Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dissidia: Final Fantasy [Review]

I remember back when Final Fantasy X first came out, I thought it would be amazing if they could make a fighting game where characters from the entire Final Fantasy series could be mashed together as playable characters. Then, as fate would have it, Square Enix announced Dissidia: Final Fantasy, a fighting game featuring characters from all the Final Fantasy's. I was preparing to sue the shit out of them, but, realizing I did not have a copyright on the idea anyway, I just basked in the glorious win of the concept.

Dissidia features 22 playable characters. A hero and a villain each represent Final Fantasy I - X. A hero from Final Fantasy XI and a villain from XII also appear as hidden characters. The story is incredibly basic, surprisingly. It is about a war between Cosmos, the Goddess of Harmony, and Chaos, the God of Discord. Each God chooses 10 champions to wage war against each other, and the war starts to tip towards Chaos' favor. Yeah, they didn't try too hard but it doesn't really matter anyway. The story mode features 10 separate stories, each focusing on a hero from a Final Fantasy and each slightly interlinking with each other through cut scenes.

To be totally honest, the story mode is quite boring. I've always hated story modes in fighting games where the main gameplay involved a freaking board game (Dragonball Z Budokai series). That is exactly what its like in Dissidia. You have a player piece, and you move your piece around regularly engaging enemy pieces, initiating battles. The goal is to engage a piece at the other end of the board. In between these board games, you'll see a cutscene or two. I don't know what they could have done to make an interesting story mode, but this certainly doesn't appeal to me at all.

Fortunately, this is a fighting game, and the fun of this game is in the action. It is not a traditional 2 dimensional fighter; instead you have a third person view and take full advantage of the large, free form arena. The players have two vital numbers: Health Points and Brave Points. HP is basically their life, but BP is like a damage and defense meter. Because of this, each character has two different sets of moves: HP moves and BP moves, each affecting HP and BP respectively. Say you have 1500 BP and the enemy has 200 BP. When you use an HP attack, it will hit for 1200 HP. Simple as that. So your goal in battle will be to lower your enemies' BP with BP moves until it breaks, then strike him down with HP moves.

They wanted to replicate the intense wuxia style battles seen in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and I think they did an incredible job with it. Physics is basically your play thing, and you can defy it anyway you like. You can walk on walls, slide on rails, do mid-air flips and mid-air dashes, and fight fast-paced melee battles in the air. The key is to be as nimble as possible, dodging or blocking enemy attacks and catching them off guard. Characters have a variety of skills they can learn, so gameplay is significantly different between character to character.

I love the soundtrack, mainly because its a nostalgia trip. The game features 2-3 battle themes from the original Final Fantasy games, arranged for Dissidia. You will get to hear old favorites like Clash on the Big Bridge from Final Fantasy V and One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII. The story mode also features the main themes from each Final Fantasy game. There are plenty of Dissidia originals, but the key point is definitely the remixes of original battle themes.

And finally, the graphics. Dissidia features some of the best graphics seen in a PSP game. The characters are incredibly detailed and colorful. The battle arenas are reminiscent of familiar Final Fantasy areas like Kefka's tower to the inside of Sin, and all structured in their own unique ways. While the characters do look very good, their faces are always stuck with an emotionless expression, and makes for sort of a dull experience. The voice acting doesn't really help either, so personality is left to familiar dialogue. The problem with the characters and their individual stories is that there is no development, it just seems like a repeat of the troubles they faced in their original games. So while the cut scenes are nice to look at, it usually just consists of the characters standing in one of the battle arenas, exchanging predictable dialogue, complete with their expressionless faces. Still, battles look pretty.

If the story modes got you yawning, there's always arcade mode. It has you selecting your character and playing through a series of battles, just like any fighting game arcade mode. It's great when you don't have any friends to compete against. A notable thing about Dissidia is its extensive customization options. Just like any Final Fantasy game, there is a leveling system. There is a shop where you can buy all sorts of equipment for gil. There are tons of accessories to alter your character's stats, and summons with special abilities that activate during battle. Besides character customization, there are also tons of unlockables you can obtain with points you get from battles. Unlockables include more characters, alternate costumes, music, icons, and much more.

Despite its obvious flaws, Dissidia does a terrific job of making a fun, fast paced fighting game faithfully featuring Final Fantasy characters. Music will fill you with nostalgia, and the graphics are some of the best seen on the PSP. There are tons of stuff to unlock, and hundreds of thousands of ways to customize your characters. All in all, you have to give it up for the gameplay. It takes time to get used to and involves a decent amount of skill to master. When you do, it'll give you hours of fun if you can find a buddy to compete against. Dissidia is recommended to fans and newcomers alike.
Screenshots courtesy of

C.Jin's Overall Score: 8.8


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