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Min-maxing is a gameplay term used in reference to many video games, particularly RPGs. Min-maxing refers to maximizing the potential strength of a character through a specific and planned-out skill path as they level up and, at the same time, minimizing their weaknesses.
In the Final Fantasy series, getting the most out of a character's stats usually means keeping the character at a low level to exploit level up stat bonuses acquired later, or giving the character specific skills to influence their stat growth.
While most stats are raised by performing actions in battle, the chance to gain Agility is based solely on the user's Evasion percentage. Since Agility boosts Evasion-% point-for-point, a character with high Agility is even more likely to gain further Agility increases. A high Evasion-% can be attained by equipping shields, which boost Evasion-% based on the quality of the shield and the user's shield skill level, while avoiding heavy armor with high Evasion-% penalties. By min-maxing for Agility as soon as possible, party members can equip heavy armor, such as the extremely-heavy Genji Armor, while retaining a high or even maximum Evasion-% value.
In the 3D releases characters stop gaining stats innately at Level 71. Further stat boosts depend on what augments the player has given them, each augment being tied to one or more specific stat, and thus giving a set boost to those stats on level up. The stat boosts are HP +10, MP +5, Strength +1, Speed +1, Stamina +1, Intelligence +1, and Spirit +1. By giving the proper augments to each party member, they will gain in all stats at each level up, allowing for an extra +280 HP, +140 MP, and +28 in all other stats once they hit level 99.
When he defeats Dark Kain and becomes a Holy Dragoon, Kain will retain his level, but his stat growth is different from his time as the Hooded Man. Most of his stats simply change to their Holy Dragoon values, but his HP and MP remain as they were when he was the Hooded Man.
Thus, keeping Kain at a low level up until the battle will result in significantly higher HP and MP as Kain levels up afterwards than if he leveled up as the Hooded Man. At Level 50, the level cap in Kain's Tale, the Hooded Man has 3,150 HP and 105 MP, while if the player keeps the Hooded Man at his starting level of 15 and levels Kain to 50 after he becomes a Holy Dragoon, he will have 4,036 HP and 206 MP.
Espers grant stat bonuses at level up, so the best way to maximize stats is to keep characters at a low level until earning stronger espers, so that they will get more stat boosts.
The best espers for this are as follows:
- Bismarck, Raiden, Gilgamesh - Strength +2
- Zona Seeker, Valigarmanda - Magic Power +2
- Golem, Lakshmi, Leviathan - Stamina +2
- Odin - Speed +1
- Cactuar - Speed +2
- Bahamut - HP +50%*+50% HP gained from level up
- Diabolos - HP +100%*+100% HP gained from level up
- Crusader - MP +50%*+50% MP gained from level up
As Leviathan, Gilgamesh, Cactuar and Diabolos are espers exclusive to the Finest Fantasy for Advance, mobile and Steam releases, in the SNES and PlayStation versions Odin is the only esper to grant a Speed bonus. For purposes of min-maxing, it is best to not upgrade Odin into the Raiden magicite.
Guaranteeing 9,999 HP and 999 MP at level 99 without equipment bonuses is fairly simple. At level 99 all permanent party members have over 9,700 HP at minimum, and at least 990 MP, with the exception of Umaro, who has 989. All characters gain different HP and MP per each level, and between level 50 and level 77, a character will gain at least 130 HP, while MP growth is maximized between level 10 and level 35.
To ensure 9,999 HP, a character must equip Diabolos for any two levels between the given range, or equip Bahamut from Level 68 to 71—the most any character needs for 9,999 is an extra 216 HP, which Diabolos's 200% bonus ensures regardless of specific level, while for Bahamut the three given levels offer 160 and 162 increases to HP, the highest of any natural gain, which multiplied by 150% will give a net bonus of 240 HP. 999 MP is easier to track, as each character gets 11 MP from level 97 to 98 and 13 from 98 to 99, so the player just needs to remember to equip Crusader for the last level or two. Otherwise the player can focus on leveling up Strength, Stamina, Speed and Magic Power.
If playing the Advance release, the player may take advantage of the level reset glitch to maximize character stats.
The maximum effective value for all stats is 128. While Magic will still have an effect over 128 via equipment boosts, any Strength over 128 is wasted. Also, any Speed over 235 will cause an extremely slow ATB bar due to how the game is programmed.
