Disclaimer: This article tackles post-game content for FFVII Remake so it needs mentioning that there will be some game-related spoilers and quite possibly some story spoilers, so if you haven’t played FFVII Remake or the original Final Fantasy VII, consider yourself warned.
Final Fantasy VII Remake renewed my love for Final Fantasy VII, or more like filled in the gaps the original had shortcomings with. Twenty three has passed since I first played the original game, and I can’t return to the same game as before. Times have changed, Final Fantasies have improved, and as a Final Fantasy VI loyalist, I have an inherent bias against FFVII. I tried many times to replay the remaster, but I couldn’t get past Midgar. I have fond memories of what happens after Midgar and farming materia, but Midgar itself was a distant memory.
FFVII Remake made me look at Midgar with fresh eyes and grant what my sixteen year self wanted Final Fantasy VII to be but didn’t get. Completing the game on Normal, I felt the emptiness after the game ended and delaying the long wait for the upcoming sequels. So, I go for the next best thing: earn a platinum trophy. Because that’s what you do to declare your true love for the game, right? Also, maybe if the hard mode beats me up enough, I end up giving up on it. However, it did the opposite, it motivated me to get better with every boss that got in my way.
Normal mode is a challenge compared to Easy and Auto (Classic) Mode. Items were there to ease the pain, but throughout it all (also being of low level and my run-and-gun style), I find myself abusing Phoenix Downs and Mega Potions just to force the next chapter. Did I learn a thing? Nope. Slash, slash, triple slash, and item my way to the end credits. I thought about sharing game videos, but they were so sad to watch, it reminded me of my Final Fantasy XV run where I went with Warp Strike, Phoenix Down, Elixir, rinse and repeat to end credits. So I thought to myself, I’ll give it a couple of days at most on Hard, and then I’ll give up, grind for the dresses and quests, probably get Jessie to notice me in the bike game and then call it my FFVII Remake experience.
Yet, after beating the Scorpion Sentinel and The Huntsman despite them one-shotting me at random times, I found myself getting into the rhythm of Hard. Yes, no-items was manageable, and systemically saving the crates to preserve MP use, I found myself gaining some sort of ill-founded confidence. I can counter Roche’s attacks and Crab Warden gave me the coolest game video yet. Then came…
I knew it was a challenge going in. I tried remembering what I did wrong in my first Airbuster fight because it was literally the same story – rush it, get to critical life, then spam items and scrap my way to a victory. I realized I soaked up so much of the Bit System (when the arms start to attack you) stun beams and didn’t care much because the items will save the day. Plus, Hard Mode taught me how to study patterns, to block and realize that positioning is tantamount. When it launches its arms, the main body can wait because stun beams and the tank buster can make for a painful combo. My run-and-gun habits took a hard hit after this battle and after a long fought war, it was done.
Airbuster made me realize that Hard Mode is my new “normal” and not just a difficulty spike that increases damage by enemies, but just like Persona’s Hard Mode, the AI doesn’t punish you for shits and giggles. It tells you to drop all the bad habits from Normal Mode. Yet, as stubborn a gamer that I am and how I resort to bad habits, sure I rushed Reno and Rude again (poison really helps by the way) like I haven’t learned anything at all.
This boss is what probably makes and breaks aspirational Hard Mode questers. In Normal Mode, I balked and used three elixirs. I was saving those for potential harder fights in the future, but there was something about that battle that made me use it. I already spent twenty minutes fighting this guy and just brute force won’t do. The worst part about Hell House is you’re basically stuck fighting this guy as there’s no way out of the Colosseum once you commit to it. I’m not restarting the stage and fighting those Prototype Cutters again!
What makes Hell House a bigger douchecanoe in Hard is, while it’s already difficult enough to try to break through its shield, it invites three Tonberrys at random times to party. And if there’s anything that equates to Death in Final Fantasy, it’s those damn things. I remember fighting one in a sub-quest in Chapter 14, now you’re fighting three of them and Hell House!? What’s worse is on its last legs, Corneo (the sack of shit that he is), unleashes Cutty and Sweepy to make things more fun, because why not. Here it is folks, Final Fantasy trying to be a Souls game.
What is happening is the game teaching you again to look at patterns and openings. For as much as Hell House delivers pain, once you see it for what it is, you can find all the vulnerabilities. Make sure Cloud and Aerith have their elemental spells ready and counter as needed. Also the adage “their greatest strength is their weakness” comes into play here. When it casts “Renewed Hospitality”, it opens itself up to be pressured. Also on its final form, when it’s about to “Suicide Drop”, it reveals its new weakness, so drop a quick magic attack for a nice stagger and make that Limit Break count.
At this point, I realized, is it gonna be harder? Then I was thinking about what the future holds, I still have the Train Graveyard and the Sewers to deal with and I’m not fighting those Sahagins and Ghosts empty handed. With enough online research, I found my answer, Gotterdammerung (Ragnarok in German) — an accessory that lets you start with fully charged Limit Break and charges your Limit Breaks faster than normal. But you have to go through two superbosses to get it: Malboro and the Pride and Joy Prototype. While they’re on the way for my platinum, if I can breeze past later story bosses with quick charging Limit Breaks on demand, maybe I suffer now and breeze later, right? Delay gratification for better rewards, says another adage.
