Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Final Fantasy VIII: Limit Break Absurdity

The limit break system in the Final Fantasy series debuted in Final Fantasy VI. In that game you had a very small chance, upon issuing an attack command at low health, to do a super attack. You could only do one per fight, and it really wasn't worth trying. Most enemies died in one hit anyway, two at the most, so trying to do a 20x damage hit just didn't have a lot of upside. Enemies also did lots of damage back, so running around at low health was just asking to get killed.

Final Fantasy VII improved on the system. Now you have a meter that charges up when you take damage. When the meter fills up your next attack command is replaced by a super attack. Enemies, especially bosses, tended to have more health relative to your normal damage output so doing a limit break felt like it mattered more often. There was an interesting system where you had to use a limit break a bunch to unlock a more powerful one. You'd need to take more damage to fill the bar on the better limit breaks. It felt like a reasonable way to dish out powerful attacks on a reasonably infrequent basis.

Final Fantasy VIII has a twist on the system, and it's not exactly a good one. FFVIII decided to ramp up health on both players and monsters while ramping down damage. Fights take longer, and as a result are more tactical. It also means you can afford to stand around drawing 300 of every spell without worrying about getting killed. Coupling extra health with lowered damage means getting a limit break is a huge deal. Zell in particular can expect to do almost 40x as much damage with his limit break compared to a regular attack. Man, I sure want to do one of those! FFVIII got rid of the meter system from FFVII and went back to the system from FFVI where you have a chance, when low on health, to do a limit break. The difference is that while you needed to enter an attack command in FFVI and hope here in FFVIII you get told when the menu pops up if you got lucky or not. So you can limit break when it pops up, or do something else when it doesn't. Draw some spells, cast something... Or pass your turn.

Yes, that's right. You can do nothing at all and let the next person in line take a turn. If the rest of your party isn't ready to act the next person in line will, in fact, be you again. And you'll get another chance at having your limit break spawn. So you can actually, quite reasonably, have every action you take be a limit break. Zell has done almost all of the damage in every fight I've had for quite some time, pretty much all with his limit break. There's not even much risk to hanging out at low health in FFVIII since you can junction an awesome spell to your maximum health. Zell gets to limit break with more health than a character without HP-Junction would have! And since Rinoa is running that much health, and staying at full, there's no real risk of a wipe even if Zell somehow dies. She'll just cast life on him and he'll go back to punching the enemy.

It almost feels like cheating to do this, but the enemies have so much health and regular attacks do such a small amount of damage that it would take forever to kill them without using limit breaks. I feel like maybe the game designers gave the enemies more health because of the way you can limit break so often. Or maybe they let you limit break so often to allow people to beat their enemies with so much health. The only thing that seems really silly is the fastest way to win a fight when I start at full is to beat up Zell instead of the enemy!

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