Review: Dissidia Final Fantasy (PSP)September 8th, 2009 | Written by Danreb Victorio | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
Final Fantasy is one of the most beloved franchises in all of gaming. With most of these great franchises, gamers often experience a horrible amount of milking. Final Fantasy is one of the few franchises, while often milked, that actually has decent gameplay with every release. This remains the case with Dissidia Final Fantasy, Square Enix’s latest entry on the PSP that caters to an audience in desperate need of nostalgia.
In the most basic sense, Dissidia is a role-playing fighting game that features heroes and villians from the first ten flagship games in the series. You may be thinking, “Role-playing… fighting game?” But in reality, that’s the case. Dissidia packages a full-blown story featuring everyone’s favorite Final Fantasy characters, while meshing it with real-time strategy elements such as item-gathering, magic, and grinding levels with some epic fight scenes that play like a more glorified Kingdom Hearts or Crisis Core without all the menus. Granted, that’s a lot to take in, but Square Enix did a good job combining the essences of role-playing games and fighting games into quite an interesting package.
Given the circumstances that each Final Fantasy hero/ine and villain came from different worlds, it’s safe to say that the story sometimes ends up all over the place. A battle between Cosmos, the Goddess of Light, and Chaos, the Lord of Darkness ensues, lasting for quite an eternity. Unfortunately, Chaos gains the upper hand, and on her last desperate attempt at redemption, Cosmos summons ten of the light’s greatest heroes—each of them being the main character of each respective Final Fantasy title. The game’s main story mode, Destiny Odyssey, is a set of ten chapters that has each of the ten games’ heroes on a quest to obtain ten crystals to restore power to Cosmos, and perhaps vanquish the world of its darkness.
This is where the game’s plentiful RPG-like elements come in. While it’s not like a full-fledged Final Fantasy game that has you venturing out through beautiful worlds and environments, you’ll still have access to various nuances such as magic and other equipment. Each level of a character’s Destiny Odyssey has you navigating through what’s pretty much a mapped battlefield, very much like the ones you’d experience in a turn-based strategy game like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. However, you’re not limited by movement spaces. You can go to any part of the map that you please, just as long as there aren’t any obstacles—whether it’s treasure or enemies—in the way. You have the option of leveling up by ridding the battlefield of monsters, or you can take the easy way out by doing the absolute minimum of what’s needed and then defeating the map’s “boss.” At the very end, your character will meet his or her arch-enemy, and upon defeating them, you’ll obtain the needed crystal to finish your chosen character’s Destiny Odyssey.
In order to complete the Story Mode, you have to get through each character’s Destiny Odyssey. The beauty of it is that each character has their own perspective on the Cosmos vs. Chaos war, and it’s just pretty good fan service to Final Fantasy fans wondering what happened with their favorite characters after their appropriate game endings. But with the various environments and worlds each character came from, it raises some confusion with the game’s overall story. Each character’s path to the Cosmos-healing crystal is parallel, but eventually some random crossovers occur. The first chapter, for instance, has a conversation between the Warrior of Light, Cecil, and Tidus when Firion wreaks havoc. Each character called each other by name, despite not introducing each other. This happens throughout the game without much explanation, and while it’s definitely interesting, it’ll just leave fans confused.
That being said, the story does have its bright points, especially to those who have completed every Final Fantasy game. Throughout the game’s many dialog scenes, “inside jokes” make their way seamlessly with each character’s speech. For example, Tidus is going to be asked why he smiles all the time, which is in direct respect to the advice he gives Yuna about smiling in Final Fantasy X. Little things such as these give the game a whole lot more of an authentic Final Fantasy feel, and that should keep fans smiling.
But with how interesting the story mode may be, the way Square Enix handled the game’s combat system is even more impressive. As touched upon earlier, the game plays a lot like Crisis Core, but the overall feel makes it more laid back than Kingdom Hearts. This is because there are only two attack buttons, while each environment in the game is open-ended and interactive. You’ll have characters run up walls, smash them into the walls, and even fight thousands of feet in the air—which has pretty much been the standard with anime-inspired fighters, especially after Dragon Ball Z. Like most other fighters, the goal is to rid your opponent of their HP, but in Dissidia, that’s easier said than done.