In the Malboro fight, it’s not the Malboro you have to worry about but the journey to get to Malboro. You have to fight two Tonberry’s and a goddamn Behemoth. “Familiarity breeds contempt”, comes into play. My trauma with Tonberry’s stretches as far back as Final Fantasy VI, not as much now, kinda like Ice Cube back in the 90’s and Ice Cube now. The behemoth has always been a force to be reckoned with. I hated fighting it in the Floating Continent and I hated fighting two of them during a World of Ruin quest. Sure FFXV made them into proverbial punching bags, but on FFVII Remake’s Hard Mode, it reintroduced that fear.
The Behemoth has a straightforward approach. It hits hard, fast, and when it gets pissed off, it hits harder. Abzu, like Corneo, talks a lot of shit and gets their mob to do things for it but cast fire on it, it caves in faster. The Behemoth just doesn’t stop until you all die. So you hit twice as hard and twice as fast, and hope that your cure-magnifies reaches you in time. Cripple its upper body and lower body, stagger, and then rinse and repeat. I thought maybe that if I didn’t fight a couple of Tonberry’s, it would make the Behemoth quest in Chapter 14 not as hard. Nope, didn’t change at all. Gotta give it props for consistency, hence why it’s on my list.
So you beat the Malboro and all the other Hard Mode VR fights to unlock the Pride and Joy fight. Pride and Joy is actually easier than Malboro because it doesn’t dish out status ailments. It still hits hard and turns your platform into lava, but cure-magnify will save you in that fight. It’s not Pride and Joy that you have to be worried about though — it’s getting to Pride and Joy. That’s four summons with big daddy Bahamut at the end of it all.
At first, I nearly gave up. Leviathan gave me a lot of grief on Normal, even Shiva when I started out. I confess, I switched to Easy Mode to best Bahamut on VR for the cheap silver trophy. Karma got me back because now I have to fight him for real. Defeat after defeat, it’s taught me that maybe I’m approaching it wrong, maybe my playstyle needs another overhaul.
I’ve been playing the game in a Kingdom Hearts way from the get go. I stick with the leader and give commands. I never go to another character because multitasking overwhelms my limited imagination. I’ve been Cloud-centric throughout it all and learned how to use Barret as a tank and Aerith as a healer. Yet, I never gave Tifa any love and just left her to do her thing; that was my biggest mistake.
Tifa is the real MVP in our Bahamut fight. Starshower does so much chip damage, it really adds up over time, plus the stagger meter just rises when she gets in there. The other thing is to not be afraid of the Megaflare, at least not the first one. You have Reprieve and maybe a well-timed Manawall to guard you. Make sure you take him before the second one. It’s easier said than done, because he summons Ifrit halfway through, hopefully after the first Megaflare. So save up some Limit Breaks for this guest star and then take it home.
After going through Bahamut, all the other bosses on Hard Mode seemed quite “normal”. They don’t hit as hard and I probably learned a thing or two. Once I got my Gotterdammerung, it’s easy street, right? More like, Hard Mode gets downgraded to a Normal 2.0 — at this point if you’re still on this journey, you’re used to the system and you know by now what you have to do to survive. Even with the fabled accessory, the game still punishes you for being an amateur if you mess your way through the game.
Without Gotterdamerung, I felt that Jenova Dreamweaver and Swordtipede would be frustrating. Yet, with Aerith’s Planet Protection on demand, they make it manageable, dare I say enjoyable. I’ve always liked the Jenova Dreamweaver track, and I get to hum to it while I take out its tentacles.
Then there’s Arsenal. Here’s a boss that reminds you you’re still on hard mode even if you’re spamming Limit Breaks left and right. It’s like Hell House and Airbuster put together and to make matters worse, I think I used too many Curagas in the Jenova fight and Aerith started the fight with 30 MP. Sure, you have Planet Protection but that doesn’t protect you from its Pulse Cannon. Take too much time bringing it down, you run out of cover and even if you’re switching to your other character to split them apart, for some reason the AI keeps running towards you, basically telling you to swallow your pride and restart the fight because you just went back to your old habits.
Just like Hell House, bring all your elemental materia and cast them accordingly, taking it out one part at a time. Planet Protection protects you from Charge and Secondary Arsenal, but watch out for the Homing Lasers and elemental attacks. Aim for the main cannon, stagger if possible, maybe have Barrett soak up a Pulse Cannon shot so you can Raise him and he hits back with the Catastrophe Limit Break for a quick stagger kill. Gotterdammerung is convenient, but it’s no Knights of the Round.
After that, it’s just heal, defend, and wait for your Limit Break to build and unleash on the final battle. One small note, just like the jab, strong, and fierce punches and kicks in Street Fighter, the spell casting strength here really matters. Fire, Fira, and Firaga (or Blizzard, Thunder, Aero) when timed well can turn the tide but can also break you because of mismanaged resources.
Hopefully, you get through these bosses on your own journey. You might find other bosses harder (Eligor is an honorable mention), but when you do, you’ll record nicer game videos and maybe even a shiny Platinum to show off. Because in the end, let’s face it, it’s all about the ‘gram.