The Linear Motion Battle System, or LMBS for short, is the name of the real time battle system that is distinctive to the Tales series. The LMBS is a series mainstay that has existed since the first game of the series, Tales of Phantasia, and it is considered to be one of the most recognizable aspects of the series as a whole. Most subsequent games follow some modification or expansion to the system, often adding a feature that makes movement and positioning during battle easier or more tactical.
The LMBS itself is defined as the system in which all characters can move throughout the battle field and interact with their allies and opponents during battle. The "linear" aspect of the system focuses on the idea that a character is always tied to a plane of movement that will allow him or her to move towards or away from the enemy in a straight line, enabling a style of gameplay that is reminiscent of early fighting games.
The LMBS only relates to movement and attack options during battle. All other aspects of battle gameplay, such as the passive skills that enable characters to use Over Limit or Accelerate Mode, or the mechanics which govern arte usage through Chain Capacity or Assault Counters, are considered to be the unique gameplay mechanics which are part of the games themselves. Similarly, the arte chaining mechanics are a separate system that is unique to each game. Each individual game has its own set of features which may be shared with other games, such as Unison Attack or Infinity Jam, but they are not involved in the linear motion patterns that define each battle system.
Appearances (Mothership Titles)
Tales of Phantasia and Tales of Destiny
The Linear Motion Battle System was first created for the original Super Famicom version of Tales of Phantasia. This game establishes the most basic backbone of the system, in which battles are fought on a single two-dimensional plane with enemies that act in real time. In this original version, only Cress Albane can be controlled by the player, and all of his artes require him to be at a specific distance from his target, "short" or "long", to enable their use.
Most of the other characters in the party are pure spellcasters, and all of their magical abilities stop the battle's progression of time while the spells are animated. Some other attacks which are not spells, such as Cress's Shuusouraizan and Shishisenkou, also freeze time for the duration of its animation. This break in the real time battle experience is known as "spell pause", and it could not be avoided by developers due to the stress of animation on older consoles such as the Super Famicom and Game Boy Advance.
The Enhanced Linear Motion Battle System (E-LMBS) of Tales of Destiny features a significant overhaul of the original battle system. While the basic premise of linear movement is the same, the arte range limitations are discarded, and an arte chaining system is put in place for all playable characters. While Stahn Aileron cannot be moved from the first player's position, all of the characters can be controlled after equipping the desired character with a "Channeling" accessory. The most basic spells of each element have been modified to remove the spell pause delay, allowing them to be used without interrupting the battle.
The remake of Tales of Phantasia for the PlayStation console, released soon afterwards, features many of the same changes to its battle system, also known by the same name. These changes persisted through all subsequent ports, excluding the more recent Tales of Phantasia: Cross Edition which modifies the system to fit a more modern style of gameplay.
Tales of Eternia
Similar to the battle systems of the earlier games, battles in Tales of Eternia take place on a two-dimensional plane. The Aggressive Linear Motion Battle System (A-LMBS) is the first LMBS to eliminate the spell pause limitation, providing completely free movement during spells. This enables characters to fight more aggressively by using spells as a means of continuing combos and supplementing damage, rather than using them as burst damage effects, allowing characters to keep enemies staggered and prevent retaliation through crowd control.
While the more powerful spells of the earlier games affected the entire visible screen and damaged all enemies that can be seen, Tales of Eternia reformats several spells to have a more reduced area of effect, in exchange for longer animations and higher hit counts. However, only one spell can be animated at any given time by either allies or enemies; when one spell is in progress, all other characters who are preparing spells must continue their casting animations until the preceeding spell is completed. This limits the effectiveness of having multiple spellcasters in the active battle party, but spells with long animations can be used to prevent some enemies from taking action while melee characters deal physical damage to the opponent.
Character sprites have been made more proportional, and their movement and attack speeds has been increased significantly. In addition to the redesign of spells to have more localized effects, this makes dodging and evasion more viable as a means of damage mitigation or prevention, adding to the fast-paced nature of the battle system.
Tales of Destiny 2
In Tales of Destiny 2, the Trust and Tactical Linear Motion Battle System (TT-LMBS) features a general gameplay redesign to encourage more tactical thinking and coordination with party members. Due to the presence of the SP gauge to act as a combo limiter, characters must rely on others to keep enemies locked in combos.
A new feature, in the form of a key item known as the "Moon Selector", enables the player to switch the character that is being controlled more easily through the battle menu, without having to modify the strategy positioning options in the middle of battle. This provides an easier way for players to switch between party members when the currently controlled character's SP gauge is near depletion, enabling the continuation of combos while the former character recovers.
Movement during battle is limited to the left side of the battle field up to the position of the first enemy. If any character moves behind enemy lines, that character suffers a penalty that doubles all SP costs for any action, limiting his or her capabilities significantly. A statistical disadvantage within the game causes the reduction of accuracy when using artes, making it likely for some enemies to break out of combos in the delay between each arte, so magic becomes a more reliable means of dealing damage.
