The Linear Motion Battle System, also written as LMBS and pronounced "limbs", is a real-time battle system used in Namco Tales Studio's Tales franchise. It was a creation of Yoshiharu Gotanda, and made its first appearance in Tales of Phantasia. The battle system bears some resemblance to 2D fighting games such as Street Fighter II.
Combos are some of the most fun and most important parts of battle. The player can increase their combo meter by stringing together skills. These skills have to be executed in a certain order. For example, the player can only link "Base" to "Arcane" skills, but not the other way around. When a character does a solo combo, they won't get very far. But if a different character hits the enemy near the end of the other character's combo to keep the enemy in a stun state, the other character gets a short chance to restart their combo. This means that if done right, players can get extremely high combo counts. At the end of a battle, the player may also receive more "Grade" and experience points depending on what their highest combo count was.
Hi-Ougis are extra damaging special attacks, that can only be executed when certain conditions are met. This usually means a gauge has to be filled, or a character has to be in Overlimit mode. When a Hi-Ougi is executed, the player gets to watch a short cutscene of the character performing the attack, usually accompanied by an illustration of the character. Hi-Ougis may not actually be called Hi-Ougis in-game. For example, in Tales of the Abyss they're called "Mystic Artes", and in Tales of Vesperia they're called "Burst Artes".
For a long time, battles have only taken a place on a straight line, even in the series' first 3D incarnation. But with release of Tales of the Abyss and its FR-LMBS battle system, full 3D movement has been made possible. Whilst holding a button, the player is able to move freely in all directions on the battle scene, something that was not possible in earlier games in the Tales series. However, when combos are performed, players are still stuck on a straight line. This makes it somewhat similar to how the Devil May Cry series handles its battles, which just like the Tales series, borrows a lot of 2D fighting games. All 3D Tales games following Tales of the Abyss now share this ability.
Games usually have three modes of control: Manual, Semi-Auto, and Auto. In Manual mode, the player has full control over a character. In Semi-Auto, the character will automatically run or jump to get close to an enemy, and all the player has to do is focus on guarding and inputting button combinations to perform skills. In Auto mode, the A.I. completely takes over control of the character. The player has many options available to them to adjust the A.I., and can also give other characters commands mid-battle through the battle menu.
Since its first appearance in Tales of Symphonia's ML-LMBS, co-op has been in almost every Tales game that followed it. If the player sets an A.I. controlled character to Manual mode, another player can plug in/activate another controller and control that character. However, battle conditions may not be ideal this way for any secondary players, as the camera is usually set to follow the main character. In some games, however, the battle camera can be set to zoom out more in the options menu.
The Battle Menu
At any point in a battle, the action can be stopped, and the menu be brought up. In this menu, the player can do everything related to their party, such as using items, using skills, changing equipment, and even adjusting battle tactics. It is a major part of the game, and the player can have a very hard time with battles if they opt not to use it.
List of Battle Systems
Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS)
LMBS was the battle system that started it all and was used in the original SNES version of Tales of Phantasia. In this version of the battle system, the battle is temporarily paused when a spell is cast. There is a relatively low capacity for combos and no Hi-Ougi spells.
Enhanced Linear Motion Battle System (E-LMBS)
E-LMBS was used in Tales of Destiny.
Progressive Linear Motion Battle System (P-LMBS)
P-LMBS was used in the PS1 and GBA remake of Tales of Phantasia.
Petit Linear Motion Battle System (P-LMBS)
P-LMBS was used in Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon, and is a turn-based variation on the original LMBS system. Unlike most turn-based RPGs where attacks are chosen from a menu, the player will have to input certain button combinations to execute attacks.
Aggressive Linear Motion Battle System (A-LMBS)
A-LMBS was used in Tales of Eternia. It's essentially the same as the battle systems before it, with the exception that spells are now cast in real-time. It was also the first LMBS in which Hi-Ougis made an appearance.
Condensed Linear Motion Battle System (C-LMBS)
C-LMBS was used in Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon 2, and is a lighter version of the original LMBS.
Trust & Tactical Linear Motion Battle System (TT-LMBS)
TT-LMBS was used in Tales of Destiny 2.
