Hard to believe that ten years have passed since the original Dissidia debuted on the PSP. The idea of squaring up iconic Final Fantasy protagonists and antagonists into a fighting arena sounded golden to longtime fans of Square Enix’s hallmark series, and it clearly resonated with fans. Well, mostly. Expectations of experiencing free-for-all battles bordering on fandom-made-real felt convoluted for some.
But what if we could change all that for the better? At least that’s the idea in this expanded home port of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, which is a cognizant change for engagement and to further appeal to the genre minority. Granted, the basic essence of the first two titles remain, but Square Enix is eagerly trying to edge into the eSports circuit, and ultimately EVO tournaments.
It’s important to note Dissidia NT isn’t a sequel, but in fact a partial reboot. This revelation is nice if the wandering plot of opposing deities was confusing or bored you to tears. Another point is that NT is originally an arcade game — in Japan this is a 3v3 online coin-op title (simply known as Final Fantasy Dissidia or DFFAC) that gets a lot of play. This approach forces on quick thinking with ample amounts of teamwork to gain victory, or can just as easily lead to frustration if you’re unable to operate under pressure. Winning and losing often depends on general teamwork and how well you coordinate actions to other members on the battlefield.
The foray is chaotic with screen-filling effects and matches sometimes lasting mere minutes. This brevity happily accommodates online battles, but it might be detrimental with how frantic the action gets in lieu of perceived balance. In that respect, the system is fairly lax but requires proper locomotion and awareness with everything going on. Targeting different enemies (with L2 + R2) and identifying when you’re marked can be hectic, but it helps that the combat aerobatics are elementary for ease. There’s a lot more to it than just button-mashing.The flow quickly cycles between “Bravery attacks”, which deplete your opponent’s bravery gauge while building up your own. This concurrently leaves your opponent vulnerable to “HP attacks” that deals damage equal to the amount of bravery you’ve acquired, and this is the only way to take away life while serving a blow to incapacitate anyone who gets hit. EX moves are the equivalent of magic attacks that can be assigned before the fight, two of them are customizable ranging from HP regeneration, defense, and stats aliments with more that can be unlocked; along with a default EX for each character’s own ability enhancements.
Characters themselves are divided into specific class type that is generally handled like a rock-paper-scissors formula, and are superfluously named for some reason. Vanguards (heavy) can confidently face opponents head-on, Assassins (speed) are the most maneuverable with technical attacks, Marksman (shooter) offer long-range assistance, and Specialists (unique) can do anything that isn’t exclusively compartmentalized.
Dashing, guarding, dodging, and aerial recoveries draw immediate comparisons other fighting games but it’s the summons that make this quintessentially Final Fantasy. You get to choose from a small selection (Ifrit, Shiva, Ramuh, Odin, and Alexander to name a few) and can call them out but only if you attack the crystal cores that randomly pop up on the battlefield. Absorbing the summoning core is not essential but it’s pretty common to witness each team scramble towards it in desperation, since summons often provide a needed edge and make their presence known with a cinematic introduction every time.Core gameplay is fine but DFFNT incorporates a stylistic myriad of JRPG elements. Noticeably, in-game UI is cluttered with various health bars, icons, and numbers that takes up a lot of real estate. The default appearance shows a cleaner interface that does away with the medieval decorations seen in the coin-op release, the look is streamlined but isn’t necessarily easier to read. If you’re a purist though, you can switch back to the original UI.
When DFFNT is judged purely as an arcade game though, you get a relative plethora of content in the form of icons, skins, collectables, and secondary chat phrases that can be unlocked or bought with gil. Nearly every uninterrupted battle will pony up some treasure or a nostalgic music track — however, these optional extras are minor throwbacks and add very little to the main experience.
Another criticism is the story mode itself. Ironically, I always wanted a Dissidia title that is more competitive without formulaic padding, and the lack of a distinct plot is indicative of DFFNT of its eSport motives. Fans of the PSP iterations will be disappointed to earn Memoria just to tolerate passive melodrama between gods Materia and Spiritus with the occasional boss battle thrown in. Excluding online battles or grinding like crazy in gauntlet mode, the campaign totals up to about three hours.Dissidia Final Fantasy NT reinvents its mythos into a fierce team brawler. Action is appreciably frenzied, online matchmaking is reminiscent of its arcade-derived roots, and the presentation is beautifully rendered. Unfortunately, everything I enjoy about this game probably won’t keep larger audiences involved for a moderate amount of time, particularly with a minimal level of content for its home console debut. DFFNT is within the same addictive vein found in Gundam VS (EXVSMB) and Virtual On, but that may be its undoing depending on how dedicated Square Enix is to their vision, and if fans are receptive.