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cold_spirit's Remake challenge run a.k.a. Rebirth waiting room

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Heyo. In an attempt to redirect my Rebirth hype, I'm going to be preforming a challenge run of Remake and the OG. My progress will be documented here.

My Remake challenge run is as follows:
  • Hard mode
  • No armor
  • No accessory
  • No summon
  • No restorative materia
  • No limit breaks
  • No benches
What does "No restorative materia" mean? Well, I'm prohibiting the following:
  • Healing materia
  • Revival materia
  • Cleansing materia
  • Chakra materia
  • Prayer materia
Other healing options, such as the Bloodsucker and Stagger Siphon weapon skills, HP Absorption materia, and the Spirit Siphon enemy skill are okay. You might say "Wait, why is HP Absorb allowed?". My reasoning is that challenge runs are about more than making life arbitrarily difficult. They're meant to encourage new and unconventional strategies. I've clocked in 350 hours into Remake. I can say with confidence that across that time, I rarely used HP Absorption materia. There's just better healing options available and better support materia to use the slot on. So let's give it a chance to shine here. Also, like the Bloodsucker and Stagger Siphon weapon skills, it doesn't provide reliable healing. I don't think it'll save me much.

I may also provide some story commentary. Like for example, I love how many times Stamp is referenced in Chapter 1 without out any exposition. That's some good worldbuilding. It provides a fun "ohhh, so that's what they're talking about" moment for people who replay the game. Also, this game is really beautiful. There's so much visual information to take in, I get slightly overwhelmed at times.

Below is my fight against Scorpion Sentinel. I won't be uploading my playthrough of the entire chapter. It's really not that interesting, just some casual play and an occasional retry if I lose a big chunk of HP. Also, these videos are not skill exhibitions. There will be mistakes and optimizations to make. I'm simply posting them as proof of my progress.

After Remake, I plan on playing through the OG with no encounters enabled, as well as prohibiting Poison materia (it trivializes a lot of boss fights). More on that later!

Without further ado, let's begin!

 
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cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Finished Chapter 2. I was surprised by Sephiroth's dialogue with Cloud. To me it feels like some lines were written to connect to things said later in the game. For example:

Chapter 2 - Fateful Encounters
Sephiroth: I have a favor to ask. Our beloved planet is dying. Slowly. Silently. Painfully. Can you bear to see the planet suffer... Cloud?

Chapter 18 - Destiny's Crossroads
Aerith: He'd tell you that he only cares about the planet. That he'd do everything in his power to protect and preserve it. But this isn't the way it's supposed to be. There's no greater threat to the planet than him.

And here:

Chapter 2 - Fateful Encounters
Sephiroth: Were the planet to die, so many things would be lost... That which binds us together would be no more. And I would be loath to live in such a world.

Chapter 18 - Destiny's Crossroads
Sephiroth: Or world will become a part of it… one day. But I… will not end. Nor will have you end.

Well anyway, here's the video for Chapter 2. Since the Huntsman isn't too interesting of a fight, I tried to end it in a unique way. There's a trick that saved me from getting a game over. Do you know it?

 
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cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Ahhh Chapter 3, the first "side quest hub". I initially thought that these chapters would be some of the most difficult, but then I found out that your party's HP is restored after each completed quest. It's a cake walk.

I don't know how to make these beginning chapters difficult. I could use Chadley's services and reset weapon progression, but that gets a bit messy. Not all weapons have the same number of "sub-cores". For example, a starter weapon like the Buster Sword has 6 sub-cores to upgrade, whereas weapons you get late into the game, like Purple Pain, only have 4. How does one standardize weapon power when they have variable sub-cores? That's why I've chosen to keep them fully upgraded. Then they're balanced with no clear winner between them. just specializations. Issue is they're all very strong.

The amount of NPC dialogue in this chapter is really impressive, especially since it changes between night / day, and as you complete side quests. My favorite NPCs that I found this time are the "Friends of Freshness" near the Beginner's Hall. They seem to be primarily concerned with the slum's sewage pipe maintenance. Godspeed friends.

Here's my fight against the chapter's capstone fight: the Hoodlums. The shortest in this series, I guarantee it.

