Because 14 is a great Final Fantasy, am I right?
The Final Fantasy VII Remake can be complex in the latter third, especially with the optional hard difficulty setting that’s unlocked after finishing the game.
Here’s some tips to help get you sorted out early before the going gets tough.
Always unlock extra materia slots first
When acquiring a new weapon or leveling up, you’ll earn points to put into your weapons in the form of SP. Every weapon has an SP tree, even late-game items (they just offer truncated ones so you don’t have to pointlessly put SP into every single ability).
Keep in mind that one of the most important things to “buy” first when spending SP is a new materia slot. Other buffs like extra strength, magic damage and health are important, but many pieces of materia also buff stats: so a new slot is a double-win.
Note that materia slots come in the form of “linked” (which can grant bonuses when combining certain materia together) and “new.” New is almost always better as it’s an extra slot to put a piece of materia in that can be leveled up as quickly as possible.
Equip as much materia as possible that can be leveled up
You’ll want to equip every single slot with materia that isn’t maxed out unless you’re participating in a particularly tough fight. AP is doled out after battles, allowing materia to level up and grant new abilities (like cure, into cura, regen and curaga).
The earlier you slot in green materia (most of the spells), the easier the late-game will be as you’ll have access to advanced magic. Leveling up each of the four elements (fire, ice, wind, lightning) as well as healing materia is extremely important, as weaknesses play a huge role in boss fights.
Give everyone healing materia
Speaking of healing materia, it’s imperative that every single party member has it.
If your one party member that has access to cure dies, you’re digging into your item pool and you only want to use that as a last resort, as using items means less money for upgrades. Buy three pieces of healing materia as quickly as possible so that your main three party members have access to cure during battle.
The sooner you do this the sooner they’ll have cura (a better heal), which will help you throughout most of the game.
Put auto-cure on at least one party member
Decide early who you want to “pilot” the most. I chose Cloud, so I put the auto-cure materia on Tifa and Barret, swapping as needed.
Auto-Cure allows a party member you are not controlling to cast cure (with healing materia) in emergency situations. It’s one of the only ways you’ll have access to a gambit system-like mechanic (from Final Fantasy XII), which helps you focus more on the battle at hand and micromanage less.
After it earns enough AP to level up to the second and final stage, a teammate can auto-cure 10 times in one fight.
Rest at every bench
This is a really simple tip but a lot of people are going to forget it.
Every time you see a bench, go use it. It even has a bench icon on the map! Benches automatically restore all HP and MP and are effectively tents: a classic Final Fantasy item. Even if you only have a little MP missing from one party member, use it: it’s quick.
You can sprint down ladders
Here’s another quick tip that some folks might not use at first: you can “sprint” down ladders like Dark Souls to slide quicker.
You can heal out of battle
To heal or use items out of battle, press X, then select your item or spell, or press L2/R2 to swap party members.
Try to have the party member with the most effective cure spells or with the most MP heal you out of combat. Keep your health up, as some random fights can be unexpectedly challenging.
Use Aerith’s pray to top your party up without spending MP
Aerith is one of the strongest party members in the game due to her restorative powers, and pray materia is a huge reason for that.
Although you can earn pray later in the game, Aerith comes equipped with it. Since it’s not a green magic materia (it’s yellow, actually), pray doesn’t require MP to use. It’s really useful for allowing Aerith to stay on the offensive and nail enemies with weakness magic, freeing up her MP.
Any party member with can trigger a summon ability
After you welcome a summon into the fight, anyone can activate its abilities for an ATB cost, not just the party member who summoned it.
Keep this in mind if you need to save up for a big heal with Aerith or a stagger-inducing hit with Cloud, that the third party member can do the heavy lifting with spending ability bars on summons.
Spam the ability linked to your weapon until you acquire it
Every time you get a new weapon, equip it unless you’re immediately going to hit a boss fight (you’ll know when most of them are coming).
Each weapon has a unique ability attached to it that can be learned permanently if you attune to it. How do you do that? By spamming it! Typically it takes around 10 uses until it’s added to your repertoire forever.
Even if a weapon doesn’t fit your particular playstyle or the stats are off, leech that ability.
Buy the cheap limited-stock items at each vending machine
Sometimes when coming across a wild vending machine, you’ll see an orange “down arrow” emblazoned on some of the merch: this is discounted stuff, and you’ll want to buy all of it.
Gil (in-game money) is sometimes hard to come by, especially when it comes to purchasing very expensive items that cost 500 or more a pop. Buying out all of the discounted stock at each machine is paying it forward for the harder bosses in the game. You’ll have more options at your disposal.
Always have steal equipped
Stealing is back in Final Fantasy VII Remake, and a few key items like weapons can be acquired through stealing from big targets.
You don’t need to try to steal blindly though: assess materia (more on that in a moment) will tell you which bosses you can steal from, and what items you can steal from normal enemies. The key is always having it equipped on someone: thematically, I try to always have it on Tifa so it’s easy to remember.
Follow up a phoenix down raise with another AP-based heal or item
There’s nothing more feel-bad than raising an ally with a phoenix down, only to see them get killed immediately after.
To cut down on this frustration, you’ll want to wait until you have two ATB bars or you have two bars to split between two characters. Use one bar to raise the dead party member, then immediately swap or trigger a healing item or spell to top them up before they die again.
ABA – Always Be Assessing
Assess materia, which is handed out early in the game and allows you to scan enemies, is essential. Assess every single enemy in the game, period.
There’s a questline that rewards players for assessing a certain amount of enemies, and since you can’t return to some areas, it’s better to get it done at the start of every battle.
I equipped Cloud with assess for the entire game, barring portions where he’s not available.