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Active Time Battle

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The Active Time Battle gauges in Final Fantasy IX

The Active Time Battle (commonly abbreviated to ATB) is a battle system featured in several titles of the main Final Fantasy series. It was designed by Hiroyuki Ito, and was introduced in Final Fantasy IV. Its second appearance is in Final Fantasy V, which finalized the battle system by adding a time gauge for each party member. When a character's gauge is full, they are given a turn. Once the character performs an action, their gauge is emptied again and refills itself slowly. The order of each character's turn depends on which order their respective gauge is filled. The gauge is retained in all subsequent Final Fantasy games with an Active Time Battle system, except Final Fantasy X. Active Time Battles also appear in Chrono Trigger.

There are deciding factors for the speed in which the gauge is filled. Stronger abilities result in the gauge taking longer to refill than normal attacks. Other factors include how high a character's Speed stat is or the Battle Speed setting. If a character is under the effects of Slow, their gauge fills a lot slower, although Haste causes it to refill a lot quicker.

Another common element in the Active Time Battle system is how the battle started out initially. The first of these was the preemptive strike, which gives every party member a turn without interference from an enemy, meaning that their gauges are already filled up. The second was "Back attack", which gives the enemies a preemptive strike and causes the Active Time Battle gauge to fill slower for each party member during the first round. If an Active Time Battle system in the game allowed for characters to be in a front or back row, every character's row position was reversed (all front row characters were in the back, and vice versa). A third was side attack, which the player's characters were split up into two groups that attacked the enemy from both sides. Not only did the player gain an extra turn, but physical attacks do more damage if the player attacks an enemy that's facing away. The last one was "Pincer attack" or "Attack from both sides", in which the enemies face in different directions, giving them an advantage.

Both Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII use heavily modified versions of the Active Time Battle system.


Game Year Original system(s)
Final Fantasy IV 1991 Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Final Fantasy V 1992 Super Famicom
Final Fantasy VI 1994 Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Chrono Trigger 1995 Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Final Fantasy VII 1997 PlayStation
Final Fantasy VIII 1999 PlayStation
Final Fantasy IX 2000 PlayStation
Final Fantasy X-2 2003 PlayStation 2
Final Fantasy XII 2006 PlayStation 2
Final Fantasy XIII 2009 PlayStation 3, Xbox 360