AI FAQ by blackfeather_58

Version 1.3, Last Updated 2010-06-08

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) FAQ

by blackfeather_58

v1.3

Copyright 2009-2010 blackfeather_58

All trademarks and copyrights contained in this document are owned by their respective trademark and copyright holders.

This may be not be reproduced under any circumstances except for personal, private use. It may not be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed publicly without advance written permission. Use of this guide on any other web site or as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a violation of copyright.

"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."

Sun Tzu

Having a basic understanding of the AI is one of the most valuable tools for a player who wishes to improve on their or explore other play-styles, as this knowledge can be used to make accurate predictions on the behaviour of both allies and enemies. Instead of always reacting to events that occur in battle, the player can take preemptive action or to manipulate the AI to behave in a way that would be advantageous to the player. This guide will cover the observed behavioural patterns of both ally and enemy AI, and discuss possible methods of using this to the player's advantage.

Note

The testing of the AI was done on the PAL release of this game - if you have the PAL version as well and would like to dispute my results, then please feel free to do so. As for those with the NTSC version... there are known to be differences between the two.

Acknowledgement

All the NTSC version-specific information of the game was provided to me by MetalGearSolidBoy.

2.1. For fighters

The following is a list of the settings available to fighters (Albel, Cliff, Fayt, Maria, Mirage, Nel, Peppita and Roger) under AI control and what each does:

2.1.1. Attack enemy with all your might!

Self-preservation is disregarded. There is no Fury conservation.

2.1.2. Act in a well-balanced manner!

Self-preservation is considered. The AI will stop attacking when Fury is 25% or below.

2.1.3. Conserve Fury!

The AI will stop attacking when Fury is 60% or below.

2.1.4. Focus your attack!

The AI will stop attacking when Fury is 25% or below.

2.1.5. Don't use coups de grace!

The AI will not activate any battle skills. In addition, the AI will not activate normal attacks when Fury is 40% or below and will stop the continuation of continuous attacks when Fury is 25% or below.

2.1.6. Do nothing!

The character can only be manually controlled by the player.

2.2. For mages

The following is a list of the settings available to mages (Adray and Sophia) under AI control and what each does:

2.2.1. Act in a well-balanced manner!

A mix of "Support your party!" and "Concentrate on attacking!".

2.2.2. Concentrate on healing/recovery!

Battle Skills are given priority.

2.2.3. Concentrate on attacking! Priority is given to casting offensive symbology.

2.2.4. Support your party!

Priority is given to casting stat-enhancement symbology.

2.2.5. Don't use symbology!

The AI will not cast any symbology or activate any battle skills. In addition, the AI will not activate normal attacks when Fury is 40% or below.

2.2.6. Do Nothing!

The character can only be manually controlled by the player.

The best AI tactics to use

"Attack enemy with all your might!" for fighters.

"Concentrate on healing/recovery" for mages.

"Do nothing!" is for players who wish to micro-manage their entire active party.

3. AI LEVELS (ATTACK and DEFENSE)

These determine how effective the character will be when under AI control. "Attack" governs how good the AI will be at attacking and "Defense" governs how good the AI will be at self-preservation. Higher Attack levels will allow the AI to perform cancels reliably, and higher Defense levels will allow the AI to perform sidesteps and more accurately judge the need for self-perservation.

Having unbalanced levels will encourage the AI to behave in such a way as to reflect the AI level that is signficantly higher. If a character's Attack is maxed out (lvl 10) and has no SP invested in Defense, then said character will be aggresive under AI control in battle, with little to no competence in self-preservation. The opposite occurs when SP is invested into only Defense - the AI controlled character will be incompetent at attacking.

SP investment tips

It is recommended that Attack and Defense are leveled up evenly, with Attack first. For a character under AI control, the AI levels are the most important aspects to invest SP into - HP and MP are secondary. Since the AI tends to be fairly consistent and reliable into their performance when their AI levels are at lvl 4 or higher, it would be more advantageous overall to invest SP into HP and MP when both AI levels are at lvl 4. By functioning better, characters under AI control will survive longer by being hit less. This is more effective than just by being able to take a few more hits if HP/MP was leveled.

To get optimal AI performance, both Attack and Defense needs to be maxed out (lvl 10). As such, it is not possible to permanently mess up the AI of any party member.

The following is a basic description of what can be expected at these Attack and Defense levels:

Attack = 1, Defense = 1

The AI is capable of targetting downed enemies and executing attacks while the target is downed. The AI will not cancel attacks. The AI will not use side-steps or flee when near death.

Attack = 2, Defense = 2

More or less the same as previous. The AI is capable of obtaining a cancel bonus of 175%, but the occurence is relatively low.

Attack = 3, Defense = 3

The AI is incapable of targetting downed enemies and executing attacks while the target is downed. The AI is capable of canceling attacks. Use of side-steps possible.

Attack = 4, Defense = 4

More or less the same as previous, but more reliable. Refer to section "9. CANCELING BATTLE SKILLS" for more information.

4. SELF-PRESERVATION

When the AI determines that the character that it is controlling is near death, then it will try to keep said character alive by avoiding the enemies. This will result in either the character remaining stationary at long range to the enemies or running around the field.

Early on in the game when the characters have low AI levels, the AI may end up perceiving itself to be near MP death and focus on self-perservation when the character's Max HP:Max MP ratio is quite high. This is one of the reasons why it is recommended to invest SP into Attack and Defense first as opposed to HP and MP.

