Once you complete Final Fantasy 7 Remake once, you’ll unlock a tougher challenge: Hard Mode. This version of the game requires you to be on your toes in every single battle, while taking away some of the key elements you might have relied upon in Normal Mode to get you through. Hard Mode is the only way to fully upgrade your weapons with Manuscripts, unlock the toughest boss battles in the game to earn its best accessory, and get the chance to make choices that will let you see additional scenes.
We have some essential tips that will help you best all the amped-up foes you’ll face in Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s Hard Mode. And if you want more, we’ve got tons of FF7 Remake guides, walkthroughs, tips, and analysis.
1. Conserve MP
That means you’ll want to conserve MP as much as possible; only use spells when you absolutely must, and save most of your MP for healing spells, as without items, you’re locked out of replenishing HP or reviving downed teammates in almost any other way. Using MP Up Materia can help you get more MP out of your teammates, but you’ll want to consider carefully which character you use for which magic job. Try to remember ways to game the system, too: Aerith’s Arcane Ward doubles your spell output for the same cost and her Siphon Soul ability steals MP from enemies. Some weapon upgrades cut down on spell costs, too, which can be seriously beneficial.
2. Use Prayer And Chakra
The big workaround for your finite MP supply are the Prayer and Chakra Command Materia. Prayer gives you a healing boost to your whole team for two ATB charges, while Chakra heals one character based on how much damage they’ve taken. Neither is ideal in all cases, but finding and equipping both Materia on all your characters will give you non-MP options for healing in emergencies. Chakra is relatively easy to come by, but Prayer is much rarer: look for it in Chapter 14 in the “Corneo’s Secret Stash” side-quest.
3. Don’t Forget Revival
Without items, you can only revive teammates who are knocked out in battle one way: Revival spells. You’ll need Revival Materia, which you can generally purchase, on all of your characters, and you should try to level it up as quickly as you can. The Ascend spell is great for getting characters back into a fight at full strength, but it’ll take you a while to earn. Forgetting to equip Revival can be the end of your team in a fight, so make sure everyone has some at all times.
4. Guard Like Crazy
You’ll take more damage from attacks in Hard Mode from all sources–it is hard, after all. That makes using the Guard ability more important than ever. You can generally get away without guarding much in Normal Mode, but in Hard Mode, there are plenty of moments when you’ll face attacks from enemies that you can’t avoid. Guarding can hugely reduce the amount of punishment you take (especially with the Steadfast Block Materia equipped), while keeping your characters from getting stunned nearly as often. As Cloud tells Tifa, keep those gloves up.
5. Counterattack Is OP
With all that guarding you’re going to be doing, you’re going to want to spend a lot of time in Cloud’s Punisher mode. Even against enemies whose attacks you can’t avoid, you’ll often be able to get in a counter-attack swing with Punisher mode engaged, allowing you to do damage and, for most enemies, fill up their Stagger meter. Even better than Punisher mode counter is the Counterstance ability from the Twin Stinger sword. It’s similar to guarding in Punisher mode but is activated with an ATB charge, and allows Cloud to dish out a ton of damage when he’s hit. These are great ways to pressure and stagger enemies, so try them often.
6. Switch Characters Frequently
Enemies in FF7 Remake tend to flock toward and prioritize targeting whichever character you’re currently controlling. That’s especially true with bosses, who will often ignore AI characters to go after your controlled character, even if you’re largely staying back out of the fight. You can use that targeting to your advantage by frequently switching between characters; it’ll often allow you to “kite” an enemy with one fighter while you switch to another to flank, fire off spells, or heal. Especially in some of the tougher boss battles toward the end of the game, frequent switching will create gaps in enemy defenses you can exploit and open up chances to heal your team when they’d otherwise be in serious trouble. It’ll also allow you to drive up everyone’s ATB meters equally, giving you more options throughout any given battle.
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7. Experiment With Combos
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There’s more to fighting in FF7 Remake than just dishing out damage and blocking or dodging incoming blows. Some moves your characters have are more effective on certain enemies than others. For instance, Cloud’s Disorder ability, learned from the Nail Bat, can usually upend enemies that are Cloud’s size or smaller; the same is true with Tifa’s Omnistrike. Both abilities let you knock enemies off their feet so you can pummel them uninterrupted. String the right moves together and you can combo enemies indefinitely without them being able to react, an essential skill for staying alive and minimizing MP use throughout Hard Mode. Experiment with different moves to see how they affect enemies so you can keep your opponents off-balance.
