic feel, and at the same time presenting something new.
That’s the central music. Something that caught my interest, however, was the transitional music. While usually the audio that accompanies the transition to a cinematic or a battle just represents the character of the scene, here it also became catchy. It escapes the element that simply portrays the image, giving an extra interest to the scene with capacity, mystery and beauty, always depending on the scene that appears.
Compared to PS4?
Looking at the loading times in Intergrade is just comical. In almost 10 seconds the player is in the game. Something that took about a minute for the PS4. As a difference it may not sound big, but when you wait in front of a screen and the game opens in seconds it is really impressive …. In addition some bugs have also been fixed, such as rendering on some doors and other trifles.
Finally, Photo Mode is a beautiful finishing touch for this title. Midgar’s dystopian cyber environment is a beautiful setting, especially for those who like to capture scenes.
Is the transition worth it?
Quite simply yes. For the console alone it is worth it, and for the fanbase even more so. Aside from the fact that Square Enix already did a splendid job with the first part of the FF7 Remake series, this is still a huge game title and worth having for your new console. Final Fantasy is an RPG class in itself. Cloud and Sephiroth have left their mark on modern pop culture, and not without reason.
While the game leaves a lot of mystery related to Cloud’s past, all while building images of a bigger evil in the background, the remake is a strictly complete game. It leaves various elements hovering, but there are many things that make you look forward to its continuation. So far it’s the best game to see Cloud return to the forefront.
As for Integration in the new generation, it was a huge success. Personally, I think that haptic feedback is not used as well as in Ratchet And Clank, but on the other hand, this should not concern the player either. Especially for fans of the series it is a title that takes advantage of the new generation of consoles and it is wonderfully executed.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade was released on 10/06/21, which means we will probably wait a while (at best) to get our hands on the PC edition. Until now, PS exclusives take one year before being released for PC. So those of you who do not own a PS5, or a PS in general, be patient.
Many thanks to CDMedia for providing the review copy we used!