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Battle System

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See also: Battle (Term)

The Battle Systems are the core engine for battles between characters and enemies in the Final Fantasy series. The first few games in the series had simple battle systems, but it was developed to become more and more realistic as the series grew. The newer games have much more intricate battle systems that involve careful attention from the player. They generally make up a large part of the game as well as allow the party to increase their strength, learn new abilities, gain new items and advance in the storyline.

On a typical battle screen, there is a display of the party and the enemies they are fighting with a background to show the surrounding area, such as a forest. There is a list of the enemies, a list of the characters in the party, and the basic statistics used in combat for each unit. These stats can encompass HP, MP, and various other gauge levels.

Types of Battle SystemsEdit

Traditional turn-basedEdit

The first Battle System from Final Fantasy.
NubecieloAdded by Nubecielo

The original turn-based battle system was designed by Akitoshi Kawazu and Hiroyuki Ito.[1][2] It was used in the first three Final Fantasy games and Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. When encountering random enemies or bosses, the field screen fades out into a battle screen. Each turn, party members in battle are chosen to perform an action from their available options (like Fight, Magic, or Items).

When all members of the party have chosen their action, whoever has the highest Agility or Speed status acts first. The battle round ends when the monster or character with the lowest of the status performs their action last. Because of this, the Agility status does not determine how often a character can attack so much as how many actions the units perform in a single turn, namely how many hits with a weapon the member lands, and in what order they attack in.

Active Time BattleEdit

FFIV Fight
ATB as seen in the GBA version of Final Fantasy IV.
NubecieloAdded by Nubecielo

The Active Time Battle (ATB) system was designed by Hiroyuki Ito and was the first battle system to receive a dedicated name. It shares many attributes with the original system, but adds the dimension of timing-based strategy for commands. In it, an ATB gauge tracks when characters are going to act. When the gauge is full, they are able to perform an action. In later games and/or remakes, some actions then have an additional wait time, such as casting spells or using special abilities.

After the action is executed, the ATB gauge is depleted and must recharge. The rate which the gauge recharges will typically correlate to the Speed stat of the character and the Battle Speed, which can be adjusted in the config. This means that combatants do not always get an equal number actions on a turn. ATB also introduced Attack Formations, a new element on how the battle itself is played out. A few additions, like Preemptive Strike and Back Attack, change how the battle begins, normally giving an initial edge to one side or the other by giving them an extra turn or changing the party order to disadvantage them. Others, like Side Attack and Pincer Attack change the entire combat, providing even more need for strategy.

There are usually two settings to ATB, Active mode and Wait mode. In Active mode, time flows regardless of what is going on in game. In Wait mode, time stops when the player is navigating menus. Final Fantasy VII had a third mode called Recommended, which was a mix of the two. These two modes are usually the closest thing to changing the in-game difficulty, as some events can be stalled to an extent in Wait mode. The best example is stalling the status ailment Doom, in which the player can let long actions go on in a menu to pause the counter, only to quickly input actions and stop in another menu later. What could seem like "10 seconds" could be extended to minutes.

The first game to make use of this system was Final Fantasy IV, but it did not feature the ATB meter in the SNES and PlayStation versions. The ATB meter was introduced in Final Fantasy V, while the option to skip turns debuted in Final Fantasy VI. All following main installments until Final Fantasy IX made use of the ATB system, and it returned in a modified form for Final Fantasy X-2.

Final Fantasy X-2 added several new features to the ATB system: Chain system which allows the player to deal more damage while attacks chain and free battle positions which can be exploited with having a character perform a physical ability behind the target to strike for double damage. The player can also shift between different dresspheres, or job classes, during a battle allowing for more flexibility than previous job systems offered.

Charge Time BattleEdit

The Charge Time Battle system, dictating the order of turns.
XenomicAdded by Xenomic
Main article: Charge Time#Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy Tactics introduced the Charge Time Battle (CTB) system, created by Hiroyuki Ito. In this system, "Charge Time" (CT) meters fill up to 100 to then allow each character to take different actions. The system has since been used in a modified form in both Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.

Conditional Turn-Based BattleEdit

The CTB from Final Fantasy X. Note the Act List on the right.
NubecieloAdded by Nubecielo

The Conditional Turn-Based Battle system, or the Count Time Battle system in Japan, designed by Toshiro Tsuchida is used in Final Fantasy X. At its most basic, CTB is a turn-based system which does not operate in rounds, instead it uses an Act List, which can be affected through various means throughout the battle.

That is, the order of the turns does not guarantee that each participant in a battle will have an equal number of turns. Characters with higher speed will be able to take more turns than slower characters, thus making speed much more important than in other turn-based battle systems. Uniquely, players can substitute out and in characters mid-battle, thus adding a new level of strategy.

Furthermore, spells and abilities (such as Haste or Overdrives) can modify the Act List, as some abilities require a longer cool down time. In general, weaker abilities tend to require less cool down time, thus introducing a trade-off between speed and power. The system is distinguished from Active Time Battle system by the fact that when a character's turn begins, all action stops while the player decides upon an action. This shifts the focus from reflexes and quick decision-making to strategy and careful planning.

