Save State’s Perils and Pluses of Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade

Welcome back to Save State, where over the last couple weeks I haven’t actually completed a new game. In my off time, I decided to finally restart the Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, as I played through the original title on my PS4, but never experienced the Intergrade content since that’s PS5 and PC exclusive. This largely meant completely restarting the game, but I haven’t quite been able to make my whole way through the adventure, as of yet.

This gave me an idea, though, to change things up a bit. A lot of the time, this column functions as mini reviews for old JRPGs or lesser-known indie games, but I figured since I’m playing something very mainstream, I’d make this entry of Save State into more of a play diary to talk about what I felt at different points in time. It might be weird to do that with a title I’ve already played once before, but I promise enough time has elapsed that I don’t recall much of what happens in the Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Final Fantasy VII Remake begins with a pretty bombastic opening: Cloud and ecoterrorist group Avalanche bust into an energy reactor, fighting soldiers and war machines to make their way to the core. You’re given some starting information to begin fleshing out this ragtag bunch of domestic fugitives, such as the leader of Avalanche, Barrett, being more brawn than brains. It’s worth noting that even at the start, they give the player an idea that beneath his curmudgeonly exterior is a guy who really cares about those around him.

You’re quickly introduced to Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge, all part of Avalanche, who are characters from the original game that I don’t remember having this much personality. It’s also been roughly 20 years since I’ve played the original but still. Jessie’s high energy, flirtatious demeanor works really well due to her constant teasing of the main character Cloud Strife, who spends much of the time trying to be overly serious. Biggs is probably the most straightforward of the group, and Wedge is a hefty, jovial, but well-meaning fellow who really looks up to Cloud.

The purpose of Avalanche and Cloud breaking into the reactor is to destroy it. Shinra, the company that runs the power plants, drains the earth of an energy called mako through these reactors. Mako, essentially being the essence of life in this world, is determined to be more precious than Shinra’s capricious overuse of it. Final Fantasy VII, beginning with a political statement on climate change back in 1997, was a huge eye opener for me as a kid, and the bombastic nature of that opening is preserved, if not improved upon, in the Final Fantasy VII Remake. Whenever someone says video games aren’t political, Final Fantasy VII is one of my favorite ones to call back to. I was radicalized early, what can I say.

After escaping the reactor, the crew has to fight their way out and escape to the streets. This is another part I didn’t really remember well, but actually journeying through the streets of Midgar to try and escape the authorities is amazing in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Square Enix’s composer took the battle music and turned it into a low energy version that seamlessly transitions into the normal, energetic battle music if you encounter Shinra soldiers during your escape.

After such a big opening, Final Fantasy VII Remake takes a moment to calm down a bit and lets you explore Midgar’s slums in Sector 7 with Tifa. This is done through completing side quests, earning nice rewards, and there’s a whole lot of expansion in Tifa’s character, which is good since she’s the best girl. It’s a nice moment to take a break and do things at your own pace after having two whole chapters of breakneck action. The third chapter really goes out of its way to characterize Tifa and Jessie, which leads almost directly to Jessie asking Cloud for a favor.

The fourth chapter of Final Fantasy VII Remake is something I don’t remember from the original version at all. It’s a special side job from Jessie that expands on her character motivations, involves a fun high-speed motorcycle battle segment that went on just a tad too long for my liking, and sets up for Avalanche’s next big job in the later chapter. Chapter five is the next big job to destroy one of Shinra’s reactors, and it, six, and seven all form one big dungeon where the Avalanche crew ventures toward Sector 5, regroups, and loses the optics war with Shinra due to a trap.

Chapters five and six feature Cloud and company getting split up due to Shinra discovering their presence on a train en route to Sector 5’s reactor. The entire crew splits up with Cloud, Tifa, and Barrett following a maintenance passage to reach their destination. This segment largely tasks you with running back and forth among light sources so you can reroute power to direct bridges for traversal. Getting all the items in this segment made it take a fair deal longer than I’d have liked considering the briskness of previous dungeons in the Final Fantasy VII Remake.

While at Mako Reactor 5, the whole Avalanche crew gets caught by Shinra during infiltration, and they’re quickly used as political pawns. Through TV magic and controlling the narrative, the citizens of Midgar get shown a less than flattering visage of Avalanche, and it doesn’t help that Shinra throws even more giant robots at you to stop the story. The best part of this dungeon is that you know Shinra has a big weapon prepared to use against you, and you can choose to remove some of its weapons to limit its attacks. The dungeon before the boss is very simple, but the lead-in to the boss fight was great and probably my favorite moment so far in Final Fantasy VII Remake.

The conclusion of the battle results in Cloud’s separation from Tifa and Barrett as he falls from Sector 5’s plate into its slums, right through a church’s roof. This is where Cloud meets the best girl Aerith, who you only saw for a brief moment while she was accosted by ghosts in Final Fantasy VII Remake’s opening hours. I actually don’t remember a whole hell of a lot about those ghosts, just that they appear when the story is about to go off rails and meta game it back on track. It’s very strange, and I don’t actually remember what the purpose of these ghosts are, but I’m sure it’ll come back to me once I reach the climax of the story.

In any event, Cloud gets to fight against his first Turk, a group of Shinra’s elite officers (at least on the surface), and then he and Aerith both have to quickly escape the church because it gets awfully spooky in there. After this, you get another moment of down time with Aerith where you can relax and do side quests at your own pace. Final Fantasy VII Remake really cranked up Aerith’s sassiness, too, which makes her several times more endearing than she was in the original version… and she was great there, too.

Cloud escorts Aerith home and plans to sneak away in the middle of the night so as not to involve her in any of his business, but Aerith is the only smart character in the title and joins up with him to escort him home to Sector 7’s slums, instead. This leads to a really long dungeon in an underground maintenance tunnel where you have to use mechanical arms to move cargo containers to progress. This section itself isn’t bad, but my word does it go on for quite some time.

And, unfortunately, that’s as far as I made it through Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade thus far, somewhere partway into chapter 9, which is around the halfway point. Returning to this title, I was surprised by how much more I appreciated and enjoyed all of the little touches they threw in- almost every game I remember from the original Final Fantasy VII has an updated track- oftentimes several reinterpretations that all sound excellent. I may not remember a lot of what exactly occurred in Final Fantasy VII due to having an atrocious memory, but music is one of those things that sticks with me for years… decades, in this case.

That said, sorry for the change in format this week. I’ve retreated a bit back into my comfort zone of just enjoying whatever JRPG I feel like playing at any particular point in time as that’s kind of my happy place. Hopefully, some who enjoy this column appreciate the new format. If not, leave a comment asking for it to be changed, haha. We’ll reopen Save State again in approximately two weeks’ time, so until then, just remember if they didn’t want you to eat glue, they shouldn’t have made it so delicious.

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