You explore your environments in one of three different views: Inside buildings you get a top down view of the current floor, similar to a map of a building. Large outside areas (with the ability to see and avoid monsters) can be explored in a top down view similar to Zelda 3 or Phantasy Star III. During special events, story progression or when entering a room a visual novel interface appears, showing the scene as a background image and the characters in the foreground.
Enemy encounters can only be avoided on the exploration view, otherwise fights are either scripted or random without any way to circumvent them. During fights the game switches to an isometric view; the fight system follows the style of classical RPGs of the SNES era: You can either attack, defend, use an item, swap positions, do a special action or try to flee. Swap positions may sound unfamiliar, but can come in quite handy, as only the three girls in the front row are allowed do actions. Use "Swap" to switch position with any character in the second row - but not only that, it's that character's turn immediately.
Every character has both health and stamina points - the later ones are used for any action your character does (except swapping and defending) and only slowly regain in each round. This means that when leveling up your abilities your attacks will get stronger, but as you will also need more of your SP, you will be having to take a break in the second row more often.
Every fight gains experience points which will get you level ups. You may choose to increase one of your basic stats (Health, Accuracy, Evasion or Special Ability points) or improve one of the (up to) five special actions of the character.