Final Fantasy XIII: Hands On Analysis Of The Battle System

By Spencer . April 24, 2009 . 2:41pm


I played through the 45 minute Final Fantasy XIII trial version too many times now. You can’t get a good feel of the story from it. All you see is Lightning and her magical blue aura (she snaps her fingers to engage it) beat up some soldiers and Snow playing the role of a hero. No kidding! Snow and the other members of Nora are quick to identify themselves as “heroes”. There is a conflict between the L’cie and the demo starts with a prison break inside Cocoon. It ends with a mother sacrificing her life to shoot down a flying ship and the rescued prisoners falling into an abyss. The mother, after pleading with Snow to look after her son, and Snow fall into the darkness too.


Walking around Cocoon is impressive. The scenery feels more alive, but similar to Final Fantasy X you’re stuck moving on a linear path with a few sparkling jump points. You can’t jump manually, but if you touch one of these Lightning or Snow leaps. Aside from being eye candy the demo is really designed to let players try out the new battle system.




Time Gauge System Basics

Final Fantasy XIII has a brand new battle system with visible enemies. If you touch one of them the game quickly transfers into a battle where the heroes stand on one side and the enemies are on the other. Surprise the enemies by sneaking behind them and they start in “break” status. Keep that term in mind. A meter similar to the active time gauge fills up, but this meter has three bars.


You can attack when the meter is 1/3 full by selecting fight, hitting X, and then triangle. Or you can select fight three times and wait for the meter to fill up completely before hitting triangle. The advantage to waiting is your attacks link up to a three hit combo. Each linked hit bumps up the bonus gauge which determines how much damage you deal. So, lets say your base damage is 100%. A three hit combo moves the bonus meter up to around 120% which gives the last hit, sword slash or spell, a nice damage boost.


A basic fire spell takes one of the three bars to cast. Firaga takes three, but has an area of effect. Enemies and player characters move on their own, sort of like Chrono Trigger. If you launch your spell at the right time you can hit a large group, if not all of the enemies, with Firaga or Blizzaga. You can also cast Cure, but since it’s in a separate menu you can’t make a fight -> cure -> fire combo. You can cast Cure three times, though. Other white magic spells will probably be grouped with Cure so you can decide if you want to do an offensive combo or a recovery combo.


Lightning and Snow have also have a launch move. Remember “break” status? When an enemy is flashing activate launch as your first move and you knock them in the air. Lightning leaps into the sky and dishes out two more attacks, providing you selected fight for your next two moves, and slams them back to the ground. Any enemy in the demo, regardless of size, can be launched. Even giant ones like the Behemoth boss at the end of Snow’s story.


You can launch an enemy anytime when they are in break status, but you want to launch them right away to maximize the amount of damage you do. However, if you try to launch an enemy when they aren’t in break status you do around 1/8 of your fight damage. This was probably designed to prevent players from always selecting launch instead of fight.


The demo only lets you control one character in each scenario. Lightning and Snow were playable while Sazh, Lightning’s ally, and the two members of team Nora were controlled by the computer. Supposedly, other characters can controlled in the final release.





A big change in Final Fantasy XIII is spells don’t consume MP. There isn’t any MP in the game! To counterbalance fire spamming, magic isn’t as powerful. Without the bonus meter, Fire does around 90 damage while fight does 115 damage.


This may be a demo thing, but you start every battle with full HP.


When you’re in the middle of a combo Lightning doesn’t stop. She keeps going even if a PSI-COM solider fades out of existence. That’s how they die. She hits air instead of automatically targeting another enemy. It’s interesting because Square Enix “fixed” the Final Fantasy 1 remakes to eliminate “wasted” attacks, but brought them back for Final Fantasy XIII.


Timing is very important, more so than any other Final Fantasy game ever released. Remember how Sazh and the members of Nora automatically attack? Those attacks also fuel the damage boosting bonus gauge. You want to time your attacks so they fill gaps when your partners aren’t attacking to keep the bonus gauge going.


Some enemy attacks can cancel your attacks. A few machine gun rounds won’t stop Lightning, but running headfirst into a laser blast will cancel her move. I’m still not sure if the opposite works. In Snow’s scenario there are these dog beasts that run up before scratching Lebreau in the gut. Sometimes it feels like I can cancel their moves by executing a combo right when they start dashing. However, timing is really tricky since the distance between you and the attacking dog is never the same. Your characters move around too and make dodging motions, which are just for show.


Snow vs. Lightning

Lightning has a sword and fire spells. Snow attacks with his fists and blizzard spells.


One disadvantage Snow has is he cannot air juggle enemies like Lightning. If you launch an enemy with Snow his two other attacks are blizzard spells which aren’t granted air juggle bonus damage. If you do a launch -> fire -> fire combo with Lightning her fire spells don’t get the air juggle bonus damage benefit either.



These are my impressions of Final Fantasy XIII. Soon someone else will have the demo and a copy of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete. We’re going to give away one copy of the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete + Final Fantasy XIII trial set on Siliconera. Since the PS3 is region free this will be a worldwide contest. And yes, despite being in Japanese Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete has English voice acting. Stay tuned!

Read more stories about & & & & & & on Siliconera.