There is no trick of getting higher stats since characters are on a growth curve that cannot be modified in-game, and the only other way to permanently increase stats is through items. Whenever a character levels up they get a randomized bonus to their HP and/or MP within a certain range. It is possible to save the game before a character levels up and try again to get the best bonus every time a character levels up, but this is time consuming. It is not possible to "max out" both HP and MP on the same character, so the player would have to choose which stat to prioritize. The maximum possible HP and MP varies between characters.
Similar to the level reset glitch in Final Fantasy VI, the Emerald Weapon countdown glitch allows a player to retain the stats of a party on one save and transfer them to another save (bar level, HP, and MP). When starting a new game battles will not work, however, the game can be saved and then loaded and it will still be a perfectly working save file. The effort required of this tactic is much higher compared to Final Fantasy VI, however, as it requires the player to not only reach Emerald Weapon, but also to be able to beat it within a small window of opportunity.
The five bonus abilities and the GFs that bear them are:
- HP Bonus*+30 HP - Brothers
- Str Bonus - Ifrit
- Mag Bonus - Siren
- Vit Bonus - Carbuncle
- Spr Bonus - Leviathan
The Cactuar GF has all five abilities, but due to a limit of four support skills at a time, it is impossible to equip all of these abilities at once. The player will have to leave one stat out, or can raise them all equally. The HP Bonus ability is probably the most useless of the bonus abilities, as it only gives +30 HP per level up. HP maxes at 9,999 while the other four stats max out at 255.
Using junctions it is possible to max out a character's stats without any bonuses, but this requires high-powered magic, whereas the bonuses allow the player to reach the maximum value with lesser spells, freeing their stronger stock to junction to stats that cannot have bonus increases.
Alternatively, particularly if levels are already maxed, the Devour command may be used on certain opponents to permanently increase stats. Uniquely, PuPu may be devoured to boost a single character's Spd stat.
The final way to increase stats is through the use of items:
- HP Up - Increases Max HP by 10
- Str Up - Increase Str by 1
- Vit Up - Increase Vit by 1
- Mag Up - Increase Mag by 1
- Spr Up - Increase Spr by 1
- Spd Up - Increase Spd by 1
- Luck Up - Increase Luck by 1
These items are rare. HP Up can be won randomly, though only once, in D-District Prison (11th floor) playing Triple Triad. One Luck Up can be won from the 5th floor D-District Prison card player. Str Up can be found on the second floor. In battle it can be dropped by or mugged from Raijin. More Str Up can be mugged from Right Probe. Vit Up can be mugged from Left Probe. Mag Up can be mugged from NORG's Left Orb and Spr Up can be mugged from his Right Orb.
- 1 Gaea's Ring refines to 1 HP Up
- 10 Hyper Wrists refines to 1 Str Up
- 1 Monk's Code refines to 1 Str Up
- 5 Adamantines refines to 1 Vit Up
- 10 Royal Crowns refines to 1 Mag Up
- 10 Magic Armlets refines to 1 Spr Up
- 2 Aegis Armlets refines to 1 Spd Up
- 50 Jet Engines refines to 1 Spd Up
- 1 Hundred Needles refines to 1 Spd Up
- 1 Luck-J Scroll refines to 1 Luck Up
Characters gain greater stat boosts due to the stat values on their equipment. The equipment pieces with the greatest stat values are found at the latest portions of the game. Therefore, to maximize party members' stats, one must remain at level 1 until all of the best equipment become available.
With the use of the Add Status support ability and the Stop status to avoid gaining experience, it is possible to keep the party at Level 1 until Pandemonium. At this point there are three encounters that force Zidane or several characters to gain levels. After those encounters, there are none that require the party to gain experience until all the equipment in the game becomes available.
Due to the Marcus/Eiko stat bug, Marcus's stat growth transfers to Eiko without affecting her level. To fully maximize Eiko's stats, Marcus must be leveled to 99 before he leaves the party when he and Steiner meet up with Zidane's party in Alexandria Castle, though this process can take several days.
The only stats that can be manipulated via equipment are Speed, Strength, Magic and Spirit. Speed and Spirit max at 50, while Strength and Magic max at 99.
The stats that increase by leveling are as follows:
- HPMod and MPMod begin at 250 and 200, respectively and increase irregularly with level.
- Each character has a different Stat Base.
- Values in square brackets round down.
