When worlds collide…
Years ago, Square-Enix released its first iteration of Dissidia Final Fantasy for the widely popular PlayStation Portable (PSP). The games featured lightning fast, 1 vs. 1 combat that utilized an innovative dual damaging system and starred fan favorite characters from the lifespan of the Final Fantasy franchise. As a young adult – and even still – the Dissidia spin offs provided me with endless hours of enjoyment. Not much can compete with the idea of, say, Squall and Sephiroth duking it out through the chasms of a broken world. For years, however, the Dissidia franchise fell dormant in the west, with only a Japanese arcade version as its recent iteration. The game, a great success in Japan, eventually made its way stateside with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, a PS4 port of the Japanese arcade classic, and it comes loaded with plenty of content.
Fighter games are a dime a dozen nowadays, but Dissidia Final Fantasy NT freshens the space up with a unique take on the arena fighter niche. Whereas other arena fighting games feature fast paced combat with a few innovative perks, Dissidia throws a mathematical combat system into the fray – replete with additional EX skills, enormous summons, and more. If Gundam Vs. is rock, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT would fall under the math metal category (see Veil of Maya). It is in this clever system that the Dissidia franchise has always thrived, and NT is no different in those regards.
For those unfamiliar with the general plot behind the Dissidia franchise, the story revolves around various heroes and villains from the long legacy of Final Fantasy games. In the original two (Dissidia and Duodecim), the goddess of light and god of chaos have been stuck in eternal conflict, summoning the villains and heroes to battle each other to bring balance to their world. For NT, the storyline changes a bit, seeing Materia and Spiritus summoning the likes of the Warrior of Light, Cloud, Lightning, Kefka, Sephiroth, and more to, seemingly battle each other once again. There is a much more fearsome foe this time, however.
The campaign in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT feels a bit shorter than the original two games, particularly because you cannot choose a storyline to follow. To traverse the campaign, you must acquire Memoria and unlock pieces of the story – either cutscenes or battles – in order to advance. There are approximately five lines on what resembles a sphere grid of sorts for you to unlock, and the entire campaign takes about 30 player levels to fully unlock (so about 30 memoria). The campaign is enhanced as you level your player level up, and the fights become progressively difficult, while the battles against the summons – you must defeat each summon in the game in combat – range from simple to treacherous.
Should the campaign not do it for you, however, Dissidia NT offers two offline modes to peruse, as well. These two modes consist of a trial mode (where you and two allies battle across a number of stages) that, as you progress in the campaign, unlocks further trials and difficulty levels. The other offline mode allows you to take on any 3 opponents in a classic arena match up. These offline modes are particularly helpful when it comes to amassing player experience when needing to obtain more memoria. (There is also a tutorial mode that helps new players through the difficult combat system).
In addition to the offline modes, Dissidia Final Fantasy features a terrific and frustrating online mode, where you can compete in ranked matches by yourself (where you’re teamed up with two strangers) or in a group – or you can battle in unranked matches. As it sits, my win/loss ratio is roughly 50% due to a combination of a lack of skill (me), bad teammates, unstable connections (there is some atrocious lag), and an overall need to revamp the matchmaking system. Typically, I play very defensively online; I chip away at my opponents’ bravery points (BP) before unleashing my HP attacks (once HP is depleted, they are terminated). I die about .4 times per game (which averages out to about one in every two-to-three battles), but I find myself on the losing team often. It’s a system I hope is adjusted soon, because the character ranks (each character levels up and gains ranks, thus enabling them to use new attacks and face stronger opponents) don’t seem to be cutting it.
Still, the frustrating matchmaking will never dull my experience with Dissidia NT. The combat feels so rewarding and requires fast thinking and changing strategies on the fly (literally), and each character features pretty unique movesets. There are four different character classes in Dissidia – the Vanguard, Assassin, Specialist, and Marksman – and each class specializes in different attack styles. Within in each class, too, the characters are all unique. For example, Lightning serves as an assassin, and her ability to switch behind the Commando and Ravager classes from Final Fantasy XIII make her a dual threat when it comes to range. Likewise, Kain (Final Fantasy IV) is also an assassin who deals in mostly close combat assaults. He can use the infamous Jump ability of the dragoons, allowing him to surprise enemies consistently (or, at the very least, keep them on their toes).
Combat, as I’ve mentioned previously, is split into two main categories: HP and BP attacks. Each character starts with a default 1,000 BP. As you or your enemy attacks with brave attacks, you gain or lose BP. That BP can then be used in your HP attacks. For example, Garland’s second HP attack is Tsunami, where he launches a wave medium range wave attack at his foes. If he had 2,000 BP, he would deal 2,000 HP damage when using it. Once you land an HP attack, your BP depletes to 0 before recharging, leaving you prone to an easy break (when you are damaged and lose all of your BP, thus giving the enemy a large BP boost). EX skills act as buffs or debuffs and can cause various status effects (Poisonga slowly depletes BP, Doom automatically breaks whomever it hits if they don’t damage you within 10 seconds, and Bindga holds an enemy in place should they be caught in the attack). Lastly, every beautifully designed stage spawns summon crystals sporadically throughout matches. As a team, you choose a summon before the match begins, and if you destroy enough of the crystals and fill your summon gauge, you can call in your otherworldly allies to deal massive amounts of damage (both HP and BP) to your enemies. Summons can change the tides of battle or, depending on the skill of your foes, be irrelevant; either way, they make for an interesting addition to your traditional combat (and they look incredible).
In so many ways, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT far exceeds its predecessors, particularly when it comes to gameplay and visuals. For the most part, the characters are voiced with immaculate precision (I’m still not a fan of Squall, though he’s grown on me from Duodecim), and the music ranges from Uematsu’s best to wonderfully arrangements designed for the Dissidia series. At this point, there isn’t any other place where you can watch your favorite Final Fantasy characters battle it out against each other (unless Square and Koei Tecmo team up for a Final Fantasy Heroes / Warriors, please?) and look this good. In the realm of eSports and on the couches of your average gamer, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT looks like it can carve itself out a nice chunk of the arena fighter niche thanks to its incredible combat that’s easy to learn and difficult to master and its Final Fantasy charm.