Everybody was Fantasy Fighting!
As a Final Fantasy fan, it was hard not to be excited about Dissidia: Final Fantasy. On the surface it sounded like a fan’s dream come true: all of the main villains and heroes of the Final Fantasy franchise coming together to duke it out. However, as the game’s release got closer and closer, I have to admit that I was a little nervous about the final product.
As much fun as fighting with Final Fantasy characters could be, I wondered how the game would hold hardcore Final Fantasy enthusiasts’ attention after a few bouts with their favorite characters. In a series so well-known for creating epic storylines, could a fighting game really leave a lasting impression? However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well Dissidia: Final Fantasy incorporates character, gameplay, and even strategy to create more lasting power than just a fight between Cloud and Sephiroth.
However, let’s get one thing straight first: this is not a game about story. Although the game does try to incorporate some sort of plot, it’s not very deep, and it’s pretty much what you would expect from a crossover title that includes characters from 11 different games. Basically, the two gods keeping the world in harmony, Chaos and Cosmos, have been constantly at war to sway the balance of the world to their favor. However, during this epic battle, Cosmos fails, and informs the warrior of light that she must gather other heroes from across the universe to collect crystals to help her put Chaos back in its place. What follows is a self-directed story that allows you to take on the role of your favorite Final Fantasy heroes, as they face familiar foes to gain the crystals that Cosmos so desperately needs to keep the world from ending.
Though the story isn’t that deep, the game has some very excellent dialogue. Characters retain their unique personalities, from Tidus’ spunky optimism to Cloud’s morose attitude. Seeing these larger-than-life personalities interact with one another is a treat indeed for fans, and even though the story is forgettable, the game has plenty of humorous moments and situations that are intended as fan service.
Aside from the memorable character interactions, there are other positives working for Dissidia: Final Fantasy as well. Chief among these is the battle system. While the battle system doesn’t have the depth or variety that established franchises like Tekken or SoulCalibur have, Dissidia doesn’t do too bad for a first-time fighter, and it certainly nails the basics while adding its own distinctive Final Fantasy flair.
Battles in Dissidia use a two-fold strategic combat system that adds a “bravery” meter to traditional hit points. Each character is able to collect bravery points from the environment or by attacking their opponent with a bravery attack. Collect enough of these bravery points and you’ll be able to enter “Ex” mode, which allows your character to change class, use special weapons, and land devastating special attacks.
The bravery system is fairly interesting, as it favors strategy over all-out attacks. In addition to bravery attacks, you can also perform hit attacks, which will damage the other player’s hit points, but will not net you any extra bravery points. By using a combination of both bravery and hit attacks, you can unlock your character’s potential while causing steady damage to your opponent.
Controls for the game mirror the game’s strategic emphasis and are very simple. You use the circle button for bravery attacks and the square button for HP attacks. Both of these types of attacks can be strung together in combo moves and will be enhanced if the player transforms into Ex mode. Although there isn’t much to the moves set, the strategic elements keep the game interesting, especially when you are fighting against boss-type enemies that use advanced fighting techniques.
Another element that keeps battles feeling fresh is the fighting environments. The battle areas in Dissidia are quite large, and there are plenty of places where your character can run and hide. You can also lure unsuspecting enemies into traps with collapsible elements. Although there is not that much detail in the various environments, there is still plenty to explore, and there are many ways you can use the size of the environment to your advantage when playing tactically.
However, even though the focus of Dissidia: Final Fantasy is squarely on the combat, the game still retains its RPG roots. As you move characters through the different story modes, you will be able to level them up and gain special ability points that unlock additional attacks and eventually creature summons. You can also equip characters with equipment and accessories that you find in battle.
In addition to the meta-game, there is also a mini-game that is played inside the customization menu. This mini-game is known as Chocobo’s Journey. When you win a match, the Chocobo will walk one step forward on his journey. If he finds a gyshal green to eat, he will be a in a good mood and provide you with bonuses during fights. The Chocobo can also provide lucky bonuses if you win several fights in a row.
If there was one major complaint I had about Dissidia: Final Fantasy, it is its lack of online support. Though the PSP hasn’t historically included online multiplayer for its fighting games, I think if there was one game that needed it, it would be this one. However, as a consolation there is an ad-hoc multiplayer mode that has a small lobby and allows you to trade friend cards with nearby opponents.
The look of Dissidia: Final Fantasy is very polished, and the opening cinematic is definitely one of the best I have ever seen on the PSP system. The in-game graphics are a little less polished, but are on par with last year’s Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. Though environments aren’t terribly detailed, character animation is very fluid, even during high-energy fights, and the framerate never wavers.
Sound in Dissidia: Final Fantasy is outstanding. The game has several unique themes which are brought to life with energizing orchestration. However, even though these new themes are nice to listen to, what really shines here is the way that old themes from popular Final Fantasy games have been remixed and repurposed for Dissidia. You can expect to hear some very familiar tunes while fighting, including “One Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII, “Eternal Wind” from Final Fantasy III, and the title themes from the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy IV. Although some of the older themes have been cleaned up slightly for Dissidia, they all still retain their charm, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the soundtrack here.
Although I will be the first to admit I was excited for the release of Dissidia: Final Fantasy the second it was announced, I had my reservations about the game’s potential. However, with plenty of memorable character moments, a truly innovative battle/RPG hybrid combat system, and plenty of fan service, if you are a Final Fantasy aficionado, this is a must-buy!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Cutscenes are the best on the PSP system. Battle visuals are on-par with last year’s Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core 4.2 Control
Controls are simple and easy to learn. Though there are no complex combos, the straightforward mechanics keep the focus on strategy over button-mashing. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
From the iconic Victory Fanfare to game-specific melodies like “One-Winged Angel” and “Mambo de Chocobo,” you’ll hear plenty of tunes from your favorite Final Fantasy games of the past. 3.7 Play Value
The story mode is fairly lengthy, and there are plenty of unlockables to keep you going. However, the lack of online play is regrettable. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.