Multi-Line Linear Motion Battle System (ML-LMBS)
Tales of Symphonia marked the series' first transition into 3D, so some major changes had to be made. Even though battles take place on a 3D plane, the player is only allowed to move forwards and backwards relative to the enemy they are targeting. This is where the name multi-line comes from, as there are as many lines in a battle as there are enemies.
Also new to the battle system are Unison attacks. As the characters do damage to their to enemies, the Unison gauge will fill up. When it' s full, the player can hit a button at which point the action stops, and they are able to choose from four attacks per character that the player has previously mapped to buttons, which will be performed consecutively. If the player chooses the right attacks, certain characters may even engage in a combo attack.
As the battle draws on, both player characters and enemies will gain tension points. When they get enough tension points, they will automatically enter Overlimit mode. When in Overlimit mode, characters will take less damage and have reduced spell casting times; the ability to use Hi-Ougis is also tied to Overlimit.
3-Line Linear Motion Battle System (3L-LMBS)
3L-LMBS was used in Tales of Rebirth, and is what you get when you try to combine a 2D Tales game with Tales of Symphonia's 3D ML-LMBS battle system. Since there is no 3D plane to move on, characters can only manually shift between three between the three lines, and only only attacks enemies on the same line as them.
Online Linear Motion Battle System (0-LMBS)
0-LMBS was used in the now discontinued Tales of Eternia Online MMORPG.
Crossover Linear Motion Battle System (X-LMBS)
X-LMBS was used in Tales of Legendia, and is generally seen as a throwback to older Tales battle systems. Despite the game being in full 3D, there is only one line on which the character can move. One of the major additions were throws. When an enemy has been knocked out, Senel, the main character of the game, and the only main character in a Tales game to fight with his fists rather than a sword, will be able to pick up an enemy and throw it on the ground to do some damage. Throughout the game, Senel will learn more throwing attacks that will allow him to pick up heavier enemies.
Battles also have a gauge called the Climax gauge, which is similar to the Unison gauge in Tales of Symphonia's ML-LMBS, with a few differences. When activated, time will stop, and the player can choose to either do as much damage as they can using combos, or opt for an all-out attack involving all living party members. Unlike with the Unison gauge though, the player can't choose which attacks a character should perform, and the attack is the same every time, making it somewhat of a replacement for Hi-Ougis, which made no appearance in the game. X-LMBS also marked the battle system where the "Base" and "Arcane" combo linking system was introduced, which has been used in most other games since.
The name "crossover" comes from the fact that all characters are able to perform an action where they slide past the enemy to the other side, thus crossing over. It is not otherwise possible for a character to get past an enemy, as they all have very limited jumping capability.
Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System (FR-LMBS)
Tales of the Abyss marked the first game in where the "Free Run" ability was introduced. FL-LMBS is essentially the same battle system as ML-LMBS, with the exception of that mechanic. Due to being able to fully move around on the battle plane, the camera was drawn out more.
A mechanic that was introduced in Tales of Legendia, but was rarely used there, plays a major part in Tales of the Abyss. During a battle, using a skill may leave behind a puddle of energy of their respective element, called Field of Fonons in the game. When performing a skill while standing on a FoF, the skill may be altered. For example, if Luke uses his "Havoc Strike" whilst standing on a fire FoF, it will turn into a "Burning Havoc". The FoF may not always be strong enough for a skill to be altered, in which case the player has to use another attack on the same FoF to make it stronger first. If a skill of the same element is used, it will also get a boost in power.
3-on-3 Linear Motion Battle System (3on3-LMBS)
3on3-LMBS was used in Tales of the Tempest, and is basically an enhanced version of Tales of Rebirth's 3L-LMBS. The big difference is that the battle scene is now in 3D, and that enemies on adjacent lines can also be attacked. This battle system also features character transformations int o Werewolves for a large amount of TP, that will be continously drained until there's nothing left, at which point characters will revert to their human forms. Only three party members can be on the battle scene at a given time, which is where the name of the battle system comes from (3 characters on 3 lines).
