Combats. Types of Combats

Turn-Based Combats
Strategical Combats
Adventure RPG's Combat
Strange Combat Systems


AND the light was made...

... and CRPGs appeared. In the start of everything, the combats were "I collide with you and i make damage to you", but then Richard Garriot and Japaneses appeared, and they changed the basis. We'll speak about Lord British (Richard) later, but this it is a section dedicated to the Japanes CRPGs.

About the first turn-based Japanese CRPGs games, We would not dare to give a date and a specific title. Although we can specify two games like the beginning of the actual CRPGs madness ^_^: Dragon Quest, of Enix, and Final Fantasy , of Squaresoft (and later Phantasy Star of Master System).

Dragon Quest 2 for MSX

Final Fantasy I for MSX

Both based their combat system on turns. In that combat style, the characters chose the action that they want to take (attack, magic, use an item or escape). The enemies made the same thing, and when all chose their actions, the computer solved the combats, according to a rigorous order of turns (first Rami, next Cockatrice, and at last Rui).

Now will comment the main characteristics of this combat system, and then we will expose the variants that exists (they are based mainly in how the combat is shown).

Characteristics of this system

The main characteristics of this combat system are exposed now. It would be necessary to comment that some characteristics can be "break", with the purposes of making a more interesting combat (p. e.g. distances):
  • The combat is based in turns. Each combatant chooses his/her/its action, and when all choose (OR immediately after one choose), Attacks are made. (Exceptions: The pseudo-real-time combat system at Final Fantasy saga)
  • Attacks have an order (first attacks Rami, second attacks Rui,...). That order is usually given by a characteristic (called speed or dexterity).
  • The characters (good people & bad guys) are at the same distance and face-to-face, so there is no malus for distance. (Exception: Characters at Short/Medium/Large distance)
  • The characters don't change their position (so they don`t move) during the combat.
  • The characters have a very high nº of HP (100-9999)
  • The final enemies have a quantity of HP higher than PC's (of the order of 10-100 times more).
  • The damage that a character does is much bigger that the one that an enemy does (except for special enemies).
Variant 1: Combat in front view without characters

This combat takes the following form: the enemies are a fixed graph, and our characters aren't shown on the screen. The graphic of the enemies is usually very big. When the enemies attacks/are_wounded/dies, shows a different graphic. The attacks are usually small animations, accompanied by flashes of lights and screen tremors (<= it happens a lot when they hurt us ^_^). The combat screen is usually black.

This combat type was used at the beginning in almost all the Japanese CRPGs for a very simple reason: There was not enough power to make it in another way ^_-. Examples of this combat type are the old games of Nintendo or MSX, such as Dragon Quest 1,2 (Enix), Dragon Slayer 6 (Falcom), Dragon Knight 1 and 2 (Elf), Cobra Mission (Ein?. Why is that game here ^_^?), and so many other...

Dragon Quest II for MSX

Dragon Quest I for SNES

In the millenium we're living now (2001), this combat type isn't lost.. It's programmed, mainly, in hentai games (Ashgald) or in CRPG's creation tools (RPG Maker, in its versions 95 and 2000), with very detailed (and enormous) graphics and with beautiful backgrounds.

Variant 2:Combats in lateral/front/isometrical/??? view with characters

This type is an extension of the variant 1, adding some differences (mainly thanks to the biggest calculation power). In this type, our characters are shown during the combat, and there is a different background for each combat, depending on the land in which the combat started. Also, an (physical or magical) attack implies a graphic of the PC/NPC attacking (sometimes, like in the Final Fantasy saga , the enemies don't move, giving to change a bigger detail in graphics).

In this variant the scenario simulates a three-dimensional environment, although the form in which the battle is presented varies a lot:
  • Front view: The characters are in the inferior part of the screen and the enemies in the superior part. As examples we can indicate the Phantasy Star saga for Megadrive (being Phantasy Star 4 the best exponent in this view according to our thoughs) and Lufia II, for SNES (also the RPG Maker 2000 allows to be included in this view with some programmer's work)

Phantasy Star IV for Genesis/Megadrive

Lufia II (Estpolis II) for SNES

  • Lateral view: The enemies are in the left side of the screen and the characters are in the right side. As examples we can indicate a great part of the games that Squaresoft made for the 8-16 bits consoles (Final Fantasy , Romancing Saga,...)