Real Time BattleEdit

FFXI Battle
A Real Time Battle in Final Fantasy XI between a party of two players and one foe.
SpiraAdded by Spira

The Real Time Battle (RTB) system is a battle system introduced in Final Fantasy XI and was designed by Akihiko Matsui, who created the battle system for Chrono Trigger. The RTB system replaces the Random Encounter that has featured in past Final Fantasy games, instead monsters are found freely roaming areas and are seamlessly engaged.

As the battle takes place without a separate battle screen loading one is free to move around the landscape during battles, interact with other players or avoid battles altogether. Monsters may also attack players without provocation, retaining a hint of random encounters. Characters start attacking automatically once they are in combat with an enemy, and special commands and magic can be inputted by the player at any time. Many items, spells and abilities used during battle have a casting time or delay to use once activated, similar Active Time Battles.

An evolved form of the RTB system is used in Final Fantasy XIV.

Active Dimension BattleEdit

Active Dimension Battle in Final Fantasy XII.

The Active Dimension Battle (ADB) system is the official evolution of the Active Time Battle (ATB) system and designed by Hiroyuki Ito. ADB was exclusively used in Final Fantasy XII. The ADB system eliminates random battles; enemies are fully visible on the field before they are engaged in battle and so the player has a choice of if they want to fight them or not.

The battles take place on the field with no separate battle screen and there is no transition between exploration and battle; ADB makes battles completely seamless. The system also includes the ability for the player to still have full control over character movement while currently engaged in battle. The distance between party members and enemies also influences battles as various spells and abilities now have an Area of Effect (AoE). The addition of AoE simply means that party members and enemies need to be within a certain range of each other for their spells and abilities to hit.

Command Synergy BattleEdit

A Command Synergy Battle in Final Fantasy XIII.
Main article: Command Synergy Battle

Command Synergy Battle (CSB) is the name of the battle system used in Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2. It was designed by Toshiro Tsuchida, the creator of the Conditional Turn-Based Battle (CTB) system. It derives the flow of time from ATB as each character has their own ATB gauge. The ATB gauge in turn acts like an action point meter that's divided up into equal sections (a similar system was used in Enix's game Robotrek).

Each action consumes a portion of the ATB gauge, for example attacking consumes one point, while casting a powerful spell consumes three. Commands can be chained so as long as there's enough action points. When the player decides on what commands to take, the player presses another button to execute the commands for the character to do. If the player executes the chained commands without filling all ATB slots, the unused slots will be filled at the start of the next turn. Unlike regular ATB, the player is only able to control the actions of the party leader.

At the end of each battle, the player is judged on a rating of zero to five stars. In Final Fantasy XIII, this rating is based on a comparison between the party's power and battle duration; while in Final Fantasy XIII-2, only battle duration is ranked.

Style-Change Active Time BattleEdit

LRFFXIII Style-Change
Lightning changing her Schema mid-battle.
KaimiAdded by Kaimi

Style-Change Active Time Battle (SATB) (dubbed Style Change System (SCS) in the PlayStation event demo from July 2013) is the battle system in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.[3] It is evolved version of Command Synergy Battle, and is created by Yuji Abe.

The base idea of the battle system was to quickly change through different equipment and ability sets on the go, while retaining the action style of Command Synergy Battle. An early glimpse of this battle system is present in the Requiem of the Goddess DLC scenario for Final Fantasy XIII-2.

As opposed to Command Synergy Battle where a party of maximum three people could participate in battle, the Style-Change Active Time Battle allows only for one character to be present on the battlefield. Lightning, who is the sole playable character of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, can shift between three Schema to which a player can assign various equipment pieces and abilities. Each Schema has its own ATB gauge which fills over time. Each action costs some ATB points and to execute an ability one of four buttons on the right side of the pad needs to be pushed.

As another new element, Lightning can remove various pieces of her enemy target, such as tails and horns, to gain additional drops after a battle.


  • Hiroyuki Ito has been involved in designing the battle systems used in every mainline entry from the first Final Fantasy through to Final Fantasy IX. He also designed the battle system used in Final Fantasy Tactics.
  • According to an interview with Hiroyuki Ito, many aspects of turn based systems were inspired by professional sports; the design feature for characters to line up facing the opponent was inspired by formation setups from American football, and the ATB Gauge was inspired by Formula One Racing.
  • Although every mainline game from Final Fantasy IV through to Final Fantasy IX used Active Time Battle (ATB), every mainline game from Final Fantasy X through to Final Fantasy XIII has used its own unique battle system.
  • Square filed a Japanese patent application related to the ATB system on July 16, 1991 and a corresponding US application on March 16, 1992. One Japanese patent (JP2794230) and two US patents (US5390937 and US5649862) were granted based on these applications.
  • Another iteration of the ATB system is featured in the Squaresoft title Chrono Trigger, where it is dubbed Active Time Battle ver. 2. It was created by Akihiko Matsui, who is also the creator of Real Time Battle (RTB) used in Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV.


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