Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 30/01/2018
Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Despite considering myself a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series, I never spent too much time playing the original Dissidia titles on the PSP. I think this was due to the platform itself rather than the fact that it wasn’t an RPG, because the idea of a 3D fighting game across big environments never appealed to me without dual-sticks – even if the concept of the game alone seemed utterly brilliant to me.
Naturally then, when I originally saw the Dissidia Final Fantasy NT reveal I couldn’t help but to be excited. I was finally going to get my fix of Final Fantasy fighting, and it was coming to a proper console with comfortable dual-sticks. That’s not me hating on the PSP because as a system itself I liked it; it just wasn’t built well for certain titles.
I’ve spent a good few hours with the game now and I can confidently say that the wait was worthwhile, with the intriguingly unique brawling and the sheer volume of characters proving to be a Final Fantasy fan’s dream. Whether or not it has enough in it for the long-term to keep fans hooked in is another thing altogether though…
So you shouldn’t expect a narrative masterpiece from Dissidia Final Fantasy NT – after all, this is a game that brings together characters from a variety of different universes – but that doesn’t mean you won’t have fun with it. Basically, it’s a classic battle of ‘good versus evil’, with the heroic Goddess of Protection (Materia) calling on her heroes to battle for her against the dastardly God of Destruction (Spiritus) and his villains. This means the likes of Cloud, Noctis, Tidus, and even the Warrior of Light will face off against vicious foes such as Ultimecia, Kefka, Jecht, and, of course, Sephiroth. It’s all good fun, but don’t expect to feel mightily absorbed into the fan service-fuelled tale.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT focuses more on the fighting itself than the actual story, and fortunately it’s in this area that it really shines. However, I will warn you to play the tutorial – believe me, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT takes some learning if you want to properly embrace its somewhat intricate combat mechanics.
One of the core features of the game is the ‘Bravery’ system. Your Bravery essentially measures how effective your character is going to be in combat, with a low Bravery count making you more vulnerable to being knocked out and a high Bravery count allowing you to defeat your opponents – it’s essentially a health bar and a power bar, all at the same time.
There are two kinds of attacks in the game: one that’ll drop an opponent’s Bravery, and one that’ll defeat them once their Bravery is low enough (a HP attack). It’s up to you to pummel them with Bravery depleting attacks to begin with, and once their Bravery is at zero to finish them off with a more powerful HP attack.
You can’t do this without having a high enough Bravery count yourself though, but it’s easy to build it up by stringing together attacks as well as reducing an enemy’s Bravery count to zero. Once you’ve built up a specified amount of Bravery, your counter will turn purple which will allow you to finish off an opponent with a HP attack. Be warned though – doing this will reset your Bravery count to zero and leave you vulnerable to attacks from your remaining opponents, so you’ve got to make sure you strike at the right moment.
Simple, right? It might sound like a lot to take in, but it’s actually a fairly easy system to figure out and one that works well in-game. It means you’ve always got to be wary of how powerful your opponents around you are, whilst you’ve also got to be careful in picking your attacks and ensuring you’re not leaving yourself open to a quick counter-attack from another opponent when your Bravery is low.
There are other aspects to consider in battle too, such as defending and closing the distance on your opponent. You can quickly dash out of the way of incoming attacks, whilst unleashing a more powerful attack on your opponent’s combos can viciously cut them out too. There are plenty of neat little touches to the combat that when mastered can be the difference between a victory or a loss – it’s never as simple as just dwindling down your opponent’s Bravery. Your special EX attacks can inflict de-buffs on your opponents with a quick button press for example, or even give a ranged attack to a typical close-quarters fighter.
Oh, there are also the giant Summons which you can call into battle to dish out damage to your opponents and hit them with some serious de-buffs. You choose which Summon you take into battle beforehand, with the likes of Ramuh, Ifrit, Shiva, and Odin providing an assortment of different skills to unleash upon your opponents. You then summon them by finding and destroying the summon crystals that show up on the battlefield. Picking and choosing when to focus on your opponent or attempting to make a summon can completely shift the tide of the battle, but whoever manages to summon one of the powerful deities to the battlefield will certainly have a huge advantage.
