Dissidia Final Fantasy NT
A Final Fantasy Battle Royale
Dissidia Final Fantasy is a series of fighting games that originated on the PSP (PlayStation Portable) handheld back in 2009. It threw together a lot of Final Fantasy characters into a unique fighting game that a lot of people probably missed. It spawned a sequel on the PSP and eventually led to an arcade release in Japan that is a lot flashier and more in-depth than its portable predecessors. That game is called Dissidia Final Fantasy NT and it has now been ported and optimized for the PlayStation 4. Dissidia NT is an extremely strange fighting game. To me, it feels much closer to something like Super Smash Bros than more complex fighting games such as Street Fighter or Tekken. Dissidia NT is an arena fighter and features some of the most well known Final Fantasy characters in its roster. You'll find fan-favourite heroes and villains such as Cloud, Sephiroth, Tidus, Vaan, Kefka and many others. Most of the roster has already been featured in the previous games, but the developers have added the likes of Noctis from the most recent FF game, Final Fantasy XV, as well as Ramza from Final Fantasy Tactics and even an appearance from the Final Fantasy Type – 0 cast. As a huge fan of Final Fantasy, my eyes absolutely lit up when I saw the character selection screen at the beginning of the game.
An Acquired Taste
The original Dissidia games were one on one arena fighters and though they were pretty complex themselves Dissidia NT has expanded the idea to three on three and reworked all the mechanics. That makes this a game that can be very hard to digest in the beginning; not to mention the fact that the tutorial felt pretty useless for learning the games more advanced tactics. Due to its complexity Dissidia can be a hard fighting game to just pick up and play. Recent fighters such as Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Dragon Ball FighterZ have tried extra hard to be accessible to everyone and Dissidia NT feels very cluttered and clunky by comparison. I know that these are two totally different styles of fighting games, but my point is that Dissidia isn't very user-friendly. The game can be very overwhelming at first, but once you get a few hours of gameplay under your belt things become clearer and everything starts to seem more natural. The game certainly doesn't do anything to help players get there. As I said, the tutorial could have been implemented much better and I really wish the game had a training mode for me to hone my skills with. It seems like a no-brainer to include this mode, yet it is absent.
The game as a whole feels very bare bones. You have “Gauntlet Mode”, that is basically Dissidia's equivalent to an arcade mode, as well as online battles and an extremely weak story mode. You earn Gil during all modes of play that can be spent on things such as new avatar icons and costumes for your characters. You are also rewarded with treasures that are Dissidia's form of loot boxes. You cannot buy these with real money and Square Enix even pokes fun at the microtransaction loot box craze with the name of one of the game's trophies.
The combat system of Dissidia NT is definitely an acquired taste. You won't find anything else like it on the market. I assure you of that. If you are looking for a unique fighting experience, Dissidia can give you that. I think its uniqueness is the title's best feature. There is a lot going on at all times in a Dissidia battle. It's overwhelming but action-packed and very fun once you get the hang of it. Each of the game's 28 characters has a class. You have “Vanguards” that are essentially damage dealers. “Assassins” that are granted increased mobility such as a triple jump. Then there are the “Marksmen” that are best at hanging back and using projectiles and area effect spells. This all comes together in a very rock-paper-scissors dynamic that can be a thrill to play when everyone sticks to their roles and works like a team. As a matter of fact, the makeup of your team can make or break you in both online and solo play. You really need to cover all the bases because most of your enemies will and this is doubly so for solo offline play.
The attack system is what takes the longest time to grasp initially. It can be slightly confusing at first. There are two ways to attack. One of which does no damage to your opponent's health bar. It may sound odd to attack and not deal damage, but it should all make sense shortly. In Dissidia NT you have “Bravery Attacks” and “HP Attacks”. You attack your opponent with one of your many “Bravery Attacks” to steal their bravery and add it to your bravery pool. Once your bravery is high enough you slam your opponent with an “HP Attack” that will inflict damage on your opponent equivalent to how much bravery you had stored. If done correctly you can take out your enemy with one “HP Attack”. That is if you can pull it off. The moves are highly choreographed and can be seen coming from a mile away most of the time. If you miss then you open yourself up to the possibility of an onslaught of attacks. This creates a very interesting risk/reward mechanic. To make things even more interesting, if you decide to hoard your bravery and go for a one-hit kill you basically paint a huge target on your back as everyone can clearly see that your bravery is high enough for the kill strike and they could all end up ganging up on you.
