You’ve beat the game and you’re wanting to start your second playthrough on hard mode. A fantastic decision. This game really incentivises a second playthrough, so you can take all the little mental notes you’ve made throughout your first run and keep those in your head during your second. You might even come up with some wild theories because of this. Alas, I’m not here to dive down the rabbit hole that is Final Fantasy VII Remake theory today, I’m going to give you some Final Fantasy VII Remake hard mode tips. You can take it from me! I’ve beaten the game twice and I’m the proud owner of the 100% Platinum trophy.
The Beginning “Take Your Time”
Bear these in mind when starting hard mode:
- You can’t use items
- Benches only restore HP.
- Enemies are stronger. Bosses will also have completely new attacks.
It’s safe to assume that you’ll be starting at a level somewhere in the 30’s, so the enemies at the start of the game won’t be too difficult, certainly not enough for you to notice the increase in difficulty anyway. During this period of your party still being strong, you should take the chance to hammer down certain enemy tendencies and what counters them. For example, you may have noticed that most human enemies are weak to fire, most machines weak to thunder and so on. You may have also noted that some enemies like the Huntsman (Shield bearing miniboss encountered just after the Bombing Mission) will force you to slow things down and go for a more counter-focused strategy. Keeping these kinds of things in mind while playing will help a lot.
You’ll be gaining triple the XP and AP during hard mode, so take your time and level up some of those materia that you haven’t yet. This game, as you may have noticed already, requires absolutely no grinding for XP, and this carries on over to hard mode. The game wants you to be level 50, so then you can use all the tools and techniques you’ve learnt and apply them.
As you’ll be levelling up quickly, you’ll be gaining a lot of SP to power up your weapons as well. This means even more unique abilities for your characters, more materia slots, dual materia slots and it opens up the world to your creativity with regards to how you would like to build your characters! Personally, I played hard mode with solo Buster Sword on Cloud and had him focus on physical attacks. But, if you wanted to, you could have Cloud use the Mythril Sword and focus on magic damage instead. The SP system allows for you to get creative and even encourages it!
This is gonna be a big part of optimising for hard mode. There is a decent handful of materia to choose from in the game, and all your characters being max level means you have even more materia slots to fill. BUT, we have to remember that MP won’t recover unless you complete certain sidequests that would restore HP and MP, or we complete a chapter. This makes chapters like 3 and 14 particularly difficult as you’ll want to complete the additional content, but you run the risk of running low on MP before you even step into the main scenario. So, let me give you a hand and run you through what I believe are some of the best materia for Final Fantasy VII Remake hard mode:
- Magnify – The magnify materia will cause the effects of whatever materia is slotted next to it in a dual slot, to affect all members of the party at a slightly reduced effectiveness. As you level this materia up however, this becomes such an incredible asset. I highly suggest using Healing, Time or Barrier in conjunction with Magnify. These are materia that will benefit all the members of your party, while being incredibly efficient when it comes to your MP.
- Chakra & Pray – Both healing materia. These two are essentially the same, the only difference being that Chakra exclusively affects the user, whereas Pray will heal the entire party. Why do we use these? Because they require no MP at all, only ATB.
- HPUP & MPUP – These are probably quite obvious. Increasing your party members HP and MP as best you can is always recommended. You can only have two of each, on each of your characters and then the effects will max out.
- Luck UP – Luck up will increase the chance of landing critical hits. This is highly recommended for any character you’re going to have focusing on physical damage. Tifa and Cloud being the obvious choices. Much like HP and MP, you can only have two of these on a single character to max out the effects.
- Magic UP – Increases the effectiveness of magic spells being cast. Any characters that you want to have focusing on magic, make sure you equip two of these bad boys on them. When you use your MP, you want to make sure it’s at its strongest.
- First Strike – This basically provides you a full bar of ATB at the start of a battle. Definitely recommend having this on Cloud at all times. Surrounded by a big group of enemies? You can instantly hit them with a triple slash or blade burst and quickly get rid of some.
These would be the absolute top-tier materia in my mind as all of them mainly buff what you already have, without actually consuming more MP, outside of magnify. Of course, get creative and make use of materia such as elemental and the spell materia. Just remember that elements and such are more specific to the enemies, whereas the materia I have listed will always be useful throughout the entire playthrough.
Character switching is an extremely important part of the game, and there are numerous reasons for this.
For one, the characters you aren’t controlling will not act optimally, even when it comes to just attacks and gaining ATB. For example, let’s say Tifa is maxed out on her Unbridled Strength, an ability that increases her combo count and gives her access to unique attacks which multiply stagger, the AI won’t have her act in a way that makes use of the fact that you’ve powered her up. You will need to switch over, perform your combo, load up an ability, then switch over to the next character and repeat this process. It might be one of the systems that differs the most, with regards to how you make use of it, from normal to hard. It will take some hard work and some getting used to, but it’s such a satisfying system to master.
Sections of the game, such as the Hell House fight, will really enforce proactively switching characters on you. The fight is damn near impossible if you just resort to hacking away with Cloud and don’t fully make use of Aerith’s abilities, which are extremely important and powerful. Fights will become a real challenge, where you need to figure out how to best stagger the enemy. Learning how to go about this with each of your characters is where this combat system is truly incredible. Cloud and Tifa are both excellent at bringing enemies into a pressured state. Cloud punisher stance allows him to buff himself by holding down Square at the end of a combo, and Tifa is loaded with attacks like Starshower and Overpower which increase damage and pressure. Aerith’s Arcane Ward is one of the best abilities in the game, allowing her to cast two spells for the price of one. And Barret will be the ultimate tank who can help take on damage for other characters and force mini-stuns on the enemy with Maximum Fury.
The Best of All Final Fantasy VII Remake Hard Mode Tips – Have Fun
Incorporating what I’ve mentioned into how you play the game will absolutely help, I have no doubts about that, but remember that it’s not the only way. If you’ve got some ideas, all the power to you, go and test them out and succeed! This is why I just wanted to focus on this piece being about ‘tips’ more so than being a guide. If I just told you how to beat every enemy in the game it wouldn’t be any fun at all. Plus, If I got killed on my first run of hard mode Scorpion Sentinel, so should you!
As I mentioned at the beginning, this game really encourages you to go through and play the game a second time. You’ll learn a lot, have a lot of questions, probably be quite nervous at what you’ve just seen. Going through for your second run might help you come to some conclusions or at least theorise some stuff, which I think the developers intended.
Enjoy and thanks for reading!
Enjoying Final Fantasy VII Remake? Check out our very official Waifu Review.