Limit Breaks, also known simply as Limits (リミット, Rimitto?), are powerful combat moves featured in several Final Fantasy titles. Limit Breaks are among the most damaging moves at a player's disposal, and several Limit Breaks have developed into various characters' signature moves.
Limit Breaks usually rely on the damage the player takes in some way, but the gameplay mechanics vary between games. In some games the player takes damage to fill up a power meter (like in Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy X), or the attacks become available in HP Critical status (like in Final Fantasy VI or Final Fantasy VIII). However, this is not universal, and some games use different systems. Though their appearance, use and naming has varied, the concept of Limit Breaks has become a series staple.
The term first appears in Final Fantasy VII, which used it in reference to filling up a power meter by taking damage. Since the release of Final Fantasy VIII, the term has also been used to refer to powerful combat moves used after entering HP critical status, a concept that originates from Final Fantasy VI. Since then, the term "Limit Break" has retroactively also been applied to the Desperation Attacks of Final Fantasy VI. The underlying idea of taking damage for gameplay benefits could be traced back to Final Fantasy II, where the player needs to take damage to increase stats.
Though the term Limit Break comes from Final Fantasy VII, the underlying idea of being able to use a powerful combat move by taking damage was used in Final Fantasy VI. Desperation Attacks activate randomly when a character is in critical health and the Attack command is issued. Desperation Attacks are one-time high-powered attacks that ignore defense and sometimes cause Instant Death to an enemy. They hit one target and cannot be used twice in a battle.
All player characters, except Gau and Umaro, have a Desperation Attack. Gogo's Desperation Attack cannot be used if he is not equipped with the Attack command, nor can he Mimic others'. In a normal playthrough one is more likely to heal than attack in low health, and thus Desperation Attacks are seen so rarely many players are unaware of their existence.
Final Fantasy VII was the first game to use the term "Limit Break." The mechanic functions differently from the Desperation Attack mechanic in Final Fantasy VI. Final Fantasy VII introduced a Limit Break gauge that fills up when a character takes damage, and it activates a powerful special move when the gauge is full. As a result, taking damage became a more central gameplay feature. Despite the consistent use of "Limit Break" and "Limit" seen throughout Final Fantasy VII-related Japanese media, the English version of the demo release initially used "Special Ability" and "Special."
According to the tutorials, the Limit gauge fills as the character angers, hence the Fury and Sadness statuses. When enemies push a character to their limits they unleash an "unimaginable power." According to the Crisis Core Complete Guide Keyword Collection, when spirit energy rises to its ultimate limit for a short while, it aligns with and emits from the body, allowing powerful abilities that cannot be performed in a natural state.
Each party member has a Limit meter that fills as they take damage. When the bar is full, the character can unleash a special attack. Most characters have seven Limit Breaks spread over four levels of strength. Characters start with one Limit Break and learn the next five by killing enemies or performing lesser Limit Breaks, but their seventh and ultimate Limit Break is learned after acquiring the other six via a manual hidden somewhere in the game.
The exact effect of Limit Breaks vary. Most do damage, but others cast supportive and healing spells on the party. Each character's set of Limit Breaks has a specific "gimmick." E.g. Cid uses Jump attacks, while Aeris heals and defends the party. For most characters, the player simply selects the attack from a command list once the Limit bar is filled, but Tifa and Cait Sith need the player to perform Slots input sequence to determine the outcome for the Limit Break. Characters are unable use the Attack command once their Limit gauge is filled up, as the Limit command replaces the Attack command.
The Limit command is a story element. During the final battle, the player Turk will awaken to the power inside them and break their limits when Zirconiade runs out of HP. Only by selecting the Limit command may the final battle be ended.
