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.
The best training stops give you good Experience, 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 or 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 growth 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 leveling.
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 Experience is to level up your characters, and 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 half the portion of the full amount of EXP received.
AP is used for leveling-up materia, and like EXP, there's no real trick to getting this. However, you can maximize 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 piece of that materia - which can then be leveled up further to replace the old materia which can usually be sold for a tidy profit.
Mideel and Corral Valley are good places to gain AP, and when you're far enough into the game, the best AP givers are Movers, found in the Northern Crater.
You level your stats by using Sources which you will find, receive from enemies, or turn enemies into using Morph materia. You can gain Strength Sources quickly in the Gongaga Reactor, where there is only a large, Rhino-headed tank which morphs into a Strength Source. For all stats, including Strength, you'll want to spend a good deal of time in the Sunken Gelnika, where every enemy can be morphed into a different Source.
Gaining Limit Breaks
- For more details on individual limit breaks, see Limit Breaks.
Limit levels are gained in one of two ways:
- Getting a set number of kills.
- Using your current limit break a set number of times.
Usually, the first limit break of a limit level is received by killing 80 enemies, 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 for Vincent and Cait Sith. Try using powerful magic with and All materia, 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, then 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 quickly. One technique is to gain the second level 2 limit break of Aeris, and focus attacks on her, the limit break powers up the limit bars of the other characters in your party. Fourth level limit breaks can only be obtained by getting a special item which is different for each character, except for Cait Sith, who only has 2 limit levels and does not have an ultimate limit break.
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 and sell them. 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". It has 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 Trick Play has level 4 suicide), and try to have everyone be able to absorb fire/ice/water/etc. Other good choices are coupling Final Attack and Life together, but not with Phoenix, as it will kill it. With elemental defenses set up, it will be hard to get a game over, as Trick Play has an attack called "Hot Springs" that actually heals its target. Once you're set up, you don't have to do anything but let Trick Play keep attacking, and just check on your party every now and then. After so much time, the beast has hopefully used Gold Mountain a lot, giving you lots of Gil whenever you choose to finally put it out of its misery.
You can also get more than normal Gil from monsters by equiping the Gil Plus materia. You can get one at the GP exchange in Wonder Square at the Gold Saucer for 1,000 GP. When making the exchange, pick the one that says ??????? for 1,000 GP and you'll get the Gil Plus materia.
Good training spots
The Mythril Mine
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 acquire 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.
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, or the Ark Dragon runs out of MP. When this happens, simply put it out of it's misery with your limit break or 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.
At this point you should be strong enough 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 an elemental-fire combo on his/her armour and the Talisman as an accessory to up your spirit.
Once you obtain the buggy head back to Costa Del Sol and bribe the guard 100 gil to go back to Junon on the Ferry. Once in Junon head to where the soldiers are practicing their drills in the walkway to the underwater reactor. There is an alarm on the wall and when pressed it sounds and random battles occur, against enemies of a much higher level than usual giving up to 2500EXP a battle and plenty of gil. With an inn only a screen away that charges 30 gil to fully restore your party and save your game this is one of the best places to level up in Disc 1. You can encounter Death Machines in this area from which you can get the Enemy Skill Matra Magic, you can wait until it casts the spell or use the materia Manipulate.
Once you get the Tiny Bronco you can make your way over to the Mideel area, where you'll find a small island with a sandy beach. Park the Bronco and walk across to the beach on the other side and march up and down the beach (be careful to stay on the beach only) and you will get a steady stream of Sea Worms. These are single enemy battles that are extremely easy. The worms are level 22 with 9,000 HP, are weak against Ice, and give you 1,300 EXP, 200 AP and 5,000 Gil. If you're in your low 30s you'll want to start out using Shiva and your strongest Ice spells until you get to level 35ish, at which point you can start using melee attacks and Ice 1. The Worms should not be putting you in any danger, so crank up your battle speed options and cruise through the fights. From 30-40 you'll need lots of Tents or Ethers to cover for the amount of Ice spells you'll be using, but don't worry as each fight buys you 10 tents! Once you get around level 40 you can switch to using all melee attacks with elemental materia linked to Ice materia. You could equip the strongest hitter, probably Cloud with the Fury ring, while having him equipped with Elemental+Ice materias. This will produce high hit points. Finally, don't forget to use all of the double AP equipment that you can. You can pick up three Rune Armlets from the Bone Village shop to give each party member more double AP slots.
All told you can go from 30-55 or so in three to four hours, make around 1 million Gil, and master a ton of materia in the process. Take the time to train here as long as possible, since at 55 the boss fights in the Temple of Ancients take about two to three rounds instead of 20-50 rounds. Also it's not as tedious as it might seem, since after every two to three fights something is leveling up be it a character or materia. You may even have fights where each character levels up and has several materia go up all at the same time.
Between the Sleeping Forest and the City of the Ancients is the very aquatic landscape of Coral 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,Malldancers, whose only attack is Dance; which is irritating, but by no means deadly. These little beasties give massive 2,000EXP and 200+AP at a go.
Use Trine,Beta or another decent-strength All-attack to wipe out groups of monsters (LV.3 Magic - All.) Do not use Aqualung; Malldancers are IMMUNE to Water-based attacks. 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 about 4 Alls. Use any weapons with double growth you have, and 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 switch 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 until then anyway.
The Wutai Area
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, Phoenix Downs, and also very good consumable items that cast rank 3 spells. Since the enemies use Lightning attacks, you will want to have the appropriate resistance as well.
On average you can farm about 30 X-Potions and 15 Phoenix Downs and combat items in a matter of an hour or so (less if you have the e-encounter materia on one of your party members). Stick to the massive rocky areas only.
The Northern Cave
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, 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 Elixir, 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 come in groups of one or two. Also, the Movers, more rare to find, 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.
After you get fairly strong, and you have the Mega All materia from the Northern Cave, head to the sunken plane Gelnika. There are five different monsters (Unknown 1-3, Bad Rap, and Poodler) in here and each morphs into a different source. The Unknowns will come at you solo, and the Mega All will let you morph packs of Bad Raps and Poodlers in one strike (Use Demi3-All to lower their life enough to morph them). The max for each stat is 255.
- Power Source: Unknown 1
- Magic Source: Unknown 2
- Guard Source: Unknown 3
- Speed Source: Poodler
- Luck Source: Bad Rap