The StatBonus values start at 0. When a character gains a level, StrBonus and MagBonus increase by 3, SprBonus increases by 1 and MStBonus increases by 5. In addition to these automatic increases, the Bonus values also increases based on the stat bonuses given by equipment. There is no equipment that gives MStBonus.
Once the player can purchase Clear Spheres at the Monster Arena, they can use them to blank spots on the Sphere Grid and fill them in with stat-boosting spheres of their choice. Stat boosting nodes created this way offer higher boosts than pre-existing nodes. It is impossible to clear ability nodes. The number of nodes that can be cleared and filled in with other spheres depends on the game version: 751 nodes on the Regular Sphere Grid (NA/JP), 775 nodes on the Standard Sphere Grid (INT/PAL/HD), and 707 nodes on the Expert Sphere Grid (INT/PAL/HD).
HP caps at 9,999 and MP at 999 or 99,999 HP and 9,999 MP with the Break HP Limit/Break MP Limit abilities. Most things that hit above 9,999 HP will one-shot regardless. All stats hard cap at 255. Agility soft caps at 170 with any extra points only deciding first hits (unnecessary with the First Strike ability). Luck soft caps at 133 (230 in INT/PAL/HD versions, belonging to Dark Mindy) and renders Accuracy and Evasion useless at that point. However, the most accurate attack in the game (belonging Dark Ixion) requires a combined total of 290 to ensure dodge any evadable attack; it does not matter whether this is 255 Evasion and 35 Luck, or 35 Evasion and 255 Luck, or anywhere in-between.
To max all stats in the Regular Sphere Grid one will have to replace all HP Spheres, any stat sphere below +4, and any MP Sphere below +40. The player will need to place 40 Strength Spheres, 51 Defense Spheres, 46 Magic Spheres, 59 Accuracy Spheres, 21 Agility Spheres, 44 Evasion Spheres, 29 Luck Spheres. 461 nodes will be left, but 333 HP Spheres and 249 MP Spheres are needed to max both for all characters. Even cutting out all Accuracy and Evasion Spheres will not allow one to max both. With abilities that increase maximum HP, the player can still reach 99,999 HP with only 310 HP nodes. Only 18 MP nodes are required to reach 999 MP, and with abilities to reduce the MP cost of spells and skills more is not needed.
Maxing in the PAL/Int/HD versions depends on the chosen grid. Standard Sphere Grid has 32 more nodes than Regular. The Expert Sphere Grid has 36 fewer nodes than Regular. The higher Luck cap won't change much on the requirements to max all stats, the player will just have to decide between maxing Luck or maxing Accuracy and Evasion.
|Power Sphere||Activates Strength, Defense, or HP nodes.||Use Power Distiller/Extract Power on Kottos (x20 common drop, or 40 if Overkill).|
|Mana Sphere||Activates Magic, Magic Defense, or MP nodes.||Use Mana Distiller/Extract Mana on Kottos (x20 common drop, or 40 if Overkill).|
|Speed Sphere||Activates Agility, Accuracy, or Evasion nodes.||Use Speed Distiller/Extract Speed on Kottos (x20 common drop, or 40 if Overkill).|
|Ability Sphere||Activates Ability nodes.||Use Ability Distiller/Extract Ability on Kottos (x20 common drop, or 40 if Overkill).|
|Fortune Sphere||Activates Luck nodes.||Earth Eater|
|HP Sphere||Changes empty node to HP +300.||Ironclad|
|MP Sphere||Changes empty node to MP +40.||Vidatu|
|Strength Sphere||Changes empty node to Strength +4.||Juggernaut|
|Defense Sphere||Changes empty node to Defense +4.||Tanket|
|Magic Sphere||Changes empty node to Magic +4.||Jumbo Flan|
|Magic Def Sphere||Changes empty node to Magic Def +4.||One-Eye|
|Agility Sphere||Changes empty node to Agility +4.||Fenrir|
|Evasion Sphere||Changes empty node to Evasion +4.||Pteryx|
|Accuracy Sphere||Changes empty node to Accuracy +4.||Hornet|
|Luck Sphere||Changes empty node to Luck +4.||Greater Sphere|
|Clear Sphere||Clears stat nodes from grid. If anyone has activated a node that has been cleared, their stats will drop as if it wasn't ever there.||Can buy from monster trainer (10,000 gil each) after unlocking Ultima Buster (capture 5 of each monster).|
Every playable character has unique stat progression, making them slightly better suited for certain roles, but every character can wear any equipment piece and learn every ability, making them largely interchangeable. The main way of min-maxing would be to pay attention to the characters' action time with each weapon type, as some faster than others. Counter-intuitively, Balthier and Fran are actually the slowest with the weapon types they start with: guns and bows respectively.