If the AI attempts self-preservation during battle and you find it undesirable, then the following is a list of possible fixes (both in-battle and out-of-batle):

  1. Restore the character's HP and/or MP. This should be done if the reason for self-preservation is apparent.
  2. Switch to a more aggressive AI Tactic. "Attack enemy with all your might!" for fighters and "Concentrate on healing/recovery!" for mages.
  3. Switch control to the aforementioned character and input a command to use a normal attack. This should reset the AI and may get it fighting again if the reason for self-preservation is not apparent.
  4. Balance the HP and MP levels of the character. The level of MP should not be below that of HP. This can only be done out of battle though.
  5. Balance and then raise the Attack and Defense levels of the character. The level of Attack should not be below that of Defense. This can only be done out of battle though, and may take several level-ups to rectify.

5. DETERMINING A TARGET FOR ATTACK

The observed behavioural traits of AI with respect to how they find their targets are as follows:

5.1. Both ally and enemy AI are capable of finding a suitable target during their own stationary animation.

5.2. Enemy AI are capable of finding a suitable target during their running animation.

5.3. Both ally and enemy AI are incapable of targetting those that are lying on the ground, though they are still capable of targetting those in the downed animation.

5.4. Ally AI are incapable of targeting those that are running.

5.5. Ally AI are incapable of targetting those that are in their attack animations.

5.6. With the exception of petrification, ally AI is incapable of targetting enemies rendered immobile by status ailments not inflicted by said AI.

5.7. With the exception of petrification, enemy AI is capable of targetting party members rendered immobile by status ailments.

5.8. Priority is given to potential targets that are casting symbology.

As a result of observations 5.3, 5.4, and 5.5, the conclusion is that the ally AI can only target something that is either in its stationary animation or casting animation.

The following are observed enemy AI behavioural traits that are observed in specific game difficulties: 5.9.1. In Galaxy difficulty, enemy AI are capable of targeting those that are running.

5.9.2. In 4-D difficulty, enemy AI are incapable of targeting those that are running.

5.10.1. In Galaxy difficulty, enemy AI are capable of targeting those that are in their attack animations.

5.10.2. In 4-D difficulty, enemy AI are incapable of targetting those that are in their attack animations.

If the AI is unable to find a target then they will stand still and do nothing if there is no other action that they can take. This doesn't happen with enemy AI in lower difficulties because remaining stationary and moving aimlessly are apparently valid actions that they can take anytime (attacking is not a priority for them). =-=

This is the reason why the AI may sometimes seem like that they are waiting for the opponent to trigger an AAA. Neither ally or enemy AI are capable of actively waiting to replenish Fury back to 100%. The closest you can get are enemy AI on lower difficulty where they remain stationary, but the fact that they will continue to do so even after Fury has long been replenished implies that Fury is not the reason for their actions.

In higher difficulties, the enemy AI becomes more aggressive and will almost always focus on attacking. The result is that the enemy will end up standing still if they are unable to find any valid targets since they will have no other action to take. This behavioural trait can be exploited to reduce the frequency of enemy attacks by ensuring that all the active party members are in motion when the enemy is stationary (result of observations 5.9.2 and 5.10.2). The misnomer that describes the inability of the AI to find a valid target and thus resulting in them not moving is called the "No Movement Glitch" (NMG).

Tip

The most effective way to make use of the NM exploit is to use cancel chains - not only are enemies are unable to target party members that are in their attack animation, it also provides the longest period of time in which the party members can move while doing more than just running.

If a battle skill in the chain is able to interrupt the enemy (via knockdown, launching, or flinching), then the attacking party member cannot be targeted by said enemy during the entire animation of the cancel chain. As such, any battle skill setup with this inherent ability to trigger the NM exploit is desired in higher difficulties.

Note that Freya does not follow this behavioural trait when there are active party members within short range distance to her. Freya is able to target them; it is not possible to use the NM exploit against Freya in short range. However Freya's attempt to subvert the rules actually ends up providing an advantage for those that use the Roe Tablets/Shielding Device exploit, as her ability to target the (temporarily) invincible party member will encourage her to use minor attacks and hence frequently trigger the AAA of the other two manual characters.

Tip

The result of observation 4.7 gives another possible exploit with regard to enemy targeting. Enemy AI can be manipulated to target a desired party member by making said member cast symbology. Unlike the tactical skill Taunt, this is 100% reliable and effective.

6. ATTACKING

The observed behavioural traits of AI with respect to how they attack are as follows:

6.1. The AI does not take note of range when choosing to attack.

6.2. When an attack is being executed, ally AI will automatically position themselves to a predetermined acceptable distance to their target before activating the attack of the corresponding range during the moment of execution.

6.3. Ally AI prioritises long range battle skills over long range normal attacks.

6.4. Enemy AI will position themselves to a predetermined acceptable distance to their target before inputting an attack.

6.5. For enemies that have reverse attacks, the aforementioned attack will be automatically activated by the enemy if there is a party member behind them when said enemy is able to do so.

As a result of observations 6.1 and 6.2, ally AI will only use a long range attack when the distance to their target is of a length that is deemed to be long range. They will not purposely change the distance between themselves and their target in order to execute long range attacks. As such, ally AI will only continue to use long range attacks if the preceding attack activated was inherently long range and did not force them to position themselves to within short range distance to their target. This is the reason why the majority of party members are unsuitable for fighting at long range when under AI control - with the exception of Adray, Maria, and Sophia, their long range normal attacks are short range in nature, and normal attacks are what will be activated when the character is unable (or no longer able) to activate battle skills.

