No introduction is really needed to the world of Final Fantasy, save to say it’s arguably the most popular single player RPG of all time, and has produced some of the most memorable characters seen in gaming. Now, to celebrate 20 years of the series, Square Enix has produced Dissida Final Fantasy, homage to the FF series, and a novel twist to the usual games.
Those looking for another epic FF story spanning multiple discs may be in for a shock as this instalment of Final Fantasy is no mere RPG. Instead, imagine, if you will, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts joining forces. This is pretty much what Dissidia is all about, and instead of field-wandering and quest-running gameplay with turn-based combat, Dissidia is a one on one fighter, albeit a very different take on the genre.
The game opens with a mighty battle between the forces of good and evil. On the side of light we have the deity Cosmos. Facing her is the demonic Chaos. Serving these powerful gods are characters from the Final Fantasy back catalogue, all the way back to the first Final Fantasy. Each game has the main protagonist and antagonist as a character here, and yes, this includes Cloud and Sephiroth.
There are several modes to the game, including the arcade mode, which simply lets you pick a character and go at it against a series of foes, and the story mode, which is where many players will, no doubt, spend a lot of their time, but we’ll get to this later. First we should take a look at the main element of the game, the combat.
If you’ve played Kingdom Hearts, then much of the combat system will be familiar (it’s been designed by the same team). Taking place in a large, 3D arena, you can trade blows, use all manner of special moves, run up walls, fly through the air and even grind along Jet Set Radio-style rails.
However, although this all sounds great, at first it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll meet the game with more than a little confusion. This is a true Japanese-centric title, and as such features few Western conventions. Because of this, some may find the controls and combat mechanics will take a while to get used to, with frustration ready and waiting to set in. For example, main attacks consist of courage attacks and damage attacks. Each character has a courage meter, and using a courage attack breaks this down. The lower this meter is, the more susceptible they are to damage. To actually damage your foe, you’ll need to use damage attacks. Other controls react with the environment contextually, such as skating along a rail or running up a wall, and there’s a slew of button combos to memorize in order to pull off special attacks, dodges and other advanced moves.
During battle you can pick up an ‘EX Core’ This bestows a power boost on your character, and lets them use their most powerful attacks (Overdrives and Limit Breaks). As you progress through the game you’ll also earn summons, which let you call forth recognisable Final Fantasy summons to aid you.
Controls are responsive enough, and once you get used to the button layout and combos, you can pull off some impressive moves. The movement of characters is a little too loose and floaty though, especially while in the air, and you sometimes feel totally out of control as a result.
Move ahead one space
In between battles in the story mode, the game uses a board game-style system in which you move your piece around. You have a limited number of action points to move, and so need to plan your moves carefully. On the board are enemies, treasure chests and other items, each of which require a single point. If you run out of points, you can continue, but you’ll earn deductions from your final points and experience upon clearing the level.
Behind the scenes in a confusing, and to be honest, pretty off-putting item and inventory system. There’s a shop where you can buy items and weapons, but you can also create items by fulfilling requirements during battle. This is an interesting system, and with time you will get to grips with it, but I suspect many players will gloss over it completely. There are also a disturbing number of pop-up tutorials that don’t really say anything useful, and to actually get the most out of the game’s help, you need to read though the lengthy manual section.
The story mode features separate stories for each character, and levels are broken up with cut-scenes. These are all pretty nonsensical, though, either due to poor writing or bad translation, and none of the stories are particularly interesting, even fan favourites like Cloud and Sephiroth, which is a shame. I’d also challenge some character choices, and I, for one, would have preferred to have Squall’s evil counterpart to be Siefer rather than Ultimecia. Yes, she was the main boss of FFVIII, but Siefer would have suited the game far more in my opinion. This is all down to personal preference, though, and many may disagree.
Dissida Final Fantasy has a lot to offer fans of the FF series, and it features some complex and in-depth statistical goings on and inventory management. There’s plenty of unlockables to go for, and there’s also some ad-hoc multiplayer support. The combat system is very unique and hard to master, though, so much so that many may be put off, but if you give it time, the game does come into its own.
Dissidia Final Fantasy will be released today.