One of the biggest changes from the original Final Fantasy 7 and the Remake is the game’s battle system, which moved away from the series’ iconic Active Time Battle turn-based system to something much more action-oriented. There are three options for your playthrough with a fourth becoming available in the endgame. Here’s what’s different about them and some advice about how to choose.
How to Select a Mode
Go into the main pause menu by hitting Start on your DualShock controller. Go down to System, then Options, then Gameplay, and it’ll be the first choice on this screen. You can change this at any time you’re not in battle or during a cutscene. There is no penalty to changing it.
The standard “difficulty” of Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s battle system is Normal. In this mode, you’ll control one character at a time (default is Cloud) and attack, guard, and evade in real time. You can always pause the action and check your commands by hitting X, but unless your ATB meter is filled you won’t be able to do much in this menu except take a breather. Abilities, Spells, and Items can be accessed through this menu.
In normal mode, enemies have their standard hitting power and HP and so do you and your characters. Enemy behavior will also be a bit more lively than on other modes. If things are getting too tricky for you, you can always switch the difficulty down to Easy or Classic.
Tips for Normal Mode
- Always, always, always pay attention the ATB meter of your character and your companions. In normal mode, hitting your abilities in sync with the natural course of battle is the difference between a decisive win and a micromanagement slog.
- Staggering is vital and you should be working toward it in the majority of battles. If you notice that a standard attack combination or magic spell is barely denting an enemy’s HP meter, chances are you need to get that enemy into a stagger state.
- Pay attention to Pressured states. When enemies aren’t yet staggered, they may become “pressured” if you hit them with a big enough combo or in their weakness. This is an opportunity to fill the pressure meter with specific attacks like Cloud’s Focused Thrust.
- Map your Battle Settings and remap them consistently. There are four actions you can take by mapping your L1 plus face button moves through the Battle Settings on the main menu. When you learn a powerful new spell or ability (or when you graduate to a better item to quickly use), it makes sense to remap these so you have them at your disposal without having to go through the command screen.
- If you don’t get used to switching between characters quickly and consistently, then make the best use of AI-assisted Materia. Early on, you can get Auto-Cure Materia, which will automatically have a companion use Cure on themselves or another character up to ten times in battle with a maxed Materia level. This doesn’t technically make the character that much weaker, since the Materia comes with a skill. It just makes it automatic and slightly more situational.
As the name implies, Easy Mode shifts battles down to a more manageable tempo if you’re struggling with the fights in Normal Mode. You’ll still control everything the exact same way, but your hits will be meatier and enemies often won’t go into advanced AI patterns because you’ve already defeated them. When the game tells you this mode is for “enjoying the story,” believe it. I only moved into a critical HP state once during an Easy Mode battle. Note that there is absolutely not shame in switching to Easy Mode. Sometimes the load management for Normal is just too much, but I’ll get to that in a bit. If Easy Mode is still having you manage a bit too much all at once, you can switch to Classic.
Tips for Easy Mode
- Don’t bother with AI companion Materia in Easy Mode. Your companions probably won’t be in danger enough to worry about their automatic behaviors, so I’d give them more powerful Materia that can help turn the tide in battle.
- Switch to Easy if you’re slogged with micromanagement. Sometimes I’d face a battle that involved way less strategy and way more retreating, microdosing healing items, and heading back into battle. It didn’t feel interesting, it just felt like a slog. If you feel this way, the best thing might be to Switch to Easy Mode, get through it, and move on with your life.
Classic was designed for folks who might want something closer to the original Final Fantasy 7, but I’ll explain how that might be a bit of a confusion point. In the original game, the player would control each character in turns at their ATB meter filled up. In this version of Classic Mode, the player character will attack, block, and evade automatically while the player only has to choose from commands in the command menu when they want. You’re still only controlling one character at any time, so you’ll still need to manually switch between characters if you want to choose commands. This mode essentially just turns on the AI companion logic for the player character. At any time, you can take full control of a character and manually attack, block, and dodge. This mode offers the most versality even if it’s not all that challenging.
Why Can’t You Play Classic on Normal?
If you notice, Classic Mode turns the overall difficulty down to Easy. Folks right away will probably wonder why you can’t play this versatile mode on Normal difficulty. Though this is pure conjecture, I’d say the reason is the AI companion logic is not all that aggressive or strong, meaning automating every character’s behavior on Normal would probably result in way too many Game Over screens.
Tips for Classic Mode
- Always remember you can take control at any time. When you see an opening and want your character to go on the aggressive offensive, just do it! There’s no penalty for just taking the reins and wrecking shop when you’re tired of sitting back.
- If you’re mowing through low level enemies, kind of rare for this game but it happens, and you want to just check out for a bit, switch to Classic Mode. In my experience you’ll eventually want to jump back in there, but if you’re mindlessly exploring or grinding (rare as that is) it’s a good mode to try.