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Final Fantasy VII Remake: Episode Intermission on PS5
The 2020 Final Fantasy VII Remake upended fans’ expectations in almost every conceivable way; story beats were familiar but presented differently, new characters and ideas were introduced to make way for future development, and that trend continues with the new DLC Episode Intermission as well. Now, instead of introducing Yuffie in the open-world, Square’s decided to bring her to Midgar instead to try to flesh her out a little more. And yeah, it totally works.
Right from the get-go, Yuffie feels like such a welcome breath of fresh air especially after having spent so many hours with the moody Cloud Strife. The story setup is incredibly simple and straightforward: Yuffie and her ninja companion Sonon have arrived at Midgar to steal the ultimate materia from Shinra Headquarters.
To achieve their goal, they’ve decided to team up with Avalanche. Don’t confuse this Avalanche group with Barret, Tifa, and the rest, though; as explained in the Remake, Avalanche was split up into several factions, with Barret’s splinter cell being regarded as the most radical of them all. The folks that Yuffie and Sonon have allied with are a little more conservative in their methods, and would never do anything that could endanger the lives of all those living in the slums.
We do still get scenes with familiar faces like Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie, but they’ve been relegated as very minor characters for the most part; the focus here is on Yuffie, Sonon, and one or two of their new Avalanche allies.
While Yuffie is the only character you can directly control in Episode Intermission, the combat never feels one-note or boring. Bringing back the action combat system from the base game, you have full control over character movement and you push the square button to attack, circle to evade, and R1 to guard.
On top of all that, you can also press X to bring up the command menu to use various spells and abilities once your ATB gauge has charged up.
Yuffie’s play style feels completely different from any other character in this game. Armed with her oversized shuriken, she can perform melee attacks up close, and instantly create distance between herself and her enemies by jumping backwards. She can also throw her shuriken at an enemy, then jump in to retrieve it. Alternatively, once her shuriken’s lodged in an enemy, she can perform ninjutsu attacks from afar instead.
When Sonon comes into the picture, things become even more interesting. With just a press of a button, the two can enter synergy and Sonon will support whatever Yuffie does. His ATB gauge charges much slower when in synergy, but he’ll perform follow-up attacks based on what you do, and defend you whenever he can.
Once you have ATB charges available for both characters, you can then use synergized versions of Yuffie’s abilities, which have enhanced effects and deal a lot more damage. The key here is to weave in and out of synergy mode to let Sonon do his own thing and charge his ATB gauge, then synergize whenever you need backup or if you want to use a more powerful ability.
The combat in Episode Intermission feels incredibly dynamic as a result and is even, dare I say, better than what we got in FFVII Remake because of how well Sonon and Yuffie work together. The only drawback is that you can’t take full control of Sonon, but the game makes up for that by still allowing you to access his abilities through the command menu, so you’ve still got some agency there.
Outside of combat, Episode Intermission does offer brief periods of respite, where you get to wander around the Sector 7 slums for a bit. There are a few side missions to take on, but you’ll likely spend most of your time on the new Fort Condor mini-game, which definitely ranks up there as one of the very best mini-games in the entire Final Fantasy series.
As the name suggests, this is based on the tower defense mini-game you had to play at Fort Condor in the original 1997 release. Except now, Fort Condor is a board game with different challenger ranks, as well as different units and baords to collect.
Each board comes with different ATB gauge values and outpost health meters. You expend the ATB gauge to deploy units on the board, and they’ll automatically walk towards your enemy’s territory and start attacking their outposts. When the timer runs out, whoever has the most outposts left is declared the winner. There are three types of units, and they’re all strong or weak against something within a rock-paper-scissors style formula.
As you beat more challengers, you’ll rack up Condor Coins, which can be used to buy better units to crush your opponents with. It’s basically an auto-battler tower defense game, and it adds absolutely nothing to the overall story, but man, I sure did waste a ton of hours on Fort Condor. I only wish there were more challengers within the game, but maybe Square Enix will decide to expand upon it even further in the next instalment.
The tone of Episode Intermission also feels really different from that of the base game, thanks to Yuffie’s upbeat, energetic personality as mentioned earlier. She’s incredibly goofy, childish, and always going on about how she’s the leading lady of the show while the people around her have a hard time taking her seriously.
Don’t take this as a dig on Cloud. Cloud’s moody and perpetually glum for a reason, he’s been through some serious trauma, and it makes sense for him to be such a downer. But Yuffie is comparatively innocent, and it’s that contrast that makes her so compelling.
Sonon acts as the perfect foil for her; he’s a guardian of sorts, always looking on haplessly and facepalming whenever she does something silly, and it’s a fun dynamic to go through Episode Intermission with.
The DLC only lasts a handful of precious hours before we have to say goodbye to Yuffie, at least for now. But by the end of the story, she already feels a little wiser and a little more mature. She still retains her bubbly personality, but Episode Intermission helps to flesh her out even further and makes her feel like a proper character in a way that the original game never did.
Episode Intermission builds upon the already solid foundation of Final Fantasy VII Remake and delivers a new story chapter that is both a comedy and a tragedy at the same time. It adds to the mythos of Remake’s world, gives us a new look at various side characters we only spent a few minutes with in the base game, and most importantly, sets the stage for the next crucial party member we’ll meet in the second instalment. It’s a good time all around, and I couldn’t recommend this more to fans of FFVII Remake.
Reviewer: Zhiqing Wan | Award: Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by Publisher.
- Yuffie is an absolute delight.
- The combat feels more dynamic thanks to Yuffie’s play style and her synergy with Sonon.
- Fort Condor is awesome.
- While Yuffie’s play style is good, some players may feel that combat is a little too limited with only one main playable character.
June 10, 2021