Who hasn’t dreamt of big knock-down, drag-out battles between their favorite Final Fantasy heroes and villains over the years? The Dissidia series, which originally launched for PlayStation Portable back in 2009, lets you stage just that, with characters representing nearly all the various phases from the stories RPG series’ releases. The newest entry, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, is a follow-up to the original Dissidia Final Fantasy and Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, and a port of the Japanese-only arcade version, Dissidia Final Fantasy. As such, it's a little different than you may be used to from the previous games in the series.
It's a little different in general, to be exact. Final Fantasy has always been about planning, making the right moves, and knowing when and where to strike, it should come as no surprise that Dissidia is indeed a thinking person’s fighter. Koei Tecmo have opted for a more methodic style of gameplay that's still fast and furious, but it relies heavily on different characters’ strengths and weaknesses rather than raw explosive special moves and scenes to accompany them. There's a lot going on in the game, and it can be a lot of fun if you know what you're doing, but it unfortunately makes several missteps on the way to greatness.
Getting The Band Back Together
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT gathers plenty of characters in one place so you can choose from some of your favorite characters. Cloud, Sephiroth, Squall, Lightning, Ultimecia, and even Noctis joins the fold this time around. If you are, for some reason, a Kefka fan you can even play as him. This is a collection of some excellent choices from each of the series' main installments, with some important glaring omissions of characters that will hopefully be resolved with future DLC. However, as it is, there's a good variety of different fighters and the classes they belong to.
You'll choose a team of three characters to engage in 3v3 battles against the enemies of your choice (or randomly chosen combatants) and then duke it out with your brawlers selected out of the game’s 28 characters. Each fighter has their own unique play style, stemming from four different classes: Assassin, Vanguard, Marksman, and Specialist. You’ll have to spend a bit of time experimenting between which fighter class works best for you, but that’s part of the fun. You won’t get very far mashing buttons, that’s for sure. Your first stop will need to be the tutorial mode if you hope to get very far, whether if it’s to understand the game’s different attack types and how to knock out opponents with little effort.
Attack, Fight, Defend, Summon
For instance, you need to deplete your opponent’s Bravery gauge and then go for blood with powerful HP attacks. This keeps you from performing moves that essentially net you zero damage or very little. They’ll have to be revived while you work on the rest of their team, and that costs them precious time. This is the crux of each battle, and you’ll need to work to perfect it, but it’s an addictive grind that you’ll come to enjoy.
When you throw EX Skills and summons into the mix, things get even crazier. Each character has their own special set of EX Skills, which range from inflicting status effects, helpful buffs like Regen, or powerful attacks. You’ll have to unlock additional skills and whatnot simply via playing, and that means sticking with one character for a while if it’s your plan to beef up one particular favorite.
Summons are one of the coolest additions, and from the beginning of the game you get a randomly chosen summon to begin your rise to the top. For instance, my first summon was Shiva, though I was able to unlock several more, with Bahamut as the next addition to my powerful arsenal. Summons offer some extremely slick spectacles for each battle, and they’re a terrifying force for change, especially if you’re not doing that well. If you can pull off a summon quickly enough, you can flip the battle to your favor very, very quickly.
These systems and more combine to make a satisfying set of core battle mechanics, but you do need to pay attention to the tool tips and tutorials to understand them. Still, there’s a distinct lack of explanations for certain skills. While it’s generally simple enough to understand the basic gameplay mechanics, the game does have some difficulty parsing some of its more complex aspects. That's not a problem if you want to put the time in, but it may turn some potential casual players off.
My Favorite Memoria
When you’re used to how the game plays as well as how its several different mechanics fit together, you’ll want to branch out. You’ll spend most of your time in online battles or Gauntlet Mode, or one of the other few modes that aren’t part of the “typical” fighting game selection hierarchy. It’s hard to ignore the bigger “Story Mode” icon at the main selection screen and get started, thinking you’ll be treated to a typical story mode that finds you fighting staged battles interspersed with cut scenes. Weirdly enough, that isn’t the case here. It may be one of Dissidia’s greatest weaknesses.
To get through Story Mode, you need to grind out Memoria crystals to unlock different nodes on the Story Mode’s path. You get them by playing various battles in online and offline modes, and you can unlock nodes in the order you choose, for the most part. You’ll be rewarded with lavish cut scenes, and occasionally story-based battles. But all story progression requires you to go grind out Memoria to spend on it first.
It’s very strange that Koei Tecmo chose this route. It works, but it feels as though it’s meant to artificially lengthen the game, since unlocking most of the cosmetic content like player icons, lines, skins, and moves doesn’t actually take as long as you’d think. While the battles and cut scenes are well done, Story Mode feels quite incomplete in its current state, functional as it is. It’s also quite short if you grind ahead at a pretty brisk pace.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is an amalgam of both positive and negative design choices, but overall it’s an excellent combination of interesting fights, varied characters, and entertaining fan service. It’s a worthy successor to the last home Dissidia release, and while it’s not perfect, it’s certainly a slick and stylish way to spend a few hours unlocking new costumes and moves. Plus, who hasn’t wanted to pit Cloud against Squall?
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 download code provided by the publisher. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is available on PlayStation 4 now.