Dissidia? I barely know her!
Game: Dissidia Final Fantasy NT
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Square Enix
Reviewed on: Playstation 4 (Review code provided)
Face punching comes in many forms. Maybe you want the crazy, fireball throwing nonsense of Street Fighter or the throat ripping violence of Mortal Kombat. Possibly the more thought out tactics of Virtua Fighter are your thing. Then again, maybe you’re after the wild four player antics of Smash Bros. Well, Team Ninja and Square Enix are bringing their own take on crotch kicking to the table with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT on Playstation 4.
Starting life in 2008 as a Playstation Portable series, Dissidia made the jump to arcades in 2015 with the Team Ninja developed Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, a fast paced team focussed version of the portable title. It’s a conversion of this game that makes its way to Playstation 4. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a 3v3 fighting game that takes place on a free roaming plane. Players pick from a roster of characters spanning the Final Fantasy series’ storied history. Joining a team of two other characters, you’re then dropped into a themed arena to battle it out against another team until a winner is declared.
Gameplay sees characters deploying three different types of move – bravery attacks, HP attacks and EX skills. The actual combat mechanics are an interesting beast, with bravery attacks being the primary moves. These charge a bravery gauge which basically dictate how much damage your character will deal to the opponent. This damage can then be channeled into a HP attack which will deplete the opponent’s health bar and reset your bravery gauge to 0. The risk/reward here is that being hit while at bravery 0 will result in a bravery break and a significant gauge increase for your opponent. Balancing this is the EX moves. These support moves will allow you to buff yours and your team-mates attacks, deal status damage such as poison or restore health. Your character can only have two EX moves enabled at any one time. Fights take place in a standard team battle; each time a character is defeated, that team takes a fall – the first to three falls loses. There is also a base control mode where each team has a summoning crystal of their colour that they must protect; deal enough damage to the opposing teams crystal and you can claim victory.
What’s that? Summons? Why yes. It wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy game without them. As well as a character you pick a demon to summon. During the fight, summon crystals will appear on the battlefield. Hit these with bravery attacks to build a summon gauge and, when full, hold the touchpad to charge your summon. If you’re not interrupted while summoning, your chosen demon will eventually appear and stomp all over the battlefield, dealing massive damage to the opposing team. Ifrit is available from the get go but more summons can be unlocked as you progress – we’ll talk about that later.
For now, let’s chat about how Dissidia looks and sounds. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. The visuals are bright and bold, the characters rendered in that “real cartoon” look that Final Fantasy has perfected over the last few iterations, the arenas are varied with different environment types, raised areas and plenty of opportunity for for tactics to be employed. Moves land with plenty of impact and everything is accompanied by fully voiced characters. On the flipside, however, the UI is busy as hell with health and status tracking bars all over the place, numbers flying about and… eugh… it’s just a mess and it gets in the way of the attractive graphics. Another thing that irritates is the “announcer” that follows you through the game. Final Fantasy has always had flying cat characters called Moogles. It’s one of these that provides not only the “Choose a character!” announcements, but can also provide you with hints during combat. Believe me – you want to turn that off as soon as possible. Voiced in a squeaky anime style, the Moogle finishes every sentence by saying “Kupo!” That might seem cute when written down in RPG dialogue, but spoken every few seconds it’s enough to drive one mad. “Choose a character, kupo!” “Choose a summon, kupo!” “You’re winning, kupo!” “Make sure you block, kupo!” The eye twitching is real…
Which brings us round to what there is to do beyond the combat in Dissidia – the answer is… eh… not a lot really. The game menu defaults to online play – this is obviously where Square Enix want you to head and we’ll get to that shortly, but aside from that you have an offline mode consisting of the ability to take on a stream of battles, arcade style or mix and match for a single battle. There’s a story mode which is basically a series of cutscenes and battles, and a shop front which allows you to pick up new outfits, weapons and moves to customise your characters with, but it’s these latter two that I had the most contention with. You see, to access the story cutscenes you need to spend a currency called Memoria. You get 1 Memoria at the start of the game and you earn 1 each time you level up your character by taking part in battles, or by defeating story mode battles. This means that the currency comes through at a trickle, so anyone hoping to engage with the story before tackling the battle modes will find themselves disappointed with a long grind ahead of them to be able to make any progress on the narrative timeline. In fact, that’s what Dissidia really feels like – a big grind. Every action, every battle unlocks something more – be it Memoria or Gil, the other currency on offer, new EX moves or… eugh… Loot Boxes. Yes, you heard. Loot Boxes. In all honesty that’s not as nefarious as it sounds and is actually beneficial to an extent. You see, there is a shop, and in that shop you spend Gil to buy new moves and character dressing – Loot Boxes effectively enable you to earn random gear by playing the game. Sometimes you’ll unlock a bunch of icons, sometimes some sweet new duds for Squall or Cloud.
Character customisation does play a big part in Dissidia. Every time you use a character they level up, allowing you to access new HP moves for them. You can set up several different loadouts of HP and EX moves as well as different visual combinations of outfits and weapons, all of them selectable when you pick your character. Having characters level up, however, means more grinding to get new moves. It’s a bit of a cycle and, with only a couple of game modes, it gets boring very quickly. It also doesn’t help that the online play is a bit of a mixed bag performance wise. It’s understandable to have some hitches – certainly when I looked at Street Fighter V a few weeks back there were times when the online didn’t hold up brilliantly, but I’m not sure I’ve experienced anything quite like this. Almost every match I played had some kind of hitching and glitching, with one match playing at half speed for the entirety, the visuals struggling to keep up as if I were playing a flick animation book, not a videogame. While I seemed to get more loot off the back of online play, the stress of having to actually find willing players and the crapshoot that was the potential performance almost made the effort not seem worth it.
Overall, Dissidia has some fun mechanics going on, but the game itself is largely focussed on and hides a lot of its content behind a relentless grind. It’s credit to Square, though, that they’ve not made a sacrifice to the microtransaction Gods and allowed players to drop real money for loot boxes, however a more cynical person might see the grindy nature of the game as an indication that this may once have been the case. It’s not a bad game and will certainly find its fans, but for this reviewer it felt shallow and lacking.
While Dissidia is not a bad game by any means, it’s fun mechanics unfortunately give way to dull and stilted progression with patchy online performance. One for the fans only.