The Limit Break system is called the Digital Mind Wave (DMW), a set of three reels at the top left hand corner of the player's screen. The reels feature numbers and images of characters met in the game, and are constantly spinning provided the player has enough Soldier Points. Certain DMW number combinations buff the player while having the same image in the two end reels opens up the Modulating Phase in a separate screen of reels, which allows the player to perform Limit Breaks, summons, and level up. The DMW can become enhanced when specific events in the storyline boost Zack's emotions. New abilities are learned by progressing in the story and Zack can boost the chances of certain Limit Breaks by equipping the corresponding Materia.
Limit Breaks are used by several characters, mostly by Cloud whose Limit Breaks in are signified by a fiery blue aura appearing over him or his weapon. Though they do not feature the same aura, Tifa, Aerith, Red XIII, Barret, and Sephiroth also use moves similar to their Limit Breaks.
Vincent can use two of his Limit Breaks from Final Fantasy VII: only the Galian Beast form can be used in normal gameplay, and Vincent transforms into this stronger, faster, and more powerful form using an item called the Limit Breaker. His Chaos form is used in the last chapter.
All party members, even temporarily playable ones, have Limit Breaks. There is no limit bar and the mechanism that determines when a character can perform a Limit Break is an invisible piece of coding, but usually triggers when a character is in critical health. Other factors that influence the likelihood of Limit Break appearing are KO'd party members and statuses.
When a character can use a Limit Break, an event that might seem random to players, a glowing icon appears next to the character's Attack command allowing them the choice to perform a "Limit Break" (known as Special Arts in the Japanese version). Unlike the previous two games, Limit Breaks can be used as often as the player wishes as long as the option appears and skipping a character's turn will reset the probability of the Limit Break option.
Each character's Limit Break is exclusive and each has unique ways of obtaining and performing the Breaks: Squall has Renzokuken, which requires the player to time button presses with a flashing power meter; Quistis has Blue Magic where the player selects spells from a list; Zell has Duel where the player inputs button commands within a time limit; Irvine has Shot which expends ammo from the player's inventory; Rinoa has two Limit Breaks, Combine, which calls Rinoa's pet dog to attack the enemies and enhance the party, and Angel Wing, which puts her in a magic berserk state continually casting powerful spells; and Selphie has Slots which shuffles random magic spells. Temporary playable characters also have Limit Breaks, although less versatile.
Final Fantasy VIII is the first time an antagonist uses the Limit Break system; Seifer can use the Limit Break No Mercy when the player is in control of him and he can use his subsequent Limit Breaks in the battles against him. Other characters, such as Raijin, Fujin and GIM52A, have moves that function similar to Limit Breaks and will usually only use them if they have low HP or are under the Aura status. Edea also uses a Limit Break against Squall in an FMV called Ice Strike.
The Trance system brings back a bar to show the amount of Trance slowly building up over time, but rather than executing a special attack when the bar fills, the character enters Trance state that lasts a short period of time, usually only a few turns. Tranced characters' stats are boosted and they can access special skills or their normal abilities are enhanced. For example, Zidane can use special Dyne attacks, while Steiner has his attack power tripled.
Certain story battles involve compulsory Trances, and at one point Dagger is unable to enter Trance due to her emotional state. Trance plays a role in the storyline even outside of battles with the characters Mog and Kuja.
The Limit Breaks are called Overdrives. Each character has an Overdrive meter that fills up over time, but the exact method of filling the bar is determined by the character's Overdrive Mode—they can fill the bar by healing allies, attacking enemies, using items, or under certain unfavorable conditions like in Final Fantasy VIII. Different characters learn new Overdrives via different methods. For example, Tidus learns new Overdrives by repeatedly using his old ones while Wakka must win them in the blitzball, and Auron learns them by searching for Jecht's Spheres.
For most characters, the Overdrive's strength is determined by some form of player input; Tidus's Swordplay requires the player to stop the moving cursor in the middle of a bar, Auron's Bushido grows stronger as the player inputs button commands, Wakka uses various Slots Overdrives where the player must stop the rotating reels on the desired attack, and so forth.