Tip

The result of observation 6.3 provides a method to promote the AI ally to fight at long range. By using the support skill Max Fury, it will hopefully activate and restore the character's Fury before the AI decides to attack. Provided that the battle skills keep the character in long range after activation, this would increase the length of time in which the AI controlled ally will stay at long range with respect to its target.

Enemies are capable of changing targets while running towards their original target. In higher difficulties, this could be coupled with the NM exploit to encourage the enemy to use a different attack (via targeting a different character that is at a different distance from said enemy). However, this requires familiarity with the enemy's set of attacks and their activation ranges.

Tip

The most reliable way to make an enemy change its target is to get a party member to cast symbology, as casters have higher priority. Don't bother with the tactical skill Taunt - it is not as reliable

The result of observation 6.5 allows the player to force the enemy to use only their reverse attack(s) by placing a party member behind said enemy.

Note that the No Movement exploit cannot prevent the enemy from activating their reverse attacks - there is no targeting requirement.

7. MINOR/MAJOR ATTACKS

Upon determining a target, ally AI decides on whether to use a minor or major attack depending on the current Fury of its target. If it is high, the AI will use a major attack so as to remove any chance of their attack being guarded against. A low Fury will result in a minor attack.

Since all enemies start with full Fury at the start of battle, all AI ally members will always start with either a major attack or symbology so as to break guards. As the majority of battle formations will place the party members at long range distance with all the enemies, this means that all ally members under AI control will start off with their long major normal attack if no battle skill was set to the long major slot (observation 6.3).

Tip

For main-game blitzing with Peppita's Power Dance, always set it to her long major slot. The AI's opening move in battle will be to boost the ATK of the other two allies, who will be the ones to quickly dispose of the enemies.

8. ELEMENTAL ATTACKS

8.1. The AI will not use inherently elemental attacks on a target that has protection against said element.

Note

The AI will still attack those with elemental damage recovery (i.e. the factors provided by the Aegis and Blazing Pendants).

There is an exception to the above observation:

8.2. The AI will activate elemental battle skills on a target with protection against said element in a cancel chain if the skill is not the origin point of said chain.

As such, the following conclusions can be drawn:

1) Ally AI will disregard the effect of elemental factors on weapons when attacking.

2) It is possible to prevent an enemy from using an elemental attack or symbology on an active party member by providing said member with the required elemental protection.

Tip

For those that intends to get "No Damage" trophies against Lenneth and Freya by using (long range) Max Shockwave chains with Cliff, it may be more effective overall to obtain elemental protection against wind and earth element than to equip a Blazing Pendant. Since symbology are always capable of causing flinching, Cliff will not be interrupted via being hit by Lightning Strike or Stone Rain. This should increase overall damage output.

Tip

For those that intends to solo, having elemental protection will make battles easier. Long range AoE symbology are relatively hard to evade, and getting stunlocked by it may end up fatal. Elemental protection means that enemies will never cast symbology of the concerned element.

9. CANCELING BATTLE SKILLS

The following are conditions necessary to cancel into a battle skill:

  1. The current attack must either be or originated from a valid cancel origin (minor normal attack or minor battle skill).
  2. There is a battle skill in the corresponding battle skill slot needed to perform the cancel.
  3. The costs (HP/MP and Fury) of activating the next skill must be met.
  4. The window for canceling out of the current battle skill has not been passed.

The AI will always cancel into the next battle skill if these additional conditions are met:

9.1. The current battle skill must have hit the enemy.

9.2. The current battle skill must have dealt damage to the enemy.

There are some attacks that don't follow the above conditions. They are as follows:

  • Adray's Sea Gate - the AI will never cancel out of this skill.
  • Albel's Aura Wall - the AI will never cancel out of this skill.
  • Maria's Energy Burst - the AI will always hold down this skill.
  • Maria's Gravity Bullet - the AI will never cancel out of this skill.
  • Maria's Magnetic Field - the AI will never cancel out of this skill.
  • Nel's short minor bomb special normal attack - the AI will never cancel out of this minor normal attack.
  • Nel's Lightning Chain - the AI will never cancel out of this skill.
  • Nel's Whirlwind - the AI will never cancel out of this skill.
  • Peppita's Power Dance - the AI may cancel out of this skill at the end of its animation.
  • Peppita's Panic Dance - the AI may cancel out of this skill at the end of its animation.
  • Peppita's Healing Dance - the AI may cancel out of this skill at the end of its animation.
  • Peppita's Magical Dance - the AI may cancel out of this skill at the end of its animation.

Note that there is an issue with the NTSC version of the game in which the AI may not cancel into the next battle skill even when both conditions are satisfied. There is a table of which battle skills can be reliably canceled in the NTSC version of the game in Appendix A2. CANCELING DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE PAL AND NTSC VERSIONS.

10. SUBVERTING THE CANCEL CONDITIONS

Clause 9.1 and 9.2 would actually be more accurately described as:

10.1. Damage must have been dealt to the enemy at any time during the animation of the current skill.

The result of this is that if the previous battle skill in the cancel chain provides a series of multiple hits and its animation can cross over to that of the current skill being activated, then the AI will cancel out of said current skill even if it doesn't damage the target! A list of battle skills with animation cross-over is provided in Appendix A3. BATTLE SKILLS WITH ANIMATION-CROSSOVER.

