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Final Fantasy VII Intergrade’s exuberant main character makes upgrade a joy

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is out now on PlayStation 5 — and it makes 2020’s best RPG even better. The upgrade takes the game up to 60 frames per second (fps), adds a photo mode, and improves some of its less flattering textures (doors finally look like doors, as opposed to one large pixel). Most significantly, Intergrade brings a few extra hours of gameplay in the form of its INTERmission episode.

The DLC is a four-hour adventure starring Yuffie, the 16-year-old ninja from the 1997 classic. Like most DLC, there’s a lot of familiarity to the new content. It makes clever use of preexisting assets, recycling enemies and locations from the main game. There are some new bosses and a surprisingly deep Fort Condor minigame, but INTERmission is mostly a victory lap around Midgar through a fresh pair of eyes.

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That shift in perspective makes a big difference, as it turns out. Yuffie is a refreshing change of pace from the broody Cloud, with her childlike enthusiasm and lightning-fast attacks. Though what really makes her stand out as a protagonist is much subtler than that: It’s her character animations.

Yuffie battles an enemy in Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade.

From the very start of INTERmission, we know we’re in for a very different type of hero. We’re immediately introduced to Yuffie, dressed in an oversized moogle costume, as she heroically looks out over Midgar. The scene quickly jumps into a slapstick comedy routine. A flock of pigeons fly by, knocking Yuffie off a cliff. Limbs go flying in every direction as she struggles to recover while in free fall. The moment turns graceful for a moment as she regains control and makes a perfect landing on a tattered roof like a gymnast. There’s a moment of calm before one last punchline: She plummets through the building like Wile E. Coyote.

Those Looney Tunes moments are present throughout the adventure, with Yuffie tumbling around Midgar with a combination of ninja-like grace and teenage awkwardness. Whereas Cloud carried himself with self-serious weight, Yuffie always looks like she’s having a blast as she explores Midgar, and that energy is infectious.

It’s not just in the cutscenes. There are little animation details in even the most mundane moments that are a delight to watch. When she runs across a string of narrow platforms, she stretches her arms out to each side as her Moogle cap blows in the wind. She climbs down grates by hopping from rung to rung instead of carefully finding her footing on each step.

Yuffie runs across a grate in Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade.

That enthusiasm is evident even in something as simple as sitting on a bench, which act as healing points in the game. When Cloud sits on a bench, he sluggishly backs onto it with visible exhaustion (or maybe just indifference). Yuffie, on the other hand, launches herself onto it like its a beanbag chair, kicking her legs up with glee.

All of those details may sound miniscule, but they help sell the DLC’s thematic elements. In an early conversation, Yuffie chats about a bar full of drunken adults who are constantly complaining about how kids don’t understand the value of hard work and will be the death of society.

“Ugh, how can they not see that they’re the ones destroying it!?” she complains.

That’s a defining moment in INTERmission that makes it stand out from the main Remake adventure. Whereas Cloud’s story is full of big themes that tackle the idea of fate and destiny, Yuffie’s story is more personal. It’s about a kid who’s trying to make a difference in a bleak world without sacrificing her playful energy. The way we interact with Midgar is much different this time around as a result. It’s still the same dystopian landscape that we traversed in the original, but Yuffie refuses to be beaten down by it. The world is still her playground.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade only adds more depth to the already bustling Midgar. Updated visuals give it more detail than ever, making it well worth a replay. INTERmission only adds to that experience by letting us experience the world through a character that’s actually happy to be there, instead of ones who are dying to escape. It’s a surprisingly joyful piece of content for a game about eco-disaster.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is now available on PS5. The INTERmission episode can be bought separately for $20.

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