The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Battle System – Riddles

FFXIIboxartRiddles’ Pick: Final Fantasy XII

I can feel the flames already, but I frankly don’t care. Final Fantasy XII is one of my all-time favorite RPGs, and one of the main reasons for that is its battle system.

Final Fantasy XII marked the first time in the series that encounters weren’t random. Enemies are clearly visible on-screen, and engaging in battle doesn’t take you out of exploration mode – it’s all seamless, and all beautiful. People compared it to Final Fantasy XI and other MMO battle systems, which is fairly justified, although it’s hardly “FFXI Offline.” Rather, it’s just a seamless, more streamlined version of the same ATB system we’ve enjoyed for years.

The reason why I love Final Fantasy XII’s battle system so much is because it removes all the clunkiness of a turn-based system, but retains all of the strategy. The Gambit system is still the best example of player-programming ever featured in a game; individual character strategies can be programmed in-depth, to the point where many normal encounters can be overcome by simply sitting back and watching the slaughter. Sound shallow? Well. Hardly more shallow than pressing the X button every couple of seconds, wouldn’t you say? Also, the fact that Gambits can be accessed and modified at any time – even during intense boss battles – makes them that much versatile.

But Final Fantasy XII’s battles also maintained this crucial aspect: the ability to issue commands to any character, at any time. If you don’t like how the tide of the battle is turning, not only can you adjust your gambits – you can step in and issue manual commands. And it’s an immediate override – anything you command takes precedence over gambits.  This is exactly what Final Fantasy XIII failed to implement in its super-streamlined, super-flashy encounters. Final Fantasy XII’s battle system is, and remains, the best of the series.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy X

I’m tempted to give this to Final Fantasy VII, but X barely outdoes it, in my opinion. The new ability to switch characters in and out on the fly, coupled with the heavy focus on specific battle roles resulted in some of the most rewarding, strategy-intensive I’ve ever fought. Without a doubt, the greatest take on the traditional turn-based model.

Dishonorable Mention: Final Fantasy XIII

I hate to seemingly strip Final Fantasy XIII of the one honor it has, but unfortunately, I only do what I must. Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system is extremely well-designed, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s very good at what it sets out to be, and it’s certainly not an entirely mindless affair. But despite that, it’s undeniably more shallow than its predecessors. The Paradigm system is cool, yes, but it’s just a very simplified version of Gambits. The inability to issue manual commands is sorely missed. Oh, and the fact that you can’t control who’s in your party for the first 30 hours or so doesn’t help its cause. Is it mindless? No. But it is very watered down.

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13 Responses to “The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Battle System – Riddles”

  1. SiliconNooB says:

    -So XIII’s battle system is worse than hitting yourself to grow stronger?

    -XII’s battlesystem is just too hands off for me, and the license grid is just too general. Almost, but not quite.

  2. Riddles says:

    Final Fantasy XII’s battlesystem is only as hands-off as you want it to be. That’s the beauty of it.

    The same can’t be said of Final Fantasy XIII.

  3. Ethos says:

    Bah-ha, you said it, SN. About XIII/II I mean. I’m more with Riddles about XII.

  4. SiliconNooB says:

    No, it doesn’t make proper accommodations for people who want a greater degree of input, XIII is much better in this respect. In XII there is no way to bring up the menu prompt automatically when your ATB is full, and bringing it up manually freezes gameplay which utterly ruins the gameplay experience, and obviously wasn’t designed with hands-on players in mind. The FFXII battle system is designed so that there’s no reason not to fully use the gambit system, and every reason to avoid regular manual input like the plague. If you play the game in a method other than it was designed towards, then you can look forward to enjoying a broken and disjointed experience. With a bit of tweaking it could have accommodated both play styles passing well, like I said, almost, but not quite …

  5. Ethos says:

    I dunno. You can choose to have the menus not freeze the gameplay, and still, gameplay typically freezes in FF games when you’re choosing spells anyway, so I don’t see the difference. I didn’t use gambits like crazy (mostly for healing), and I used manual input like crazy for the bosses. Still, the battle system does not crack my top three. I enjoy it. It suits the game. But I’m not in love with it.

  6. SiliconNooB says:

    The battles aren’t designed around manual input, and so having the menu freeze action makes battles drag on for far too long. This isn’t rocket surgery, there are some things that FFXII does well (macro) and some things it does poorly (micro), manual input is only there for emergency situations and only truly bloody minded individuals will suffer through the game fighting against using the system as it was intended.

    I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy the FFXII system in some capacity, there was something about the pacing that I found quite enjoyable, but it wasn’t as hands-on as I’d have liked. A good point of comparison for macro done right is DA:O, which had basically the same gambit system, but allowed you to map skills to the face buttons, it just gave that minute to minute input which gave the system broader appeal.

    Not saying I don’t like it (it isn’t FFVIII), it doesn’t do anything glaringly wrong or unpleasant, but it’s about a 7/10 for me because it doesn’t encourage interaction.

  7. Riddles says:

    Noob, I’m not sure what to say other than “You’re just plain wrong,” because you’re just plain wrong.

    As Ethos already said, you can set the game to remain in motion while the menus are up. The game even tells you this off the bat, if I recall. So that complaint of yours is entirely moot. I played the entire game in this mode; and it sounds like you didn’t, which is regrettable, because unless you’re a noob (pun intended?) it’s the only way to play.

    And how does XIII accommodate a greater degree of manual input when you can only directly control one character?

  8. SiliconNooB says:

    Oh? I’ll have to look into that. It’s still frustrating that your attack menu doesn’t pop up, but if you can keep time flowing than it would mitigate some of the clunkiness.

    -XIII is odd in that it has some very hands on macro. They aren’t just passive gambits that you leave running in the background, you change everyone’s job multiple times during a battle, which is the extent of your interaction with them.

  9. I’m overwhelmed by the strategy, the technology, the fitting-it-in across the rest of every thing else I need to do as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer in my business

  10. Andogo says:

    I’m not sure if that was spam or a comment on the license board and gambit system…

  11. ShatteredX says:

    did a google search for “final fantasy xii has the best battle system” and ended up here.

    I agree with Riddles completely about the FF12 battle system. It’s definitely the best in the series and it was the best thing about FF12, along with the great environments and music.

    FF13’s system is somewhat enjoyable but the re-introduction of the battle screen makes battling more of a chore and reduces immersion. I would pay big bucks to see another FF game (or any single player RPG) reuse the FF12 battle system.

  12. Ethos says:

    @ShatteredX – I love the battle screen, so I guess it’s a subjective thing there. Don’t get me wrong, though. I adore Final Fantasy XII and a big reason for that is the battle system.

    Glad you found Riddlethos, even if it’s been in a coma for a year!

  13. Ian Bathelt says:

    DOOD! I whole-heartedly agree. FFXII is one amazing piece of work as far as battle systems go. The story was okay, I must admit it was no Tactics or Vagrant Story…but still, the Judges are so ominous and foreboding. FFXII rocks! Anyone who doesn’t dig on the battle system, I think they just don’t have the level of intelligence to truly understand its’ greatness. It truly is great, I came across this gem of an editorial lamenting FFXII whilst playing FFXIII. I love all Final Fantasies, I’m just a Final Fantasy whore! But the true artistic style and grace and Yasumi Matsuno really is a marriage made in video game heaven, when he gets his hands on Final Fantasy. Just sayin’


    Ian Bathelt

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