Tag Archives: Active Time Battle

Press select to witness other events in Final Fantasy IX

ff9 ate no yummies impressions

As expected, I drifted away from Final Fantasy IX on disc two, like I always do, though I partially have a good reason: I moved. Like, physically, from one abode to another. That meant, for a few days or so, my PlayStation 2 was not hooked up to a television, packed away in some box that sat in a family of cluttered boxes, unable to differentiate itself to me. Hands down, that is a solid reason why I stopped playing; however, after hooking everything up, I still didn’t give it my undivided love and attention for over two months, mostly because I got stuck on the Soulcage boss at the Iifa Tree, and I was never seemingly in the mood to grind everyone up three or four levels.

The good news is that I finally showed the Soulcage who is the true boss, thanks to grinding while listening to a podcast and then spamming Bio and summoning Ramuh a few times. Now I can continue on in this fifteen-year-old RPG that I’ve never beaten. If you’re curious, I’m at the beginning of disc three currently, and it’s actually a miracle I made the leap from disc two. I may have talked about this before, but another common reason I often walked away from Final Fantasy IX as a young gaming lad was because my disc two is scratched or damaged internally, which causes the FMV to glitch out and, occasionally, freeze. The clips after you clear away the Mist from the Iifa Tree and Kaju and Garnet’s second mother duke it out certainly skipped and stuttered, but thankfully never locked up.

Anyways, originally, I opened this post with paragraph below, but it’s been in my drafts folder for so long I felt like I needed to explain–more to myself than y’all–why I’ve been so quiet on my quest to beat Final Fantasy IX in 2015.

This might be a bold claim, but I feel pretty safe in my assumptions: the stories told in Final Fantasy IX‘s Active Time Events are more enthralling than the main plot. The even crazier thing? They are entirely miss-able, though I do not suggest you miss any of ’em.

Commonly abbreviated to ATE in the same fashion that Active Time Battle is also referred to as ATB in any roleplaying game forum, Active Time Events is a system that gives the player the ability to view short, optional scenes in Final Fantasy IX that are happening at the same time, either nearby the main cast or elsewhere in the Mist-shrouded world. The system was created by Hiroyuki Ito, the game’s director, and, possibly next to the mechanic where you level up passive and active abilities to earn them permanently, this is my favorite aspect from 2000’s throw-back entry to the Final Fantasy series.

Unlike a number of other RPGs, when you often arrive in a town, the party splits up instead of walking around together in one long line like a bunch of children in school heading out for recess. This makes logical sense in a fantasy world where there is so much to see–Vivi wants to explore, Quina is in search of new cuisine to try, and Steiner must ensure there is no danger for the princess-in-hiding up ahead. So on and so on. You’ll mostly be in control of Zidane, moving from screen to screen, and as you do, ATE will activate, prompting you to view a side story scene by title only. These titles are generally a few words long, but intriguing nonetheless, such as “Do As I Say, Not As I Do,” “Dagger Tries,” and, of course, “No Yummy-Yummies!” Watch the scene and then get back to doing what you were originally doing.

Honestly, I can’t imagine someone playing Final Fantasy IX and not viewing these additional scenes. Sure, a few are goofy and less than vital, like the ones involving Moogles or NPCs you don’t really interact with much, but the majority are staggering in the amount of info and details they reveal. Such as when Dagger tries to learn how to speak like a commoner or Vivi’s quizzical time in the Black Mage Village. Without these moments, the greater impact of the main plotline, which is not all that moving, would be lost.

Final Fantasy IX‘s ATE scenes help reveal more about the game’s story and characters, especially its villains. Another bonus from watching these events unfold is that you’ll occasionally obtain items afterwards or see locations before you visit them. All you have to do is press select, and you’re in. I know I’m going to keep doing it until the credits roll.

