Let the Battle Begin!
Good Morning Final Fantasy Fans! As promised, I wanted to start out discussing the best of the best from Final Fantasy. I’ve been playing Final Fantasy for over twenty years now. I’ve played every single entry in the main series and the majority of spin offs. While I will admit, I have not played every Final Fantasy in existence, I have played enough of them to get a good pulse on what would arguably be the best in the series. So let’s start this off by taking a look into the best of Final Fantasy’s Battle Systems!
And first off!…
Number 5: Final Fantasy VIII: The Junction System
Pre-Battle Setup: Micromanaging every single aspect of magic drawn from your enemies and using the powers of a Guardian Force (GF) in order to make you the most versatile and powerful character or if you are not careful, the most susceptible.
Battle: Flashes to another screen with a variation of the Active Time Battle (ATB). By configuring your character’s abilities from your GFs you are able to use various magics and enhancements in order to fight your battles.
Overall Thoughts: I know! Starting out our top 5 being very controversial here. When Final Fantasy VIII came off the heels of Final Fantasy VII in 1999, people were very excited for the follow up to a very well designed game of its time. When people started to play, they were immediately taken back on the game’s battle system. The Junction system had taken some of the elements of previous Final Fantasy Battle Systems, except it now placed the player to micromanage each characters development to a pretty extensive degree. Players were required to “Draw” magic from enemies in order to user their saved magic against the enemy. GFs played an extensive role into how your character would be able to use the same drawn magic to increase their stats or place a status or element attack and/or protection on each character. It made it so each battle mattered and if your character was built correctly, you could create an ultimate warrior. The Junction system eventually did make a lot of sense as your stats were no longer character based or equipment based. It really gave you the most flexibly in any Final Fantasy game to date.
Had I written this article back in 1999, I probably would have placed this game as the worse battle system, however some things do get better with age (Final Fantasy VIII is kind of like fine wine). If you are interested and have the patience, give it a shot. If you are a returning player to this game, you might find the battle system less annoying this go around.
Number 4: Final Fantasy I: The Active Time Battle System
Pre-Battle Setup: Pick your characters job and equip them with various attack and defensive weapons/armor.
Overall Thoughts: The one that started it all. Final Fantasy I is the most basic and original form of the ATB system that all other Final Fantasies base their battle system around. Square Enix (Square at the time) hit RPG gold when they mastered this system. Square Enix developers today still consider it when developing each Final Fantasy game, whether it was used or not in the final product. Its most simplistic design carried a lot of strategic weight. How important was it to plan out your attacks, or should you use magic? Should I heal now or wait for my next turn? Final Fantasy I incorporated this all into its timed system. Not only is this a monumental step in Final Fantasy history, but changed the RPG landscape for all.
Number 3: Final Fantasy VII: The Materia System
Pre-Battle Setup: Each character must equip themselves with crystalized Mako called Materia. Characters were given standard attacks and were able to increase thier magical or elemental effects by being equiped with the Materia and gaining Action Points. As you gained higher levels, your Materia would grow and gain new abilities giving you the advantage in battle.
Battle: Uses the ATB system
Overall Thoughts: Noted as arguably one of the greatest Final Fantasy games of all time, Final Fantasy VII used the Materia system to grow your character to your choosing. Instead of pre-designed character traits, each character used Materia to learn any spell or enhanced ability. Players had to be careful, if you equipped too much magic based Materia, your physical stats would lower. I would also say Final Fantasy VII’s greatest strength is its ease of how the battle system works, making it easy to learn, but complex enough to enjoy.
Number 2: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (FF XIV 2.0)
Pre-Battle Setup: Pick which job you would like to play as, gain experience points through battles, fetch quests, story quests and arrange your actions.
Battle: Using typical MMOROPG action buttons when in range of your enemy.
Overall Thoughts: Final Fantasy’s second (or third iteration if you count the disastrous FF XIV 1.0) iteration of a number Final Fantasy MMORPG. What was really enjoyable about this system is not the fact that it breaks the genera in any form, but it takes all the elements of MMORPGs and Final Fantasy and enhances them to its fullest potential. While there are the traditional Final Fantasy jobs out there, the basic battle system game play revolves around the triad (Tank, DPS, and Healer). The battle system makes sure that each character must rely on the other to do their job functions to the best of their ability. The battle system is forgiving though, so if you have one of the triad not do their job, the other teammates should be able to pick up the slack (Though I would not make a habit of it)
Honorable Mentioned: Final Fantasy: Chrystal Chronicals: The Crystal Bearers and Dissidia: Final Fantasy
Another unique take on a Final Fantasy battle system and not a numbered Final Fantasy. Say what you will about the Wii’s controller scheme with this, but I found using telekinesis powers a fresh take on the tried and true battle system. In this Final Fantasy, you primarily use these powers to use objects and lock on to the enemy to defeat him. The system itself is simple to use and that can be its greatest strength.
I give credit to Dissidia: Final Fantasy as well since this was the first time a fighting battle system actually made sense. Flying around using limit breaks, slamming the enemy around can be a lot of fun.
Worse Battle System: Final Fantasy II’s Active Time Battle
Biggest issue is how each character develops. You lose attack power if you heal and you need to be hit in order to gain HP….You basically had no choice to attack yourself just to gain levels and fight. Felt a lot of unbalance between each character and mostly annoyances when playing each battle.
And now the moment you have been waiting for….
Number 1: Final Fantasy VI: Active Time Battle
Pre-Battle Setup: Each character has a unique job or skill. Enhancements come from using Espers and gaining thier magical abilities through Magicite.
Overall Thoughts: Yes! Final Fantasy VI is the most committed to its intricate battle system I have ever played in any Final Fantasy game to date It embodies the best ATB system in the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy VI does everything right. The battle system provides maximum flexibility as Espers can be connected to each character enhancing the base power, creating fantastic battles. The pace of each battle works well and feels right depending on each battle you are in. Regular battles have a good pace and are easy to fight while major boss battles are epic. Each combination of characters provides unique opportunities in order to finish your fight.
My name is Atma…… I am pure energy… and as ancient as the cosmos. Feeble creatures, GO!
― Atma Weapon
As we are waiting for the release of Final Fantasy XV…