8. Cheap Spells Are Your Friend
Lots of enemies in FF7 Remake have weaknesses to magical elements, allowing you to deal big damage to them or drive up their Stagger meters with magic spells. The trouble is, with MP at a premium throughout Hard Mode, you’ll probably find yourself foregoing offensive magic in favor of saving up for healing spells at critical moments. There are moments when using offensive magic is a good idea, especially in some boss fights where it can give you a significant advantage–the trick is to opt for weaker spells over stronger ones.
Weak magic spells aren’t just cheaper than their stronger counterparts, they also cast faster. The trouble with going with Firaga over Fire, for instance, is that you run the risk of being interrupted during the casting, which causes you to lose MP with nothing to show for it. A weak spell will often give you a decent blast of damage or add to an enemy’s stagger without breaking your MP bank or leaving you vulnerable. You don’t generally need to use Firaga to stagger an enemy–Fire will probably do.
9. Evaluate Your Weapons For What Perks You Need
As you advance toward Level 50 and start gathering Manuscripts to continue upgrading your weapons, you’ll find that each of them excels at different things. Some weapons are good for physical attacks, some for magic, some for critical strikes, some for defense. Just because you’ve got Tifa’s Purple Pain or Cloud’s Twin Stinger doesn’t mean you should sleep on their other weapons. The final weapon you unlock isn’t necessarily the best.
Take a few minutes to go through the weapons you have, compare their stats, and see what perks they carry that aren’t reflected in the numbers. You’ll find each weapon is good for specific situations, and one might be better for a character’s role than others–or for the specific needs of an enemy encounter. You can also compare weapons directly with Materia slotted in by using the “Reslot” option when you equip something new, which allows you to see how things like HP Up affect weapon stats.
10. Consider Character Builds Carefully
Every character has their specific strengths and weaknesses, but with the right weapon and Materia, you can get a lot of versatility out of your team. Utilizing weapon abilities and perks along with different Materia can give you powerful builds. For instance, giving Barret Healing spells and Materia like Prayer, plus a bunch of HP Up, and using his Lifesaver ability allows him to tank a ton of damage while healing pretty constantly. Steadfast Block lets Cloud absorb damage while unleashing Counterstance after Counterstance. Pairing Tifa’s stagger capabilities with ATB Stagger and similar Materia lets you keep a constant flow of her abilities as she beats down enemies. Using Aerith’s wards on other characters can power them up in ways you might not expect. Take some time to consider your options as you build out your characters–you don’t have to go with the most obvious options.
11. Spread Out Your Summons
Once you have Leviathan and Chadley’s final summon, it’s tempting to just equip the two most powerful Summons and never really think about the others again. That’s a mistake, though. While late-game summons are really powerful and benefit from not using elemental attacks, they often require two full ATB charges to summon, and their abilities can require two ATB charges to use.
Instead, make sure to carry multiple summons of different capabilities. Chocobo & Moogle, for instance, excel specifically at pushing up enemies’ Stagger meters, while Ifrit and Shiva are obviously beneficial from an elemental standpoint. Keep lots of options on-hand and pick the summon that best fits the scenario, not just the one that seems the strongest.
12. Work On Stagger
In some boss fights, the best way to stay alive is to stagger the enemy. For bosses that have big attacks or that count down to your destruction, landing a stagger can save your life and reset their attack phase. But in all cases, staggering enemies lets you lay down some serious pain while you and your characters remain safe. Taking advantage of opportunities to stagger bosses is essential in Hard Mode.
While in Normal Mode you might stagger enemies without really knowing how or why, in Hard Mode, you want to pay a lot more attention to what works and what doesn’t with each opponent. Assess will usually give you a sense of how you can quickly stagger a boss, whether it’s through the use of magic or attacking at certain moments. Pay attention to what moves cause enemies to be Pressured–that means they’re susceptible to moves that increase their Stagger meters. When you have an enemy Pressured, go nuts with moves like Focused Thrust, Focused Strike, and Focused Shot. The Stagger meter is just as important as an enemy’s health, and taking advantage of it should constantly inform your strategy for each new bad guy you face.
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