Grinding Down’s Chrono Cross week – Battle and Elements

gd chrono cross week battle and elements

It’s a pretty close fight between music and the battle system for my favorite thing about Chrono Cross. It’s like deciding which is my favorite sushi roll, when really I’ll eat and enjoy just about anything rolled in rice. That said, I am partial to asparagus rolls as of late. Anyways, I’m not sure which has the sharper edge in Chrono Cross, but let’s muse about how the fights go for the time being. Tomorrow can be all about the tunes.

Battles are turn-based, unlike the previous Chrono Trigger, which was kind of turn-based, but also depended highly on a time counter to determine who could attack first or next. Think that was called the Active Time Battle. That made those fights tense and a fight for control, but things are much more lax in Chrono Cross. You can totally stay on a single menu screen for as long as you like, planning and plotting your next move until you actually do it. I’ve read this system shares some similarities to Xenogears, but I’ve never played that.

Basically, at the start of battle, every character begins with 7.0 Stamina points, which are used for attacking, defending, and using slotted Elements. There are three types of attacks–hard, medium, and light–and each attack costs 3.0, 2.0 and 1.0 points, respectively. You basically have to make the choice of using up more points for hard-hitting attacks with a smaller chance to hit versus weaker attacks that will definitely land more often than not. Making choices like these also builds up your Element meter, which determines what level spell you can cast. It’s a fantastic balance of strategy and risk/reward.

One of my favorite aspects of the combat system is that, after each battle is over, you can use any or all healing Elements to restore your team’s HP so long as you have enough stamina points left at the end of the fight. This made progressing a faster process as one did not always have to go into the menu after every fight and use a bunch of potions–Tablets, here–to get everyone back up to snuff.

Each Element spell comes with a number, like 1 plus or minus 7. Each vertical bar in a character’s Element grid represents one level of magic, with the column on the far left being Level 1. The number before the plus and minus sign is the preferred level for the spell to be equipped, and the number after the plus and minus sign is the range that spell can be equipped. If you end up equipping a  spell higher than the preferred Level, that spell will be more effective, doing more damage–and vice versa. A character can equip any color Element spell, even though each character focuses on a single Innate color. This only means that spells of the same color as the character will be more effective and others less so. That might have all sounded like crazy-speak, but it is quite easier to grasp once you begin slotting certain Elements on the grid and playing around with what to put where.

However, not every part of Chrono Cross‘ battle system is amazing. Their summon Elements, which brings forth a giant monster to do big damage to your opponent, which was all the rage in other RPGs at that time, like Final Fantasy VII and Legend of Dragoon, are not worth the effort. First, to be able to cast them, you have turn the whole field one single color and then still have enough time and points available to cast the summon Element, which usually is only slot-able in level 7 or 8, before an opponent casts a different color Element to squander your plans. I think I used FrogPrince once, and never bothered with any other summon Elements, as you really are better off just casting normal Elements. Another part of the battle system I could not grok was Traps, which are Elements that capture an enemy’s Element. However, this process was never a guarantee, and again, just like with summons, you are actually fine without them.

Evidently, there are combination attacks in Chrono Cross, but I never had one happen in all my hours battling PortalGheist and ShadowCats. Which is a shame as I enjoyed these greatly in Chrono Trigger. To do a combination attack, both–or maybe even all three–characters must have the required Element level, as well as at least one Stamina point available. After the attack, both techniques which make up the attack will be exhausted, though I don’t know what that actually means. Looking at a list, most of these combo attacks require LV 5 and special  LV 7 Elements, which is often late-game stuff and kind of a waste to even go after. Think this aspect could have been way better televised, but obviously these attacks are not vital in completing the game.

It’s a combat system of choices, most of which don’t matter when fighting the general enemies scattered across the map, but many boss fights require you to be heavily aware of what Elements you have slotted, their color, what types of attacks you should be doing, and when you need to conserve your levels for healing, reviving, or building up for a high-powered GravityBlow. It makes the longer battles more certainly interesting and remains one of my favorite combat systems in an RPG ever. I think Final Fantasy XII‘s is a close second, but that’s about it.