Due to clause 10.1, the following skill setups will always allow the AI to cancel as desired without requiring the major battle skill to satisfy any extraneous canceling conditions, provided that said major skill is not one of the exceptions listed in section 9.

  • Adray's Emotion Torrent -> (any other battle skill)
  • Nel's Flying Guillotine -> (any other battle skill)
  • Cliff's Sphere of Might -> (any other battle skill)
  • Sophia's Laser Beams -> (any other battle skill)

Unfortunately, the advantages of this exploit is trivial for all but Sophia. The reason for this is because symbology can cause flinching even if the target has elemental protection; as such this can allow AI Sophia to provide a stunlocking role against all enemies.

Cliff's Sphere of Might is different to that of Mirage's. Its last hit crosses over with the next skill being animated, but Mirage's Sphere of Might does not allow any animation cross-over.

Note

Apparently, this exploit does not work in the NTSC version of the game.

11. CANCELING PSEUDO BATTLE SKILLS

Since the battle system "officially" treats Aerial and Charge as short range special normal attacks, the AI will not cancel into the aforementioned skills in a chain.

There are two methods to make the AI acknowlege that Aerial and Charge are battle skills as opposed to normal attacks. They are as follows:

11.1. Make the concerned character the formation leader.

11.2. Taking control of said character and then performing a normal attack.

Note

Said normal attack in 11.2 can be either minor or major, and does not even have to hit its target.

12. DURATION BATTLE SKILLS

12.1. The AI will cancel out of a duration battle skill if it satisfies the conditions for canceling true battle skills.

12.2. When a duration battle skill is in effect, the AI will not activate any battle skills.

Note that the is a bug with Albel's Aura Wall - the AI will not recognise when the effect of the skill has ended. As such, the AI will only use Aura Wall once in battle by itself, and that will be the last battle skill that AI Albel will ever activate (obseration 12.2).

13. CONTINUING ATTACKS

13.1. For normal attacks and battle skills that have a continuation option, the AI will attempt to do so if it does not contradict with previously stated clauses.

13.2. For multi-press normal attacks and battle skills, the AI will attempt to continue the attack for two more hits if it misses the target.

The practical implications of observation 13.1 is that the AI will immediately cancel out of these attacks if it is possible to do so. The only way to force the AI to continue using continuous battle skills is to prevent it from canceling - the following is a list of the possible methods:

1) Not using the continuous attacks in a cancel chain - Do not set battle skill setups that will make canceling of the continuous attack possible. The disadvantage of this is that damage output is reduced due to the inability to obtain cancel bonuses.

2) Prevent the AI from activating battle skills - Set the AI tactic to "Don't use coups de grace!". This allows the continuous battle skill to make full use of cancel bonuses, but requires the player to manually cancel and hence set up the skill. Not only that, the Fury conservation of "Don't use coups de grace!" applies - the AI will stop using additional hits at 25% Fury.

Note

The continuous battles skills will have to be either without any cancel bonuses or be set up by the player ("Don't use coups de grace!').

14. SYMBOLOGY

14.1. Both ally and enemy AI will only cast symbology if they have enough Fury to prevent said symbology from missing the target.

It is possible to make the enemies miss their target by dealing Fury damage to the enemy. However, this is not exactly the best or even recommended method for disrupting a casting enemy.

Tip

It is recommended to turn off all offensive symbology as they are the AI's favoured method of attack. Ideally speaking, only HP restoration symbology should be turned on - the rest is better left for manual casting.

Note

Depending on the nature of the symbology, there may be additional conditions that must be satisfied in order for the AI to cast it. Examples include:

  • The AI will not cast support symbology like Power Up on a character if said character's ATK is close to the (ATK) stat cap of 9999.
  • The AI will only cast Silence on enemies that know symbology.

15. HEALING SYMBOLOGY

15.1. Both ally and enemy AI will only cast Healing symbology when either they or their allies are near critical HP levels.

15.2. If more than one active party member is in critical condition, then the AI will prioritise healing according to their affection levels to said members, with themself being the highest priority.

Note

A combatant is considered to be in a critical HP condition when their current HP is less than 30% of the maximum. The highest current HP that I have seen an ally AI cast Healing on is 33% of maximum (rounded down to the nearest percent.

The conclusion to be drawn from observation 15.1 is that AI tactic do not influence how often an AI-controlled character will cast Healing - even the mage AI tactic "Focus on healing/recovery" does not encourage the AI to heal more often.

Tip

The factors to take into consideration when deciding to allow an AI controlled character to use Healing symbology are:

1) Casting speed of the character - a faster caster will require less time to finish casting the symbology, and hence should have a higher chance of successfully casting the symbology

2) Inherent battle range of the character - a long ranged character will be further away from the enemies, and hence should have a higher chance of successfully casting the symbology.

3) The character's skill setup - The total animation time of the cancel chain must be relatively short so as to allow said character to have many opportunities in spotting an ally in need of healing.

For character's that are set to battle in short range, using skill setups that will result in the target being downed at the end of the cancel chain are desired. This prevents the character from being targetted by one enemy for the time taken for said enemy to get back up.

The result of observation 15.2 provides an exploit with regard to healing priority. It is therefore possible to manipulate the order of priority for the AI members via Private Actions and affection reducing potions.