Aeons also have Overdrives, the first time in the series that summons can execute Limit Breaks. Their Limit Breaks are simpler, and function as strong attacks based on their usual summon ability. For example, Ifrit uses Hellfire, while Shiva uses Diamond Dust. Some bosses can also use Overdrives, their Overdrive gauge being visible to player, giving hint of when to brace for it.
Each character can access a special dressphere once they have activated all of the nodes on their Garment Grid during a battle, and upon activation only that character will be playable supported by support units belonging to the dressphere. The character can remain in their special dressphere until the end of the battle or until they decide to spherechange.
Spherechanging into a special dressphere raises the character's attributes and they receive a set of abilities unique to their dressphere. The special dresspheres are: Yuna's Floral Fallal, Rikky's Machina Maw, and Paine's Full Throttle. Each special dressphere possesses a unique ability that causes massive damage to all enemies, but carries the cost of an entire ATB bar.
Due to the game's massive multi-player nature, the Limit Break concept is adapted into attacks called Weapon Skills, which are associated with specific weapon types rather than individual characters. Most Weapon Skills are unlocked as adventurers gain proficiency with the appropriate arms. Similar to earlier games, characters have a gauge that fills with Tactical Points as they attack enemies or are attacked themselves.
Once the meter is full a Weapon Skill may be executed to deal significant damage to opponents or, in some cases, confer benefits to the party. Unlike previous Limit Break implementations players may delay using a Weapon Skill to accumulate more than a full bar of Tactical Points (up to 300) to add extra value to their eventual attacks.
The ongoing development introduced a variety of features that supplement or complicate the basic Weapon Skills system. These include the Samurai job, which boasts improved control over the accumulation and expenditure of Tactical Points; Weapon Skills that must be earned from quests; the Dancer job, which adopts Tactical Points as a resource for its dances; and effects such as Regain which can award Tactical Points outside of combat.
While Weapon Skills are not as devastatingly powerful as other variations of the Limit Break, adventurers are provided with job-specific abilities that capture the spirit of the rare, life-saving talents wielded by the protagonists of previous games. The term "Limit Break" is also used to describe the quests that remove level caps for players level 50 and above.
Quickenings (Mist Knacks in the Japanese version) are purchased via License Points on the License Board, up to three for each character. In the original PlayStation 2 version every new Quickening gives the character a new Mist Charge, increasing their MP. Quickenings are powerful cinematic attacks, and allow the player to shuffle and execute several characters' Quickenings in succession. This is called a Quickening chain, and if the right Quickenings are used a finishing blow called a Concurrence is executed. In the original version Quickenings are the main way for players to break the damage limit and with long enough Quickening chains, even low level parties can defeat powerful bosses and Marks
Espers have a "deathblow" cinematic attack only used under certain circumstances, such as their summoner's HP being low or the Esper's remaining summon time going below a certain point. The attacks do heavy damage to all enemies in range.
There is also an enemy ability called Limit Break that reduces the charge time for magick and physical attacks to 0.
In the International Zodiac Job System and The Zodiac Age versions, the Quickenings no longer use MP, but have their own bar, much like in previous installments.
The Quickenings work differently by, instead of expending MP, being charged via a more traditional method by filling a "Mist Gauge". The bar is charged by different methods depending on the character in question: Vaan's Quickening bar fills as he and his group kill enemies, whereas Basch's Quickening charges when enemies attack him. Each permanent character has their own Quickening learned by defeating one of the nine Scions in battle. Each Scion teaches one character their Quickening. Each character's Quickening serves different purposes; some perform strong attacks and some heal and enhance the party. Quickenings are cinematic attacks that hit all enemies or allies, depending on the Quickening's nature.
There are two attack types for each playable character which could classify as similar to Limit Breaks: full ATB skills and an Eidolon's Gestalt Mode. With full ATB moves each character has a unique attack, which requires the whole ATB bar to use. These attacks ignore defense, or multiple strikes that rapidly increase the enemy's chain gauge. They are unlocked in the latter stages of the character's Crystarium system. When using Eidolons the player can initiate Gestalt Mode where the Eidolon uses multiple techniques and powerful finishers to deal extreme damage to multiple foes.