 

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Hmm, "no damage". I foresee instances where a character could get damaged during an ability that finishes the final enemy, requiring a restart, but that option would be lost since the battle ended. So I'd have to reload an early save. Sounds a bit exhausting.

No damage is a great challenge if you're focused on perfecting one boss fight, but applying it to every battle is a lot to take on. Maybe in the future!
 
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cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 4! Roche! Such a fun series of battles.

Though I have to say, the scenario takes some leaps. In the beginning, Jessie says to Cloud that Biggs and Wedge don't know the real reason they're heading plateside (to get a new blasting agent). Following that is a continuous sequence from the corkscrew tunnel to Jessie's house. Along the way, Biggs and Wedge just... magically learn the plan without being told. By the time you reach Jessie's home, they say goodbye to Cloud knowing full well that he is going to break in and steal the ID card.

Additionally, Cloud asks Jessie if they're going to ride on the tracks until the train station, to which Jessie replies "No, head straight for the warehouse". But we know part of the plan is to stop by Jessie's home first to pick up the ID.

I'm nitpicking for sure, but it does make me think that the chapter was structured differently at some point during development. Maybe the gang did go straight to the warehouse only to find that they needed an ID, so they formulated the plan to visit Jessie's home, hence their sudden awareness of it in the final game. Just speculating.

Really like how the music matched up with the fight in my footage.

 
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cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 5, Crab Warden. One of my favorite bosses.

Cloud's Disorder and Tifa's Focused Strike give back ATB when they hit the enemy. Neither ability does much damage, so I think they have this special property for balancing purposes. HOWEVER, with Intergrade, Synergy materia no longer costs ATB or MP to activate. Meaning you can spam Disorder or Focused Strike and the party member with Synergy will also keep firing away.

Additionally, Parry materia is pretty broken. It can be used to cancel any animation. I use it to cancel recovery on Tifa's Whirling Uppercut and of course Focused Strike. Combined with the above, you can melt bosses.

For sure my next challenge run will ban Synergy, Parry, or both.

Getting better at using shortcuts for non-active party members. Here I use Barret's Focused Shot a few times despite never switching to him. Feels so good. Remake's battle system is notable for being the only action game I've played that captures the feeling of controlling a whole party like the RPGs of yore.

 
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cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 6 doesn't have a boss, nor a story relevant "capstone fight", but it does have a difficult optional encounter with two Queen Grashtrikes.

I really like this chapter because the level design is intricate enough that I can't exactly remember it all, so it feels fresh to play even after multiple playthroughs. The scenery is a bit samey, but there's some good banter throughout. Barret's "Whole system's designed to make shit roll downhill faster" line always gets a big head nod out of me.

 

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 7, Airbuster. Love it. All the Shinra mech battles are bangers.

This one has a bit of a trick. Don't stagger Airbuster before it moves into position to fire Tankbuster. By preserving the stagger gauge, you can stagger Airbuster immediately after it fires Tankbuster. Doing so will completely skip the part of the fight where it detaches its hands (provided you deal enough damage during the stagger).

I call this a "quick phase" and will keep my eyes out for more as I play. Demonstration below.

 
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cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 8 Part 1 - Reno

I didn't know that Cloud can flip over Reno's attacks in the same way that he and Tifa can flip over Weiss's stab move. Once you get the timing right it makes the fight a lot easier than utilizing Punisher Mode's parry or Counterstance. This was a fun one to learn.

 

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 8 Part 2 - Rude

A surprisingly easy fight. Aerith with Synergy and two maxed Magic Ups + Cloud’s Disorder (an ability that gives back ATB) = total devastation. Really happy with how I dodged Rude’s shockwave.

It’s pretty well known now that the Sector 6 plate is above the Sector 5 slums in Remake. This is due to the sectors sharing the same skybox. The vast majority of players don’t notice the error, but for a megafan like me, it’s incredibly immersion breaking.

To alleviate this, I’ve concocted a ridiculous headcanon. It goes like this: during the construction of Midgar, a massive monster invasion fell upon the Sector 5 slums. Those who survived moved to Sector 6 and built a new settlement. As a homage, they named their settlement “Sector 5”. Their influence extended to the surrounding area as well, such as Aerith’s church. The actual Sector 5 slums remains a monster’s nest to this day.

