An Action Command (also known as a Timed Hit or a Timed Attack) allows a character to do significantly more damage to an enemy than with a normal hit. Often, Action Commands occur when the player presses the button right before the party member hits his opponent. Action Commands are also used for defense; If the player presses the Guard button at the moment an enemy's attack hits, the character receives less damage or even counters the attack in some games.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
The Action Commands were originally called "Timed Hits" in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, and are the key to success in the game. They are used both to increase damage dealt by the party's attacks and decrease damage done to the party by physical attacks. Timed Hits do not actually increase any statistics; they only serve to modify the damage after it is calculated.
There are actually two different levels of Timed Hits; one for timing the command "close" and one for timing it "perfectly". For the party's physical attacks, most Timed Hits are activated by pushing any button right before the attack lands. If an attack is timed close, the damage is increased by 50%, but if it is timed perfectly, the damage is doubled. Any Timed Hit with a physical attack will never miss.
For the party's special attacks, more variation is seen in the commands. Generally, any special attack which requires a single button press will increase damage (or healing) by 25% if timed close or 50% if timed perfectly. Other commands (push button repeatedly, hold button, rotate the ) increase damage in other ways. For some attacks, good timing will increase the attack's range from one enemy to all of them.
Timed Hits are also used to avoid or reduce damage done by certain attacks. Only physical attacks may be blocked in this manner, and even some of those are unblockable. For those attacks which are blockable, a Timed Hit is usually activated by pushing any button right before the enemy attack lands. If the command is timed close, the character will only receive half damage, and if it is timed perfectly, the character will receive no damage at all, completely avoiding the attack. For attacks that cause instant death, a normal timed hit will leave the character standing with only 1 HP (and a perfect one will avoid it, causing no damage).
In Paper Mario, Twink gives Mario the Lucky Star, a special pendant from Peach that allows the plumber to perform Action Commands. This artifact proves useful in the upcoming battle against a Magikoopa; a fight that occurs after Mario visits Shooting Star Summit for the first time.
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Action Commands reappear, and Stylish Moves are introduced. These allow Mario to recharge his Star Power faster. They can be performed from the start of the game, but have more effect first time an audience appears to watch Mario's battles (after visiting the Thousand-Year Door for the first time). While Action Commands are not used in Super Paper Mario, Stylish Moves do appear. Mario's basic Jump requires the player to press at the moment when Mario lands on the enemy. This prompts a second jump which also can be strengthened by pressing . His Hammer requires the player to hold the control stick to the left until a meter fills for all Hammer skills.
Super Paper Mario
In Super Paper Mario, Action Commands are not used in battle; rather, they are done when using items. These Action Commands usually implement Wii Remote pointing and shaking.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Action Commands return in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, where they are used the same way they were in the previous installments. However, only is actually used while performing them. As such, some Action Commands that originally require moving the Control Stick have been changed, such as the Hammer. Action Commands can also be used with "Thing" Stickers for a better effect. Some require button-mashing, while some require precise timing, such as the Cat-o-Luck. The Touch Screen can also be used as a substitute for .
In the Mario & Luigi series only, Mario and Luigi can entirely avoid getting hit by enemy attacks by using the Action Command. They can jump over enemies or hit them with hammers to prevent them from attacking. The offensive action command is still useable, and double the power of Mario and Luigi's attacks. Mario always uses to attack and dodge, while Luigi always uses . Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time also has a special action command involving the babies in piggy-back mode. Partners in Time has different Action Commands depending on who (Mario or Luigi) is attacking and which age the brother is (Baby, Adult, or both together). Baby Mario contributes with the button while Baby Luigi uses the button. In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, Bowser uses the and buttons for his normal battles. His giant battles involve the stylus and microphone on the Nintendo DS.