The battles are one risk after another. This isn't anything like a normal fighting game. You aren't expected to memorize a long string of inputs to pull off dazzling combos. It's all about using the right move in the right situation. On top of the “HP/Bravery Attacks” you also have character skills and magic attacks that can hinder your foes or buff up your allies. You can also gain the ability to bring one of the iconic Final Fantasy summon monsters onto the field to lay waste to your foes. Dissidia NT is an extremely fast-paced game and it presents a lot of information to you on the screen all at once. It can be very hard to filter out what is relevant and when. The HUD is very cluttered. There is a lot to look at during all the chaos, but just like normal fighting games once you get the hang of it a battle becomes a true test of wits with one player trying to outsmart the other. There are many different strategies to master in Dissidia NT and learning all the characters is where I had the most fun.
A Disconnected Story
The story in Dissidia NT is mostly for show and largely disappointing. The Final Fantasy series is known for some very epic tales and you would think that Square Enix could come up with something decent enough for all of these wonderful characters. Sadly that is not the case. The story mode is pretty much a ton of pretty cut-scenes that try to play off fan service more than actually entertain with a few battles here and there thrown in for good measure. I found the design of the story mode to be very cumbersome. You can't just boot up the game and jump right into the story. You have to play one of the game's other modes first to unlock memoria that is used to unlock story nodes and advance forward. The game doesn't tell you this and leaves you to figure it out on your own. I can't say that I enjoyed flip-flopping through the game's modes very much. It became very tedious to work through “Gauntlet Mode”. Only to be rewarded with a cut-scene that was sometimes only a minute or so in length -- it just didn't feel like a very rewarding experience. They do spice things up with boss battles against the Summon Creatures. These battles were fun, but, could be downright frustrating at times. I rage quit quite a few times against Ramuh and Leviathan.
Standard Fights and Core Battles
Outside of story mode, there are two types of matches you can partake in. There are standard matches and core battles. Standard matches require you to deplete all three of the opposing team's lives before you can be claimed the victor. You can also take part in core battles which are basically Final Fantasy themed capture the flag matches. The objective is to take the enemy's summon core while defending your own. This mode is fun but not as much so as the standard matches. All of the action ends up directed to two points on the map and things just don't get as interesting. There is no online match-making for this type of battle. You either play with friends or with bots. It's also worth mentioning that you can alter the rules for standard matches when playing with friends. This enables you to play one on one battles that feel much more like the original Dissidia titles.
Another thing of note is the game's summoning mechanic. Summoning crystals appear on the battlefield periodically. Once you've shattered enough of them your team can call out a heavy hitting summon that can easily change the tide of a battle. Summoning opens you up for direct attack, but if all team members summon at the same time the creature will be called onto the field almost immediately. I never grew tired of seeing Alexander or Bahamut entering the fray. It felt identical to summoning them in the main series only a little better because you get to see them destroy everything around them for up to a minute at a time.
The online play was fantastic when I was working with friends and we all stuck to our roles, but when playing with randoms the experience was chaotic in the worst of ways. This was mainly due to the game's limited communication system. You can't use a headset to just chat with your teammates. The game forces you to use its very limited system of character voice commands to get across your point. It is very hard to use in the middle of combat and with so much going on at once it is extremely hard to pay attention to. Online is very fun with friends if you happen to have a few who own the game. For the most part, I stuck to solo offline play.
Oodles of Fan Service
The one thing that Dissidia NT nails without a doubt is the fan service for Final Fantasy fans. The music, stages, unlockables, and the characters themselves pull from all the best parts of the series. I wish there were more of both though. There is only one stage available from each of the main 15 Final Fantasy titles. This sounds like a lot, but there are so many settings that could have served as being fantastic arenas that I was left wanting more. I felt the same way with the characters, and I really started to resent how the developers stuck with a hero/villain theme for all of them. While you get characters from all the major Final Fantasy games and then some, it's always the game's top hero and villain. Don't expect to play as any secondary characters like Tifa, Barret, or Steiner until the game's DLC adds more fighters. While I love the core gameplay that makes up Dissidia NT, the overall package leaves a lot to be desired. The design can be questionable at times and I really wish that this entry had a more fleshed out story. There is a solid game hidden away in Dissidia NT, if you have the patience to find it. While I love the core gameplay that makes up Dissidia NT, the overall package leaves a lot to be desired.
So much Final Fantasy fan service
Fun and entertaining battles
Too complex at times
Questionable design choices
Lack of communication during online play