Final Fantasy 7 Remake's classic mode makes you feel like a back seat driver
Final Fantasy 7 Remake isn't only going to look better, but it's going to play better too. Square Enix has replaced the original game's turn-based battle system with one that gives you more control over what Cloud and co are doing – and I personally find it a welcome change.
Unlike in the original game, Final Fantasy 7 Remake has real-time action: you have full control over when your selected character will dodge, roll or block. Every time to perform these actions, you charge up your ATB bar which, when full, lets you unleash a special attack on your enemy.
However not everyone will find this a change for the better, and Square Enix has acknowledged that. So, for those who do prefer Final Fantasy 7's original turn-based combat, there is an option to play in something called classic mode.
Classic mode has a much more hands off approach. Instead of you controlling your character's movements, dodges etc, instead this is done automatically. All you need to do is wait until an ATB gauge fills up, then initiate an attack.
Square Enix has said this is for those who don't like action games or prefer to avoid the action side of things. So, during a recent hands on with Final Fantasy 7 Remake, I decided to kick it old school and give classic mode a shot. And I found it boring.
Guess I'll grab a snack while I wait…
I decided to try out classic mode during the Abzu boss fight which, for those of you who didn't play the original, is a fair bit into the game. By that point, you have both Tifa and Aerith in your party, and have plenty of attacks at your disposal. Things should be pretty challenging by now.
It's a strange feeling, to go from having full control over your game to becoming somewhat of a backseat driver. The AI takes care of you dodging, moving etc, and you really only need to perk up when the ATB bar is fully charged. In fact, I got a snack and had a drink while I waited, occasionally weighing in on the battle to initiate a command to Cloud and team.
While picking those attacks is a strategy in itself, I really didn't feel like I was doing much. I didn't feel invested in the battle, almost like I was a passenger in my own game – occasionally shouting out to "turn left" or "make a right".
It was easier, no doubt, but I didn't feel like I had actually done much at all and I missed the frustration of having to dodge and attack by myself. At least with the original, that was the only option and it felt completely normal. But having a taste of that extra control had me wanting more.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake is so stunning, it feels like a shame not to interact with it as much as you can. And I didn't feel like I was really interacting at all – I was actually quite bored.
That's not indicative of Final Fantasy 7 Remake's combat as a whole, the real-time system is sleek and thoroughly enjoyable – even when it's challenging.
Unlike the likes of Resident Evil 2 Remake's 'assisted mode', you can switch between classic mode and normal at your leisure. It's not a case of choosing one and being stuck with that choice. Like me, you can try classic mode out for yourself and see if you prefer it because, after all, it comes down to personal preference.
I felt a weird sense of guilt turning classic mode on, like I was taking the easy route with this boss battle. It's hard to pinpoint where that comes from. Maybe it's the mentality that some gamers possess that a game needs to be 'difficult' for you to prove yourself, and choosing the easiest option makes you lesser somehow?
But let me say this: although I didn't always enjoy classic mode, it isn't necessarily built for people like me. It's not even necessarily for those who just prefer turn-based combat, even though they probably are a big factor. But it's more about making games accessible to those who are perhaps intimidated by the combat, action and difficulty.
While Final Fantasy 7 Remake feels like it was built for us, those who played it back in the day. In fact, remakes also strive to bring in a whole new audience who may not know anything about this franchise. Maybe they've never played a Final Fantasy game before, but want to see what it's all about, maybe they're more invested in Final Fantasy 7 Remake's story, and see that as the priority with the action taking a backseat.
There should always be options for those people and it seems that developers are beginning to acknowledge that, look at Death Stranding's easy mode. Options like this may not always be for those accustomed to games, but they can encourage those trying to get into games to dip their toe in.
After all, don't we want more people playing games? To share the medium with others? Plus, sometimes it's nice to stick a game on easy every once in a while, take a backseat and just enjoy the experience.