From Final Fantasy I for MSX...

...to Final Fantasy VI for SNES

  • Isometrical view: This view is the one that better imitates a 3D enviroment, since the combats are carried out in an isometric environment (The origins of isometrical views are in the game Knigth Lore, of Ultimate). As example, the saga Breath of Fire for SNES.

Breath of Fire II for SNES

  • ??? view: What is this?. The views that cannot be included in none of the previous variants. The main exponent is Chrono Trigger, of Squaresoft. In this game the combats take place in the same screen in which the characters walked (when an encounter with an enemy happens, characters prepares to battle and a turn-based combat begins without changing scenario).

Chrono Trigger for SNES

Variant 3: 3D Views

This is the most used variant now, for a simple reason: the power of the computers and the current consoles allow it. It has all the characteristics of the previous variants, but within an 3D environment (characters, enemies and scenarios are made with polygons). That means: camera rotations, any view, effects of lights and transparencies based on 3D technics,...wow..

In the first combats that used this variant (the first games for consoles with CD, as the Playstation), the combats adopted an 3D environment, but using 2D sprites. An example (and the best one for us) it's Suikoden II, of Konami..

Suikoden II (field mode) for PS

Suikoden II (battle mode, it's better than you think) for PS

But the main exponent and initiator of the 3D enviroments is Final Fantasy VII, of SquareSoft. Then, came (and will come) many more (Final Fantasy VIII and IX, Evolution, Grandia II, Phantasy Star Online,...)

Final Fantasy VIII (in a not very spectacular moment) for PC

Grandia II (in a more spectacular moment) for PC


At the start of this tutorial, we spoke of Lord British...

Ultima V (1988) (battle with rats) for PC

...and about Ultima saga. This saga (starting from Ultima I) was the first one (we believe) that presented a strategical combat system. In it, the characters combatted against the bad guys moving in a land (12x7 tiles (we think)). The distance and the position counted, so the strategic factor was the predominant one.

There's only a few Japanese CRPG's that used this type of combat (The Shinning Force saga, Bahamut Lagoon, and other few ones).

Characteristics of this system

The main characteristics of this combat system are exposed next.
  • The combat is turn-based (the same as in the previous combat type). Each combatant chooses his/her/its action and it's immediately done.
  • Attacks have an order (first attacks Rami, second attacks Rui,...). That order is usually given by a characteristic (called speed or dexterity).
  • The combat is carried out in a "board" that shows a land in particular.
  • The characters can move in that board, using movement points. The land usually influences in the movement capacity.
  • When attacking, the position and the distance are important (I cannot attack with a sword to somebody that is 3 tiles away, and I can't shoot anything that is not in my view).
  • The HP don't usually overcome 500 (10-500).
  • The enemies usually makes the same damage that the characters.
Examples of this system

Like we say before, they are very few Japanese CRPG's games that have adopted this combat system. One of them is the Shinning Force saga. This game was developed for Megadrive, Game Gear and Saturn, and it was between the strategy and the RPG, since their combats took place in the same zones, at certain moments.

Shinning Force II (Boy, it was a good strategical RPG...) for Genesis/Megadrive

Another of the games developed with this combat system was Bahamut Lagoon, of Squaresoft.

Bahamut Lagoon for SNES

We can see that this type of combat has been very little used in Japanese CRPG's. Maybe the biggest problem that suffers this type of combat is its duration: a combat can be very long (more than 10 minutes), and that can end up tiring players. One of the few games that joins strategic combat with a good relationship combat/duration is Buck Rogers, of SSI (it is not Japanese). Another is Emerald Dragon, but we will speak of this game at the end.

