The Battle Systems are the core engine for battles between characters and enemies in the Final Fantasy series. The first few games in the series had simple battle systems, but it was developed to become more and more realistic as the series grew. The newer games have much more intricate battle systems that involve careful attention from the player. They generally make up a large part of the game as well as allow the party to increase their strength, learn new abilities, gain new items, and advance in the storyline.
Most battles consist of the playable characters performing actions, largely physically attacking the opponent or casting magic spells, to defeat the foes by depleting their HP or otherwise causing their death. There are some exceptions to that when a battle is part of the storyline and cannot be won. The battle would played until a deciding factor is reached, like the number of turns taken, if the party ran away, or the party could be crushed for the story's intent.
On a typical battle screen, a display of the party and the enemies they are fighting is seen with a chart a list of the enemies, a list of the characters in the party, and the basic statistics used in combat for each unit. These stats can encompass HP, MP, and various other gauge levels.
Types of Battle Systemssửa
The Traditional Turn-Based system is the first battle system used in the first three Final Fantasy games, and it is also the oldest battle system used. When encountering random enemies or bosses, the field screen fades out into a battle screen. Each turn, party members in battle are chosen to perform an action from their available options (like Fight, Magic, or Items). When all members of the party have chosen their action, whoever has the highest Agility or Speed status goes first. The battle round ends when the monster or character with the lowest of the status performs their action last. Because of this, the Agility status does not determine how often a character can attack so much as how many actions the units perform in a single turn, namely how many hits with a weapon the member lands, and in what order they attack in.
Active Time Battlesửa
The Active Time Battle (ATB) system, designed by Hiroyuki Itō for Final Fantasy IV, shares many attributes with the former system, but adds the dimension of timing-based strategy for commands. In it, an ATB gauge tracks when characters are going to act. When the gauge is full, they are able to perform an action. In later games and/or remakes, some actions then have an additional wait time, such as casting spells or using special abilities. After the action is executed, the ATB gauge is depleted and must recharge. The rate which the gauge recharges will typically correlate to the Speed stat of the character. This means that combatants do not always get an equal number actions on a turn. ATB also introduced Attack Formations, a new element on how the battle itself is played out. A few additions, like Preemptive Strike and Back Attack, change how the battle begins, normally giving an initial edge to one side or the other by giving them an extra turn or changing the party order to disadvantage them. Others, like Side Attack and Pincer Attack change the entire combat, providing even more need for strategy.
There are usually two settings to ATB, Active mode and Wait mode. In Active mode, time flows regardless of what is going on in game. In Wait mode, time stops when the player is navigating menus. Final Fantasy VII had a third mode called Recommended, which was a mix of the two. These two modes are usually the closest thing to changing the in-game difficulty, as some events can be stalled to an extent in Wait mode. The best example is stalling the status ailment Doom, in which the player can let long actions go on in a menu to pause the counter, only to quickly input actions and stop in another menu later. What could seem like "10 seconds" could be extended to minutes.
The first game to make use of this system was Final Fantasy IV, but it did not have the ATB meter in the SNES and Playstation versions. The ATB meter was introduced in Final Fantasy V; all following installments of the main Final Fantasy series have used the ATB system until Final Fantasy X, though the ATB system did return for that game's sequel, Final Fantasy X-2.
An evolution of this system with added movement and similarities to Final Fantasy XI's system was seen in Final Fantasy XII as the Active Dimension Battle (ADB) system.
Command Synergy Battlesửa
Command Synergy Battle is the name (declared in-game) of the system used in Final Fantasy XIII. It derives the flow of time from ATB as each character has their own ATB gauge. The ATB gauge in turn acts like an action point meter that's divided up into equal sections (a similar system was used in Enix's game Robotrek). Each action consumes a portion of the ATB gauge, for example attacking consumes one point, while casting a power spell consumes three. Commands can be chained so as long as there's enough action points. When the player decides on what commands to take, the player presses another button to execute the commands for the character to do. If the player executes the chained commands without filling all ATB slots, the unused slots will be filled at the start of the next turn. Unlike regular ATB, the player is only able to control the actions of the party leader.
At the end of each battle, the player is judged based on performance (such as time and combos) on a rating of zero to five stars.
Conditional Turn-Based Battlesửa
The Conditional Turn-Based Battle (CTB) system, or the Count Time Battle system in Japan, designed by Toshiro Tsuchida is used in Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.
At its most basic, CTB is a turn-based system which does not operate in rounds. That is, the order of the turns does not guarantee that each participant in a battle will have an equal number of turns. Characters with higher speed will be able to take more turns than slower characters, thus making speed much more important than in other turn-based battle systems. Furthermore, spells and abilities (such as Haste) can modify the turn order (called the Act List), as some abilities require a longer cool down time. In general, weaker abilities tend to require less cool down time, thus introducing a trade-off between speed and power.
The system is distinguished from Active Time Battle system by the fact that when a character's turn begins, all action stops while the player decides upon an action. This shifts the focus from reflexes and quick decision-making to strategy and careful planning.
Final Fantasy X featured an augmented CTB system, allowing the player to substitute characters from the bench while in the middle of a battle.
Real Time Battlesửa
The Real Time Battle (RTB) system is a combat system introduced in Final Fantasy XI. It replaces the random encounter that has featured in past Final Fantasy games, instead monsters are found freely roaming areas and are seamlessly engaged. As the battle takes place without a separate battle screen loading one is free to move around the landscape during battles, interact with other players or avoid battles altogether. Monsters may also attack players without provocation, retaining a hint of random encounters. Characters start attacking automatically once they are in combat with an enemy, and special commands and magic can be inputted by the player at any time. Many items, spells and abilities used during battle have a casting time or delay to use once activated, similar Active Time Battles.