One of my earlier blog posts back in 2006 complained about playing Final Fantasy IX and being unable to have my white mage shell up the entire team. Before she could cast shell on the third guy it had worn off of the first. Spending an action to halve the damage taken by 25% of my team for 2 turns is not a very good use of time. Chance are pretty good that the enemy won't even attack someone with shell on them! I noticed the same thing this time when I decided to try out Bungo's vanish blue magic spell. By the time it was his turn again the spell had already worn off! This sucks!
The problem comes down, unfortunately, to the ATB combat system. Time passes even while inputting commands for your characters and that includes the time for buff duration. It's actually a pretty frustrating system. The enemies don't seem to obey quite the same ATB rules and it definitely feels like they get to go way more often than they should. Probably because of how long my team spends with a full bar waiting patiently for their turn to resolve an inputted command! While their limited duration buffs tick away!
When I was reading the 'all the things' guide on gamefaqs one of the things that stood out for me was their strategy for gaining levels once they had the best stat boosting gear. They listed four characters and the actions they needed to be taking in order to win quickly. One of the four people's job was to do nothing. Any time any action was resolving on screen that character's job was to open the item menu which would pause the ATB system. It wouldn't pause the game so the long animation attack would keep resolving but the enemies wouldn't get to ready up attacks in the meantime. That this exists as an optimal strategy is stupid and I really want to play a game with a better system. FFX! You need to come out soon!
There is another way to abuse the ATB system which was pointed out to me by Dave. One of the things that keeps ticking as a long animation is played is the regen spell. He pointed out that the final boss actually couldn't possibly kill him when he had an item equipped that provided regen automatically. The time spent casting a spell would give enough time for regen to completely heal the damage done by the previous spell!
I did some poking around on the internet to find some of the formulas used for these things. The shell spell lasts for 360*spirit*4/14 ticks and the vanish spell lasts for 240*spirit*4/14 ticks. I get an action every (60-speed)*160/14 ticks. At least right now speed and spirit have similar values for each character with Bungo having about 15 of each. So vanish on Bungo would last 1028 ticks and if no time was ever wasted he'd get an action 514 ticks. That it wore off before he got a second action means I'm wasting at least half of my time! But it also means that even with optimal time use he'd only ever be able to have it up on two people at once. As we level up those stats should approach more like 50 each, so vanish would last 3428 ticks and Bungo would get an action every 114 ticks. That seems like maybe it would let him vanish up the whole team! Especially if I was abusing the item menu thing to keep it from ticking away during animations.
How about regen? It restores 1/16th of your max health every (60-spirit)*40*4/14 ticks. So it procs once per action if you have equivalent spirit and speed and no wasted time. With wasted time it'll proc over and over again. At max spirit (which is 50) it'd restore 1/16th of your max health every 114 ticks. With some of the lengthy attack animations that exist in games like this I can really see how that could make one completely invincible to anything except immediately lethal damage!