This Final Fantasy VII Remake Hard Difficulty Guide will provide you with tips, tricks and best character builds for hard mode. You must beat the game on hard for the Hardened Veteran trophy.
Hard difficulty is unlocked after you complete the game once on any difficulty. You can complete the chapters in any order via chapter select as long as you finish them all, but it makes sense to do them in order.
What’s changed in Hard Difficulty?
Hard Mode not only includes enemies which hit much harder and have higher HP, but it has certain caveats too. You can’t use items at all and benches only restore HP (not MP). You still recover MP during combat over time. However, after finishing the game once you do gain 2x XP and 3x AP, meaning you should hit Level 50 quickly and improve Materia faster.
What this means is that the Cure spell is going to become your best friend since you can’t use items to heal. However, you’ll also need to manage your MP because if you use it all earlier in the chapter, then you’ll have none left against the bosses at the end of the chapter and will likely have to start again.
You can also skip the two Bike Minigames in Chapters 4 and 18! This not only saves time but also means you don’t have to beat the boss in either one again.
Hard Difficulty Recommended Loadout
Useful Links for all Item Locations:
Getting through Hard Mode is 50% loadout, 50% skill. Although you can make some adjustments to suit your playstyle, the following is the best loadout for 90% of situations:
Weapon (Twin Stinger): Elemental – [Fire/Ice/Lightning/Wind], First Strike, 2x HP Up, 1x MP Up
Armor (Chain Bangle): Healing, Revival, Steadfast Block, Barrier
Accessory: Champion Belt
Tifa or Barret (give the loadout to whichever of the two is in your party):
Weapon (Tifa: Sonic Strikers / Barret: Light Machine Gun): Elemental – [Fire/Ice/Lightning/Wind], 2x HP Up, 2x MP Up
Armor (Cog Bangle): Healing, Revival, First Strike
Accessory: Champion Belt
Weapon (Reinforced Staff): 2x Magic Up, 2x HP Up, 2x MP Up
Armor (Rune Armlet): Magnify-Healing, Revival
Accessory: Healing Carcanet
Magnify-Healing is the single most important Materia combination in the game. Magnify means you can heal all characters (or damage all enemies) at once at the expense of just one casting, and since Magic will be used almost exclusively to heal in this mode, it will save you in countless situations. To use it you must equip the Magnify Materia + Healing Materia next to each other on a weapon or armor piece that has two linked Materia slots (looks like a line between the slots). This way the Magnify and Healing become “linked”.
Always have this on the character with the best Magic stat, as this means their castings will recover more health (hence the Magic Up Materia in the example above). The best healer by far is Aerith, but she doesn’t feature in many chapters so Cloud is the second best option. Unfortunately, there is only one Magnify in the whole game (in Chapter 9), so you’ll have to juggle this between the two of them depending on who is in your party.
The second most important Materia is Elemental. There are two of those in the game (Chapter 6 & Chapter 14). When placed on weapons, it gives your attacks elemental damage (8%, 15% or 23% depending on Materia level), whilst on armor it gives you resistance (of 50%, 100% and then absorption). Just like Magnify, it only works when you place it next to a Magic Materia (Fire/Ice/Lightning/Wind) in a “linked” Materia slot (a line between Materia slots that connects them).
Hopefully during your first playthrough, you Assessed every enemy and boss you came across. If not, consult our Final Fantasy VII Remake Boss Guide & Final Fantasy VII Remake Enemy Weaknesses Guide, because on your second run, you know which enemies and bosses are coming up and what their elemental weakness is. You can then plan accordingly and change the element linked to Elemental Materia to give your attacks an edge. This can make a huge difference in battles, and you get two of these so use them on Cloud and either Tifa or Barret, depending on your preference.
On rare occasions, it’s more beneficial to have Elemental on armor instead, thus becoming immune to the linked element. Some enemies only use elemental attacks so they can’t kill you if you have the corresponding element, making them super easy.
On Hard, defeating bosses and completing side quests where you defeat stronger versions of enemies will reward you with manuscripts which give you SP. Getting one of these per character on Hard will unlock Weapon Level 6 and a new core for each weapon which offers a number of useful abilities. The best ability by far is Reprieve, which means your character will be left with 1HP from an attack that would have killed them. It can only be used once per battle, but it will save you countless times and buy you enough time to use a Cure spell.
