Final Fantasy VII Remake — A Beginner’s Guide to Starting Your Adventure in Midgar
Whether it's your first or tenth time in Midgar, here are my recommendations for how to get started playing Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Final Fantasy VII Remake, much like the original JRPG released in 1997, is a game full of secrets, hidden tricks, and more to explore as you traverse throughout the various sectors that make up the sprawling city of Midgar.
The sectors themselves contain tons of people to interact with, quests to complete, and plenty of goodies to collect. Combat, meanwhile, hasn’t been spared the enhanced treatment. The ATB gauge-based action may seem daunting at first glance, but once broken down into its bare essentials, there’s a robust and layered system that can easily be conquered.
Note: While I’ve kept them to an absolute minimum, there are a few spoilers for Final Fantasy VII Remake here and there. Nothing major, but just keep that in mind as you read along.
Before we can properly delve into combat, it’s important to break down each character and how best to use them.
Cloud is your standard well-rounded fighter. “Battle Mage” would be the most accurate description for him, with a smattering of tank properties thrown in since he’ll be absorbing most of the damage on the front lines. When attacking enemies, remember to “AUPM”: Always Use Punisher Mode, which is his Triangle skill that alters his stance and greatly increases his damage output. His movement speed takes a huge hit in this mode, but the good thing is that the initial slash in his combo has him jump forward a great distance so if you’re too far away, you can take advantage and close the distance immediately.
Barret is the long-range tank of the group. He takes hits well and is the only party member who can hit enemies from afar with his normal attacks, special abilities, and Limits. His Triangle move Overdrive fires off strong projectiles from his gun arm. It naturally charges on its own, but you can help it along by hitting Triangle to boost his charges. His other moves tend to rapidly stagger opponents, so he’s excellent for putting pressure on foes and suppressing their attacks.
Tifa is a glass cannon or a DPS fighter. Basically, this means that she deals great damage while moving fast but can’t take many hits herself. She also needs a bit of setup to be at her most effective. Once you have at least one ATB gauge charged, activate her Unbridled Strength. On the first charge, her Triangle ability “Uppercut” becomes “Omnistrike” and a second charge using another ATB will give you “Rise and Fall.” Now make sure you’re in range before activating and you’ll deal a crazy amount of damage. Be mindful of your range because if you don’t judge it correctly and miss, there goes your gauge.
Aerith is an absolute magical beast. Make sure to keep her away from enemies while controlling her and enemy aggro focused on other characters, as she’s a long-range type but much frailer than Barret. Her Triangle ability Tempest can be used in short bursts for quick combos or you can charge it to deal way more damage. Her other abilities are Soul Drain and Arcane Wind. The former absorbs MP from foes, which means more casting without wasting Ethers. The latter allows her to doublecast spells as long as the buff lasts, and is especially fantastic for healing and elemental magic. She also starts out with Prayer due to the Prayer Materia, and over time it becomes an incredible source of full party healing.
The general flow of combat is as follows:
- Dodge or Guard attacks
- Deal normal damage to fill ATB gauges
- Target enemy weaknesses to better pressure them
- Once pressure gauge is high, keep using stronger abilities to Stagger the enemy
- When the enemy is Staggered, use strongest abilities to deal major damage
- Heal when necessary
Keep in mind that this is not a normal action title, such as Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. As such, the controls are not as tight and certain mechanics you would take for granted (dodge isn’t omnipotent, no invincibility frames, attack animations are committed, etc.) aren’t present here. Some attacks cannot be dodged either.
The main goal of Final Fantasy VII Remake, therefore, is to control and attack long enough to fill ATB gauges, then unleash their moves through those gauges. Think of it as the original FFVII but one in which you can move characters in between turns and deal some damage, while mitigating damage from enemy attacks through guarding and dodging.
An important difference between vanilla FFVII and Remake is that once you hit your Limit, it becomes a separate command under Abilities and doesn’t require an ATB gauge to activate. This means you have the option to actually conserve it for later use. So make sure to save it for when the foe is Staggered for maximum damage and remember to time its activation, because you can miss a Limit and completely waste it.