16. RESTORATION SYMBOLOGY

16.1. Ally AI will only cast Restoration symbology when there is an incapacitated ally.

The result of observation 16.1 is that the AI will tend to cast Restoration twice in a row on the same incapacitated enemy. This is because of the lag time in reviving the character - the AI still continues to see an incapacitated ally upon finishing the casting of (the initial) Restoration.

Tip

While it is tempting, it is undesirable to let the AI cast Restoration - turn it off in the Symbology section of the camp menu. If curing incapacitation via symbology is desired, cast Restoration manually.

17. ALLY AI & THE NO MOVEMENT EXPLOIT

As described earlier in section 5. DETERMINING A TARGET FOR ATTACK, the No Movement behavioural trait is the result of the AI's inability to find a target to perform any action on. This can be seen in ally AI at all difficulties and in enemy AI at higher difficulties. Since there are no advantages at all in having the ally AI stand absolutely still, this section will only cover the exploiting this on enemy AI.

The number of (living) active party members is irrelevant to triggering the No Movement effect, so an entire active party can still make use of this exploit in battle if soloing is not desired. Since ally AI will only move to attack or to run away in self-preservation, the only method to reliably keep ally AI moving is to encourage them to use cancel chains.

Tip

It is more favourable to give the AI skill setups that will allow them to cancel without any difficulties when there are no outside influences between said ally AI and its target.

18. ALLY AI & THE STATE CHANGE (MINOR <-> MAJOR) EXPLOIT

For all battle skills, the minor/major state is determined by the last battle skill (being) performed. Therefore, if a battle skill is activated while the previous one is still in animation (that is, if animation cross-over occurs), then the state of said previous battle skill would change to become the same as that of the battle skill being activated. This leads to two exploits that base on the same principle.

18.1. In a cancel chain: If a battle skills can be canceled before its animation finishes, then the state of the battle skill being canceled will become that of the battle skill that it is canceling into. Canceling a minor battle skill would change it to a major, allowing its remaining hits to deal more damage and break enemy guards. Conversely, canceling a major battle skill would decrease its damage and make it able to trigger enemy AAAs.

18.2. To change a duration battle skill using pseudo battle skills: Activating a pseudo battle skill will change the state of the duration skill that is currently in effect to its own.

Tip

The desired method to exploit 18.1 is to cancel out of the minor battle skill as quick as possible, and to cancel out of the major battle skill after all its hits are dealt. This way, the maximum possible number of hits in the cancel chain will be of the major state, resulting in both superior damage and decreased chance of triggering enemy AAA.

Unfortunately, ally AI is incapable of exploiting both methods. However, the conditions which determine whether the AI will cancel into the next skill or not will cause the AI to inadvertently use exploit 18.1 if one of the battle skills in the cancel chain consists of a series of hits and is capable of animation cross-over. There is no useful application for this, but this is not undesirable either.

This is identical to the requirement to get the AI to subvert the canceling conditions. However, note that the application here is different.

Tip

Since Fury is the most important aspect in determining what actions an ally member can do, the support skill "Max Fury" is recommended for all fighters under AI control. In fact, it is simply recommended for all characters that can learn said support skill.

Ideally, the AI should use skill setups in the same manner as the player. Unfortunately, what the AI can do is governed by a set of rules. This section serves to give advice on what properties of battle skills to consider when establishing a skill setup for the AI.

For the majority of battle skills (and hence setups), the desired behaviour would be for the AI to continue canceling if possible. To do this, clause 9.1 requires that the current battle skill in animation to hit the enemy. This is sometimes easier said than done.

If the prior battle skill did something to the target and causes the current battle skill to miss, then this effectively ends the chain. As such, properties like launching, juggling and knockdown must be taken into consideration when making an effective skill setup for the AI.

Considerations to consider when canceling is desired are:

  1. Launching - the next skill in the chain must be able to hit the now airborne target.
  2. Juggling - same conditions as launching.
  3. Knockdown - the next skill in the chain must be able to hit the target when it gets back up. This requires either a relatively long start-up time or a relatively long animation consisting of a series of hits.
  4. Range shift - there must be a skill in the slot of the corresponding range that the current skill will alter the distance to.
  5. Elements - the target must not have protection to the current skill.
  6. Cancel points - battle skills with multiple cancel points are desirable as it allows for "interference" caused by other active party members.
For those that do not wish to think too much about skill setups

There are two solutions:

  1. Give one of the active party members a stunlocking role. This should prevent the enemy from being downed and reduce the chances of a battle skill missing.
  2. Use a battle skill with cross-over animation. As long as said skill hits, the next battle skill will always be canceled out of if it is possible for the AI to do so.

20. SKILL SETUP RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE AI

This section lists all the reasonable skill setups that can be used as desired by the AI, including their limitations and recommended purpose during battle. Note that some skill setups are not note-worthy in battle, but for some of the characters those setups are the best that can do under AI control. Since the AI of characters in the PAL version can use any skill setup available to their NTSC counterparts, skill setups for the NTSC AI will be listed first, followed by additional skill setups for the PAL version of the character.

20.1. NTSC ADRAY

The AI is incapable of reliably canceling out of Adray's short minor normal attack. Coupled with the fact that Adray is incapable of learning the support skill Max Fury, this makes AI Adray ineffective at fighting in short range. In addition, his long range battle skills are almost all elemental, thus making Adray the worst character to leave under AI control in the NTSC version of the game.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Charge -> Charge

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Arguably Adray's best setup in terms of general purpose damage.

