Another Lineup of Epic Battles
Crossover fighting games are all the rage right now, and nothing capitalized on the fad like Dissidia: Final Fantasy. Dissidia brought together everyone’s favorite characters from the highly popular Final Fantasy franchise and pit them against each other in epic battles. The result was the best selling PSP game of 2009. So, it’s no surprise that Square Enix is rolling out another one.
Dissidia 012 Duodecim Final Fantasy (012 is pronounced Duodecim, although who knows how that’s pronounced) is a prequel to the 2009 hit which will once again revolve around the battle between Cosmos and Chaos. Not much is known about the plot so far, but we do know is that there will be several new characters added to the cast of the original. Joining the ranks are Kain Highwind, Gilgamesh, Tifa Lockheart, Laguna Loire, Yuna, Prishe, Vaan, and Lightning. The new characters should add further variety to a game that was already overflowing with customization, and if Dissidia 012’s story is like that of the original, it’s likely to make the new game quite a bit longer.
Square Enix is mixing things up a bit with the characters in this game. It seems that the lines of good and evil won’t be as clear in Dissidia 012, as some protagonists and antagonists switch sides. Cloud, Terra, and Tidus—clear good guys in their respective games—will be on the side of Chaos, while Kuja and Jecht will be on the side of Cosmos. This could be due to some early-war moral confusion, and based on the lines drawn in the original game, we can expect that by the end of Dissidia 012, everyone will be back in their rightful place. It will also be possible to play on the side of Chaos, which should prove to be extremely awesome.
The gameplay mechanics of Dissidia 012 will be similar to the original. There will still be Brave attacks and HP attacks, and the EX mode will be exactly the same as in the first game. What’s new is the Assist Mode, wherein players can call upon allies to attack or defend them from opponents. With Assist Mode comes the Assist Gauge, which you build up by using Brave attacks. However, when a player uses an EX Burst, the Assist Gauge automatically drops to zero. This way the two modes balance each other out.
There will also be three countering systems: Assist Break, EX Break, and EX Revenge. An EX Break happens when the player interrupts the opponent’s EX Mode with an Assist attack. EX Revenge occurs when a player is attacked while activating EX Mode, which slows down time for everything except the player. We can only hope the somewhat complicated technical aspects of the gameplay are better explained and executed in Dissidia 012 than they were in the original, otherwise the prequel could prove to be even more difficult to handle.
Another interesting change is found in story mode. Instead of a not-so-engaging chess-map style, players of Dissidia 012 will be able to explore an actual world map, Final Fantasy style. Screenshots show surprisingly detailed 3D landscapes where players can interact with other characters and encounter the Manikin baddies. There will be no towns in the world map, but there will be marked shops where players can pick up new gear and items. The original game will now come with Dissidia 012, updated with the world map and some new story elements. According to Tetsuya Nomura, playing both games will take about sixty hours.
I’ve always preferred a game that has an actual world map or decent base to run around instead of just a boring chart or static map where you select the next place for your character to automatically travel to. Forcing a player to travel to the next location on his or her own creates a feeling of active participation that deepens immersion. Plus, the epic battle that you have to work for is so much more satisfying. I think this is a good move by Square Enix, especially considering how much the Final Fantasy franchise focuses on its stories.
Follow-up games usually add on to the originals, with more characters, more features, more items, and more variety. Dissidia 012 will likely add all of these, but more is not always better. Although more characters are always fun and the addition of the world map should help deepen the story, adding more elements to a somewhat hectic and difficult battle system may not be the best way to go. If Square Enix doesn’t find a way to make the battles more evenly paced and the mechanics more accessible, the Dissidia prequel could really suffer. If they do, however, there’s no reason not to expect Dissidia 012 Duodecim Final Fantasy to be 2011’s best PSP game.