Kotaku recently published an article complaining that Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s ‘Easy Mode’ is “way too easy,” sparking massive waves of criticism from social media users pointing out the website’s long history of advocating for video games to be less difficult and chastising players who supported varying levels of challenge.
On April 10th, Kotaku published “Final Fantasy VII Remake’s Easy Mode Is Way Too Easy,” in which Kotaku writer Mike Fahey took issue with the lack of challenge in the game’s easy mode, describing the difficulty level as “button-mashing bullshit.”
“Combat in Final Fantasy VII Remake, especially when facing powerful boss battles, involves juggling normal and special attacks, destructive and healing magics, and strategically exploiting enemy weaknesses. Unless you’re playing in easy mode. Then it’s just button-mashing bullshit.”
Fahey states he played through a majority of the game on ‘Normal’ difficulty, enjoying his time and finding it “challenging, but never dull.” However, Fahey eventually found himself frustrated with “an encounter with a bunch of Shinra bloodhounds,” so much so that he switched the game to easy mode in order to move past the segment:
“Then came the dogs. Towards the end of the game, there’s an encounter with a bunch of Shinra bloodhounds. It’s not a boss fight, just a regular encounter between Aerith, Tifa, and a bunch of genetically modified puppers. The two characters, separated from the rest of the party, were quickly overwhelmed by snapping canine jaws again and again. There were just too many of them. I barely had time to get their ATB gauges to the point where they could use items or cast spells.
As Jason Schreier mentioned in his incredibly helpful tips post, there is no shame in switching to easy mode for this battle. After reloading from the game over screen five times, that’s exactly what I did.”
After beating the enemy hounds, Fahey describes how he continued to play the game on ‘Easy difficulty,’ somehow becoming surprised to find that the game became increasingly easier to play and “ridiculously simple.”
“The dogs, which tore my people apart time and time again, went down in under 30 seconds in easy mode. I didn’t use spells. I didn’t use special abilities. I barely had time to do so. Basic attacks, highly ineffective in normal difficulty mode, ripped those doggies apart like they were tissue paper.
As I was entering the game’s home stretch and wanted to complete it quickly so I could dish with Jason about the ending, I left easy mode on, and it continued to be ridiculously simple. My potion stockpile grew instead of steadily depleting. I barely healed at all during the game’s final moments. Boss attacks designed to deliver massive damage in normal mode barely tickled.”
Fahey also takes a strange yet disingenuous swipe at the game’s ‘Classic’ mode, which emulates the original FF7’s Active Time Battle system, asserting that it turns the game into “a visual novel.”
“I am the last person to shy away from playing a game on easy, but Final Fantasy VII Remake’s easy mode is a joke. And it’s not even the game’s easiest setting. Classic mode is easy mode, only your character attacks and defends automatically. It might as well be a visual novel.”
Kotaku Consistently Calls For Easier Games
The irony of Kotaku’s disappointed assertion is that, even if such a mode would go against a game designer’s intended vision of challenge, the website and its staff members have strongly championed for and sang the praises of lower difficulty settings in various articles for years, even explicitly stating that “an easy mode has never ruined a game.”
In “Learning to Love Easy Mode” from December 27, 2012, Patricia Hernandez writes, “More importantly, I’m moving into a place where I’d like difficulty, but not in the way most games give it to me. Mechanical difficulty is not the only type of difficulty there is.”
Hernandez adds, “Physically going through the motions of pressing buttons, at this point, is easy. I know how to do that, I’ve played a ton of games that have refined my skills and reaction time. Until more games give me reasons to make those actions complicated or messy, I’m plenty happy seeing what a game can offer me when I stop being so serious.”
In “How To Get Into Playing Video Games” Ari Notis writes on March 19, 2014, “In fact, if you’re just starting out, I fully recommend playing games on Easy mode. Enemies won’t be as aggressive. Your character might be able to take more hits before dying. You’ll get a good handle on the game mechanics and pick up skills that can be transferred to other video games. Playing on Easy mode is the best way to ease yourself into bigger games.”