In the International Zodiac Job System version, the player is asked to choose a job class for each party member, and once selected, the job cannot be changed. For endgame min-maxing purposes, it is actually better to make a character the class opposite of what their strengths are, than to play to their strengths, because armor will allow for anyone to cap their primary stat. Stats are capped at 99, and thus even Ashe in high tier heavy armor will cap out at 99 Strength despite having the lowest natural Strength. This means that if the player makes Basch one of the physical classes, he will have "wasted" some of his base Strength.
Given that Ashe has the highest base Magick and lowest base Strength, she makes for a good Samurai, Knight, or Monk that all have magick abilities which benefit from Ashe's higher base Magick stat since the License Boards themselves don't give any Magick boosts. Balthier and Basch make good mages, as they they'll cap their Magick stat regardless, but their innate higher Strength (plus innate Steal for Balthier) makes them more useful during the periods they aren't casting magick.
The only classes where base stats matter for the primary role are Breaker and Hunter, which are best for Fran and Balthier respectively. Breakers calculate damage off Vitality and Strength (Fran has the highest Vit) and Hunters use Strength and Speed (which Balthier has the most of). These are the only base stats that armor typically won't max out naturally.
Large nodes give certain bonuses depending on which role is leveled up:
- Commando - +2 Strength
- Ravager - +2 Magic
- Sentinel - +6 HP
- Saboteur - +2 Strength (going from odd to even level), +2 Magic (even to odd)
- Synergist - +6 HP (going from odd to even level), +2 Magic (even to odd)
- Medic - +6 HP
There are 197 large nodes that can be filled in each character's Crystarium. One recommended strategy is to use all the available large nodes to increase Serah's Magic and Noel's Strength. After maximizing those stats, the player can use the remaining large nodes to increase Serah's HP and Noel's Magic.
Doing so will give the following stats:
- Serah: 6,619 HP - 402 Str - 880 Mag
- Noel: 8,550 HP - 851 Str - 509 Mag
It is recommended to save the game before filling in nodes, particularly when obtaining the Saboteur and Synergist large node bonuses.
Characters' stats largely depend on the job they are in, but, to a lesser degree, also the jobs they have leveled up in. As such, players can use jobs with good all-around stats to make characters stronger overall, or use specialized jobs, like the Ninja, to make them excel at a particular set of jobs.
Degenerator traps are useful in optimizing stats as they reduce character's level by 1, and thus reduce the stats of that character by the amount they would have gained by leveling up once in that job. This can be exploited by entering a battle with Degenerator traps in a job with terrible growth stats, such as the Bard, and lower that character's level to 1 without lowering their stats to what they would normally be at level 1. They can then use a job with better growth stats to increase that character's level back up to what it was, with better stats.
The Orator's Praise, Intimidate, Preach, and Enlighten (and, to a lesser degree, Ramza's exclusive Squire abilities Steel and Shout) can also be exploited to alter Bravery and Faith; a fifth of any change in Bravery or Faith during battle is permanent, and because the Orator can alter these stats by as much as 25 at once, they can be altered by 5, or a twentieth of the maximum amount, in a single turn by a particularly strong Oracle.
Both can be exploited for specific purposes; Bravery boosts the damage of some of the game's strongest physical attacks, increases the odds of reaction abilities triggering, and reduces the chance of being inflicted with Chicken at the cost of finding rare items with Treasure Hunter; while Faith increases the power of magick spells and the effectiveness of helpful magick spells cast on the character at the cost of taking more damage from enemy spells. One must be careful not to scare a party member away by reducing their Bravery too low, or raise their Faith too high and cause them to leave the party in favor of a pious life. Ramza will never leave the party, so his Faith can be maxed without penalty.
Each character's stat growth is determined by their job when they level up after gaining 100 exp. It is thus simple to predict when a character will level up during a battle and change their job to obtain desired stats. The character's secondary A-ability does not affect stat growth.
