Training is essential as you won't be powerful enough just running through the game. It is also fun and rewarding, there's nothing better than killing what is meant to be a difficult boss in a few strokes. Some describe this as cheating, but my idea of cheating does not include hours of work.
Anyway, the best training stops, obviously, give you good EXP, AP and Gil. However, you should be able to kill the enemies there without too much trouble, and, most importantly, quickly. You should be close enough to a save point of the world map so you can duck out and use a tent if you get in trouble, and to PHS so you can bring in new people for training.
Use double and triple strength equipment as much as possible. And always fill them up with materia completely, you should be able to defeat the enemies wherever you're training easily - so there's no need to bother about combining materia for effect - just take whatever needs levelling.
Having said that, one little combination is good for racking up kills. Long Range/Cover/Counter Attack allows you to concentrate kills on one character, in order to gain limit breaks or just to rack up the kill counter.
The purpose of EXP is to level up your characters. EXP is gained by defeating enemies. As you progress through the game, enemies will give you increasingly more EXP each time you win a battle. However, it takes increasingly more EXP in order to level up at higher levels. Only members of your party will receive the full amount of EXP quoted after the battle. However, other characters will receive a portion of the EXP received.
AP is used for leveling-up materia, like EXP, there's no real trick to getting this. You can however maximise growth by using Double and Triple growth weapons and armour. Failing that, use weapons/armour with as many slots as possible. When you master a materia, it spawns a new peice of that materia - which can then be levelled up further to replace the old materia which can usually be sold for a tidy profit.
Mideel and Corral Valley (see below) are good places to gain AP.
- Strength - you can gain Strength Sources quickly in the Gongaga Reactor. The only enemy there is a large, Rhino-headed tank which morphs into a Strength Source.
- ALL STATS - In the sunken gelinka underwater, every enemy can be morphed into a source.
Gaining Limit BreaksEdit
Limit levels are gained in one of two ways - a) using your current limit break a set number of times or b) getting a set number of kills. Usually, the first limit break of a limit level is received by killing 80 ememies while the second limit break is received by using the first limit break between 6 and 10 times. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule including Vincent and Cait Sith. Try using powerful magic with all, or all-hitting enemy skills to wipe out large groups of enemies to fulfill the first. To gain the second Limits on each level, find a powerful enemy to manipulate and have it attack you to build up your limit meter. Repeat. You can also just use Hyper which will make your meter fill up faster.
A good place to gain the second skill of a limit level is Mideel - if you don't kill the monsters instantly, and have Hypered the characters, their limit break meters should fill up pretty fast.
Fourth level limit breaks can only be obtained by getting a special item which is different for each chartacter. Note: Cait Sith only has 2 limit levels and does not have an ultimate limit break.
For more details, see the Limit Breaks Appendix.
You can gain gil from battles just like EXP or AP - there's no trick.
However, a much better way to gain gil is to master ALL materias (see the AP section. These can be mastered very easily, but can be sold for a whopping 1.4 million gil. Once you've mastered one, let the spawned materia take its place and sell the old one.
Another way is to find the area - the island south of Bone Village - with an enemy called "Trick Play". Thay have an attack called "Gold Mountain" that attacks you with gold-giving you 800 gil each time. Just set up your party so nobody is a level that is a multiple of four (because it has level 4 suicide) and that they absorb fire/ice/water/ect. other good choices are coupling final attack and life together, but not with Pheonix, as it will kill it. With elemental defences set up, it will be hard to get a game over, as Trick Play has an attack called "Hot Springs" that actually heals it's target. Now, why don't you just let the game run, and go make yourself a sandwhich, or put a pizza in the oven and eat lunch? Just check on your party every now and then. After so much time, the beast has hopfully used Gold Mountain alot, giving you lots of gil whenever you choose to finally put it out of it's misery.
Good training spotsEdit
The Mythril MineEdit
The first good place to train up is the Mythril Mines near Junon. This is a fantastic spot to gain all of the Limit Breaks in Levels 1 through 3 for Cloud, Barret, Tifa, Aeris, Red XIII and Yuffie. Before you start, be sure to aquire the Enemy Skill Matra Magic from the robots around Midgar - this is effective for killing off an entire party of monsters with minimal MP cost. If you forgot to get Matra Magic, use Quake-all, though it's not as effective. You'll also want to go through the cave once and get Yuffie on the other side (see Appendix: Optional Characters).
