FF7: Intergrade can fix the original game’s biggest problem
Every character deserves their own Intergrade.
For Square Enix to introduce Yuffie Kisaragi in Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade with a separate story is nothing short of genius, especially because it sets a precedent for how subsequent entries in the series can fix the first game’s biggest problem.
Cloud, Barret, Tifa, and Aerith get almost all the spotlight in FF7, and the remaining four cast members don’t get their backstories fleshed out until later in the game (or in one glaring case, a separate game entirely). If FF7 Remake showed us anything, it’s that this new retelling is infinitely more interesting the deeper it delves into the original’s lore, and even more so when it deviates from it to experiment.
We need standalone episodes dedicated to every core member of the cast to give each of them the spotlight they need. Intergrade is about to set that precedent in a big way, but Square should go even deeper by exploring flashbacks that were never playable in the original or new stories entirely.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is a superb game with very few flaws, but one of the most glaring is how it fails Red-XIII. The talking wolf-lion is introduced in the game’s final act as an NPC who fights alongside the party and engages in some cat-like platforming maneuvers, but we don’t learn anything about him beyond his desire to bite the evil mad scientist Hojo.
By comparison, learn a lot about Cloud, Barret, Tifa, and Aerith throughout the adventure: what motivates them, the general direction of their moral compass, their relationships, and tidbits of personal history. We don’t get that with Red-XIII. He’s just a talking animal. That’s obviously because the original game’s story has been sliced up. We haven’t been to Cosmo Canyon to visit Bugenhagen, so we don’t know anything about Nanaki (that’s Red-XIII’s real name!) yet.
FF7 Remake: Intergrade, however, is taking a novel approach to character development with a brand-new episode introducing Yuffie “as she infiltrates the shadowy Shinra Corporation to steal a powerful Materia and restore glory to her homeland.” It’s a much more interesting way to introduce the character compared to the original, where she was an annoying stranger you meet in the woods who later steals ALL of your Materia in one of the game’s more frustrating sequences. Square Enix should do this for every character, even if that means we get several shorter story-based DLC over the next few years before Part 2.
For all we know, Square Enix could already be planning to spotlight each remaining member of the core cast just like this: by introducing them in spin-off chapters that overlap with the main story.
As much as I despise Cait Sith’s weird FF7 Remake cameo during the destruction of Sector 7 cutscene, a few chapters exploring how the animatronic cat travels from Midgar to the Gold Saucer does interest me. Doubly so if it grapples with Reeve Tuesti’s growing concerns about Shinra’s lack of morality.
Even more interesting, however, is the potential for playable flashbacks starring Vincent Valentine and Cid Highwind, particularly when their backstories are fleshed out in flashbacks within the original game already or in spinoffs like Dirge of Cerberus and Before Crisis.
Imagine this: A few chapters starring Cid six years prior to the main game (as depicted in Before Crisis) when he’s working for Shinra to build a space rocket. But because of interference from Avalanche, his life’s dream is put on hold. This would explain why he’s so hostile in the present day and help contextualize who this cranky old man is before he brings his spear to fight alongside Cloud and friends.
Similarly, Vincent is just a weird vampire the party meets in the basement of Shinra’s Nibelheim mansion, and it isn’t until much later that his backstory as a Turk that Hojo experimented on is exposed. What if we get an Intergrade-sized flashback to three decades prior that details Vincent’s transformation? So when the party encounters him during the events of the main game, we’re already caught up on why he’s so brooding.
Granted, all of these events will be covered in the Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis mobile game, but there’s reason to believe Square Enix might develop mini-adventures for each character.
In Final Fantasy VII Remake Ultimania, released a few weeks after FF7 Remake, Game Director Tetsuya Nomura spoke somewhat vaguely about the number of “parts” in the Remake series. "If we divide the story into large parts, it'll take longer to make,” Nomura said, according to one translation. “If we divide it into more detailed smaller sections, then developing it will be faster.”
In retrospect, Nomura may have been thinking of Yuffie’s Intergrade adventure when he spoke about “detailed smaller sections,” which could mean that the long-term plan for FF7 Remake is to incorporate more bite-sized portions of the story moving forward. At the very least, it would keep things very interesting and entertaining as the FF7 Remake series unfolds over the next several years.
FF7 Remake: Intergrade will be released on June 10, 2021 for the PS5.