Where this combat type has been most used?. In the strategy games (of course ^_^). As the best saga in this type of games we could mention the Fire Emblem saga (joins strategic combats with some RPGs elements). We can also mention Dragon Knight IV, of Elf and Legend Of Langrisser saga.


Once upon a time there was a world named Hyrule...

...in that world lives a boy called Link, which always fights a guy named Ganon and tries to rescue a girl named Zelda.Well: Legend of Zelda has always been the banner of this combat type, but it was not the first one. Let's starts with the beginning...

Characteristics of this system

The main characteristics of this combat system are exposed next.
  • The combat is "arcade": The main character moves within the world, in it inhabits the bad guys, and the combat is done pushing keys (attacks - attacks - magic - run! - ...).
  • There's no group, only a main character (With exceptions: Seiken Densetsu Saga (Secret Of Mana) ).
  • The combat is carried out in the same place in which the character walks, except (sometimes) with the final enemies.
  • When attacking, position and distance are important (I harm more if I make a rear attack, I cannot hit with my sword to somebody that is too far of me).
  • Inflicted damage and received damage usually follows the rule of the turn-based combats.
  • There's only a few types of weapons and armors.
  • In many cases we have platforms (I jump here, I give tumbles over there,...).
Push means damage

In a principle this combat system followed this rule: when the combatants were pushed, was when the attack took place. There wasn't any element of platforms (machine can't give more!). An example of games using this primitive scheme are the Hydlide saga, of T&E Soft, and the Ys / Ancient Ys Vanished Omen Saga (MSX-NES-SNES-PC, Falcom).

Hydlide III (It is not "push-pop" but you can imagine it) for MSX

Hit means damage

...But things changed, programmers discovered that they could use more keys (^_-), and they began to put jump keys, attack keys, magic keys, etc, etc, etc. Also, with the step of the years (and the increase of the calculation power), the enemies adopted more AI and more attack methods, at the same time that the main character acquired more and more magic and more movements.

In 2D, the list of games that used this scheme were enormous: Legend of Zelda Saga (for NES and SNES), Neutopia Saga (PCEngine), XAK Saga (MSX, Microcabin), Seiken Densetsu / Secret of Mana Saga (Squaresoft), Alundra (Playstation),...

Legend of Zelda for SNES

Seiken Densetsu III for SNES

Also there were intents of using this system in isometric environments. The clearest examples in this field are LandStalker (developed for Megadrive) and LadyStalker (developed for SNES).

LadyStalker for SNES

And now, this genre continues very alive in 3D environments: Legend of Zelda(N64), Alundra II,...

Legend of Zelda, Wind Waker for GameBoy Color


Under this title there're some games that deserve to be commented separated for their combat systems.

Emerald Dragon

This game was developed by Glodia, in a principle for MSX, then for Turbo-Duo (PCEngine with CD) and then for SNES. Their combat system is certainly singular: It is based on the strategic combat, but with some particularities:
  • The only member of the group that is managed is the main character (Atrusyan), while the other ones are managed by the computer. The only thing that can be indicated is to who to attack.
  • The combat is carried out in a single screen.
  • The members of the group move in pixels, not in tiles.
  • The balance HP/Damage is special (more than strategic combat but less than turn-based combat)
  • If one of the characters dies, Game Over.
  • The Nº_Of_Figths/Time_Of_Fighting balance is one of the best we've ever seen.

Emerald Dragon for SNES

There's also a game that is very similar to Emerald Dragon, but with far more options : Treasure Hunter G.

Tales of Phantasia

This game (developed by Wolfteam although distributed by Namco, and according to our opinion the best CRPG made for SNES) has the combat system more, more, more,... curious of all the games we've seen. Uses an "arcade" scheme, but...
  • The combat is carried out in a special battle screen (like in turn-based combats).
  • There is not any element of platforms in the whole game (except for a couple of puzzles).
  • The characters can only move in horizontal address during the combat.
  • The characters can do special-movement attacks (like in Street Fighter) and also magical attacks.

Tales of Phantasia (The First battle...) for SNES

 Combats. Types of Combats

  • Derrick Sobodash: We're 2 years, late but we included your comments ^_-