|Useful Materia:||Lightning + Elemental (armor), Fire + Magnify, Healing, ATB Stagger, Steadfast Block, Magic Up, HP Up|
Roche was something of a push-over in Normal difficulty, but in Hard difficulty... well, he's still kind of a push over. He's got a wide variety of attacks, both physical and magical, encompassing all four major elements, but he tends to stick to his basic sword attacks - a combo of slashes in phase one and a dash attack in phase two. Both can be easily blocked and countered with Punisher mode, and unlike Reno he never learns to deal with Cloud's counterattacks.
You may think it somewhat pointless to bother with Elemental Materia in this fight given the variety of elements Roche uses, but Lightning + Materia tends to work well in the first phase, and we suggest equipping it to turn his most difficult to dodge attack into a source of significant healing. His attacks in the first phase are as follows:
Sword Combo: A series of lazy sword slashes, they deal little damage and are easy to take advantage of with Punisher mode counterattacks. Honestly, these are more detrimental to him than you.
Blizzard/Blizzara: Two of Roche's four elemental magic attacks, both Blizzard and Blizzara have an initial ice impact phase which can be blocked, and if you block it you can dodge out of the way before the ice burst that follow, which is where the real damage is. He advertises he spellcasting pretty blatantly, so this should just be wasted effort on his part.
Plunge: A leaping slash attack, deals heavy damage if it hits. You can avoid it just by running around, but it can also be blocked and countered, although you'll still take 1,000~ damage.
Thunder/Thundara: Roche's second pair of elemental attacks, can be blocked, but lightning magics are notoriously reliable at hitting their target. With Lightning + Elemental, you can turn this into a source of healing, not to mention a free window to attack.
Vacuum Wave: Roche shoots a powerful burst of wind at you with his sword. Cannot be blocked and deals heavy damage if it hits. Incredibly easy to dodge, you can just run to the side to avoid it.
Wish Slash: Similar to "Vacuum Wave", Roche swings his sword twice and creates two smaller bursts of wind. Can be blocked, but you'll still take 1,000~ damage from each projectile.
The first phase is incredibly easy, especially if you have Lightning + Elemental on your armor. Just switch to Punisher mode and block Roche's attacks - he should do a find job Staggering himself by provoking counterattacks. If he uses Blizzard/Blizzara, block the initial ice impact, then dodge the burst. Thunder/Thundara can be absorbed, "Vacuum Wave" and "Wind Slash" should be dodged. Immediately after counterattacking, respond with "Triple Slash" if you have the ATB, and when he's inevitably Staggered punish him to push on to phase two.
Once reduced to around 75% of his HP, Roche will shift to phase two. Realizing that his lazy sword combo is being easily countered he'll drop it in favor of... a dash attack that's easily countered. Oh well. His attacks this phase are as follows:
Sword Dash: Dashes forward and slashes with his sword. Roche will put his sword back before doing this, making it easy to see coming. Not that you really need to prepare, as it can be blocked and countered by just keeping your guard up while in Punisher mode. He will sometimes perform a feint dash before the actual attack dash.
Combustion Sword: Despite the name, it's not a fire elemental attack. Roche leaps into the air and slams his sword into the ground, creating a small shockwave on impact. Can be blocked and countered. Sometimes Roche will do a three leap combo variant of this attack. Deals heavy damage if it hits.
Ignition Flame: Unlike "Combustion Sword", this is actually a fire attack. Roche will shoot three lines of fire in an arc along the ground, dealing heavy damage if it hits. It can't be blocked, but can usually be dodged just by running to the side.
Roche trades the other elements for one fire attack this round, "Ignition Flame", and it's the one attack that can't just be blocked and countered outright. Otherwise, this round, despite Roche switching out his lazy sword combo for a dash attack, should play out no differently: Block Roche's attacks while in Punisher mode, counterattack and use "Triple Slash" immediately afterwards, and punish Roche every time he's "Pressured" or Staggered. If your limit gauge charges, use it to finish the fight.
For defeating Roche in Hard difficulty you'll obtain The Art of Swordplay Vol. VI.