SKILL SETUP: Lightning Blast -> Lightning Blast

BATTLE PURPOSE: Stunlock

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no wind-element protection.

COMMENTS: Symbology always have a chance of causing flinching, but the AI won't cancel out of Lightning Blast if it doesn't damage.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Aerial -> Aerial

BATTLE PURPOSE: Juggle

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Arguably Adray's most useful skill setup overall.

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Titan Fist -> (long range) Titan Fist

BATTLE PURPOSE: Elemental damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no earth-element protection.

COMMENTS: Titan Fist has a horrible recovery time when not canceled out of, so it should only be used to exploit earth-weak enemies. It shouldn't really be used for general purposes.

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Fire Bolt -> (long range) Emotion Torrent

BATTLE PURPOSE: (Elemental) Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no fire-element protection.

COMMENTS: Emotion Torrent is fairly slow, so it should be used at long range. Problem is, all of Adray's other long range skills are elemental.

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Ice Needles -> (long range) Emotion Torrent

BATTLE PURPOSE: (Elemental) Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no water-element protection.

COMMENTS: Has the very slight advantage to Fire Bolt -> Emotion Torrent in that Ice Needles seem to have a faster activation time and is capable of freezing the enemy.

20.2. PAL ADRAY

The only skill that the AI can't cancel out of is Sea Gate. Regardless, the lack of Max Fury stilll makes AI Adray an awkward melee character. In addition to the skill setups available to NTSC Adray, PAL Adray also can make use of the following skill setups under AI control:

SKILL SETUP: Aerial -> Southern Cross

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation of pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Since good INT boosts are obtainable earlier than ATK boosts, Southern Cross is fairly good for damage in the main-game.

SKILL SETUP: Chaos Tide -> Chaos Tide

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Possibly Adray's best skill setup for MP damaging purposes.

20.3. NTSC ALBEL

Since all but three of Albel's skills are capable of causing knockdown, this makes using skill setups in a cancel chain more difficult when the AI is fighting an enemy by itself without ally contribution. In addition, the AI is incapable of using Albel's useful skills as desired; making Albel a poor character to leave under AI control.

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Air Slash -> (long range) Air Slash

BATTLE PURPOSE: Elemental damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no wind-element protection. Albel's long range normal attacks are short range in nature.

COMMENTS: Only skill setup for to make Albel a long range fighter. Would do far more damage if used at short range (PAL version only) and under manual control minor <=> major exploit) though.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Palm of Destruction -> Palm of Destruction

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Cannot be used fully as desired when fighting stand-alone.

COMMENTS: Very good for damage (until it reaches the damage cap), if you can keep the target from being downed (via stunlocking).

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Aerial -> Charge

BATTLE PURPOSE: Juggle

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: The longest juggle that can be done by the AI for all characters in a skill setup. A fairly useful skill setup.

SKILL SETUP: Hand of Doom -> Hand of Doom

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Damage is only good if the target is kept from being downed (via stunlocking), else it acts more like a mediocre interruption chain.

Recommended setup for NTSC only

SKILL SETUP: Hand of Doom -> Dragon Roar

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Hand of Doom is capable of positioning the enemy close to the optimal distance for Dragon Roar. However, the skill's damage output is quite low; it is only recommended due to the AI being able to use this by itself.

20.4. PAL Albel

Not much better than his NTSC counterpart. Being able to cancel Double Slash doesn't really give the AI any significant advantages.

SKILL SETUP: Air Slash -> Air Slash

BATTLE PURPOSE: Elemental damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no wind-element protection.

COMMENTS: Useful against enemies weak against wind-element.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Double Slash -> Dragon Roar

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: The optimal variant of the Dragon Roar setups. However, it is still only recommended due to the AI being able to use this by itself.

20.5. NTSC Cliff

One of the better characters to leave under AI control. Most of his useful battle skills can be used as desired by the AI. The recommended skill setups will be his better ones, but they are all fairly capable.

SKILL SETUP: Sphere of Might -> Sphere of Might

BATTLE PURPOSE: Stunlock

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Damage output is fairly high for a stunlock-capable skill setup.

SKILL SETUP: Charge -> Charge

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Damage potential is fairly high, but the auto-positioning produces a hit delay that shouldn't be. Best used under manual control with FAM enabled.

SKILL SETUP: Aerial Assault -> Aerial Assault

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: Only works when the AoE version of the skill is used (NTSC version only; no limits in the PAL version)

COMMENTS: A high risk of triggering enemy AAAs. The normal version of the skill is capable of knockdown, so this may be a problem in the PAL version.

SKILL SETUP: Sphere of Might -> Aerial Assault

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: Only works when the AoE version of the skill is used (NTSC version only; no limits in the PAL version)

COMMENTS: Alternative to pure Aerial Assault chains with low risk of death by enemy AAA.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Sphere of Might -> Fists of Fury

BATTLE PURPOSE: Stunlock

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Excellent stunlocking ability, with the ability to knock the enemy down if the chain ends with Fists of Fury. The AI is able use this skill setup just as effectively as the player.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Fists of Fury -> Fists of Fury

BATTLE PURPOSE: Stunlock

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Provides longer stunlocking than Sphere of Might -> Fists of Fury, and is capable of knocking the enemy down at the end of the chain. This makes it the best stunlocking skill setup in the game, and the AI can use it just as effectively as the player.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Max Shockwave -> (long range) Max Shockwave

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Cliff's long range normal attacks are short range in nature.

