The new DLC “Final Fantasy VII Remake: Episode INTERmission” absolutely whips (but god what an awful name when it’s also attached to the new “Intergrade” subtitle for the PS5 version). Yuffie is a blast to play almost to the point of being overpowered; her toolset allows her to adapt to every single enemy’s elemental weakness. She’s a swiss army knife allowing you to adapt to whatever situation arises. I was reluctant about Sonon not being a playable character (unlike your party in the main version) but you actually have a good amount of flexibility being able to issue him commands. Having him be the AI controlled bullet sponge allows Yuffie to really punish enemies and gives you that really accomplished feeling. Both characters are great too. Yuffie is overeager and confident but has the skill set to back it up which makes her effortlessly charming. The bit of people underestimating her because she’s young, small and female never wears out its welcome because it never phases her. She stumbles and jumps into things in a comedic way and always bounces back up. Sonon acts like her older brother; slightly embarrassed but supportive in a real way. He follows her lead and calls her boss and it’s never condescending. He really trusts her which is reinforced through the bit of backstory we learn about him throughout the episode. My only complaint, it’s too short! I don’t mean that in the “gamer” way of minimizing the DLC but I’m just sad I don’t have more time to sync into this. Maybe this is a plus for people who found the 35-40 hour runtime of the main game too much (I thought it was jusssssst right). It’s got me excited all over again and I’m now working my way through the VR battle missions to take on the new secret boss. O ya, did I forget that there’s Dirge of Cerberus enemies in here? This Remake sure is wild. My goal is to turn recorded footage into a video wrap up, now I just have to hold myself accountable.
What I really want to talk about with this blog is what for me was an early highpoint; the Fort Condor minigame. It’s so much fun and easy to pick up with some challenging matches as you progress up the ranks. It’s just like Clash Royale! Wait where are you going… Really I mean that as a compliment, as Clash Royale is a very addicting mobile game that unfortunately comes saddled with all the insidious free to play stuff that the Clash series is known for. Fort Condor is another win in the line of mini games that occur across the Final Fantasy series. The original FFVII had a similar mini game that takes place at the Fort Condor location. Fort Condor houses a Mako Reactor that Shinra is interested in taking and has been attempting to seize it. Your party helps out and you defend it through what’s essentially a Tower Defense mini game where you have to outlast waves of enemies. The one weird thing about the translation to the Remake; it’s represented as a board game that people love which has potentially weird lore implications. Since INTERmission takes place in Midgar, maybe the struggle has been translated to a board game where two equal sides fight against one another. That way the struggle is downplayed even though Fort Condor is in a much less advantageous position (that’s my read anyway).
Anyways, Square made it a point to include mini games in the mainline series and have them interwoven through the game. Triple Triad in VIII was a big expansion as you played cards throughout whatever regions you were in and even informed what ruleset you abided by. There was another card game in IX but was deemphasized and merely a side activity (meaning you couldn’t turn cards into items). X decided to up the ante and created a new sports game/management sim Blitzball, where you could play in tournaments and recruit new players across the game. Square decided to take some time off until FFXV who thankfully littered the open world with new side activities and mini games. I have traditionally completely misunderstood how these activities mesh into the game. I wrote about my early circumstances with Triple Triad and I continued a streak of unfortunate losses after that. I eventually started getting my footing but I missed important people to play cards against and still have a shaky understanding of the rules. Blitzball I especially fumbled even on my playthrough last year; somehow I progressed too fast and was never able to recruit anyone. The Besaid Aurochs deserved a better coach than me. I even missed playing darts in FFVII Remake. I assumed I’d have another chance to go back and win but pushed forward too far. The unclaimed trophy still haunts me, maybe I’ll have to restart and get it…
Unlike those other times, I was determined to finish and play through Fort Condor. Even though I still managed to complete it, I still messed up. Fort Condor is a strategy game where you deploy units to attempt to take your opponent’s towers before they take yours. You have an ability meter “ATB” that allows you to deploy units that continually fills over time. Units consist of different costs (more ATB = more powerful units) and correspond to one of 3 different types: Defense, Vanguard, and Ranged. The unit types govern strengths and weaknesses which is similar to rock-paper-scissors (see also Fire Emblem’s weapon triangle). Defense beats Vanguard, Vanguard beats Ranged, and Ranged beats Defense. Once deployed, the units will move and attack on their own so the main balancing act becomes when and what to deploy. Battles also take place on a 3 minute timer so you’ll have to keep active if you want to take more towers than your opponent. Before the game you’ll have a chance to pick what units to take in and what boards to use. Boards govern how many units you can take in, how fast your ATB meter fills and what materia you can use (abilities like Blizzard, Cure or Haste that you can use once in battle). You’ll also see your enemies’ board and unit choices so you can pick and choose based on balance matchups. This can make or break a match and later opponents required me to completely reconfigure my lineup until I could find a strategy forward. Sometimes the strategy was as simple as choosing more Vanguard units to defeat their Ranged types, other times I had to try and use more lower cost units to balance their more costly ones. It’s really rewarding to find that fit and running a battle. There were more than a few times that I had a nail biting victory and was hoping my units could hold out long enough.
Now this probably would’ve been easier or at least had a bit more variety if I knew the full breadth of how to acquire new units and boards. You’ll find all of your opponents in the Slum area of the DLC. You’ll start as Rank 1 and have a variety of people to battle against. Once you’ve beat them all, you rise a rank and have new enemies. You’ll receive new boards and units as you win and rank up, but that’s not the only way to acquire them. I didn’t know this however and started finding considerable difficulty against higher rank opponents. That pushed me to get really clever with my available items, but I would also see units that others had and be extremely jealous. Why don’t I have a helicopter? Where did they get that type of robot? Turns out, vendors throughout the slums sold these and for relatively low cost. I had a singular focus on completing Fort Condor before I progressed so I pushed through to beat the Grandmaster (Chadley!) with the items I had. Imagine my surprise as I was going to purchase battle items and see all types of units and boards. There’s the helicopter! This board seems cool! But by then I was ready to move on and play the main thrust of the DLC. I can still go back and replay battles but without having new opponents to play against it didn’t seem exciting.
Even with the unintentional handicap, I still had an absolute blast playing Fort Condor. It’s an amazing surprise to an already excellent piece of DLC with its own separate rewarding gameplay curve. I must have spent at least half my time engaging NPCs in mini games as I did playing through the main experience. Cannot recommend the DLC and Fort Condor enough, if you can get your hands on a PS5 that is. Here’s hoping there’s more of this when Remake Part 2 eventually rolls around.