Here are some simple tips for understanding how Final Fantasy VII works and making your characters more powerful.
Battle Basics (using Street Fighter)
The FF7 battle system is based very heavily around numbers. Some people may find this confusing if they don't have mathematical minds. But let me see if I can explain it, using Street Fighter (yes, Street Fighter) as an example.
All of your characters as well as all of your enemies in FF7 have Hit Points (HP). Think of HP as being like the life bar in Street Fighter. Just that rather than being shown as a bar, it's shown as a number.
But, there is a difference between current HP and maximum HP. Current HP is equivalent in SF to how much life you have left. Maximum HP is the equivalent of the full size of your life bar.
So let's say you're in a battle in Final Fantasy VII. Imagine your maximum HP is 100, and your current HP is also 100, because you haven't lost any life yet. An enemy attacks you and the number '10' appears above your character's head. You have just lost 10 HP, or 10% of your maximum health.So let's look at SF. Let's say you're in a battle in Street Fighter. Imagine it's the start of battle, so your life left and the full size of your life bar are the same, as you haven't lost any life yet. Your opponent attacks you and deals damage worth 10% of your life bar. It's basically the exact same thing as in FF7!
So how do you win a battle in Final Fantasy VII? Just get all your enemies' Hit Points down to 0. How do you do that? Attack your enemies by selecting options from the battle menu. For example, if you select 'Attack' and then select an enemy, your character will attack that enemy, lowering their HP (you will see a number appear above the enemy - that's the HP damage you've done).
How do you lose a battle in Final Fantasy VII? If all of your own battle character's Hit Points are reduced to 0, you will lose the battle and also get a Game Over. This is why it's important to take advantage of Save Points!
However, there are things you can do to increase your current Hit Points in FF7, which will lead me onto my next comparison in a minute. If you select 'Item' from the battle menu screen, you can use Potions on your character. If you select 'Magic', you may be able to use a Cure spell. Potions and Cure spells both raise your current HP. And even if a character has their HP reduced to 0 and is knocked out, you can revive them using a Phoenix Down Item or a Life spell.
'Item' and 'Magic' are 2 Commands that you may be able to use in Final Fantasy VII when the battle menu pops up. To fight in FF7, you don't input combos with buttons - you just select what action you want your character to take. However, it comes to much the same thing. All of the different Commands available to you in the battle menu are a similar kind of idea to all the moves you can perform in Street Fighter, except in SF obviously you're not selecting from a menu. And just like in a fighting game, it's important to know the right time to use the right move.
As the game progresses you will have more options in terms of how you hurt your enemies. New Commands, new Magic spells, and Summon spells will become available.
All of your characters also have Magic Points (MP), which is another number. MP numbers work a bit like a 'Special' bar in fighting games. Any time you use a Magic, Summon spell, or most Enemy Skills (don't worry if you don't know what all these are yet), you will use some of that MP. To raise your MP back up, you can use Ether items, or a Tent at a Save Point, or rest at an Inn or other resting place.
N.B. You can also get your Hit Points back up outside of battle. Simply enter the menu and then choose 'Item' or 'Magic', then select the Potion or Cure spell you want to use and which character you want to use it on.
Every time you fight and win a battle, after the end of the battle you will receive Experience Points (EXP). Once you accumulate enough EXP, you will gain a level. Gaining a level automatically raises your character's statistics, making him/her more powerful and making future battles easier. If you're finding the game difficult, it's a good idea to spend some time fighting battles and levelling up.
You can also equip certain items to make you more powerful. Weapons, Armor, Accessories and Materia can all be found or purchased as you play through the game. To equip them, choose either 'Equip' or 'Materia' from within the menu system. Better Weapons will make your Attacks more powerful and more accurate, better Armor helps reduce or evade enemy damage, while Accessories are wildcard and can have a number of beneficial effects. Materia lets you use new Magic or Commands, or improves your character in other ways. After every battle, you also earn Ability Points (AP). Earn enough AP, and you can level up your Materia just like you level up your characters!
You will also earn money after battles, or Gil as it's called in FF7. You can use the money to buy better Items and Materia, and also to rest at Inns. It's a good idea if you're levelling up to do so close to an Inn, as resting fully restores your HP and MP. This way you can avoid using too many expensive Potions.