COMMENTS: The knockback effect makes pure Max Shocwave chains safe to use.

20.6. PAL Cliff

The only battle skill in which the AI cannot use as desired is Uppercut, which is not that useful of a skill in the first place.

SKILL SETUP: Hammer of Might -> Hammer of Might

BATTLE PURPSE: Elemental damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no fire-element protection. Cannot be used fully as desired when fighting stand-alone.

COMMENTS: Very good damage if the enemy is kept from being downed (via stunlocking) and is not resistant to fire-element.

SKILL SETUP: Fiery Tackle -> Fiery Tackle

BATTLE PURPOSE: Elemental damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no fire-element protection. Cannot be used fully as desired when fighting stand-alone

COMMENTS: Only worth it if the enemy is weak against fire and is prevented from being downed (via stunlocking).

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Electric Fists -> Aerial Assault

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Optimal Aerial Assault setup. Can be used as desired by the AI.

20.7. NTSC FAYT

Another character with poor canceling capabilities when under AI control. Fortunately, Fayt's more useful skill setups do not require canceling.

SKILL SETUP: Blade of Fury -> Blade of Fury

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Arguably the best general-purpose cancel option for NTSC AI Fayt.

SKILL SETUP: Charge -> Charge

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Acceptable cancel chain.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Blade of Fury -> Air Raid

BATTLE PURPOSE: Interruption

LIMITATIONS: Cannot be used fully as desired in the NTSC version. Cannot be used fully was desired when fighting stand-alone in the PAL version.

COMMENTS: Being able to cancel out of Air Raid is not necessary for this skill setup.

SKILL SETUP: Blade of Fury -> Dimension Door

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Dimension Door is better used for keeping generic enemies in their flinching animation, but the AI will not do so in a cancel chain.

SKILL SETUP: Blade of Fury -> Ethereal Blast

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Potentially very damaging, but Ethereal Blast's optimal activation range is mid-range. As such, it is only recommended for use when the enemy is kept in place (via stunlocking) and is a large target.

SKILL SETUP: Blade of Fury -> Aerial

BATTLE PURPOSE: Interruption

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Cancel chain ends at Aerial. Decent at the start of the game where there simply aren't much options available.

SKILL SETUP: Blade of Fury -> Side Kick

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Acceptable cancel chain.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Charge -> Side Kick

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Optimal Side Kick setup, and the AI is capable of using it as desired.

SKILL SETUP: Side Kick -> Side Kick

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires the target to be large in size.

COMMENTS: If the requirement is not met, then the major Side Kick will almost always miss when used in a cancel chain.

SKILL SETUP: Shotgun Blast -> Shotgun Blast

BATTLE PURPOSE: Elemental damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no fire-element protection.

COMMENTS: Good damage, provided that the enemy is not resistant to fire-element.

SKILL SETUP: Side Kick -> Dimension Door

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Dimension Door is better used for keeping generic enemies in their flinching animation, but the AI will not do so in a cancel chain.

SKILL SETUP: Air Raid -> Ethereal Blast

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Optimal Ethereal Blast setup, and the AI can use it as desired. However, it is still not recommended for general purpose use.

20.9. NTSC MARIA

Cannot use the most damaging skill setup in the game as desired. Fortunately, she still have Pulse Blast chains (one of the most damaging setups). If the enemy is kept prevented from being downed, then NTSC AI Maria can provide good short range damage.

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Scatter Beam -> (long range) Scatter Beam

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Damage output is reduced drastically as most hits will miss.

SKILL SETUP: Charge -> Charge

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Acceptable cancel chain.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Pulse Blast -> (long range) Pulse Blast

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Potentially very damaging skill setup, and the AI can use it as desired.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Crescent Locus -> Crescent Locus

BATTLE PURPOSE: Interruption

LIMITATIONS: Cannot be used fully was desired when fighting stand-alone

COMMENTS: Can become a significant damaging skill setup if the enemy is kept in place (via stunlocking).

Recommended skill setup for NTSC only

SKILL SETUP: Crescent Locus -> Triple Kick

BATTLE PURPOSE: Interruption

LIMITATIONS: Cannot be used fully was desired when fighting stand-alone

COMMENTS: Can become a significant damaging skill setup if the enemy is kept in place (via stunlocking).

SKILL SETUP: Laser Blast -> Laser Blast

BATTLE PURPOSE: Elemental damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no fire-element protection.

COMMENTS: Very damaging skill setup if the enemy is weak to fire-element.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Aiming Device -> (long range) Energy Burst

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Best MP damaging skill setup in the game, and the AI can use it as desired.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Scatter Beam -> (long range) Energy Burst

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: A launching-incapable alternative to Aiming Device -> Energy Burst. Less damage, but offers more setup compatibility with allies.

20.10. PAL MARIA

Allows the use of pure Scatter Beam chains at point-blank range.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Scatter Beam -> Scatter Beam

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Best HP damaging skill setup in the game.

20.11. NTSC MIRAGE

Another one of the least useful characters to leave under AI control. Fortunately, she has skill setups in which canceling is not really necessary.

SKILL SETUP: Charge -> Charge

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Acceptable cancel chain.

