In Episode Intermission, Yuffie Kisaragi, self-proclaimed Wutai ninja extraordinaire, finally makes an appropriately pompous entrance and joins the anti-Shinra fray. Yuffie’s ninjutsu and shuriken-centric abilities are an invigoratingly frenetic addition to Remake’s deep, real-time combat system. New supporting characters make brief appearances and help bring the Slums, and the sectors beyond it, to life. And even though Intermission’s abbreviated plotline never really lands the mark, it ultimately serves as a strong introduction to a beloved protagonist while hinting at what’s to come in additional Final Fantasy VII content.
Intermission’s loop is virtually the same as last year’s Remake: scour visually arresting hub areas for treasure chests, arbitrarily placed Materia orbs, and optional task-givers (with the added benefit of Fort Condor, a new table-top minigame). Yuffie’s two chapters take you back to the Slums and Shinra Headquarters. In between the two major locations, you’ll also traverse meandering passages in never-before-seen factories and junkyards. These moments, however, play out like the linear, monster-infested locales from the base game. Despite spending most of my time in recycled environments, gossip from nearby NPCs and appearances from familiar faces like Johnny and Chadley made Final Fantasy VII’s world feel alive. I always found it nice to overhear pockets of citizens comment on my in-game feats as I completed missions around town. This also helps ground Yuffie and her tight-lipped companion, Sonon, in the larger tale. Even though Cloud, Tifa, and Barrett, aren’t the stars of this show, their momentous actions – e.g., the Reactor bombings – still inform Intermission’s story beats.
With the help of fresh-faced Avalanche operatives, Yuffie infiltrates Midgar to retrieve a top-secret, all-powerful Materia. However, this overarching goal often fell to the wayside because the side content was far more enticing to chew on. Still, I didn’t mind this because reconnecting with old pals like Jesse and Wedge in Fort Condor or slaying wild beats repeatedly with Yuffie and Sonon’s flashy flurries was where the experience truly came together.
Combat is Intermission’s bread and butter. The minute I took control of Yuffie, I was enamored with her eye-popping agility – long-range shuriken throws transform into close-combat combos in the blink of an eye. Afterimage effects fill the screen as the whimsical ninja pierces her foes in mid-air while conducting high-altitude flips. Yuffie’s acrobatic barrages are reflective of her flashy and eccentric personality. She’s also quite resourceful as her default weapon can switch elements on the fly, which helps alleviate any menu parsing that you would normally do to equip Materia. Thankfully, I never needed to step away from the action to prepare for enemy weaknesses, making combat more streamlined and constant. Because of this, I only ever equipped other weapons to max out their proficiencies; the early-game 4-Point Shuriken was just too valuable to sideline.
Synergized attacks – tag-team abilities that can only be activated if both Yuffie and Sonon have at least one ATB charge – feel like miniature Limit Breaks with their own dazzling cinematics and substantial damage numbers. I can’t remember a single time where I didn’t try to take advantage of this feature, and I often wished that Remake implemented something like it. Watching Yuffie straddle Sonon’s staff, while bringing that final blow down on a boss never got old.
Fort Condor, an entertaining respite from the intense battle sequences, is a tower-defense mode where troops under three distinct classes (attackers, vanguard, and ranged) clash to take out enemy outposts. Each class has a specific weakness, and by customizing your roster before a match starts, you can create optimal builds that prioritize different playstyles. There is one caveat: spawning reinforcements drains an AP bar, which not only prevents overcrowding, but highlights split-second decision making.
I enjoyed placing bases on the board to spawn lower cost units so that I wouldn’t have to micromanage every phase of a given match. Baiting enemy soldiers towards one side of the map and sending speedy attackers to barrage abandoned outposts was satisfying, especially on higher difficulties. With only a handful of competitors, Fort Condor still feels like a tagged-on feature. Similarly, I wish that there were more boards and units to purchase from local shops. Fort Condor reminds me of The Witcher 3’s Gwent and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s Orlog, and I hope to see more of it implemented in the future.
Episode Intermission is brought to life by its bubbly, albeit goofy, main character. I loved how Yuffie’s personality came through in the myriad ways that she interacted with each setting – i.e., sliding down poles or flinging her shuriken at far off mechanical switches to solve environmental puzzles. Exploration and combat are bolstered by an eclectic score that sports jazzy trumpets as well as roaring guitar riffs. And the level of detail that the Graphics Mode brings to flowy garments, strands of hair, and other textures never ceased to amaze me. I wish that Intermission’s narrative was a little longer so that I could spend more time getting to know its small cast but Yuffie rises to the occasion. I can’t wait to see how she fits into what’s next for Remake.