Final Fantasy VII

Hey, Square-Enix! Can You Please Bring Back The ATB System?

Final Fantasy has changed their combat system numerous times. Victor takes a fond look back at the best battle system of them all, the Active Time Battle system. 


Like most gamers my age, Final Fantasy VII was my first introduction to JRPGs. That game definitely made a huge impression on me. The characters were vibrant and unique (well, before we knew they were JRPG tropes). The graphics were gorgeous (for their time). And the music was brilliant (even though… well, I can’t say anything bad about the music).

The thing I absolutely loved about Final Fantasy VII was the Active Time Battle system, or ATB for short. It wasn’t the regular turn-based system I was used to. You couldn’t take the time to plan out your attacks like before because your enemies will attack you when they can. Every encounter was exciting and tense. It brought a sense of urgency to combat. It was the battle system used from Final Fantasy IV to Final Fantasy IX.

Final Fantasy XBut, in Final Fantasy X, Square-Enix decided to mess with the formula and released the game with the Conditional Turn-Based System (CBT). The system was a departure from the ATB. For me, each random encounter didn’t feel as exciting as a result. The same can be said for the succeeding entries of the series that didn’t use the ATB system.

For those that don’t know how the original ATB system worked, here’s a quick explanation. When you get sucked into a random encounter of battle, each character has his/her own ATB gauge that has to fill up before that character can perform an action. Once you commit to an action, the ATB gauge is emptied and the cycle repeats. Now, how fast the meter fills is dependent on each characters’ Dexterity or Agility stat. So, it’s possible for one party member to get off 3 actions before the other even get to perform one.

What made me like this system a lot was the different strategies you can employ! You can simply mash out attacks once you’re able to do so for easy battles. For boss battles, you can leave your ATB gauges filled for your entire party so that you can quickly heal once your opponent unleashes a powerful attack. I loved the fact you can always have to make quick decisions on how to use each characters turn because of this battle system.

I felt the other battle systems of the newer Final Fantasy games don’t match up to the ATB. Final Fantasy X‘s CBT was more of a one-sided turn based system. Final Fantasy XIII Command Synergy Battle (CSB) is probably the worst battle system the series ever produced since you only control the actions of one player!

Final Fantasy XIIThe Active Dimension Battle (ADB) of Final Fantasy XII seemed to be the one that closely follows ATB and it should have been great… except for one flaw. Although all of your party members can more around freely (instead of sticking to one side of the screen), you can only control the Party Leader. I always felt a sort of disconnect with my other party members because of this. Also, the screen can get busy will all those lines sprouting out from the different characters! It just looks… messy.

Actually, it seems like Square Enix is slowly making each installment of their flagship franchise like this. Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns, is a solo adventure so you can concentrate on just performing straight up attacks. The upcoming Final Fantasy XV‘s battle system seems to be more like a Kingdom Hearts game rather than a regular RPG.

I guess this is the current trend now. And I don’t really like it. I will keep on playing these new installments of Final Fantasy because they are great games for the most part. But it doesn’t mean I won’t complain about this new direction.

Square Enix, I’m pleading with you: please bring back the ATB system. It may seem antiquated to you but it was one of the reason why I loved Final Fantasy in the first place.

Published by

Victor de la Cruz

Most of my childhood (and adult life) was spent doing a lot of geeky stuff: watching TV, playing video games and going to the movies. To some, it may have been a waste of time. Well, to me, it has made me what I am today... a geeky adult.

  • I personally thought that Final Fantasy X-2 had the best realized ATB system. The game had faults, but damn was that combat smooth.

    • Actually, I forgot FF X-2 used the ATB system. I guess it was overshadowed by the Dress Sphere system it employed.

      Makes me wonder how fluid the ATB system would be on PS4 and Xbox One.

  • Hear! Hear! I love pointing out that RPG combat has never improved upon the ATB systems of FFIV and Chrono Trigger. FFIV in particular had soooooo much depth to it because spells took different amounts of time to cast and elemental effects have never beeen used as well either. I’m all for changing things up, but at this point I think I’d very much like for FF to return to its roots. I’ll get Lightnign Returns at some point, but not until it’s cheaper. The fact I didn’t preorder a new Final Fantasy game is a really terrible sign for Square Enix.

    • I’m pretty much in the same boat as you. Final Fantasy has turned more into an action RPG. This is sad because I think it also alienates longtime fans of the series who grew up with the “traditional” battle systems.

      Come to think of it, I haven’t even gotten Final Fantasy XIII-2 yet!

      • FFXIII-2 is not nearly as good as its predecessor, so think on that for a second before you bother with it. It has its good points like creative use of time travel and some sweet death metal in the soundtrack, but the battle system that relies heavily on a triangular assault isn’t very fun with only two characters in your party (the third being filled by random monsters you collect that have limited abilities). I wish I’d waited until the price went down because it took a nosedive and only a few months after release it was like $15-20.

        • So, let me get this straight…

          Final Fantasy XIII-1 = Three party members during combat
          Final Fantasy XIII-2 = Two party members (and one random monster you captured)
          Final Fantasy XIII-3 = One party member (just Lightning with a lot of “costumes”)

          I’m guessing if they make Final Fantasy XIII-4, there would be ZERO party members then!

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