Tales of Symphonia
The Multi Line Linear Motion Battle System (ML-LMBS) of Tales of Symphonia is the first to make use of a three-dimensional battle field. "Multiple lines" exist infinitely between a character and his or her target anywhere on the field, and the character can select a different target to move along a different line. This can be done multiple times to obtain the ideal position to launch attacks against any opponent. Any characters that are controlled by a player are limited to forward or backward movement, but both enemies and the computer-controlled allies can roam freely on the battle plane, a predecessor to the "Free Run" mechanic of future games. Battles are much wider and more open now that action is not confined to a single plane, so enemy encounter group sizes have been increased to provide more difficulty.
Guarding now plays a far more prominent role in this game. Damage is reduced to a greater degree while blocking than in other games. However, any enemy attack dealt from behind a defending character will trigger a "Guard Break" that leaves the character vulnerable for a short period of time. A "Guard Break" can also be enabled after being hit too many times from the front while guarding.
Tales of Rebirth
Tales of Rebirth returns to the two-dimensional style of battle gameplay, but with some modifications to the overall formula. The Three Line Linear Motion Battle System (3L-LMBS) features three parallel planes on which all allies and enemies are confined to movement, but anyone can move freely between each of these lines. This provides a literal new dimension for evasive tactics, enabling characters to simply sidestep an attack rather than being forced to guard or run away. This also makes it easier for characters to move behind their opponents and find a safe location to perform their attacks.
Several characters have artes that can damage enemies on multiple lines, and some artes can be used to push enemies onto a different line to force them into a more favorable arrangement.
Tales of Legendia
Despite fully three-dimensional character models, the Crossover Linear Motion Battle System (X-LMBS) of Tales of Legendia returns to the basic premise of the earlier sprite-based titles, with battles once again taking place on a single two-dimensional plane.
The term "crossover" comes from the fact that this battle system was designed with a crossover influence from the Tekken and Soul Calibur series of fighting game franchises also owned by Namco, influencing the throws and counters system that some characters have. One alternative application of the term applies to the modified "Dash" function that all characters have, which allows them to phase through an enemy quickly, allowing them to flank the enemy and strike from behind.
Tales of the Abyss
Tales of the Abyss is the second Tales game to feature a fully three-dimensional battle system, known as the Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System (FR-LMBS). This system provides an option that allows characters to roam freely throughout the battle field, activated by a player when holding down a button on the controller. This new movement option is known as "Free Run", and it enables characters to position themselves far more easily and intuitively for combat, or to quickly avoid most incoming attacks or spells. Characters cannot attack while Free Run is active, and the Free Run button must be released before engaging an enemy.
Upon canceling the Free Run action, characters are bound to a single line with their targeted enemy. Similar to Tales of Symphonia, characters can move forwards or backwards along this line, maintaining the "linear" aspect of the battle system.
Tales of Destiny (PlayStation 2)
The PlayStation 2 remake of Tales of Destiny features a new iteration of the two-dimensional battle system, the Aerial Linear Motion Battle System (AR-LMBS), which focuses on a previously unexplored dimension of battle through aerial combat. All allies and enemies have access to several artes which can be used while airborne, and combos can be initiated at any time without requiring the character to land on the ground like in previous games. Some attacks have modified animations while the character is in the air, such as Neppa Senpuujin and Gen'eijin.
While spells cannot be activated within the air, some spells can be altered while in the air during an active combo. This function is available to Stahn Aileron, and to Leon Magnus in the Director's Cut version of the game. These spells are activated instantly as physical attacks, but their damage formulas consider them to be fully magical for the purposes of damage resistance.
The upper boundary of the battle field is raised significantly, enabling characters to juggle their opponents or carry them high into the air. Falling damage is not implemented, but the Advanced Game option "Low Gravity" reduces the effects of gravity itself, reducing the falling speed of both enemies and allies to keep them in the air for a longer period of time, while also providing more time for characters on the ground to recover before an opponent lands and escapes the combo.
Tales of Innocence
Tales of Innocence features the Dimension Stride Linear Motion Battle System (DS-LMBS), which merges the dimensions explored within the battle systems of Tales of the Abyss and the PlayStation 2 remake of Tales of Destiny, into a unified system that enables three-dimensional battle with both Free Run and aerial combat. Characters can launch enemies into the air and keep them trapped in place while performing aerial-enabled attacks. The game also introduces a new means of switching between characters without opening the battle menu, providing for the press of a single button to switch control to the character in the next position to enable more varied and lengthy combos.
