Like previous installments of the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy VII consists of three basic gameplay modes: an overworld map, town and dungeon field maps, and a battle screen. The overworld map is a 3D display, featuring a scaled-down simplified version of the game‘s fictional world, which the player navigates to travel between the game’s locations. As with the preceding games in the series, the world map can be traversed by foot, by chocobo, by airship, or by other means of transportation. On field maps, the game’s 3D playable characters are directed across realistically scaled environments, consisting of 2D pre-rendered backgrounds that represent locations such as towns or forests. The battle screen is a 3D representation of an area such as a building interior or grassland, in which the player commands the game’s characters in battles against CPU-controlled enemies through a menu-driven interface.
Initially, the player is restricted to travel within a single city, but as the game continues, more areas become accessible, and the scripted adventure sequences gradually yield more freedom to explore. Progression through the game’s storyline is largely developed by way of scripted sequences, which cannot be skipped, and require frequent player interaction to proceed. At other times, pre-rendered cinematic cut scenes advance the story.
During its turn-based battle sequences, the game uses the same Active Time Battle (ATB) system designed by Hiroyuki Ito, which began with Final Fantasy IV. Unlike previous games in the series, which allow 45 playable characters to participate in battle, Final Fantasy VII allows for only three characters to be present in the party at any one time.
A battle in Final Fantasy VIIFinal Fantasy VII’s skill system is built around the use of materia, magical orbs that are placed in special slots on weapons and armor, allowing characters access to magic spells, summons, and special abilities. In addition to their individual traits, materia can be used together in a fixed number of ways to enhance their effects or produce other abilities.
A modified form of Final Fantasy VI’s Desperation Attacks appears here as the Limit Break. Every playable character has a bar that gradually fills up when they suffer damage in battle. When the bar is completely filled, the character is able to access his or her Limit Break, a special attack which generally inflicts significantly more damage on an enemy than normal attacks, or otherwise aids the party in battle.