Save State Continues to Delve Through Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade

Welcome back to Save State, where I’m continuing my journey from last time through the Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade. This game is heavily loaded in the second half, with it taking a section of the Playstation original that only took a few hours and maybe 6 total bosses, but Square Enix turned that part of it into a whopping 30-40 hours to clear. A lot of the original was expanded, but there’s some new content as well that helps expand the scope of events that transpire during the course of the title. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

The ninth chapter of Final Fantasy VII Remake is chock full of things to do: plenty of side quests, a combat arena, an exercise and dancing mini-game, and cross-dressing. This chapter has it all. Cloud and Aerith, on their way back into Sector 7, discover that Tifa is going to visit a man named Don Corneo, which results in the two racing to Wall Market to rescue her at Aerith’s behest because Corneo is an awful person. In order to get into Corneo’s mansion, the player has to earn the approval of three big names in Wall Market, known collectively as The Trio, to be offered up as playthings to the Don of the Slums. Chocobo Sam and Madam M give you some odd jobs to take care of to earn their approval, and whichever of the two you pick will give a dress for Aerith for the selection. Andrea Rhodea, on the other hand, has a dance off with Cloud and dresses him up as the finest lady in all the land.

Completing all of the side objectives in Chapter 9 takes some time, but there’s a lot of great items and materia you get as a result. Which, you’ll need it, as the meeting with the Don quickly escalates into him informing your group that Shinra plans to drop the plate on Sector 7 to wipe out Avalanche, effectively dropping the wealthy inhabitants who live above onto the poor saps in the slums, which will easily wipe out both. Corneo also drops the party into the sewers beneath his mansion because of course he has a comically placed trap door.

Final Fantasy VII Remake’s tenth chapter is a sewer crawl, but it begins with a fun boss fight vs the Don’s pet, a creature called Abzu that can hit you with sewer water. Using the Elemental Materia connected with Fire Materia, plus Cloud just casting Fire whenever available, ended the fight so quickly that I didn’t even see a couple of big attacks from Abzu that I’m pretty sure were rage-inducing during my first playthrough of the game. After this boss fight, Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith venture through the sewers to try and return to Sector 7 as quickly as possible to warn everyone.

Chapter 11 takes the crew into a train graveyard, where you defeat a bunch of ghosts who coalesce into one gigantic ghost boss by the middle of the chapter. There are plenty of items to find, but the simple exploration doesn’t really make this much of a standout chapter. The first boss fight is amazing, however, with a boss that teaches you to use obstacles in the environment to avoid damage as it picks up and tosses random things at you. After that, you’re given more simple puzzles to complete as a brief break before fighting a 3-phase boss and ending the chapter.

Chapter 12 is when Cloud and his entourage finally reach Sector 7, again, and Shinra has already beaten them to the pillar that holds up Sector 7’s plate. Barrett, with Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge, are trying to stifle Shinra’s advances, but they’re very clearly outmatched. Cloud and Tifa run in to help, with Aerith given the task to rescue Barrett’s daughter, Marlene. Not only does Aerith wind up getting captured by Shinra due to her separation from the group, but the other three fight a valiant battle against Shinra Turks Reno and Rude but are still unable to prevent Shinra’s attempts to blow up the pillar.

Surviving by sheer luck, Chapter 13 begins with Cloud, Tifa, and Barrett coming to terms with what just occurred. Barrett worries about Marlene, but Tifa proposes the idea that Aerith and Marlene must be waiting at her mother’s house in Sector 5. Upon arrival you discover that Marlene is safe and sound, but Aerith is nowhere to be found. After hearing some of Aerith’s backstory from her mother, the party decides to venture back to Sector 7 to help anyone in need. This leads you back into the tunnels that were earlier explored with Aerith, but are at least quicker to navigate this time.

Barrett tries hard to find other members of Avalanche, of which Wedge was the only survivor known at that time. One of Wedge’s cats lead the group into an underground science lab where they get split up, leading to a rare moment with direct control over Barrett. It’s funny, when you only have a hammer, everything problem is a nail, and because Barrett has a gun, every puzzle is solved by him shooting it for a couple seconds, which is kind of amusing. The crew eventually reunites to fight some failed science experiments, and they even find Wedge as a nice bonus.

