In the vast universe of Final Fantasy spin-offs, Dissidia remains one of the most unique and captivating titles. Its premise is the dream of any hardcore fan: an all-star battle that reunites all of the legendary heroes to fight against a coalition of the most wicked villains of each world.
I’m a huge fan of the two entries released for PSP. The mix of meticulous strategy, thrilling action and just the fan service fulillment of seeing my favourite heroes crossing over to other worlds got me hooked for about 500 hours combined. When I heard that Square Enix planned to revive the series on PS4 in collaboration with Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja I feared that this new incarnation could miss a lot of the aspects that made me love the two original games so much. Until now.
I’ve had the privilege of taking part in the closed beta for Dissidia NT that Square Enix has launched this week. Boy, I’ve played a lot. And that is because beyond the usual technical frustrations of a beta, I recognize Dissidia’s soul in this. The careful planning, the split second decisions on which type of attack is more convenient, and just the joy of finally hitting Onion’s Knight with a combo after minutes of chasing him through the whole stage, all of those familiar sensations are back.
But just because Dissidia NT feels familiar doesn’t mean it is not hugely different in some ways. This incarnation tries to raise the bar in pretty much every aspect: battles now consist on two teams of three players facing each other, the stages are wider and much more detailed, and summons now join the fight through jaw-dropping introduction scenes.
Still, the base mechanics remain the same: each character has a number of bravery points, which determines the amount of health that is taken from the opponent when we perform an HP attack. Bravery points increase when we hit an enemy, while they are taken away when our character receives damage.
Every single bit of information will be provided on screen through an overwhelming user interface which in addition feels largely irrelvant, although I didn’t find it as annoying as it could be. It just feels very unintuitive to look at the border of the TV in order to check out the bravery points of the enemy team, when I can do the same by looking at the number it appears over their heads, without losing sight of what is going on around me.
The closed beta focuses on presenting the basics and trying to make the game work more or less seamlessly. As expected from a release like this, everything to do with online matches is suscetible to suffer from technical issues such as long waiting times to find teammates, and certain framerate glitches which seemed to be isolated to a particular moment and not depending on the number of characters or effects on screen. In other words, none of those problems seemed so bad they couldn’t be fixed by the time the game launches in January.
Players are presented with two modes: Matchmaking and Practice. They both offer the same scheme of random 3v3 battles, only that in Matchmaking you play with other five players online and Practice lets you fight alongside AI. Needless to say, the fights against the AI are much easier and perfect to try out each different attack and button combination.
Cloud seems to be the perfect character for newcomers
The character selection consists on one hero from each main entry from Final Fantasy I to Final Fantasy XIV: Warrior of Light, Firion, Onion Knight, Cecil, Bartz, Terra, Cloud, Squall, Zidane, Tidus, Shantotto, Vaan, Lightning, and Y’shtola. They are all assigned different types that define their set of skills. These categories are: vanguard, specialist, marksman, and assassin.
Vanguard is the type of Warrior of Light, Firion, Cecil, and Cloud, and it’s the most rounded class, with characters being able to perform a variety of short and long distance attacks. The Specialists in the group are Onion Knight, Cecil, and Vaan. They standout for being able to change their job class and therefore their set of skills. Terra, Shantotto, and Y’shtola are Marksman, which is basically a sorcerer class that works better in long distances. Finally, Squall, Zidane, Tidus, and Lightning are Assassins, which means they are experts on fast, physical attacks.
While the beta offers a limited set of skills, with players having to choose between two HP attacks, I can say with confidence that Cloud seems to be the perfect character for newcomers. He is able to make combos with both short and long range attacks, and his Cross-Slash takes both bravery and HP points.
Then inside each type, all characters have their own unique way of fighting, which for example makes Firion a more strategic fighter than the other vanguards, or Lightning an easier to use assassin thanks to her slower but more varied attacks.
Then we have the special guest stars in the game, which are the iconic summoning spirits. We can choose one deity among Ifrit, Shiva, Ramuh, Odin, Leviathan, Alexander, and Bahamut. These creatures appear once players have filled the summon barr by attacking the crystals that appear on stage, and they perform a series of bravery attacks on the opposing team. However, they all have some additional effects, like Shiva, who additionally freezes the enemies for a few seconds. They also have some pre-summoning and post-summoning effects, altering the recovery of bravery, HP, and other stats.
Summons are definitely one of the clear improvements of Dissidia NT over its predecessors. They retain all the magic and grandiosity from the PlayStation era versions, and they are a key tool when it comes to solidify a lead or to flip the balance of the battle. Their designs are inspired on the classic portrayals, with Shiva (who seems to be a fan favourite already), Ramuh, and Bahamut standing out for their majesty.
Battles take place in famous locations from the series, consisting on Cornelia, Pandemonium, the Floating Continent, Lunar Subterrane, Interdimensional Rift – Last Floor, the Narshe Outskirts, Midgar, Alexandria, Besaid Island, the Royal City of Rabanastre, Eden, and the Porta Decumana. They are all much more impressive and detailed than their PSP counterparts, although the cases of Pandemonium and Lunar Subterrane exemplify how they have been stripped from their traps and bigger obstacles, since the developers probably thought putting six players on screen made the fights busy enough.
Battles take place in famous locations from the series
The ‘final’ touch that makes battles a fully-realized Final Fantasy fan dream is the music score, which compiles themes from all the eras in the franchise. They are represented through new arrangements that add a rockier and electronic vibes, a formula which admitedly, works better on some songs (FFXII’s Clash of Swords) than others (FFVII’s The Extreme).
All of these elements work together to build a thrilling and magical experience. Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT requires players to be smart, fast, and work together. The preview that Square Enix has presented is not perfect, but its imperfections can either be improved for the final release or they are not severe enough to represent a serious burden. If you have ever loved a Final Fantasy game, or you are interested on a rich and addictive fighting title, I would definitely recommend you to try the new generation of Dissidia.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT launches worldwide in January exclusively for PS4.