Here’s another hot tip: as soon as you can, go to Options in the Main Menu and set Camera Distance: In Battle to 3. This gives you a much better view of the battlefield, which prevents most blindsiding by enemies. It’s also a good idea to play around with some of the other settings, such as the controls to toggle between enemy units and party members. Don’t be afraid to test out different options and see what feels more natural to you.
When fighting against Shinra troopers, take out the weak frontline fighters first as they have a habit of interrupting your combos. The attack dogs are fast and powerful but tend not to attack as often, so they can wait. However, if a battle starts with grenade or flamethrower firing MPs, take them out immediately. They deal tons of damage and will hurt your party badly over time.
Riot Shield Troopers are annoying to fight head on but can be taken out with a single Fire spell. Their stronger counterparts, Hunters, can be eliminated by repeated use of Fire magic, by countering after a Guard to knock them off balance, or by attacking them from behind if they engage other allies.
Shocktroopers and their variants are annoying, can dodge a huge chunk of attacks, and deal high damage. The best way to beat them is to wait until they start a combo, then immediately interrupt them and keep on the pressure until they’re Staggered.
Any machine is weak to Thunder magic, so don’t be afraid to pile on the spells. They’re especially effective in pressuring them, leaving them open for even stronger abilities. And while Barret focuses on attacking any hard to reach mechanical foes, party members can provide support by casting Thunder magic.
Weapon Customization System:
A feature new to Final Fantasy VII Remake is Weapon Customization. This allows players to take any acquired weapon and enhance them using SP, giving them abilities that strengthen character stats, add Materia slots, and work with Materia effects to produce better results.
The best part of this feature is that it doesn’t become a game of augmenting weapons just to toss them aside for “better ones” as you progress. You can keep modifying your favorites throughout the entire game, and if you decide to switch to something else later on, every weapon gains the same amount of SP, so there’s no need to grind SP for backups.
As you progress through the game, more sub-cores open up for deeper customization. At first glance it resembles the linear fare of Final Fantasy XIII’s Crystarium system, but fear not — you can absolutely skip enhances and even cycle between cores as you see fit. This means even more customization options depending on what direction you want the character to go into when choosing where to best spend your SP. Even better is if you screw up your allotments, Chadley can reset any weapon enhancements for a price.
Materia and What to Use:
The beauty of the Materia system is the ability to enhance a character’s natural potential. By incorporating equipment that compliment these Materia builds, the resulting synergy can grant even larger bonuses and better usage for your party members. Another benefit is that, unlike the original, Materia in Final Fantasy VII Remake doesn’t lower your stats so players can equip them with abandon.
A couple builds that work wonders for some characters is to combine First Strike ATB with Magnify and Haste. This means that potentially the player-controlled character can start off with nearly an entire ATB gauge filled, then allow them to cast Haste on multiple allies to speed up their gauge fills. Having First Strike ATB with Magnify and Manawall is another great combination to bolster defense early on.
And for Tifa, who’s already an excellent DPS, pairing two Luck Up Materias with her gloves that bolster critical hit ratio means even more devastating hits. Pair that with Chakra Materia for healing (based on how much damage you took in battle), and you’re looking at a completely self sufficient fighter.
Thunder magic is incredibly useful in this game, because there are plenty of enemies in the reactors and Midgar at large that are weak to it. Not to mention it gives you proper options against normal enemies that are too hard to reach, as well as later bosses who might jump out of reach or just have way too much HP to whittle down. So when you first can buy Materia in Chapter 3, take advantage of it and buy another. Later on, you can find at least one more in the field. Human enemies tend to be weak against Fire, making it another valuable element to have at your disposal.
Deadly Dodge is an interesting Materia that adds a bit of variety to standard combos. After a character dodges an attack, their initial counterstrike gets an added AOE effect. Many players would immediately choose to equip Cloud with this Materia, since he’s on the front lines and the character that would most likely see the most action. Combined with his Punisher stance, this means some excellent damage and crowd control. Despite that, I still have a hard time recommending the use of a valuable Materia slot for Deadly Dodge when his fighting style is better suited for countering after a guard.
Tifa, in my opinion, would be the perfect candidate for this Materia. Her overall damage output potential is much higher than Cloud’s and she is tailor made for her dodge-based counter style. Plus the crowd control option is something she desperately needs.
