When it comes to fan-service, Square Enix are masters of the craft. Final Fantasy sees more spin-off titles than mainline games in any given year, and this versatility has served the series well.
Dissidia NT, the home-console big brother of the PSP titles that came before, is no different, with some excellent interdimensional interactions causing big stupid grins to cross the faces of every long time FF fan. Though I haven’t played its predecessors in years it didn’t take me long to get back into the swing of things and have a blast.
The storyline of Dissidia NT definitely takes a back seat to the rest of the game, and it shows in both the way this tale is delivered and in the narrative itself. From its opening cinematics to the credits and every fight in between, chapters of the story must be purchased using a currency earnt by playing the game in other modes. After a few hours of playing online I was able to afford maybe twenty minutes of the story mode, including a handful of cutscenes and a single battle. In this way the fan-service-filled goofiness of having your favourite heroes banter with each other is treated as a reward as much as the unlockable outfits are, not as the main event but as a bonus for dedicated players. It’s a strange system that initially confused the heck out of me – after all, where better to practise before throwing down online than in the safety of a single-player story mode?
Anyone who’s hoping to grab Dissidia for the crossover content alone – to see their Cloud’s brooding introvert slam against Vaan’s always optimistic attitude, or to have Sephiroth compliment Kefka on his insanity – will need to settle in for the long haul. This is a game made up of tough battles that are time consuming to even unlock. The storyline itself is an inoffensive affair – the group of heroes and villains have been summoned to a strange new world that is fuelled by violent clashes, and that’s kind of … it. Despite this it’s for the interpersonal dialogue we’re here for, and on that front Dissidia delivers.
Gameplay & Multiplayer:
Dissidia NT is a curious beast that will likely stump any but the already initiated. Working as a party-brawler of sorts, the game pits teams of three against each other in large arenas. Battles don’t work in the same way as most fighting games however – you can whack your opponents about but these attacks won’t deal any physical damage, instead building up a currency called ‘Bravery Points’ that you steal off each other when your attacks connect. Claim enough points and you ‘bank’ them by converting them to actual damage with a HP attack, which will drain an enemy’s vitality. Or, if you’re feeling appropriately brave, you can save up points in the hopes of getting enough to score a one-hit-KO. Get three knockouts on the opposing team and you’ll win.
It’s a seemingly simple affair that has the mind-games of a fighter hardboiled into its DNA. Because everyone’s bravery points can be seen above their heads, suddenly tactics, bravado and a healthy sense of mortal fear become massively important. Anyone who’s running around with only a couple of hundred BP pose no threat to you should they decide to do a HP attack, but If you see someone stomping around with 3500 Bravery Points – the amount it takes for an insta-kill – then you’re likely going to want to steer clear of them, or play extra cautiously. But these players have also painted a huge target on their backs – anyone who can get the drop on them or interrupt their attacks against a teammate stand to claim that massive power for themselves. Lines travel from player to player to denote who they’re targeting, and plenty of times I found myself with three beads squarely focused on me as I tried to finish an opponent off. I never felt more powerful – and more at risk – than when I was carrying a lot of BP (or worse, a total just shy of the necessary killing blow).
Because of these fascinating visual design choices, Dissidia NT is elevated from what could have been a fairly mindless button-mashing brawler to something that feels decidedly engaging. Smart teams will learn to protect their at-risk teammates, focus on stopping a power-grab from an opposing fighter and largely ignore the crystals, in my experience. These pop up around the arena and allow your team to pull off a summon, gracing you with the presence of Bahamut or Leviathan to swing the battle in your favour. These massive beasties boil down to mostly-avoidable stage hazards, though, and I never found they had any decisive sway in the results of a match.
As for the fighting itself, it’s all fairly simple once you’ve played a few games. There are 28 characters to choose from, each with their own class and combos to master, that cover every mainline FF game and even some of the spin offs, including Ramza from FF Tactics – an inclusion that made this SRPG fan very happy. They all play similarly enough to allow you to mix things up without feeling like you’re starting from scratch, but they all have different combo setups and abilities to master if you stick with them. You can guard, cast spells and dash around the arena to mix things up – indeed, air-dashing after fleeing enemies made up an inordinate amount of my playtime as I yelled profanities at the screen, asking if they’d kindly stop to let me murder them. They rarely listened.
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