Similarly to the first installment, there are two types of attacks which could classify as similar to Limit Breaks: full ATB skills and Feral Links. Serah and Noel each have a unique attack which requires the whole ATB bar to use. Unlike the previous game, they can only be used once per battle. However, using an Elixir resets the limit. Each obtainable Paradigm Pack monster has a unique requirement to fill the Feral Link gauge before being usable. Many same Feral Links are assigned to several monsters of the same subtype.
A Limit Break system for parties is implemented, in place of the Battle Regimens. Parties have a limit gauge that increases over time, and once it hits certain thresholds, a Limit Break may be used by one of the party members, which will empty the gauge. Depending on how much the gauge is filled the party may gain access to more powerful attacks.
The gauge can be increased faster by performing actions determined as "fine play," such as blocking enemy attacks. Limit Breaks have different effects depending on the role of the class or job of the player who uses them.
After collecting four royal arms, Noctis can enter a state called Armiger after filling up his Armiger gauge that fills on its own during battle. During Armiger all abilities cost 0 MP, Noctis's damage output is increased, and all his movements become warps. The Armiger gauge drains until it reaches 0. When Noctis unleashes his power, his royal arms circle him and he will attack the enemies with them. Armiger can be further enhanced from the Ascension Grid.
Party members can instead use Techniques, special moves unique to each character. Guest party members also have Techniques.
Each cadet has his/her own Triad Maneuver, but they require party of three members to be executed. Each member performs a powerful attack on single enemy in conjunction with the other two's respective powerful attacks, doing more damage than regular attacks. Triad Maneuvers can replace summons and avoid sacrificing the current character. These combination moves don't deal as much damage as summons, but can be used multiple times.
"Limit" is the Job Command of the Soldier class exclusive to Cloud Strife. It uses Cloud's Limit moves from Final Fantasy VII plus an extra skill, the Cherry Blossom. Cloud is can perform the Limit skills when equipping the Materia Blade, which is retrieved from the highest grid at Mount Bervenia by having a character equipped with the Chemist's movement ability, Treasure Hunter move to the grid.
The game has no Limit gauge so all Limit skills are magickal moves with certain Charge Time to execute. The power of the Limit moves depend on Cloud's magickal power, but since their Charging Speed is low by the time Cloud joins the player's party most of the moves are rather useless, except for Finishing Touch, which is quick to perform and inflicts instant KO, Stop or Petrify to targets within 2-grid effect radius.
Special moves are triggered under certain conditions. They can be obtained by upgrading the shops in Norende.
Dissidia Final Fantasy (2008)Edit
EX Mode is the Limit Break system. All characters have an EX Gauge displayed next to their HP bar that fills by collecting EX Force and EX Cores. Once full the character may enter EX Mode, enacting a transformation or granting them a stronger weapon. Characters in EX Mode gain Regen status, have an increased likelihood to inflict critical hits, and change their appearance. Fighters gain bonuses specific to them, including special attacks or enhanced normal attacks; for example, Terra can doublecast her spells, Sephiroth can use Heartless Angel, Cloud's attacks have Melee High priority, and so forth.
If the player lands an HP attack while in EX Mode they can execute an EX Burst, which lets them attack the foe with a series of powerful, unblockable Brave-draining strikes, leading up to a final HP attack. For the heroes, many EX Bursts are based on the character's Limit Break from their original game. In the case of the villains, their EX Bursts are based on their strongest attack as an enemy. Using an EX Burst ends EX Mode.
EX Mode returns in the prequel to Dissidia Final Fantasy. The mechanic is rebalanced as an opposite to the Assist mechanic, EX Mode and EX Bursts intended to act as final game-ending attacks while Assists act as weaker but more reliable support attacks. Numerous characters have had their EX Mode special effects changed, and due to the critical hit multiplier being reduced from 5x normal damage to 2x, EX Bursts usually deal less damage than in the first Dissidia.