The following table lists the best jobs per race to equip for each stat, along with that Job's stat growth.
|HP||Soldier (8.40)||Warrior (9.20)||Sage (7.60)||Fencer (7.60)||Animist and Gadgeteer (7.20)|
|MP||Illusionist (7.10)||Bishop (4.60)||Sage (8.80)||Summoner (6.20)||Black Mage (4.80)|
|Attack||Fighter (9.20)||Dragoon (9.60)||Beastmaster (8.80)||Sniper (9.40)||Mog Knight (8.80)|
|Defense||Paladin (9.20)||Templar (9.70)||Beastmaster (8.80)||Fencer (8.10)||Juggler (9.90)|
|Magic||Illusionist (9.20)||Templar (8.80)||Time Mage (10.2)||Summoner (10.1)||Time Mage (9.20)|
|Resist||Black Mage (9.60)||Bishop and Templar (7.60)||Black Mage (10.2)||Summoner (8.40)||Gadgeteer (10.2)|
|Speed||Ninja (2.20)||White Monk (1.40)||Morpher (1.60)||Assassin (2.30)||Thief (1.90)|
Party members' stats can be boosted permanently via enhancers.
Mutants level up via their actions, but cap out at 99 in each respective stat. Humans are supposed to do this (as suggested by the Wonderswan remake) but simply do not: by continuing to give them statistic-increasing potions, they will continue to gain Strength and Agility up to 255, and HP well beyond 999, though the values listed on the sub-screen will remain 99 and 999.
Once passing the true max values, these statistics will revert to 0 in a rollover glitch. Increasing HP beyond 600 is time-consuming, as HP potions only function to their listed maximum before increasing only a single point of Max HP, and there are no HP potions superior to HP600s. For this reason, a player attempting to min-max should purchase HP200s before proceeding past Ashura and the point of no return.
Monster statistics are set and based on the actual monsters in-game. Once the player has reached the uppermost Monster tier by consuming the meat from one of the Four Fiend refights, they will only be able to progress by changing to the form of other top-tier monsters.
Humans and mutants have the potential to gain stats when they have a turn in battle whether they actually act or not. Therefore, in order to maximize the potential for stats with humans and mutants is to at least have their turn come up in every battle.
Humans and mutants also can gain an increase to maximum HP if they survive a battle. Therefore, a player should ensure that all humans and mutants survive the battle as often as possible.
Items equipped on humans and mutants generally have a limited number of uses before they break or are exhausted. Therefore, the player should minimize the number of uses of consumable items to save GP.
The turn order during battle is generally determined by the agility of the unit. Higher agile characters generally act before lower agile characters, although this is not 100% true most of the time due to random factors. Therefore, to ensure than everybody has a chance to have an action during battle, the player should have a higher agile characters to kill the more dangerous enemies and let the lower agile characters mop up the rest of the enemies.
Humans and mutants can gain stats even if they do nothing in battle, as long as their turn has come up even if the action they were to perform would now do nothing. For example, let's say there are two enemies against the player's party of a robot, monster, human, and mutant. The robot and monster have high agility, the human has moderate agility, and the mutant has low agility. The mutant has an ability that can kill the second enemy on its own.
There are three potential scenarios here. First, if the robot targets one enemy and the monster targets the other, both easily killing their targets, the human and the mutant don't get a chance to act since the battle ends too quickly. They have an opportunity to gain HP, but no chance for any stat gains.
In the second scenario, the robot and the monster both target the first monster and the human and mutant target the second monster. The robot and monster easily kill the first enemy and the human easily kills the second enemy before the mutant acts. Now the results are that the human has used a consumable item and has a chance to gain a stat bonus for the item used, while the mutant remains unable to gain a stat bonus.
The third scenario. The robot, monster and human all attack the first enemy while the mutant targets the second enemy. The robot and the monster easily kill the first monster before the human gets its turn. Since its target is dead, when the human's turn comes up, the human simply does nothing and no consumable item is used. The mutant easily kills the second enemy with a rechargeable ability. Comparing the results to the previous two scenarios. After this scenario is over, both the human and the mutant may gain a stat bonus, and no consumable items were used. This is the ideal scenario.
Obviously, this scenario is only generally applicable in random battles. Boss battles should be focused on quick kills. There aren't many bosses where only one or two attacks finishes the battle, so it is likely that everyone will get a chance to take an action in any case.