The combat system in the original Final Fantasy VII was a cool turn-based system that made sure that players used their time wisely when making attacks. Called Active Time Battles (or ATB), dwelling on your tactics allowed for the enemy to take an extra attack. It’s a classic combat system that worked great for Cloud and friends, but it was also a product of its time.
In Final Fantasy VII Remake, it’s back, but not as you might think. The game uses real-time combat that allows you to crush the enemies with your weapons, but it melds it with the original’s ATB system by causing the gameplay to slow down and allow you to pick and play skills and magic materia that you have available attached to your characters. It offers up some exciting gameplay and a real generational leap for the ATB style system.
But for those looking for more of an experience like the original, Final Fantasy VII Remake offers up a difficulty that you can trigger when beginning the game, called Classic Mode.
What is Classic Mode?
Classic Mode doesn’t turn the game from real-time into full turn-based combat like the original, but it does try to make the game feel more like the original by doing all of the work involved in the real-time combat for you. This means that the game will do all of the real-time attacking for you, and you can focus on using ATB attacks once they have charged up on each character.
The gameplay involved in Classic Mode certainly makes the game feel a little less frantic. Controlling both the combat and the ATB moves at the same time will take some getting used to, but its implementation is very good, and a lot of fun. That being said, not everyone is going to be a fan of this approach, which is where Classic Mode comes in.
The Classic Mode option also mirrors that of the original game’s difficulty, by which we mean that it’s set to Easy by default. This means that attacks from enemies hit less hard and progress is easier. That’s not surprising considering you don’t have full control of all of your movements and basic attacks, but it still makes the game a relative cakewalk.
Classic Mode caveats
When you enter a combat situation in Classic Mode, the game’s AI moves and attacks for you, picking a target automatically. You can move the character and attack if you wish, but you will be fighting with the game’s AI to do so.
This is also at odds with the games stagger system, which allows you to cause an enemy to become staggered and vulnerable to attack after pumping enough punishment into them. ATB moves will certainly help to improve the pressure on an enemy to cause them to stagger, but you have much less control over who you generate pressure onto. Once staggered too, there’s no guarantee that your character will be in a position to lay down some big weapon ability damage on that enemy, meaning you would have to maneuver yourself regardless.
A character’s ATB meter also fills up faster when you are active on them and attacking with them, which can be essential to game strategy. For example, if you need to heal Cloud and Barret is your only team member holding a Cure materia, switching to Barret and firing off attacks will boost his ATB meter quicker, meaning that you can push out a heal to a teammate faster. This doesn’t work quite as well when you are not fully in control of the character.
Finally, each character has a special ability, such as Cloud’s Punisher mode, which makes his strikes more powerful at the sacrifice of defense, and is triggered by pressing triangle whilst on the active character. This is not triggered by the AI, meaning that you’ll still have to use this yourself.
Should you use Classic Mode?
While the temptation will be there to use the Classic Mode when playing the game, we would recommend not doing so. Not only does it lock out a lot of great gameplay with the real-time combat elements, but it also adds too many unnecessary hurdles to make it fun to play. If you want to simply experience the story, it might not be a bad option, but even then, Easy should be the way to go.
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