Front and Back Row Mechanics
Fantasy VIII with characters positioned in either the front or the back row of the battle and the mechanics of the fight can differ depending on which row you place your characters in.
You can place a character in the back row of the battle screen by entering the menu screen, selecting the “Order” option, selecting one of your characters and ‘placing them’ in the same position that they were in. This will cause their portrait to slide to the right, placing them in the back row, or to the left, placing them in the front row.
So what impact do the front and back row mechanics have during a battle?
Placing a character in the back row reduces the amount of damage they take from regular, short-range attacks but it also reduced the amount of damage done by their own regular attacks. You can take advantage of this in three ways:
1) You can place weaker characters in the back row to ensure that they take less damage.
2) You can place characters that are geared towards magic attacks or summons instead of regular attacks in the back row to take less damage.
3) You can place characters with a long-range attack in the back row as they will receive no reduction in damage from regular attacks while still benefiting from the defensive benefits of being in the back row.
You should always keep your characters with long-ranged attacks in the back row as they suffer no attack damage reduction when you place them there. This can be an extremely advantageous in some battles to heavily reduce the amount of damage that characters take.