Once you have done this, re-enter the cave. You're looking for a particular room, just north of the screen next to the Junon entrance. It's basically a cliff, with a treasure chest in the bottom-left. Here you will meet large groups of enemies which you can kill off using Matra Magic to rack up your kill meter fast. Do one character at a time, giving them all the kills to gain limit levels. None of these enemies pose a risk to you, except, Ark Dragons. These rather insect-like creatures are perfect for gaining the second limit break on each level as their Flamethrower attack significantly increases your limit meter. TIP: The Arc Dragon will always go for the enemy with the most HP, so, attack two of your characters until they are sufficiently low. You can then concentrate on a single character. Just let the Ark Dragon toast you, occasionally healing, until either your Limit Meter fills (then you can use the Limit to finish off the Ark Dragon) or the Ark Dragon runs out of MP. When this happens, simply put it out of it's misery with a few physical attacks.
It may take a while, but eventually you'll have all the Limit Breaks - a real benefit so early in the game. You'll also be around level 25 AND you should have enough money to get some potions, status-curing items and weapons for a while. PLUS: You should now be plenty strong to go try and get the enemy skill Beta from the Midgar Zolom. Just remember to equip the person who has the enemy skill materia with a elemental-fire combo on his/her armor and the talisman as an accesssory to up your spirit.
Between the Sleeping Forest and the City of the Ancients is the very aquatic landscape of Corral Valley. You want the screen with the hollowed out tree-bridge, which gives exceptionally good EXP, AP and Gil for this point in the game. You'll be fighting different groups of very weak creatures, whose only attack is Dance; which is irritating, but by no means deadly. This little beasties give a massive 2000 exp and 200 ap a go. Use Trine, or another decent-strength all-attack to wipe out groups of monsters (if you're quick, you can do it before they start a wave of time-consuming Dances).
The amount of EXP/AP you get here is unmatched for a LONG time, so make the most of it. You can very easily and quickly max out all your magic materia and a good 4 alls - use any weapons with double growth you have, the Edincoat and Cait Sith's Silver M-Phone can also hold lots of materia for growing. You should be able to reach around level 50 in just a few hours - and you can go forward a screen to the world map in order to swicth party members. You'll make about 250 000 gil - which is nothing considering you hopefully mastered enough alls to get about 6 million gil. Hold on to these until you get to the Icicle Inn, you won't need the money til then anyway.
If you travel to the Mideel area, and go by the Chocobo tracks to the west of Mideel's place in the forest, the beach on the southside of the tracks has a rather useful enemy to fight - Sea worms. They give 200AP, 1300 EXP & 5000 gil and are easy to kill, seems fire isn't greatly efective but everything else should work a treat. The sea worms are the only monsters that appear in battle on that beach, and are easy pickings. I have found it a useful place to train-up and get gil as its attacks are extremely weak, just wack a comet2 an ice3 and an attack on it and its done. You can steal a dragon scale, and at times get a turbo-ether from killing it.
The Wutai AreaEdit
The Wutai area is also a good place to level up. The enemies usually comes in groups of three, and are generally easy to defeat. Defeating these will give you a bunch of EXP and AP, and also, good items, such as X-Potions.
The Northern CaveEdit
The Northern Cave is the best possible place to level up. On the way down, the Gargoyles and Dragons are good enemies to defeat for EXP and AP, but, once you get to the place where you choose paths, along the left path, and the top room (I think), there is a swamp area. In this area you will fight Magic Pots (little urn-like things) and Movers (red bouncing balls). To kill the Magic Pots, you must give them an Elixer, and you can finish them off pretty fast (they only have 4096 HP). They give you a whopping 8,000 EXP, 1,000 AP, and 8,500 Gil each, and generally comes in groups of two or three. Also, the Movers, more rare to find (though I genereally get them pretty often), are good enemies to combat. They come in groups of three, and have harmless attacks. Each Mover, although they wont get you any EXP, will give you 800 AP, and 30,000 Gil each; for a total of 2,400 AP and 90,000 Gil per battle. Use double and triple growth weapons, such as the Apocalypse to level up materia quickly.
Note: This is a good place to use your save crystal.
Problem: Can i exit the cave after choosing a path!?!?!?
Methods of Auto-levellingEdit
Auto-levelling is considered by many to be cheating, it involves setting up your game so you can automatically win battles and then leaving the game to play for hours. There are a few methods:
This is easy. Just set up everybody's materia so that you can easily win against a Midgar Zolom. It might be smart to hook up final attack materia with life, just to make sure. Then maybe hook up a strong command/magic/summon with an hp or mp absorb materia. You may also wish to set up your party so they can resist/absorb fire attacks, just in case it casts Beta. Anyway, just set up the game for easy victory, then do something that will automatically press the accept button for you, like tie a rubber band around the controller, or tape down the button, or equip counter materia, or counter=slash-all/counter=mime combinations. Now, just sit in the marshes so that the Zolom will keep coming to you. Now, go see a movie, or get some sleep. When you return to your playstation, you will be much stronger, and richer! (if your party did not die.)