The next best ability is a 20% MP reduction for Cure spells. It may not seem like much, but a Curaga now costs 9MP instead of 12MP. That’s a 4th curative spell for free for every 3 you use. However, this is only on one weapon per character.
For Tifa, use Sonic Strikers, for Barret use Light Machine Gun, for Aerith use Reinforced Staff. For Cloud, Twin Stinger is the best weapon because even though it might not be as outright powerful attacking-wise as other weapons, it has both the essential Reprieve and 20% Cure MP Cost Reduction abilities.
Hard Difficulty Combat Tactics
As far as battles go, regular mobs shouldn’t prove much trouble. First Strike is a fantastic Materia which, when maxed, gives you a nearly full ATB at the start of a fight. On two characters, this means you can run in and immediately use their abilities. Cloud’s Triple Slash is brilliant and should always be the go-to move, whilst Barret’s Maximum Fury followed by an Overcharge can also eat into an enemy’s HP. It’s not very useful for bosses though, since they have such a large HP pool anyway.
As for general strategy, particularly on bosses and tougher enemies, you should be looking to Stagger them as quickly as possible with the ‘Focus’ abilities (Focused Thrust/Focused Strike/Focused Shot), particularly when they’re on ‘Pressure’ status. Once Staggered, use Tifa’s move and the True Strike ability when you have ATB charge to quickly build the Stagger % to increase damage. Aerith should always be your dedicated healer when she’s with you, but if not then ALWAYS prioritize healing over anything else. If a character goes into the red zone or dies, immediately use Curaga or Raise with the first character to have their ATB charged.
Finally, since you’ll be using Cloud as your Leader for the vast majority of the game, learn the value in blocking. Cloud’s counter in Punisher mode (and his Counterstance ability) are incredibly beneficial. Using them effectively can trivialize otherwise hard enemies and bosses as the damage using counter is far higher than a normal attack. The Steadfast Block Materia not only reduces damage from enemies significantly but every block charges your ATB fast too.
It might take some getting used to at first (particularly if you played on Easy first and rarely had to play defensively), but Hard Mode is tailored around mastering the art of defensive tactics. Learning how to use Counterstance is practically the only viable tactic for the last boss, for example.
Other Tips for Hard Difficulty
Other tips for Hard mode include:
- Always smash crates! There’s a decent chance they will contain Mako shards which replenish your MP. This is the only way outside of combat you can regenerate MP in Hard Mode.
- An easy way to replenish all MP is to find some crates, smash them (chance for Mako shard), save the game, reload the save you must made, the crates will have respawned and can be smashed again. This trick works because every time you save/load it respawns the crates so you can farm MP as much as you want when necessary.
- If you’re unsure what element an enemy or boss is weak to, use Assess and then press and ‘Restart from Last Battle’. This will place you just before said enemy/boss and allow you to adjust your Elemental Materia accordingly. Or you can use our Boss Guide that includes all weaknesses.
- Also check the Enemy List & Weaknesses for a complete list what each enemy’s weakness is (so you don’t need to assess them again).
- Fleeing is an option! Since the 2x XP and 3x AP bonuses are unlocked after completing the game, you’re going to be fairly close to level 50 already and your Materia will level fast. Therefore, you don’t need to fight every enemy you come across. It’s often best to run and save your MP than get involved in a needless scrap. You can’t use the items enemies drop anyway and you’ll have so much Gil saved up that you won’t need that either.
- Obtain the manuscripts. Beating the bosses in the early chapters will give you manuscripts granting SP and thus taking you over the threshold to unlock Weapon Level 6, but these abilities are expensive. You can do side quests in Chapters 3/8/9/14 to be rewarded with more so you can buy those top tier abilities.
- Save regularly! It goes without saying, but if you get into a fight and things go badly and you’ve used up a ton of MP, it’s often best to try again rather than attempt to plod on with limited curing capabilities.
- The Barrier Materia is extremely useful against the harder bosses. Manawall halves all damage (physical and magical) and in some rare cases, is the only way to survive certain attacks. It’s expensive MP-wise though, so don’t use it too liberally.
- If you’re dangerously low on MP and still have a boss to come, use the Pray Materia. It costs 2 ATB to use and doesn’t heal nearly as much as Curaga, but in a pinch it is the best way to quickly heal party members without MP. Chakra is another quick alternative that costs only 1 ATB but heals you without the use of MP.
Can you think of any more Hard Difficulty Tips? Feel free to share your tactics in the comments below.