Dissidia Final Fantasy (2015)Edit
Each of the original thirteen characters has an exclusive ability learned at level 40 named for their trademark Limit Break—Terra Branford learns Trance, Tidus learns Blitz Ace, and so forth. The heroes of the first five Final Fantasy games take their Limit Break names from their Dissidia EX Modes or EX Bursts. These abilities are exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS version and are removed in the iOS port.
With the exception of Lightning, whose Limit Break ability innately boosts her stats, the Limit Break abilities activate during Battle Music Sequence when certain conditions are fulfilled. Warrior of Light, Firion and Terra activate their Limit Breaks have chaining enough notes and they have effects that buff the party for the rest of the stage. The other nine characters have their Limit Break activate when a boss enemy enters the stage, and deal damage to it dependent of the user's stats, the stats used to calculate damage done varying for each character.
Soul Breaks are Limit-like special abilities. Every character comes with a default Soul Break, but certain weapons or armor can add another ability to a character's set of up to four moves. To perform one of these, a Soul Gauge segment is required to be filled and there are three Soul Gauge segments available to fill. Most Soul Breaks cost one Soul Gauge segment but some cost two.
Soul Breaks may be mastered and equipped at will when they are unique to a character. These unique moves are often modeled after the characters' in-canon special abilities, such as Auron's Bushido, Sabin's Blitz, or Zidane's Dyne. A small number of equipment items may also carry Super Soul Breaks and Burst Super Soul Breaks, which when mastered will not only be permanently grafted into the character's move set, but will also permanently augment a specific stat for that character.
Non-Final Fantasy guest appearancesEdit
Dragon Quest seriesEdit
Two separate systems in the Dragon Quest franchise are functionally similar to Limit Breaks:
- The tension system, introduced in Dragon Quest VIII, allows characters to build power for any learned skills in a manner similar to a Monk's Focus skill in Final Fantasy games. When a character "psyches up" or is "egged on", an internal counter will increment from 0 points to 5, then to 20, then to 50, and finally (with some luck) to 100. Should the counter reach 100, the character may physically transform and will be in a trance-like state with a bright-pink glow. The next action releases all accumulated tension, resulting in a hyper-potent attack or spell being used.
- In Dragon Quest IX, each job class can perform a Coup de Grâce once certain conditions are met, allowing a character to execute a unique attack or support skill.
Kingdom Hearts seriesEdit
In Kingdom Hearts II, all party members have a "Limit" command, while Donald and Goofy have two. The command costs Sora all his MP and initiates a special attack where he and the party member team up to attack all enemies the player having to press the button to attack as many times as possible within a time limit before the attack ends with a final blast that damages all enemies heavily. In Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix+, Sora's Limit Form has the Limit command, which allows him to use Sonic Blade, Strike Raid, Ars Arcanum and Ragnarok, special attacks in the first Kingdom Hearts that were originally absent in Kingdom Hearts II.
In Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, every character has a Limit Break once their HP reaches a certain percentage, indicated by when the HP bar changes from Green to Yellow. After using the Limit Break, they use the ability for the duration of the time it takes for a white bar to reach the end of the HP bar starting from where life was at the time of activation. Every character has a unique Limit Break in multiplayer mode, and they all have a final Limit that can be activated as a rebound with certain panels. There is a one-use item that can be synthesized to restore the Limit Break Bar by one level, as well as a panel that allows the Limit Break to be first used at a higher percentage. While using a Limit Break, the character in question can still normally take damage.
Once Jack Russel masters every skill usable for the One Handed Sword (or reaches a certain training exercise from the Training Dummy), Jack learns the Volty Blast. When the Volty Gauge is at 100%, Jack can use this when equipped with a One Handed Sword. It deals eight slashes before finishing with an upward finisher for a total of nine hits.
- In Fallout 2, companion John Cassidy may remark during combat "wish I had a limit break."