The highly anticipated Final Fantasy 7 Remake is due to arrive on Friday, and the reviews are already trickling in. They have been overwhelmingly positive so far, calling the game “a loving reimagining“, “thrilling” and “thoughtful”, “flawed, but fascinating”, and “the most ambitious Final Fantasy yet”, while praising protagonist Cloud yet again. We’ll have our own review to add to the chorus here (once, y’know, we finish the dang thing), but one thing is clear from the outset: Classic Mode is anything but.
In the demo that made rounds over the last year or so, players noticed that Classic Mode was an option under the playstyle / difficulty settings. The description of it suggests that it’s a nod to the original 1997 classic, which played out in a turn-based style of combat that’s rather familiar to RPG players then and now. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Classic Mode in Final Fantasy 7 Remake would be a return to form, a way to revisit the original playstyle just with gorgeous graphics and superb visual effects. Instead, it’s kind of a mishmash of the old style and the new, and it’s so close to “set it and forget it” mode that the game almost plays itself.
Classic Mode is the same difficulty as the game’s Easy setting; right now, the only other choice is Normal, but a harder difficulty is unlocked upon beating it once. What Classic Mode does is automate the player’s character in combat, letting the AI take over to move, guard, and attack, allowing the player themselves to work the menu commands. So, no, it’s not turn-based; you can still take control over the character at any time if you get tired of waiting for the activation bars–which are required to use abilities, spells, and even items–to fill up. But Classic Mode is really Story Mode, just dressed up in a more nostalgia-friendly name.
That’s not to say it’s bad. Sometimes it’s interesting to watch Cloud or one of the other playable characters do their thing while you sit back and watch, only to cue up a particular skill as needed. The teammate controls are much the same here as they are in other playstyles; you can tab over to give a teammate a prompt once their bar fills up, or just take over their control completely, at which point the Classic Mode AI will do its thing. You can also turn this mode off at any point and switch to the default playstyle if you find yourself taking control more often than not.
Classic Mode may not really be “Classic”, but don’t think that the AI will just walk you through the game unscathed; the AI player will probably take more damage round for round than a semi-skilled player, though the combat does take some getting used to. For younger players, for those who need a little more time to warm up to the combat tactics, or for streamers looking to engage with chat during battles, Classic Mode is a viable option. It’s just not the most fun one.