It’s also worth noting that each character players differently too, with four distinct styles on offer: Vanguard, Assassin, Marksman, and Specialist. Each of these work in different ways, be it attacking at range or up-close, being more mobile, being stronger, or even having more unique abilities that help them stand out on the battlefield. There are twenty-eight different characters to play as in total made up of the main protagonists and (typically) the main villains from each mainline entry in the series, so you’ll certainly have plenty of different characters to tinker around with and figure out what works best for you.
As for the roster itself, it’s certainly impressive. Whilst there are a few omissions that I would’ve liked to have seen, it’s a pretty strong selection and I’m sure most fans of Final Fantasy will see their favourites are available. I think newbies to the series will be impressed too, with the selection well varied both to play as but also in design – you’ve only got to look at the likes of Zidane, Kefka, and Ultimecia to see there are some unusual characters on show…
There’s a lot to learn and it might seem intimidating at first, but Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is certainly an accessible game. Don’t get me wrong, the HUD is mightily crowded and there’s a lot of action going on at any one time, but as soon as you grasp the basic combat mechanics everything else comes along with ease. It’s probably worth mentioning that the camera controls and the targeting system can be a bit fiddly to begin with at first too, but again, it’s something you’ll get used to the more you play the game.
Fortunately, it’s a lot of fun too, with all of the different combat mechanics coming together nicely to offer battles that are well-varied and undoubtedly full of action. It’s unfortunate then that there are only two game modes to play: ‘Standard Battles’ and ‘Core Battles’.
Standard Battles see you taking each other on in teams of three, with each team given three lives. The first team to eliminate three of the opposing players is deemed the victor, but if neither team wins within the time limit you both lose. Anyone who is knocked out can come back into battle too – it doesn’t matter if you’re the best player in the world, because if one of your teammates gets defeated three times it’s game over. As the name suggests, this is your standard type of battle and probably the purest way as far as fighters are concerned to play Dissidia Final Fantasy NT.
Then there are the Core Battles, which see teams of three battling it out to destroy their opponents’ core. There’s a dome around each core though, and if one of the defending players stays in that dome the core can’t be damaged. This means you’ve got to balance out defensive and offensive duties in order to succeed. It’s quite fun, especially since your combos can launch opponents across the battlefield and out of their dome, but it could also be frustrating when your AI team mates don’t do what you want them to. It’s a lot better when playing with real-life players (more on that later), but for the most part I preferred sticking to the Standard Battles.
Whilst both of these modes are fun enough, the fact there are only two was a little disappointing. Thankfully, there are online modes to play which do keep them interesting.
You can hit the online battlefield to take on other players around the world if you tire of taking on the plethora of single player challenges. This is one of the areas in which Dissidia Final Fantasy NT really shines; whilst it’s certainly possible to have a lot of fun with the game playing on your own, playing with friends and utilising team-work opened up some of the most brilliant moments for me.
There’s nothing quite like plotting with someone else to focus your attacks on one player and stringing a series of combos upon them, all whilst carefully cancelling your last moves to keep the combos flowing (don’t worry, you’ll learn how to do all of this in the main tutorial). There’s definitely a big emphasis on team-work in the game that isn’t always apparent in single player despite the game’s three-on-three setup, so getting to put everything together with co-ordination in the online mode is certainly refreshing.
Unless it happens to you, of course. Like any other competitive online title, you’ll certainly hit a difficulty barrier when playing Dissidia Final Fantasy NT online and it was something I quickly found when playing against well organised teams. Whilst the single player mode had its challenges at times, the amount of dominations my team were the victim of online became a little embarrassing – it certainly proved that I wasn’t as good at the game as I thought I was.