  • jumalo

    OmG… so excited about this, the new battle system seems great.. too bad a PS3 its almost impossible to buy here where I live.. Damn Argentina :(

    • blueblaze64

      i live in Buenos Aires and i have a PS3, but yeah ur right almost impossible to get one:3

      • jumalo

        I live in mendoza! Its even harder!!! :(

  • CleruTesh

    Don’t get me excited about this game. I just can’t take the wait. There is no Final Fantasy 13.
    Oh man, the “bonus” gague makes me think of Atelier, while the ability to get a jump on enemies by sneaking behind them like Persona (Many others had similar, but Persona did it best, about time FF adopted a similar system, random battles are SO 10 years ago!) While launching enemies makes me think Shadow Hearts. Sounds like a “Best Of…” for their battle system. I am really getting psyched about this game. Dammit.

  • Raccoon

    Hey Spencer, thank you for your impressions. Regarding the “wasted attacks” in the demo, where the characters just attack the air if the enemy is already killed but the combo isn’t finished yet (much like in the original versions of the first two games in the series): In a recent interview Toriyama Motomu, the director of the game, confirmed that this will be corrected in the final version of Final Fantasy XIII. Or at least I think this is what he meant ^^

  • Aoshi00

    Great write up, sounds like the battle system from Xenosaga, that’s the impression that I got from watching the demo video clips online. I don’t mind it feeling like FFX at all since XI was online and XII was not my cup of tea at all.

    So the Jpn ACC Blu-ray movie does come w/ English subtitles? I thought of importing it several times but decided against it because I thought it only has Jpn subtitles, at least that’s what the spec says everywhere. If it indeed has both Jpn & Eng sub, then the higher price would be justified since the US ver will lack Jpn sub. I hope I have a shot in this contest!

    I’m very excited about this game too and can’t wait either (I know I said they should take all the time to polish it). Since this is a very incomplete preliminary demo, there’s much room to improved when the final version comes out. Didn’t they give a list of difference that would appear in the final game, like adding fanfare music, etc. I’m sure they would take out something as stupid as a character hitting and kicking air at the end.

    • CleruTesh

      I loved FFX! I thought the skill system and combat system were both the very best in the series.
      The only things I didn’t like about it were the ending, and worse yet, the sequel.
      Oh, and the airship.
      I mean, seriously, bring back airships!
      The feeling of flying around the world when you get your airship used to be a climactic, euphoric moment for FF games. I really hate having your airship be nothing more than a menu screen.

      • Aoshi00

        Hm.. I like FFX’s ending like that, I guess it might not be the most satisfying to some, but it was quite moving if anything, I’m a sucker for romance. Yeah, the path was pretty linear but I didn’t mind it that much. I know what you mean, back in the PS era, you achieve a milstone by getting the airship in disc 2 then go onto disc 3. As for the map thing, nothing was more annoying than Last Remnant, each area was so small and there were all just points even within a city.

        I’m actually okay w/ X-2 as its battle system was fast and furious. I would prefer they didn’t mess w/ the world of Spira anymore, but when you think about it changes were bound to take place once Sin is gone, the people there won’t just live happily ever after just like the real world. The chick trio might be a bit dramatic to get used to.

        Anyway, FF XIII finally seems like a major comeback to me for the series. Great music, chars, story, setting, and a good turn-based system, yep :)!

        • CleruTesh

          Well, I spent all of FFX trying to avoid the freaky-eyed heroine and persue the hot goth chick.
          Then I find out, as soon as I disappear, she hooks up with the goofy volleyball dude?
          That was when I stopped playing X-2.
          Aside from that, it was a bit estrogen-heavy to begin with. Magical dresses? Going all Sailor Moon in battles? I dunno, I just didn’t get it.

  • QBasic

    ACC has english subtitles? :O There’s a surprise, contrary to product pages. :D

    But…eh…45 minutes? Wasn’t this supposed to be like…2 hours? Then an hour an twenty minutes…? Then, 45…? =/

    • Aoshi00

      I think Spence meant the demo is 45 mins. The movie has around 25 mins of addt’l footage added to the original one, and scenes and dialogue have been rearranged. There’s also an anime OVA for Denzel. I heard both him and the girl have been re-voiced, which is great, since I couldn’t stand the amateur kid actors in the original movie (like all the late Miyazaki movies..)

    • Sorry! I meant voice acting for ACC. You can run through the demo in way less than an hour. If you skip cutscenes and so forth it’s a short experience.

      • Pichi

        Thanks for confirming! I like the English VA, so I’m still going for it!

  • Pichi

    I heard that there was only Japanese subs. If its truly confirmed, I’m going for the contest!

  • Ooh, contest =)

  • RayFoxSith

    I want that demo. >.>

  • Trickless

    Regarding your character hitting thin air after an enemy dies, there are two ways to avoid this:

    A) Cancel out your combo by pressing X
    B) Don’t use a 3 hit combo. You can see your enemies HP, which should give you a general idea the damage you need to give out.

    Personally I reckon they should keep it so characters can hit thin air, it’ll add a bit of strategy and thinking, rather than just the mindless ‘Attack’->’Attack’->’Attack’ combo fest.

    I’m interested in how they plan on manually controlling other characters, because the action is so much faster compared to the previous games. Gambits, anyone?

  • Nobitakun

    Emm well, I’m just thinking about a mix of Valkyrie Profile and Grandia…plus a battle gauge like Final Fantasy X-2 with mixes of hit and magic combos in a row like Breath of Fire 4…is it just my imagination? LOOL…

    Let’s see if the game deserves the hype currently have ALL Final Fantasy new chapters…

  • Nobitakun

    Emm well, I’m just thinking about a mix of Valkyrie Profile and Grandia…plus a battle gauge like Final Fantasy X-2 with mixes of hit and magic combos in a row like Breath of Fire 4…is it just my imagination? LOOL…

    Let’s see if the game deserves the hype currently have ALL Final Fantasy new chapters…

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos