Final Fantasy 7 Remake's Easy Mode Is... For Those Who Need It
An easy mode should be easy because it's for those that want an easier experience or need an easier experience.
In 2019, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice launched and was notable for its difficulty curve. It was this unchangeable difficulty that found discussions come forth where disabled players were wanting to experience the game with assists or a difficulty that suited their capabilities. Of course, abled players jumped in on the conversation, trying to “defend” the developer’s artistic vision, integrity, or whatever it was. Basically, the gist was that abled players were telling disabled players they either need to “git gud” or piss off because they were ruining video games.
Kotaku was one outlet with writers that were part of the discourse supporting easy mode in not only Sekiro, but other games after it, and that was great! However, a recent article seems to slam Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s easy mode because it’s exactly as advertised: easy. While the angle of the piece appears to be intended differently to how it comes across, it instead seems to teeter on the verge of becoming a touch short-sighted and ableist. What seems like a writer wanting to explain how an easy mode didn’t pose enough threat or challenge for them personally, instead comes across as the headline suggests, that easy mode was… too easy and needs to be more challenging.
Now, we’ve looked into how Final Fantasy 7 Remake has different difficulty modes and the accessibility features available at current. The game has a classic mode which allows you to enjoy the game as it was years ago, an easy mode for those who find the initial combat and gameplay difficult, and a normal mode which is the middle ground because a higher difficulty mode unlocks after completing the game. These options can be switched between at any time for anyone who is struggling or wants a challenge.
Now, the writer does admit they switched to easy mode because of a specific fight later in the game. And that’s perfectly fine, as mentioned in the article itself, there’s no shame in switching if you’re struggling. However, one of the main things that stood out for me from the piece was that easy mode seems mostly chosen so that the player could rush through the final moments in a bid to help create content surrounding the title or discuss it with someone who had completed it earlier.
It seems like the impression easy mode gave while rushing through was that easy mode was… easy. Also, easy mode is slated as “button-mashing bullshit,” which feels harsh when you think of those who require less fumbling around with combat options and buttons.
From what I can tell, it seems as if Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s easy mode has implemented player buffs that would otherwise be seen as “assist modes” in other games such as Celeste. For example in our accessibility focused article we noted a lack of assist features to toggle on and off. Instead, it seems as if they’re tucked away within a difficulty option.
The whole point of making the game easier, or in this case, more accessible, is so that the players with far more limited capabilities can still enjoy the game. And to say that the games “easy mode is a joke” based purely on rushing through it without any real need for the mode feels problematic or even insulting at best.
Especially when you recall the Sekiro situation that saw disabled players mastering the game in incredible ways. That was fair enough, but not every disability is the same, and as such, some are going to be more than capable than others. The problem came when abled gamers started putting these disabled gamers on a pedestal and using them as examples of why we don’t need easy or assist modes. So rather than understanding that disabilities are different, people were throwing every disability under the same umbrella.
And when mentioning the easier classic mode, which requires players to select options while combat is automatic, it’s said, “It might as well be a visual novel.” Be that as it may, but let’s imagine a bunch of disabled players can’t deal with the intensity of normal mode. And then, there’s a bunch of disabled players who can’t deal with easy mode combat, for example, because of the lack of being able to rebind buttons. So in this case, the classic mode would be perfect for them. It becomes more about trying to see how a difficulty mode can be easier for specific players, rather than how it’s just not for you personally.
I do feel the message trying to be conveyed in the article has been lost, and I don’t want to spend time trying to speculate fully on what it was outside of “easy was too easy for me”. What I will say is it’s worth remembering that disabled people are having to fight tooth and nail to ensure they can still enjoy video games through difficulty and assist modes. Seeing someone say an easy mode is a joke and describing the very gameplay that someone may need to play at all as “button-mashing bullshit” sends the wrong message and worryingly, may open up the disabled community to more worries about future difficulty modes.