SKILL SETUP: Charge -> Sphere of Might

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Acceptable cancel chain.

SKILL SETUP: Sphere of Might -> Sphere of Might

BATTLE PURPOSE: Stunlock

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Mirage's best stunlocking setup, and the AI can use it as desired.

SKILL SETUP: Aerial Assault -> Aerial Assault

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: Only works when the AoE version of the skill is used (NTSC version only; no limits in the PAL version)

COMMENTS: A high risk of triggering enemy AAAs. The normal version of the skill is capable of knockdown, so this may be a problem in the PAL version.

SKILL SETUP: Sphere of Might -> Aerial Assault

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: Only works when the AoE version of the skill is used (NTSC version only; no limits in the PAL version)

COMMENTS: Alternative to pure Aerial Assault chains with low risk of death by enemy AAA.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Crescent Locus -> Crescent Locus

BATTLE PURPOSE: Interruption

LIMITATIONS: Cannot be used fully was desired when fighting stand-alone

COMMENTS: Can be used as a damaging skill setup if the enemy is kept in place (via stunlocking).

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Crescent Locus -> Triple Kick

BATTLE PURPOSE: Interruption

LIMITATIONS: Cannot be used fully was desired when fighting stand-alone

COMMENTS: Can be used as a damaging skill setup if the enemy is kept in place (via stunlocking).

20.12. PAL MIRAGE

The only battle skill in which the AI cannot use as desired is Blazing Cannon, which is not that useful of a skill in the first place.

SKILL SETUP: Hammer of Might -> Hammer of Might

BATTLE PURPSE: Elemental damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no fire-element protection. Cannot be used fully as desired when fighting stand-alone.

COMMENTS: Good damage if the enemy is kept from being downed (via stunlocking) and is not resistant to fire-element.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Electric Fists -> Aerial Assault

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Optimal Aerial Assault setup. Can be used as desired by the AI.

SKILL SETUP: Sphere of Might -> Avenger Charge

BATTLE PURPOSE: Elemental Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no fire-element protection. Cannot be used fully as desired when fighting stand-alone.

COMMENTS: Recommended for enemies with weakness to fire-element.

SKILL SETUP: Electric Fists -> Avenger Charge

BATTLE PURPOSE: Elemental Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no fire-element protection. Cannot be used fully as desired when fighting stand-alone.

COMMENTS: Recommended for enemies with weakness to fire-element.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Sphere of Might -> Infinity Kick

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Cannot be used fully as desired when fighting stand-alone

COMMENTS: Good general purpose skill setup under AI control.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Electric Fists -> Infinity Kick

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Electric Fists has multiple cancel points, making it a better minor than Sphere of Might for continuing the cancel chain. Is Mirage's best general purpose skill setup under AI control.

20.13. NTSC NEL

The AI is incapable of using Nel's useful skills as desired; making Nel a poor character to leave under AI control.

Recommende skill setup for NTSC only

SKILL SETUP: Shockwave -> Shockwave

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Acceptable cancel chain for the NTSC version only due to a lack of significantly superior alternatives.

SKILL SETUP: Shadow Wave -> Shadow Wave

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: Cannot be used fully as desired when fighting stand-alone

COMMENTS: Enemy needs to be kept in place via stunlocking to make damage dealt acceptable.

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Ice Daggers -> (long range) Ice Daggers

BATTLE PURPOSE: Elemental damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no ice-element protection. Nel's long range normal attacks are short range in nature.

COMMENTS: Acceptable cancel chain.

SKILL SETUP: Charge -> Charge

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Acceptable cancel chain.

SKILL SETUP: Poison Cloud -> Poison Cloud

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Though relatively slow, it is an acceptable cancel chain.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: (long range) Flying Guillotine -> (long range) Flying Guillotine

BATTLE PURPOSE: MP Damage

LIMITATIONS: Nel's long range normal attacks are short range in nature.

COMMENTS: Arguably Nel's best long range skill setup under AI control.

Recommended skill setup for NTSC only

SKILL SETUP: (both slots) Poison Cloud -> (short) Divine Wrath

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires no other combatant to stand between Nel and her target

COMMENTS: Divine Wrath has too many inherent flaws to be a good skill to use. Problem is, there aren't any noticeably better AI alternatives.

20.14. PAL NEL

Significantly better than her NTSC counterpart, but still cannot use her most dangerous (albeit elemental) battle skill as desired.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Ice Daggers -> Ice Daggers

BATTLE PURPOSE: Elemental damage

LIMITATIONS: Requires target to have no ice-element protection.

COMMENTS: Quite damaging when the enemy does not resist against ice-element.

SKILL SETUP: Shockwave -> Mirror Slice

BATTLE PURPOSE: Damage

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Good, but not the best Mirror Slice setup available.

SKILL SETUP: Shadow Wave -> Mirror Slice

BATTLE PURPOSE: Interruption

LIMITATIONS: None

COMMENTS: Shadow Wave causes knockdown, which will usually cause the first few hits of Mirror Slice to miss.

Recommended skill setup

SKILL SETUP: Charge -> Mirror Slice

BATTLE PURPOSE: Juggle

LIMITATIONS: Requires player manipulation for pseudo battle skills.

COMMENTS: Optimal Mirror Slice setup as it provides a continuous juggle after the enemy gets launched by the initial Mirror Slice. The AI can use it as desired.

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