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Battle System

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

A typical battle screen displays the party and the enemies with a background to show the surrounding area. There is a list of the enemies, a list of party members, and the basic statistics used in combat for each unit that can encompass HP, MP, and various other gauge levels.

The series started with a turn-based battle system, that involved into Active Time Battle (ATB). Mainline games from Final Fantasy IV to Final Fantasy IX used ATB, and every mainline game from Final Fantasy X through to Final Fantasy XIII used a unique battle system.

Types of Battle SystemsEdit

Traditional turn-basedEdit

FF1Battle

The first Battle System from Final Fantasy.

The original turn-based battle system was designed by Akitoshi Kawazu and Hiroyuki Ito.[1][2] It is 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 are chosen to perform an action from their available options (such as Fight, Magic, or Items).

When all party members have chosen their action, whoever has the highest Agility or Speed statistic acts first. The battle round ends when the enemy or party member with the lowest statistic performs their action. Thus, Agility 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.

Brave & Default SystemEdit

Bravely Default uses a unique battle system where characters can use the actions Brave and Default. Default allows the selected character to skip a turn to gain one BP, and the Brave command lets the character use the gained BP to move up to four times. Players can move twice without Defaulting and go into negative BP, allowing for the character to have multiple turns. However, this will give the enemy multiple turns as well.

Active Time BattleEdit

FFIV Fight

ATB as seen in the GBA version of Final Fantasy IV.

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 for commands. An ATB gauge tracks when party members are going to act. When the gauge is full, members perform an action. In later games and/or remakes, some actions 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 typically correlates to the Speed stat of the character and the Battle Speed, which can be adjusted in the config. Thus combatants do not always get an equal number actions on a turn. ATB introduced Attack Formations, an element on how the battle itself is played out. For example, Preemptive Strike and Back Attack change how the battle begins by giving an initial edge to one side or the other by giving them an extra turn or changing the party order to disadvantage them. Side Attack and Pincer Attack change the entire combat, providing more opportunities 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, and the option to skip turns debuted in Final Fantasy VI. The 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: Chaining attacks allows the player to deal more damage, and free battle positions can be exploited with having a character perform a physical ability behind the target to strike for double damage. The player spherechange between dresspheres, or job classes, during a battle allowing for more flexibility than previous job systems offered.

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 features 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.


Charge Time BattleEdit

FFT CTB

The Charge Time Battle system, dictating the order of turns.

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 allow each unit to take action. The system has since been used in a modified form in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.

Conditional Turn-Based BattleEdit

FFXBattle

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

The Conditional Turn-Based Battle system, or the Count Time Battle system in Japan, designed by Toshiro Tsuchida is used in Final Fantasy X. CTB is a turn-based system which does not operate in rounds, instead it uses an Act List that is affected through various means and thus does not guarantee that each participant in a battle will have an equal number of turns. Units with higher speed take more turns than slower ones, making speed more important than in other turn-based battle systems. Players can substitute party members mid-battle adding a new level of strategy.

Spells and abilities (such as Haste or Overdrives) modify the Act List, as some abilities require a longer cool down time. Weaker abilities tend to require less cool down time, thus introducing a trade-off between speed and power. 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.

The Real Time Battle (RTB) system was 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, and instead monsters freely roam 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 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 input any time. Many items, spells and abilities used during battle have a casting time or delay to use once activated, similar to Active Time Battles.

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

Active Dimension BattleEdit

Bagoly

Active Dimension Battle in Final Fantasy XII.

The Active Dimension Battle (ADB) system is an evolution of the Active Time Battle (ATB) system designed by Hiroyuki Ito. ADB is exclusively used in Final Fantasy XII. The ADB system eliminates random battles; the battles take place on the field with no separate battle screen and there is no transition between exploration and battle so the player has a choice of if they want to fight enemies or not. The player has control over party member movement while engaged in battle. The distance between party members and enemies influences battles as various spells and abilities have an Area of Effect (AoE), meaning party members and enemies need to be within a certain range of each other for the abilities to hit.

Command Synergy BattleEdit

FFXIII-gameplay

A Command Synergy Battle in Final Fantasy XIII.

Main article: Command Synergy Battle

Command Synergy Battle (CSB) is 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 a unique ATB gauge. The ATB gauge acts like an action point meter 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 are enough action points. When the player decides on what commands to take, they press another button to execute the commands. 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 the battle the player is judged on a rating of zero to five stars in the Battle Results screen. In Final Fantasy XIII, the 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.

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. It is an evolved version of Command Synergy Battle created by Yuji Abe.

The base idea of the battle system was to shuffle through 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 members could participate, the Style-Change Active Time Battle allows for a single character to be present on the battlefield. Lightning, the sole playable character of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, can shift between three schemata to which a player can assign various equipment pieces and abilities. Each schema has an ATB gauge which fills over time. Each action costs 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.

TriviaEdit

  • 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 systems used in Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII.
  • 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.

ReferencesEdit

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