Ethan Gach wrote on December 3, 2017 in “It Might Be Time To Rethink Difficulty Menus“, “It’s that kind of guilt that racked me early on. I spend a lot of time playing games. What’s the point if I can’t hack it at the more masochism end of the difficulty ladder? I was also plagued with the anxiety over whether the Wolfenstein 2 I experienced would be the “real” one or not. Despite the number of times people pay lip service to “there’s no right way to play,” how difficulty options are crafted and displayed often tells a different story.”
Gach added, “Sticking a bonnet on B.J. and infantilizing the player by analogy isn’t exactly an invitation to explore playing Wolfenstein 2 differently. Even just calling one difficulty setting “normal” implies the others are deviant.”
Joshua Rivera on February 2, 2019 in “An Easy Mode Has Never Ruined A Game” wrote, “An easy mode can also offer an entirely different but equally desirable experience. To some, it could be the secret to making a game like Wolfenstein: The New Colossus go from “hardcore old-school shooter” that turns them off to “ridiculously apt Terror-Billy simulator” that brings them along for the ride. A concession on difficulty can lead to you discovering all sorts of things you might not otherwise appreciate in a game.”
In fact, Fahey himself previously supported the idea that a standard game difficulty “should start out with ALL weapons/shields/extras enabled.”
He wrote in “Is Video Game Difficulty Ass-Backwards? in 2001, “You know what I think, game difficulty is all backwards in practically all games. You start up with barely any weapons…and if a game involves defense you start out with low shield or armor. As the game progress you get more weapons and things that make the games EASIER.”
He added, “I think a game should start out with ALL weapons/shields/extras enabled. Even though everything is available, the game is still pretty hard and fun. One you finish with that. Your most powerful weapons get removed and so on and so on. By the time you get to expert you got just your underwear on and a wooden stick for sword. In case of guns…a bb-gun. That’s the die-hard difficulty settings there. Imaging the replay value. I mean what’s the point of using a cannon to knock down a door?”
Most recently, Kotaku’s editor Chris Kohler declared the game’s combat system was too difficult to understand after playing the game’s demo.
Wow, did that Final Fantasy VII Remake demo actually send my interest plummeting. I have basically zero idea how to play that first boss fight. A million interlocking systems all thrown at you at once.
— Chris Kohler (@kobunheat) March 2, 2020
Make sure to attack but also heal but also you can’t heal but also use magic but also you can’t use magic but also make sure to Stagger the enemy but also he has a barrier but also hide behind this debris but also
— Chris Kohler (@kobunheat) March 2, 2020
Audiences were quick to criticize Kotaku, particularly the irony of their complaint in the face of their aforementioned support for ‘Easy’ modes and their apparent confusion that an ‘Easy’ mode would, in fact, be easy:
>selects easy mode
“Why is this game so easy?!”
Kotaku was and continues to be a mistake.
— Auxityne (@Auxityne) April 10, 2020
How many of their writers stomped their feet about “entitled” gamers when people said that the game balance and artistic vision matters.
And then they seriously pull this out lol. Its almost parody.
— Dr. Shy Guy (@DrShyGuy) April 10, 2020
According to this Kotaku employee the game was too hard… and for another it’s too easy.
Is Kotaku bad at video games? 🤔 https://t.co/ICSSBZXxe3
— Karn (@Karn_EX) April 10, 2020
Insane concept right?
It’s almost the game tells you what the difficulty setting does when you pick it.
— FADEL – Master Of Hype (@GamesCageX) April 10, 2020
Well, duh. That’s why they call it easy mode. Didn’t you also write a piece about how hard Cuphead is?
— MechaRandom42, Queen Mecha of the FandomMenace (@RandomMnky) April 10, 2020
That’s because they made it with Kotaku journalists in mind.
— Cynical Reviews (@Cynical_CJ) April 10, 2020
One critic of note was Suite Life of Zack and Cody star and Kingdom Hearts voice actor Dylan Sprouse, who called out the journalistic integrity of the website:
In a compelling example of journalism excellence: “Final Fantasy VII Remake’s water mode is way too wet”
— Dylan Sprouse (@dylansprouse) April 10, 2020