Row (チェンジ, Chienji?) is a recurring term that refers to a character's position in battle, which affects overall performance. A character can either fight in the front row or the back row. To date, most Final Fantasy games allow the player to change the rows of a party member freely. In most games, party members can switch rows in battle, but switch back after the battle has ended. Starting a battle as a back attack reverses the characters' row placement.
Fighting in the front row allows characters to deal regular damage to enemies, but in turn to receive regular damage from enemies as well. This is generally best for characters with high HP and Defense, such as the Warrior or Paladin jobs. Being in the back row will make characters inflict less damage with melee weapons, but receive less damage from enemies as well. This is best for characters with low HP and Defense, like White Mages or Summoners.
Monsters can also be in the back or front row, depending on the placement of their allies. They will experience the same increases/decreases to damage as the player's characters do, although killing the front-row enemies typically moves back-row enemies forward.
Typically, there are exceptions to the above rules. Magic of any kind almost universally is unaffected by row. Most games also have ranged weapons that inflict normal damage regardless of row: Bows, Throwing items like Boomerangs and Shurikens, and Guns usually ignore row, along with other specialized weapons. Some games also have an ability known as Long Range or Reach that gives the equipped character the same power as if they were using a long-ranged weapon.
Characters in the back row can only be hit by magic and bow attacks, and can only attack with bows and magic themselves. They can wield another weapon, but it always misses. In the original version, the player can only change rows outside of battle, triggered in the NES version by pressing Select on the map, and from the main menu in other releases. In the Dawn of Souls version and all versions thereafter the player can switch rows with characters in battle.
Characters that are KO'd and then brought back to life will automatically be put in the back row, and only three characters can be in the back row at any given time. By having three characters in the back row, the character in the front row will be attacked much more frequently.
Magic, Bows and Boomerangs deal the same amount of damage regardless of row. This game was also the first to introduce Back Attack. When this occurs characters in the front row are automatically placed in the back row and characters in the back row are automatically placed in the front row.
Bows, boomerangs, and harps are Long Range weapons and deal full damage from the back row. In the Nintendo DS release, the augment Reach lets the character deal full damage from the back row. Characters in the back row will take less damage from physical attacks.
Unlike in most games, which allow players to pick and choose which row they want their characters in, Final Fantasy IV forces players to put two characters in the front row and three in the back row, or vice-versa. The player can change whether he or she wants two or three characters in the front or back row in the menu screen, and can temporarily force all party members to change rows in battle by selecting the Change, Swap or Swap Rows command, which players can find by pressing left on the control pad or control stick.
The Swap Rows returns as a command in the sequel of Final Fantasy IV, and it functions the same way as its predecessor.
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Long range attacks that ignore row include damage done by bows, whips and boomerangs. The Ninja can also use the Throw command, and the Samurai can use Zeninage which deal ranged damage. The ability Long Range is exclusive to the GBA version, and is the Level 3 ability of the Gladiator class. The enemy ability Magnet reverses the party's rows.
The Row command can be found by pressing left on the character's battle command window. Only attacks dealt with the Attack command are affected by being in the back row, and therefore all of the characters' special commands, such as Sabin's Blitz and Edgar's Tools commands, are unaffected by row. Maces, boomerangs, clubs, and gamblers are long range weapons and deal full damage from back row. The enemy ability R. Polarity switches a player's row. Battles that are Pincer or Side Attacks have no rows, but the player is still able to use the row command. Random spells cast from a weapon, though magical, are affected by row.
Attacks dealt with the normal Attack command are the only attacks that are affected by row, meaning even Morph, D. blow, Slash-All and 4x-Cut deal full damage from back row (2x-Cut, however, deals half damage from back row).
Aeris is the only character who joins the party being in the back row by default. Some enemies, such as the Grangalan when it has spawned Juniors, cannot be hit with short-range hits at all if they are in the back row, unless with Morph, which ignores the enemies' row.
In a case where enemies are in two rows, the enemies behind the front row enemies can't be targeted by short-range attacks before the enemy "A" in the front row is dispatched; in any case the player only needs to defeat the front row enemy labelled "A" to reach the back row enemies, even if the "A" enemy isn't directly in front of the back row enemies.
Barret, Red XIII, Yuffie and Vincent have long range weapons, and the other characters can equip the Long Range Materia to deal ranged attacks. The Throw command and Coin Toss are also considered long range. Battles that are Side Attacks have no rows. The enemy ability Electromag switches the party's current row.
A character covering for an ally with the Cover Materia still takes half damage from attacks even if covering for an ally who is in the front row. The boss battle against Motor Ball is a back attack, and thus reverses the party's row.
Vivi, Dagger, Freya, and Eiko join the party being in the back row by default. Quina's attacks ignore his/her row placement, so while s/he joins in the front row, s/he is better placed in the back. Zidane, Steiner, Freya, and Amarant can learn Long Reach which allows them to deal normal damage even from the back row. The game's only naturally long range weapons are the rackets.
During the game, except in the battle screen, if the player presses the Select button, the Alter Order screen will be displayed. The will be able to change the positions of the characters except for the guest characters. The characters in the front will be attacked first and more often, so keeping weak characters behind where they will be protected.