As such, everything that occurs in Remake’s “Sector 5” is actually in the Sector 6 slums, hence the Sector 6 plate above. The reason all the maps still say “Sector 5” is because Shinra, being negligent and ignorant to life in the slums, never updated their database. As for the wall where Aerith surprises Cloud, that’s just a normal wall to keep out monsters. You actually see a few equally high walls in Sector 7. How did Cloud fall through the roof of the church when it’s actually in Sector 6? Well, the Whispers carried him of course!

I know it’s ridiculous, but that’s not on me. Tell Square Enix to fix their game. They can’t tell me Cloud is in Sector 5 when all geographical evidence (the plate above) says he’s in Sector 6. Unfortunately, this issue also affects Crisis Core Reunion and Rebirth. There’s no going back now, so might as well roll with it. I just played through Chapter 8 and surprisingly my head canon fit okay.

Well anyway, here's the vid.

 
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ForceStealer

Double Growth
That was a very pretty dodge, nicely done :)

It’s pretty well known now that the Sector 6 plate is above the Sector 5 slums in Remake. This is due to the sectors sharing the same skybox. The vast majority of players don’t notice the error, but for a megafan like me, it’s incredibly immersion breaking.
200w.gif
 

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 9 - Hell House

One of the best bosses in the game. It's the whole package. Four distinct phases, elemental weaknesses given by visual cues, appendages to break, can temporarily "bind" party members forcing you to switch characters, throws out adds... Could write a whole book on Hell House and title it "How to Make a Good Boss". Plus it's all rolled up with a great scenario, visuals, and music.

Genuinely fun to master. I kept replaying it even after getting good footage.

 

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 10 - Abzu

This ended up being the most tightly choreographed boss yet. From taking a few steps forward when the fight starts, to working my way behind Abzu in time for his first recovery, to which side I'm on for the stagger. Every action has a nuanced purpose. However, I'd need a whiteboard and some dry erase markers to explain the reasons why haha

 

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 4 Part 2 - Enigmatic Spectre

That's right, we're going back in time. I always forget that the Whispers are the last fight of Chapter 4, not Roche. When I first played it, I wasn't sure what to classify it as. But upon reflection I'm labeling it a "capstone fight", much like the Hooligans in Chapter 3. As such, I went back and cleaned up my battle against them.

 

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 11 Part 1 - Ghoul

This battle took FOREVER to get clean footage. And it's not even an interesting fight! I found that it's more consistent to just hang back and wait for Ghoul to enter it's corporeal form, which it will always enter after a set amount of time. Then cast Fire to pressure it, unload your Focused abilities, rinse and repeat.

What took forever is the RNG. The debris it flings around will randomly hit you even with good dodging, your AI members will can get caught in its Piercing Scream, Aerith's Fire will hit some trash pile, the list goes on. I was up waaay too late into the night. Seasonal I guess, considering Halloween just ended.

 

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 11 Part 2 - Eligor

One critique: The Enemy Intel for Eligor states that casting rapid wind magic while it's airborne will increase its stagger gauge. In its second phase, Eligor casts Reflect on itself and the party, and begins flying around. So I thought "cool, maybe the Breach/Dispel magic will be useful for more than one battle in the whole game". Well, if you remove Eligor's Reflect, it just immediately casts Reflect again. Lame. I'm not really sure how you're supposed to effectively cast wind magic then.

It's clear that Eligor follows a "track" around the area. There's a point in the video where it does a pretty wonky maneuver to get back on it haha.

 
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cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 12 - Reno & Rude

Let me just get this out of my system... RENO AND RUDE DOUBLE KILL. AFTER FIVE+ HOURS OF ATTEMPTS. THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST VIDEO IN THE SERIES!!!!!!

Seriously, I can't believe how good this turned out to be. Some context: Having to manage two bosses, nimble ones at that who can counter your moves, is so difficult. Easily the most challenging fight so far. I spent at least 5 hours across 3 nights on this. And honestly, I wasn't anywhere close to capturing good footage. The third phase against both of them is usually a mess. Just when you're about to attack one, the other comes out of nowhere and knocks you on your ass.