Tales of Vesperia
True to its name, the Evolved Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System (EFR-LMBS) of Tales of Vesperia is an enhancement of the Flex Range system used for Tales of the Abyss. Characters are now granted a single normal attack while Free Run is active, which automatically cancels Free Run to allow them to begin a traditional chain of attacks. Most characters are also granted the ability to use a few of their artes in midair after achieving mastery of those artes, though Judith is naturally gifted at aerial combat and must do the same to enable use of some of her artes while on the ground.
Tales of Hearts
In Tales of Hearts, the Combination Aerial Linear Motion Battle System (CNAR-LMBS) was created to provide a style of gameplay similar to the PlayStation 2 version of Tales of Destiny. However, this game enables characters who are not in the active battle party to take part in battle even from their reserve positions. The Connect Command panel allows players to add shortcuts to any arte that a reserve character has access to, and when those shortcuts are used in battle, the character appears to perform his or her selected action, supplementing the other party members for the duration of the attack. The focus on aerial combat is continued in this game, though characters who are summoned through Connect Command cannot fight in an aerial context.
Tales of Graces
The Style Shift Linear Motion Battle System (SS-LMBS) of Tales of Graces features a new method of positioning known as "Around Step", which allows characters to sidestep enemies in an incremental arc based on their distance from the enemy. Around Step is used as a very fast way to evade enemy attacks, also providing added benefits such as invulnerability frames when timed to the instant that enemies hit the character. This opens enemies to counterattack from their unguarded flank. The Free Run functionality exists within this game, but it now involves penalties such as draining Chain Capacity while active and requiring a delay before activation, specifically to encourage the use of Around Step.
In addition to this, the system is named after the Style Shift mechanics that all characters have access to, which separate their movelists into two separate groupings, "Alpha Style" and "Beta Style", alternatively known as "Artes Style" and "Burst Style" in the Japanese version. Characters can change freely between both styles to create more varied combos through the ability to access many more artes than in previous games, though the Beta Style for most characters is reserved for spellcasting abilities only.
Aerial combat is discarded for this game, and all artes can be used only if the character is on the ground. Some attacks involve jumping into the air, but the character must land before continuing his or her combo.
Tales of Xillia
Tales of Xillia uses Dual-Raid Linear Motion Battle System (DR-LMBS). Characters can freely chain regular attacks and TP-consuming artes together through the use of Assault Counter (AC) points. Furthermore, a new Link Mode feature allows for two party members to attack together and utilize powerful dual-character Link Artes. During Link Mode, both linked characters can use Overlimits.
Appearances (Escort Titles)
Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon
In the original Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon for the Game Boy Color, the Petit Linear Motion Battle System was created to try to replicate the traditional LMBS as much as possible through the limitations of the handheld console. This system follows a completely turn-based style of gameplay, but rather than selecting artes from a menu, players can choose to use shortcuts that are set to directional inputs similar to those used with the original Tales of Destiny. The player directly controls one of the three party members, but all charactes can be ordered to perform specific attacks or use items through the battle menu at any time, executing the action when their next turn occurs.
Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon 2 and Narikiri Dungeon 3
The Condensed Linear Motion Battle System of Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon 2 and Narikiri Dungeon 3 is a reprisal of the system used for Tales of Eternia, but with spell pause reintroduced due to the limitations of the console. Even item use and the most powerful attacks of some characters cause spell pause out of necessity.
Tales of Eternia Online
The Online Linear Motion Battle System (O-LMBS) is also a reprisal of the system of Tales of Eternia, more faithfully implemented by eliminating spell pause. Spells can be cast at the same time by multiple characters during battle, while more melee-inclined players can attack enemies while those spells are in effect.
Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology series
The Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology series features the same battle system introduced in Tales of the Abyss, the Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System (FR-LMBS), with its emphasis on Free Run. Characters from later games with aerial capabilities were stripped of those abilities to maintain game balance.
Tales of the Tempest
Similar to the system used in Tales of Rebirth, the 3-on-3 Linear Motion Battle System (3-on-3 LMBS) of Tales of the Tempest features three lines where allies and enemies can move freely to engage their opponents. This battle system features a means of attacking enemies on adjacent lines by turning to face them, and combos can be performed as in any other game while doing so.
The phrase "3-on-3" refers to the limitation of three allies and three enemies that can be in battle at one time, due to the unoptimized nature of game development on the Nintendo DS at the time. These restrictions were lifted when the engine used for Tales of Innocence was created.
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World
The Flex Range Element Enhanced Linear Motion Battle System (FREE-LMBS), used in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, is another expansion of the Flex Range system used in Tales of the Abyss and "enhanced" in Tales of Vesperia. This system is designed to allow elemental attacks of all types to have an impact on the battle field, changing the configuration of the Elemental Grid to enable different Unison Attack options. Like in Tales of Innocence, movement is extended to both Free Run along the ground and combat within the air, but only Emil Castagnier has the abilities that allow him to take advantage of aerial combat.