After concluding what they set out to do in Sector 7 and having discovered that Aerith was, in fact, kidnapped by Shinra, the group begins Chapter 14 recuperating and preparing for her impending rescue. Fourteen is another lengthy chapter with a variety of side quests to complete, and it even introduces a chocobo-based fast travel system because it knows you’re going to be here for a while. After clearing as much optional content as you want, the crew decides to find Don Corneo, who must know a way to reach the surface from the slums since Shinra’s headquarters are on the upper plates of Midgar.

Venturing through another set of sewers and being led by one of Corneo’s men who has a vendetta against the Don, this chapter goes out of its way to show the human cost of letting trash like Corneo run unchecked. You’re told how Leslie only got close to Don Corneo in order to kill him because his fiancee was selected as one of the Don’s girls… and then promptly discarded, never to be seen again. The story elements of this chapter are great, but the gameplay is mediocre since it’s yet another sewer for the group to trudge through. You fight Abzu a second time… but this time it has additional mooks for you to slaughter in an even easier fight, somehow. The Don gets away, but the chapter ends with the group receiving grappling guns to scale the walls on the edge of the slums, to reach the top side of the plates.

Chapter 15 is where Final Fantasy VII Remake really outperforms the original title in terms of selling the sheer scope of the events of the last few chapters. Shinra, the evil corporation, dropped an entire section of the city on you to try and eliminate the dissidents that are Avalanche just a few hours before. The poor citizens who lived in manufactured lighting in the slums beneath the plate were considered inconsequential in Shinra’s plans, so the corporation dropped an entire city on their heads, completely annihilating almost everyone who lived in that sector, wealthy or poor. Chapter 15 of Final Fantasy VII Remake goes out of its way to show the devastation this action caused because no one was spared in Shinra’s master plan.

The entire time you’re climbing destroyed buildings that could crumble beneath your feet at any moment, you can see what Shinra’s actions cost the people living in Sector 7 of Midgar. Whether poor or wealthy, your life is forfeited in face of a corporation—in a way, that rings true to life. As you ascend, you get caught by a Shinra kill team and have to battle your way up destroyed buildings in your effort to rescue Aerith. Then, finally, you crest the top of one of the few standing structures… only to see the sun setting over the rubble of a completely demolished city, almost all the life of which was obliterated in an instant due to your failure to protect them. Your goal is to protect the planet and save Aerith, but can you justify the human cost?

It’s powerful, sobering, and probably one of the best thematic moments in the entire game. In terms of presentation, this chapter probably does the best job at showing you the consequences of Avalanche in comparison to the original game than any other chapter, so far. The boss fight for Chapter 15 is great, as well, with a very simple to understand gimmick. Initially you use the terrain to protect yourself from the flying robot’s weaponry, but as it gets lower in health, it adds an orbital strike to its repertoire which can hit you behind cover. Thankfully, the boss can hit itself with this laser which makes it considerably easier to stagger, and subsequently, dispatch.

Chapters 16 and 17 take place almost entirely within Shinra’s headquarters, as the group finally reaches the top side of Midgar in their push to rescue Aerith. Of course, every good plan gets ruined by Barrett, this time by falling on his butt off the top of a vehicle they were using to sneak into the building, causing the combat encounters to begin quickly in this chapter. There are really no puzzles present in Chapter 16 at all, and there’s plenty of slow wandering around as Final Fantasy VII Remake holds your characters hostage, forcing them listen to some Shinra propaganda videos to proceed. The boss fight at the end features another wild science experiment that changes phases multiple times throughout the battle, but there’s nothing special about it, otherwise. Truthfully, the best part of this chapter is finding both Aerith and Red XIII, an enigmatic dog that Shinra’s Professor Hojo kept as an experiment.

The final dungeon of Final Fantasy VII Remake takes place within Hojo’s laboratory and comprises the entirety of Chapter 17. The dungeon’s puzzle involves switching between two groups of party members, as they got separated due to events leading to them being locked in Hojo’s lab. Cloud and Barrett can make the way for Tifa and Aerith to proceed, and then they do the same for them. Red XIII even pulls his weight by activating some switches when the need arises. This dungeon probably features the best puzzle design in the game, which may not be saying much. It also features a whopping three boss fights of varying quality.