That’s not to say that it isn’t fun though, because when you face off against a balanced team you can become part of tactical action-packed showdowns that can go either way. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT’s unique combat mechanics means that anyone can pull a victory out of nowhere, so there’s definitely excitement to be found within its unpredictability.
Again though, It’s just a little disappointing that there are only two game modes to play right now. Whilst I enjoy the battling of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, it’s easy to tire of the same set of rules over and over again. Sure, fighting games aren’t traditionally known to offer a plethora of online modes to players, but with the wide-open areas and its creative approach to battling, I think Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is missing a trick by not including a few original ideas. That’s not to say that what’s on offer isn’t good enough though, because it’ll definitely provide hours upon hours of fun – it’s just a bit of a shame that it’s not expanded upon.
Fighting games are being more well-known for their story modes these days, and, as you’d probably expect from a Final Fantasy game, there’s one present in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. It’s made up of a variety of cutscenes (that certainly offer plenty of fan-service) and set battles, though it takes a bit of an unconventional approach in how you play it. You see, you can’t just play through the main story in one go – instead, you’ve got to unlock ‘Memorias’ to progress through the mode.
How do you do this? By fighting of course, be it online or in the single player modes. Now this was a neat idea, but one that’s easy to tire of. I love story modes in fighting games and I typically use them as a way to hone my skills and test out all of the different characters (titles like Mortal Kombat and Injustice have mastered this). Being forced to tackle the single player battles or online battles to progress through it then was a bit of a hindrance.
Don’t get me wrong, the game is fun to play anyway so it’s worthwhile, but the fact that the player is forced to do it felt unnecessary – especially since the story mode is made up of single player battles anyway. I’m sure some players will appreciate it more than others, but to me it felt like a somewhat cheap way to extend the length of the game. Not all Final Fantasy fans want to play a fighting game, but are on board to see their favourite heroes and villains battling it out. I think forcing them to play through countless battles in single player and online modes could alienate them a bit, especially if they’re not particularly good at fighters anyway.
Outside of unlocking the Memorias required to progress through the story, you can also unlock a variety of different things such as outfits, weapons, and songs as you progress through the game. Square Enix and Team Ninja certainly haven’t held back as far as content is concerned, and whilst most of it is typically cosmetic, it gives you something to work for as you grind through those battles. Admittedly, some of the customisation options could be a little insignificant, but for the most part you’ll find something new and exciting for your favourite characters. I’ve ploughed a good few hours into the game and I still haven’t unlocked everything just yet, but seeing my collection grow certainly adds an incentive to keep me coming back.
Visually, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT looks absolutely fantastic, with the re-created character models complimented by some impressive environments to battle across. Fans of the series will recognise some of the locales they visit (you’ve got to love Final Fantasy VII’s Midgar, right?), whilst seeing these epic battles take place with attacks flying everywhere or a huge summon entering the battlefield is just insanely cool.
The audio is fantastic too, with a vast selection of favourites from across the series (both remixes and in their original form) mixed in with some all-new pieces. You want to battle with Jecht whilst Otherworld plays in the background? It’s possible, but so is battling Sephiroth with a fully orchestral One Winged Angel – it’s a Final Fantasy fan’s dream come true.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT manages to blend together slick fighting mechanics with an RPG-like flair, putting players in battles that are not only action-packed but can also be incredibly strategic too. It makes for a fantastic combination that not only manages to feel very unique but is also a heck of a lot of fun to play. Add to that a starring roster of Final Fantasy favourites, and it’s easy to see that Square Enix have a winner here.
Unfortunately, it also has its flaws thanks to a lack of game modes and an over-dependence on having the player grind through battles if they want to progress through the story. Neither are game-ruining issues, but they’re certainly noticeable the more time you spend with the game.
Thankfully, those issues don’t stop it being a lot of fun, nor do they stop Dissidia Final Fantasy NT from being an easy recommendation that both Final Fantasy and fighting game fans won’t want to miss out on.