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Final Fantasy 9's battle system brings back a great deal of the old, and intertwines it with a great deal of the new. Many of the controls and battle sequences are very similar to previous games, though there is some variation.

Battle Controls

When in battle, a specific set of controls will do a specific set of things, different from that of the world map. These button configurations can be changed from within the options.

X * Confirm
O * Cancel
Triangle Switch to another party member, if their ATB guage is full
Square Hold down to clear menu
L1 / R1 Select single / multiple targets
L1 & R1 Flee
L2 Turn target menu on / off
Start Pause
Select Turn help on / off

Battle Information

Beginning Battle

Battles begin at random times on the world map. By running around from place to place, certain "random encounters" will force themselves upon you. Unlike Final Fantasy 8, monsters in specific areas are always the same level throughout the game (until Disc 4). The choice to fight these monsters or not is up to you.

Steiner and Zidane take on Plant Brain

When a random encounter or boss battle begins, a specific theme will begin playing. On most occasions, this theme will be the normal "random encounter" or "boss battle" theme. However, while in forests you may sometimes run across Friendly Monsters or the Ragtime Mouse. These creatures will not attack you. Instead, they will either begin a quiz event (Ragtime Mouse) or ask for a specific stone (Friendly Monsters). Taking part in their requested activities is beneficial in the long run.

Battles can begin in one of two ways: Either things are completely normal, or your party (or the enemy) are facing backwards. When your party (or the enemy) are facing backwards, this is called a back attack. Back attacks switch the row each of your party members are in (front to back, back to front), and halt your ATB guage for a short amount of time. If you run into a battle with a back attack, the first thing you should do is switch rows. This can be done by pressing the left directional button, and selecting "Switch". Alternately, if you have the Alert support node selected, you will not run into back attacks.

Once a character's ATB guage is filled, they can perform an action.

All about ATB
ATB (Active Time Battle) is a familiar system to Final Fantasy veterans. The ATB guage begins when the battle begins, and gradually extends to the very end of the bar. Once a character takes his / her turn, the ATB guage drops down to the beginning and starts over. Several factors can determine how fast or slow the ATB guage fills:

Status Effects

  • Slow will slow down your ATB guage.
  • Stop will halt your character, including his / her ATB guage.
  • Haste will speed up your ATB guage.
  • Petrify will freeze your character, including his / her ATB guage.
  • Sleep puts your character to sleep, and drops the ATB guage down to the beginning.

You can select a "type" of ATB from the config menu. Your options are:

  • Active: Always real time; the enemy can attack you while you choose a move.
  • Wait: The battle pauses while you choose a move. (Recommended for beginniners.)

Understanding the ATB is a vital component to winning battles! Keep an eye on each character's guage.

The battle begins

Once you're aware what enemy you will be fighting in a battle, it's worth coming up with a suitable battle plan to kill them. For example, if you have Dagger and Steiner and you're fighting a Crawler in Gargan Roo, it would be a worthy decision to have Steiner do the bulk of the attacking, and have Dagger heal and cast Protect. Having a good battle strategy is key to killing some of the harder enemies in the game.

As with enemies, when you're up against bosses it is absolutely essential to come prepared. Particularly in the beginning of the game when you don't have many spells, potions and phoenix downs are, quite literally, life-savers. Running low on HP? Need someone revived to help turn the tide? Just chuck a potion or Phoenix down and you'll most likely be set.

Zidane lays waste to the Sealion and Black Waltz #1

Combination of characters is also an important factor. For some of the game you will be forced upon specific characters (Treno, for example). However, in most other portions you will be able to choose your own characters. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses. If you value your party's life, however, we recommend you have at least one White Mage. The rest is completely up to you, and there's no "right party" for the job.

Last but most certainly not least, the row your characters are in is extremely important. Characters in the front row always deal more damage, but also take more damage from enemies. Characters in the back row, however, deal less damage and take less damage. It is, clearly, a good idea to keep Mages in the back row.

As far as damage goes, there are a number of different "text prompts" that can appear when you attack an enemy. A list can be seen below:

9999 HP Change
White numbers indicate damage.
Green numbers indicate HP recovery.
9999 MP MP Change
White numbers indicate loss.
Green numbers indicate MP recovery.
Miss Occurs when you miss.
Critical Occurs when you deal greater damage than usual.
Death Occurs when the attack KO'd the character / enemy.
Guard Occurs when the character / enemy resists the type of attack.

Damage can also be dealt by status effects. Please see the status effects page for more information.

Once all of the enemies are killed or have been inflicted with Stop or Petrify, the battle is over.

After battle

If you've successfully won the battle (if you didn't you'll get a "game over" screen), the trademark victory dance will happen and you'll be taken to a new screen. The first thing you'll see on this new screen will be the party members in your group, and an EXP count at the bottom. By pressing X (confirm), that EXP will pass over to your characters. At specific intervals, your characters will level up.

Levelling Up
Once your character reaches specific intervals in their EXP gain, they will "level up". Once a character levels up, their HP, MP and major stats (str, def, mdef...) will also rise slightly. If you find you're stuck on a certain battle, levelling up is a perfect way to get stronger.

After the EXP screen, another screen with the items / gil that your enemy / enemies had will appear. Pressing X (confirm) twice will speed through this screen.

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