Aerial Linear Motion Battle System (AR-LMBS)
AR-LMBS was used in the PS2 remake of Tales of Destiny. It's the first battle system in which TP points were removed. Instead, the game uses CC points. A character's maximum amount of CC points doesn't directly increase by leveling, but rather by equipping CC skills to a weapon, which are learned by fighting a set amount of battles. CC points are used for everything in a battle from jumping to using attacks. As the name of the battle system suggests, aerial combat plays a major part in the game. As long as a character has enough CC points to spend, they can keep performing attacks. If the character is in the air, this also means they can stay in the air, and even perform attacks that will get them launch them and their enemy even higher into the air. CC points are replenished by stringing together combos.
Dimension Stride Linear Motion Battle System (DS-LMBS)
DS-LMBS was used in Tales of Innocence, and is basically a combination of FR-LMBS and AR-LMBS.
Flex Range Element Enhanced Linear Motion Battle System (FR:EE-LMBS)
FR:EE-LMBS is used in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, and combines elements from Tales of the Abyss's FR-LMBS and Tales of Destiny's E-LMBS to create a battle system similar to Tales of Innocence's DS-LMBS. The "Element" part of the battle system's title comes from the fact that the element of the battlefield can be altered by using three skills of the same element in a row, which can prove beneficial to the player, as further attacks of that element will now have a boost in power. Unison attacks from Tales of Symphonia's ML-LMBS will also reappear here.
Evolved Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System (EFR-LMBS)
EFR-LMBS is used in Tales of Vesperia, which is an upgraded version of Tales of the Abyss' FR-LMBS. Returning will be Overlimits, which again will allow the player to pull off powerful Hi-Ougis, called Burst Artes in this game.
Combination Aerial Linear Motion Battle System (CNAR-LMBS)
CNAR-LMBS is used in Tales of Hearts. It's essentially the same as Tales of Destiny's AR-LMBS, with the main difference being able to have characters not currently in battle perform combination attacks with characters in battle when certain conditions are met.
Style Shift Linear Motion Battle System (SS-LMBS)
Used in Tales of Graces, this iteration uses CC from the AR-LMBS along with three dimensional movement - though it emphasizes side-stepping rather than Free Run. All playable characters have two sets of moves, A (Artes) style and B (Burst) style - A style moves are used by hitting the attack button and holding different directions, progressing down a combo chain. B style is used like Artes under other LMBS. A styles are physical attacks, while B styles can be healing, spell casting, or physical attacks, depending on the character. The party shares an "Arles gauge," essentially the same a shared overlimit gauge, which activates automatically when full. It has up to five levels which can be used to activate Blast Caliburs (equivalent to hiougi/Mystic Artes) of varying strength by any party member. The "Future" section of of the game added in the PS3 version contains individual overlimit gauges as well, called Accel gauges. Unlike Arles Rise, activating Accel mode can be controlled by the player. The effect of Accel mode varies from character to character, but it can be used to activate an additional Blast Calibur in all cases.
Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System (DR-LMBS)
The battle system for Tales of Xillia. It uses both CC and TP, and aerial attacks. Characters can be switched in an out of the active party, which was not possible in previous Tales games. "Dual Raid" seems to refer to the Link system, whereby the player controlled character can be linked to an AI controlled character, facilitating cooperative attacks between the two.
Similar Battle Systems
LMBS was a creation of Yoshiharu Gotanda, who left Wolfteam (now Namco Tales Studio) after the development of Tales of Phantasia was completed, and founded a new company, tri-Ace, with two other former Wolfteam employees. As a result, many of their games such as the Star Ocean series, Infinite Undiscovery, and to a lesser extent Radiata Stories, share many of the common elements found in the LMBS battle system.
The Summon Night Swordcraft Story series features a battle system best described as a very dumbed-down version of the original LMBS. There is only one playable character in battle, and there is basically no combo system to speak of.
Final Fantasy XII's ADB battle system bears some resemblance to the LMBS, in that it's set in real-time, and also uses A.I. to control party members. A major difference though, is that the player never has any full control over a character. All they are able to do is select an attack from a menu, which may or may not interrupt the battle depending on their settings, and wait for a time bar to fill up, at which point the character executes the attack. This makes it similar playing a Tales game with all characters set to be A.I. controlled.