Parry (which lets Cloud attack after dodging while guarding) would be better suited for Cloud’s fighting style, since it gives Cloud another counter option tied in to guarding. Though you can also argue that Tifa would thrive with this equipped and it would provide players an incentive to guard with her more often, as well as give her an option for guard countering, Cloud already has this built into his natural moveset.
There are tons of minigames in Final Fantasy VII Remake; some are merely a fun way to progress the plot and others are optional games that must be unlocked or discovered. They’re not only fun, but a great way to win special prizes if you do particularly well.
- The Darts minigame can be found in the Sector 7 Slums inside Seventh Heaven as soon as you first get access to the bar. Learn how to play well enough to beat Wedge’s high score in the Leaderboard (you’ll need to finish a game using less than eight darts). Before the main party departs for the Sector 5 Reactor mission, speaking to Wedge again after the cutscene in the bar prompts him to reward you with a Luck Up Materia.
- In a side mission before the Sector 5 Reactor mission, you will engage in motorcycle battles in both the Corkscrew Tunnels and the Midgar Highway.
- During the Sector 5 Reactor mission, there’s a switch minigame that has the party trying to time switch pushes to unlock doors. One is required for story progression, while the other is a bonus minigame that nets items pilfered from the Air Buster.
- The Sector 5 Slums has a minigame in which you destroy as many blocks as possible for a high score, with higher block numbers requiring stronger attacks.
- The Sector 6 Slums offers several minigames, with two of them accessible in the Gym — squats and pullups — and the last being a rhythm game during the events at the Honeybee Inn. These get you some pretty nice prizes, including rare Materia. There’s also a waterpump minigame between Aerith and Tifa.
- There’s another minigame in the Collapsed Expressway in which you manipulate robot hands to move Aerith around.
As you play through FFVII Remake, here are some general tips to keep in mind:
- Tackle pretty much any sidequest you can in the various sectors. Not only are enemies from most of them a great way to grind levels and polish your skills, but the rewards and money really goes a long way. This is especially vital in Sector 7 in the beginning of the game, as Cloud is noticeably low on Gil. After a few missions, you’ll be able to afford an Iron Bangle, Items, and extra Materia.
- Most side events and minigames are missable, meaning that after a certain amount of time, you no longer have access to them. The best policy is to do them as soon as they become available.
- If you hear random music blaring, be on the lookout for either an Item shop or a vending machine. Either one will be sure to sell a special track for your collection. A lot of these are missable, so it’s best to buy them on the spot.
- Discovery is a feature that lets players investigate certain curiosities in the field by going off the beaten path. Sometimes they can alter future events, and other times you get access to Materia and other items. But they’re always worth checking out, as the rewards are often highly valuable.
- While in Sector 7, make sure to speak to the woman by the Monsters Defeated sign, near the Weapons Shop. She’ll give you items based on how many monsters you defeat.
- Constantly stay on the prowl for treasure chests and Shinra boxes. Treasure chests are a great way to collect tons of healing items and they tend to be tucked away in random corners and dead ends. Once an area is secured, make sure to check it over thoroughly.
- The best weapons for Cloud, Aerith, and Barret are ones that prioritize magic enhancement (such as increased Magic stat bonuses, more MP, etc.) and possess multiple slots for Materia. Tifa should be equipped with weapons that prioritize her Attack, Defense, and Luck.
- Pay attention to your health. You have tons of it, so it’s easy to lose track until you’re suddenly in the red. But making sure to heal often way before you reach that point is imperative and will greatly increase your chances of survival when facing powerful bosses.
- Once you meet Chadley, complete his first and second Battle Intels to get access to the Auto-Cure and Wind Materia before leaving for the Sector 5 Reactor mission, which can be done while completing other sidequests. The former is useful for designated healers, while the latter gives you access to another element. The third and fourth requests can be completed during the Sector 5 Reactor mission, and those give you great Materia rewards as well.
- Make sure to have the Assess Materia equipped at all times, as it provides genuinely useful information about enemy weaknesses and how best to take them down.
- Once you beat the game, you’ll have the option of selecting chapters to replay through. Use this opportunity to farm both experience and AP. There are tons of ways to do so (such as here and here), and can help you level up your characters to their full potential.
- Remember to practice and experiment as much as possible!
Final Fantasy VII Remake is available now on PS4.