This chapter is probably the largest departure from the original Final Fantasy VII, and I think it’s a little bit weaker because of it. In the original version, everyone gets captured after confronting the Shinra’s president, but Cloud’s cell door is left open that night, mysteriously. Upon sneaking out, Cloud discovers that the guard was murdered, and there’s a giant trail of blood leading up multiple floors of Shinra HQ. This was something unsettling and very powerful for a game all the way back in 1997, but I imagine all that blood wouldn’t be okay nowadays, so they changed it to bubbling ooze from an alien lifeform, instead, which is nowhere near as impactful in my eyes. Even the president’s death at the hands of Sephiroth is immediately deflated because he also stabs Barrett, but Barrett survives due to some ghostly intervention from Whispers while the president does not—so does anything we’re doing here actually matter?

The second boss fight of Chapter 17, the president’s son Rufus, is the absolute pinnacle of Final Fantasy VII Remake’s boss design. It’s a 1v2 of Cloud against the son of Shinra’s president and his pet dog, and it extrapolates everything good about the combat system. Depending on your skill and understanding of how battle in Final Fantasy VII Remake works, this fight can be a grueling war of attrition where you only survive their in tandem attacks by tenacity alone, or you can use Haste, Sleep, Triple Slash, and Braver to make short work of both Rufus and his pet in under a minute or two. One of the other bosses of the chapter takes a significantly long time to kill, but it would have been way better off as the final boss of the game instead of what’s served in the next chapter.

The final chapter of Final Fantasy VII Remake sees Cloud and company escaping from pursuers in a motorcycle minigame very similar to what was in the fourth chapter. Cloud receives periodic healing from Red XIII, which is useful considering the wealth of enemies that come at you, and especially in preparation for the boss that lies at the end of the section. After that, you’re given your final point of no return, a chance to heal and buy some items, and then get shoved into the longest boss fight in the entire game. Cloud, in an effort to fight back against a nebulous fate, battles the Whisper Harbinger… who can’t be directly harmed, so you actually fight the same 3 ghost boss proxies of the Harbinger multiple times, swapping party members all throughout.

The Whisper Harbinger boss is awful because you have to empty the health gauges of the proxies, which staggers them, and then during their stagger duration the overflow damage hurts the Harbinger, itself. This results in you killing those same enemies 2-3 times each during a 20 minute long boss fight filled with cutscenes that interrupt you regularly (especially if you deal too much damage too quickly). The ghosts do a brief fusion dance to a merged form replete with multiple unblockable attacks that home in quite strongly, too.

After defeating the Harbinger, you’re given another cutscene, where Sephiroth absorbs what’s left of the Whispers and clashes swords with Cloud in a void dimension consisting of floating, destroyed buildings. The Sephiroth fight, all things considered, isn’t too terrible outside of him having way too many moments where he’s invulnerable to damage because he needs to change phases. You used a Limit Break at an arbitrarily wrong time? Too bad, there’s a stop sign over his health bar and it won’t lower anymore.

Defeating Sephiroth makes an explosion of Whispers, causing a blinding light to envelop the two and cast them into a new environment. Sephiroth, seemingly aware of all events that have or will transpire, fights with Cloud in an excellently choreographed cutscene before vanishing. It shifts quickly to other characters, even Zack, showing a timeline where both Zack and Cloud survive the events preceding the original game. With the conventions of a by-the-numbers remake smashed to bits, Final Fantasy VII Remake promptly ends with Cloud, Tifa, Barrett, and Aerith leaving Midgar, resolved more than ever to stop Sephiroth.

All in all, I enjoyed my time in Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade but if I had no experience with Final Fantasy VII, the ending would have been super unimpressive to me because of how vague and out of the blue the final events are. There were many parts of it that had callbacks which did a great job of displaying things that couldn’t be shown in the Playstation original, and while I haven’t played Rebirth yet (and have been judicious in avoiding spoilers), I’m excited to see where the Remake trilogy goes from here. Breaking the bonds of fate was the underlying theme of Final Fantasy VII Remake—and I’ll be interested in seeing what they do with that theme, later. I felt the Whispers were probably the weakest addition to the story events, so with that out of the way, I look forward to Rebirth’s eventual PC port so I can enjoy it, too.

That being said, it’s high time to bring this entry of Save State to a close. I know I still have the Intermission content in Final Fantasy VII Remake to try out, but that will have to be saved for another time. See you in a couple weeks!

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