Enables action as soon as battle begins
First Strike (せんせいこうげき, Sensei Kōgeki?) or (さきがけ, Sakigake?), also known as Initiative, Preemptive Strike, Surprise, Preemptiv or Hamedo (ハメドる, Hamedoru?), is a recurring passive ability in the Final Fantasy series. Most often it either increases the chance of a preemptive battle, letting the party attack before the enemies, or lets the equipped character always get the first turn in battle.
First Strike is the level 3 Ninja class ability, learned for 50 ABP and known by them innately. It boosts the chance for a preemptive strike from 32/256 to 64/256. It was known as Preemptiv in the older translation.
First Strike is an ability found in the Gale Hairpin, which raises the rate of preemptive attacks.
First Strike is also an innate ability on some enemies, allowing them to attack the party first. They are: Guard Leader, Ymir (Shell), Tunnel Armor, Guardian (Invincible), Valigarmanda (Mines/Snowfield), Flame Eater, Ultima Weapon, Dullahan, Chadarnook, Wrexsoul, Kefka (Final Boss), Ultros, Siegfried (Phantom Train), Kaiser Dragon (Dummied), Merchant, Birthday Suit, Kefka (Imperial Camp/Narshe), Humbaba (Invincible), Cyan (Imperial Camp), Gau, Unnamed esper, Ultima Buster, Shadow (Coliseum), Plague, Red Dragon (Dragons' Den), Gold Dragon (Dragons' Den), Holy Dragon (Dragons' Den), Ice Dragon (Dragons' Den), Kaiser Dragon (Final Fantasy VI), and Glutturn.
The Pre-Emptive Materia boosts the party's chance to pre-emptive enemies. At level 1, it grants a +5% bonus, with a +8% bonus at level 2, +10% bonus at level 3, +15% bonus at level 4, and +20% bonus at level 5. There is a base chance of 16/256 of getting a preemptive battle, but a mastered Pre-Emptive Materia boosts this up to 64/256. The maximum is 85/256, roughly a 1/3 chance.
A 5-star Pre-Emptive Materia also halves the chance of getting the Ambush and Back Attack special formations, but only when the Materia is on the third (last) party member.
Guardian Forces Pandemona, Cactuar, and Tonberry learn the Initiative ability for 160 AP. Junctioning it to a character allows them to start battles with a full ATB gauge, regardless of situation. It can be especially useful for Quistis to immediately use Degenerator.
Freya can learn the Initiative support ability from either Obelisk or Battle Boots. It takes 95 AP and takes 5 Magic Stones to equip. It boosts the party's chance to get a preemptive strike from from 16/256 to 85/256.
Without Initiative, there is a 12.5% chance of being ambushed, a 12.5% chance of the player getting a preemptive strike. With Initiative, there is a 25% chance of preemptive strike and 0% of being ambushed (unless it is a fixed encounter).
First Strike can be customized to any weapon, if it does not start with it, by the use of a Return Sphere. Auron's Celestial Weapon, the Masamune, has First Strike when fully upgraded. With the use of a turn-based battle system, having First Strike guarantees the character will have the first turn even if the battle is an ambush. The ability is nullified if the battle begins with a preemptive strike, with the player with the highest agility taking the first turn.
Certain enemies have a First Strike type-ability, where they will always have the first turn, regardless of ambush, preemptive, or a player's character's First Strike. Varuna will always open the battle with Haste, and Kottos will always open the battle by switching into its counter status, signified by the raising of its fists. Similarly, Great Malboro enemies fought in the Omega Ruins will always ambush the player using Bad Breath on their first turn, but a player's First Strike ability precedes this and doesn't function in the same way as the aforementioned enemies.
The Thief's Initiative ability costs 60 AP to learn and increases the chance of preemptive battle.
First Strike is a reaction ability the Monk class learns for 1,200 JP (or 1300 JP in the War of the Lions version). It functions like Counter, but rather than attacking after being hit, the unit using First Strike attacks the enemy preemptively and cancels the enemy's hit.
The ability's success rate is determined by the character's Bravery level and will work against all uses of the Attack command by units in the character's attack range. This means that monster abilities will not trigger First Strike unless they are under Frog status, but ranged strikes will, if the character is equipped with a similar weapon.
Surprise is a passive ability that has infinite uses. It also increases a Robot's HP by 9. This ability boosts the chance of having a "Strike First" at the beginning of battle. It can be used by Ant Lion, BlackCat, Boulder, Cancer, CatWoman, Cocatris, Commando, Earth, Killer, Mantis, Mosquito, Ninja, Plague, Pudding, Rakshasa, Roc, Rock, SabreCat, SandWorm, Serpent, SlimeGod, SnowCat, Tororo, WereWolf, and OdinCrow.