Row (チェンジ, Chenji?), Change, Swap Rows, Rear or Front, is a recurring term and battle command in the Final Fantasy series. It refers to a unit's position in battle, which affects overall performance. A player character can either fight in the front row or the back row. Most Final Fantasy games allow the player to change the rows of a party member freely even in battle, but sometimes 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 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 is almost universally unaffected by row. Most games have ranged weapons that inflict normal damage regardless of row: bows, throwing items like boomerangs and shuriken, 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.
The party's order determines the likelihood of each character being targeted by enemies' physical attacks. The member in the first position receives 1/2 of attacks, the member in the second position receives 1/4 of attacks, and the members in the third and fourth positions receive 1/8 of attacks.
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 other weapons, but they always miss. The player can only change rows outside of battle, triggered in the NES version by pressing on the map, and from the main menu in other releases.
KO'd characters that are brought back to life will be put in the back row. At least one character must be in the front row, and characters in the back row will automatically move to the front row at the end of the turn if all front-row characters have been knocked out. By having more characters in the back row, the character(s) in the front row will be attacked more frequently.
Magic, bows and boomerangs deal the same amount of damage regardless of row. This game was the first to introduce back attack. When this occurs characters in the front row are placed in the back row and characters in the back row are placed in the front row.
In the 3D versions, the Rear command makes a character go in the back row while the Front command makes them go to the front row.
Bows, boomerangs, and harps are ranged weapons and deal full damage from the back row. In the 3D remake releases, 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 they want 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 on the control pad or control stick.
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 and succeeding versions, and is the Level 3 ability of the Gladiator class. The enemy ability Magnet reverses the party's rows.
In the back row, damage and attack power are halved. Row can be changed using the main menu by pressing and . The Row command is also found by pressing on the character's battle command window. Usually only attacks dealt with the Attack command are affected by being in the back row, but the characters' special commands, such as Sabin's Blitz and Edgar's Tools commands, are unaffected. Maces, boomerangs, clubs, and gambling weapons (such as darts and cards) are long range weapons and deal full damage from back row.
The spells auto-cast from weapons do not ignore the caster's row, so from the back row they will do half damage, unless the weapon that casts the spell ignores 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).
Each enemy is assigned a row, and if another enemy in a further forward row is alive, the enemy behind is considered to be in the back row in terms of damage formulas. Though potentially there are three or more rows, all enemies bar those in the front row take equal damage as back row enemies.
Some enemies are not assigned a row, and are instead assigned to be out of reach. These enemies cannot be hit by short-range attacks. A number of enemies switch to this state if they have a flying form.
The enemy cover system means that enemies in one row can prevent short range attacks targeting an enemy in the rows behind them, set up by determining the number of columns the enemy resides in, five columns in total. If an enemy in row 1 resides in a column that an enemy in row 2 also resides in, then the enemy in row 2 cannot be targeted by a short-range attack. Not all formations use the cover system, and the columns are not specifically mapped to the enemy's location, so an enemy appearing behind another will not always mean they cannot be targeted.
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.
In some battles the Change command to change row is grayed out. This happens in the battles fought as Yuffie in the Wutai Village pagoda, and Cloud's final showdown against Sephiroth. In these battles the enemies also start with an empty ATB gauge and one's first physical attack will deal double damage, as if the battle was a back attack.
Although not flagged as a long range weapon, Barret's Pile Bunker suffers no damage penalty from attacking from the back row or at enemies in the back row even though it uses the melee animation. This is most likely a bug.
Toggle between front row and back row.
Vivi, Dagger, Freya, and Eiko join the party being in the back row by default. Quina's attacks deal random damage, so while s/he joins in the front row, s/he might be better placed in the back. Zidane, Steiner, Freya, and Amarant can learn Long Reach, which allows them to deal normal damage from the back row. The game's only naturally long range weapons are the rackets, but Amarant can also throw weapons.
Here known as Row Change (隊列変更, tairetsu henkou?), players may change row out of battle but not in battle. Unlike most character configuration changes, character row may be changed even while in a dungeon. Row Change may be accessed by choosing Party (パーティ, pāti?), then Members (メンバー, menbā?), then Party Formation (パーティ編成, pāti hensei?). Characters retain their assigned rows even when not in the current party. Characters start in the front row when they first become available.
Except in the battle screen, if the player presses the Select button, the Alter Order screen will be displayed to change the positions of the characters, except for the guests. The characters in the front will be attacked first and more often, so keeping weak characters behind where they will be protected.