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Take It Easy Mode is a bi-weekly column on the unsung hero of video games, the Easy Setting, for casual and new gamers, parents, and people who generally find higher difficulty modes frustrating.
The idea for this column first came to me when Final Fantasy VII Remake came out in April. I hadn’t yet started playing and was searching around, as I always do before starting a new video game, for any guides or tips on what to expect when playing the game on Easy Mode. During my Googling, I stumbled across an opinion piece titled something to the effect of “Final Fantasy VII Remake’s Easy Mode is TOO EASY,” and my brain exploded.
The Final Fantasy franchise is what really made me a gamer. Back in my PS and PS2 days, easy difficulty modes weren’t all that common, and because I loved RPGs and wasn’t really a fan of platformers (I still am not, sorry Mario!), the turn-based combat of this franchise (and other Japanese RPGs) actually made it possible for me to play and enjoy them.
Final Fantasy VII is one of my all-time favorite games, so you can imagine how excited I was when the remake was announced — but I was also apprehensive. Turn-based battles aren't exactly popular these days, and these systems can be frustrating and clunky. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to play it because I knew they’d update the way the combat worked.
While that "too easy" article made me incredibly frustrated as a person who doesn’t think there’s anything inherently valuable or entertaining in an extremely difficult game (Some people enjoy this! That’s great! They’re probably much better at video games than me!), it also gave me the signal that I could and should start playing Final Fantasy VII Remake. And guess what? It’s great on Easy Mode.
The developers and writers at Square Enix turned Final Fantasy VII Remake into a more modern video game, delivering mission-based play and an open world within the existing structure of a Final Fantasy game. In many cases, the story does match the original. But the writing team did something very creative with this game. They gave you exactly what you expect while simultaneously subverting those expectations, ensuring it was an amazing and novel experience for every player, including those who value playing on Easy Mode.
The combat in the game can be nuanced and difficult, forcing the player to juggle between physical attacks and magical ones, honing and developing the individual skills of every character to figure out exactly what will work against each enemy. At least, that’s the case if you’re not playing on Easy Mode. If you’re on Easy Mode, nothing matters. You can just mash “Attack” to your heart’s content. It might take a while (especially the time that I didn’t have the right materia equipped for a magic fight and just used brute force to get through it, whoops), but you can absolutely just button-mash your way through this game and it’s still enjoyable and satisfying.
If you’ve played Final Fantasy before, the word “materia” is probably familiar to you. It works in different ways in each game; in Final Fantasy VII Remake, it’s what gives you magic spells and boosts your abilities, in addition to leveling up. Each character can have materia equipped (the number depends on the level the character is at and the weapon they’re using, but you can increase materia slots by leveling up), but the great thing about this game is as characters rotate in and out of your party, they leave their materia behind — so you don’t have to worry about giving a precious, rare materia to a character only to have them disappear on you for 10 hours.
The best combat strategy I found was, first of all, to stock up on Potions and Phoenix Downs (to cure HP and bring a fallen character back to life, respectively) at the various vending machines you come across in the game — a tried and true strategy for the first five to 10 hours of any Final Fantasy game. Once I received Cure materia, I equipped that on Cloud because he’s in your party through the bulk of the game, and having the Cure ability is crucial. I also began stocking up on Ethers (to restore MP) after I had the Cure materia (but it should be noted that I’m a physical attacks person — if you prefer to rely on magic, you should stock up on Ethers from the beginning).
Not far into the game, you’ll meet Chadley, and he’ll give you tasks in order to design custom materia. It’s an easy job to ignore, but I can’t stress enough how valuable it was for me to complete his missions. One of the early materia he gives you as a reward is Auto-Cure, which I gave to a secondary character. When Cloud’s HP fell below a certain level, that character would automatically restore some of his health. It was incredibly useful, and allowed me to focus more on the fighting (okay, okay, button mashing).
As far as leveling up, because my strategy is physical attacks, I focused on that for Cloud and Tifa and leveling up magic for Aerith (these three were, and forever will be, my dream team).
Honestly, I can’t recommend the Final Fantasy VII Remake highly enough. It’s an incredible experience, even on Easy Mode, and it's also an excellent example of how to be innovative with a story people think they already know. The game is a PS4 exclusive for a year (through April 2021), but if you’re an RPG fan and play on a different platform, I highly recommend picking it up once it does become more widely available.