Rude enters a guarding stance when you cast Aero on him. So the main strategy for the third phase is to keep him locked in that stance with whatever ATB you can spare as you focus on Reno. There's no cheese, you just have to be responsive and creative to whatever situation you're given. And look what I got after so many attempts. You can't see or hear it, but I fist pumped the air so hard, so many times when Infinity's End connected.

Another interesting thing is that I use the cutscene transition to cancel the casting animation for Wall. You can see the buffs are added to my characters during the cutscene. Very cool tech to discover.

 
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cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 13 - Failed Experiment

I didn't expect this to take as long as it did. The actual boss was super easy to manage, the real issue was capturing clean footage of me dealing with the Unknown Entities. Their behavior is super sporadic and RNG dependent. Plus, with so many of them, the battlefield just looks chaotic. Despite it all, I developed a system. I know now exactly when their attack timers go off, how to manipulate the Unknown Entities on the walkway above, etc.

The key to dealing with the Failed Experiment itself is to damage the appendage, but don't break it. Save it for the final phase. Doing so will allow you to immediately pressure and stagger it.

At the beginning of this series, I said these videos would not be skill exhibitions. I'm now walking back on that statement. There's a video I want to make once this is all said and done, and to get that I need good, action packed footage of the whole game.

 
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cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
I gravely underestimated how long this would take me. Hard to believe I started about 6 weeks ago. I thought it'd only take me a month.

My life is about to ramp up in complexity in the coming weeks. In fact, I'll be away from my PS5 for the entirety of December. Hoping to get through Chapter 14 before then, but I definitely won't be able to complete the game, which was my original goal.

So yeah, in case this is the last one for a while, see you all in the new year!
 

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 14 - Abzu & Shoats

Nearly impossible to capture a clean fight of this one with all the shoats running around. Despite being smol little guys, their attacks easily interrupt you. Just gotta roll with it. To mitigate this issue, give Tifa her Mythril Claw, load her up with the game's two Magic Ups, and cast Firaga with Magnify. The secret to Abzu is parrying its attacks. I was able to get a triple parry on its Bash and Smash move, which looks insanely cool and does a ton of damage.

Always sad to see the dying shoat during the phase transition scene. What's even sadder is that if the third phase lasts long enough, Abzu will call upon the sewer water from both pipes, completely covering the battlefield. This kills any remaining shoats. Poor thing is so desperate, it forsake its own kin.

 

cold_spirit

he/him
AKA
Alex T
Chapter 15 - The Valkyrie

Please note that I didn't get hit by a single bullet in the runup to the first phase. Not a difficult feat once you know trick: pretend the Valkyrie is an alligator and run in a zigzag pattern.

Folks I got really good at this fight. Not only did I master the inputs needed to complete the first and second phases in a matter of moments, but I figured out precisely where to stand and how long to wait to make the satellite beam consistently hit the Valkyrie in the third (while keeping my AI companions away from the blast).

Let's break it down. I immediately start by walking Barret left. This is because Cloud and Tifa are on his right and I want them to be as far away from the Valkyrie's canon fire as possible. Once I build two ATB charges, I initiate Maximum Fury. Next, I need to switch to Tife, but I can't switch too soon! If I do, Cloud's Synergy materia won't activate. This is super important because if Cloud isn't casting something, he'll run up to the Valkyrie instead, consequently getting blown away by the forthcoming satellite beam.

Once Cloud starts casting, switch to Tifa. Physical attacks are what pressure the Valkyrie the best in this phase. However, don't get too carried away. Too many kicks and I won't have enough time to clear Tifa of the satellite beam. Once the Valkyrie is staggered, it's over. The usual True Strike + Whirling Uppercut + Parry cancel will demolish its HP bar, provided Cloud has Aero + Synergy.

This chapter has risen in the ranks to become one of my favorites. First and foremost is the color scheme. The majority of the game is draped in green with the occasional brown or blue. But the setting sun provides some really beautiful warm colors here. Second is the music. Some of Remake's best. There's a clear progression between the tracks, from "The Day Midgar stood still" to "The Valkyrie" itself. Third is the story. Tifa and Barret looking over the remains of Sector 7 is impactful. You can feel how tight the party's bond has grown. And finally the gameplay! Great boss with great encounters leading up to it. A perfect slice of FFVII.

 
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