The square button is your standard attack button, and that’s what’ll bring your opponent’s HP down. The circle button is for bravery attacks, which in turn make your opponent’s main attacks weaker, while making your attacks stronger. Numbers above the HP and Ex-Gauge on the bottom of the screen correspond to each character’s bravery points, which is equivalent to their attack power. So if you have 500 Bravery Points (BP), your attacks will do 500 points of damage. A common, and perhaps most effective, strategy in the game is to keep mashing that circle button until your BP is through the roof so you can unleash ridiculously strong attacks on your opponent. While that all sounds good, eventually players will find that that strategy is hard to capitalize on, especially with faster characters who dodge easily.
Of course, there are other nuances on the field that’ll help with each battle, such as the Ex-Core, which is pretty much what the Smash Ball was in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The Ex-Core gives your character’s attacks more juice, and if you keep the right shoulder button held while throwing a physical attack, you can press the square button one more time to unleash your signature skill. Similar to the overdrive limit in games like Final Fantasy X, if you follow a set of button commands and chain them successfully, the signature moves will kill your opponent nine times out of ten.
Most of the enemies you’ll face in the story mode are just random shadows or Chaos warriors that really won’t put a dent in your character. The idea here is to use them for practice and to level up your character before fighting the map’s boss. The boss fights are more fast-paced than a regular battle, but they’re still very strategic, especially when you go against your appropriate character’s arch enemy.
Players who complete every Destiny Odyssey end up unlocking a second part to the main story called the Shade Impulse. Without giving away too much of the plot, it’s all pretty much a second attempt at victory by Chaos and the rest of the darkness, and it really is up to you as to which character you want to use to complete the journey.
Aside from just the story mode, players also have the option of completing the game’s Arcade mode that pits players against five random heroes or enemies, and upon completion, items and experience points are gained which then can be used in the game’s story mode. With that, an entire mess of secrets can be unlocked. From a new one-on-one mode that requires you to use turn-based menu commands in battle, to new environments and characters. Dissidia simply has a lot to offer.
For lack of better judgment, the game just looks absolutely stunning–which is quite surprising, because when screenshots and videos of the game first started to come out, everything looked extremely awkward, especially with all the running on walls and random flying. But now everything has come together to make this game look great. If there’s any complaint one can make, it’s that there’s a bit of a visual slowdown when playing the game via ad hoc. Then there’s the fact that Tidus doesn’t look anything like his FFX self–then again, who really cares about Tidus? Granted, as a tribute to the great Yoshitaka Amano, all the personae were designed with his style in mind. So people wondering about the little subtleties like Terra having blond hair or Bartz looking a bit strange should know that it’s most of this is Amano’s artwork. Of course, diehard Final Fantasy fans will also notice the artistic difference between regular Summons and AUTO Summons. The visual style with the regular Summons totally depicts Amano’s work, while the AUTO’s dont. However way you look at the visuals, there really isn’t anything too bad to say about them.
The game’s soundtrack is also superb. Of course, considering it’s Nobuo Uematsu and Final Fantasy, that’s not surprising. The game combines pretty much every battle tune you’ve heard from previous Final Fantasy installments to create quite an impressive musical package as there are solid orchestral remixes of the themes from Final Fantasies I-IX. The voice acting is unfortunately lacking in a few parts, but it’s not that hard to get used to. The tough part is you don’t have the option of re-dubbing it back to Japanese, so loyalists who are into having it in its original form could be disappointed, but sound really isn’t a big issue with the game at all.
With the fame that each character in the Final Fantasy series possesses, Square Enix could’ve easily made a fighting game just as bad as Castlevania Judgment. Fortunately for gamers and Final Fantasy fans alike, Dissidia offers an engaging experience that’s both easy to pick up and tough to master. Like all Final Fantasy games, Dissidia takes some time and dedication to complete, but when it’s all said and done, it’s all definitely worth it. The coolest thing about the game is that it can be taken both in small doses or for longer periods of time. To make it short, Dissidia is the game that’ll make everybody (not just Final Fantasy fans) look for their neglected PSP’s.