Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Review

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Review



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These unusual team-based battles can be great when they work, but they’re hard to follow.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a strange game. Like the 2009 PSP game that spawned it, it’s a battle royale between your favourite Final Fantasy characters from most of the games in the series (including Type-0 and Tactics!), but the reworked combat couldn’t be more different. Dissidia NT is a 3v3 arena brawler with a real emphasis on team structure and strategy, and while it’s occasionally brilliant, it is unique among fighting games and cluttered in a way that makes it difficult to pick up and play. Also baffling is the weak single-player content, which Square Enix should’ve learned by now is an unforced error.

The main thing Dissidia NT gets right is its Final Fantasy fan-pleasing sights and sounds. Seeing classic characters and locations rendered in fancy PlayStation 4 graphics is a real kick, and highlights include the Dragoon Knight Kain from FFIV in his sleek purple armour and Kefka, the Joker-esque maniacal final boss from FFVI. The series’ hallmark impressive cutscenes are present in the story mode, and although it’s not the most coherent or fleshed-out plotline it’s enough of an excuse for all of these characters to be having a good old scrap. Even the arranged music is fantastic, and being able to unlock original themes that span the entire series’ history is a nostalgic joy.

Its combat system, on the other hand, is an acquired taste due to an initially overwhelming number of unusual ideas in play. The basics are fairly simple, though: for instance, each of the 13 characters on the somewhat thin roster has a class – Vanguard, Assassin, or Marksman – and their rock-paper-scissors balancing creates a need for coordination and teamwork. Vanguard are your hard-hitting damage dealers, Assassins have increased mobility moves like a triple jump, and the Marksman’s job is stick to the rear and pepper their target with lots of area-effect spells and multiple-hit projectiles. A well-balanced team featuring a nice mix of character types and all communicating and sticking to their roles feels great to be part of. Dashing in to protect your Marksman from an assault is just as satisfying as dropping a huge magic attack on top of a couple of enemy Vanguards who are duking it out.

Once you’ve built up your Bravery number, the challenge is in landing the big payoff: the HP attack.

Where it starts to get confusing is that there are two ways to attack, one of which does no physical damage but is absolutely essential to success. Hitting an opponent with one of your six basic Bravery attacks (three grounded, three airborne) steals Bravery points from them to add to your own pool. This is where the fun of trying out the differences between the characters is found. For instance, Squall – an Assassin class – has a few different multi-hit slash attacks, while his FFVIII nemesis Ultimecia – a Marksman – can drop dark magic bolts on her enemies from afar, and use close-range bursts of energy on anyone rushing in to get at her.

Once you’ve built up your Bravery number, the challenge is in landing the big payoff: the HP attack. This, unsurprisingly, is what you use to damage your opponent’s health bar. You only have one of these equipped at a time – it might be a big, heavily telegraphed maneuver like a big pillar of magic or a charged sword slash – so they need to be used strategically. If you miss, you not only blow your Bravery but also risk your opponent dodging and leaving you vulnerable to counter-attack.

That creates a really nice, natural risk/reward dynamic to the way that the two different attack types affect the battle – do you set up lots of smaller HP attacks to chip away at the opposition’s health, or are you going to build that Bravery meter all the way up and go for one big coup de grace, knowing full well that you’ll have a target painted on your back when your meter is built up because everyone else can see it?

There are no long combos to memorise, no ridiculous feats of execution.

There’s risk in every time you put out a move in Dissidia – there are no safe normals like most other fighting games, so making sure you’ve picked the right move for the right situation is the biggest difference between a skilled player and a beginner. That’s because there are no long combos to memorise, no one-frame links or ridiculous feats of execution to commit to muscle memory. Instead, every move has an animated startup during which you can be attacked.

In this respect, Dissidia NT takes the fundamental mind games of a beat ‘em up and cleverly uses them to support its own combat system. This is always the most enjoyable part of a fighting game; once you’ve mastered its systems and gotten over the fear of dropping a combo at an inopportune moment it becomes a battle of wits about who can inflict their strategy on their opponent, setting traps for them to fall into and dealing massive amounts of damage. Removing the challenge of execution is always a bit of a hot topic subject within fans of fighting games, but outwitting an opponent in Dissidia and landing a match-winning HP attack feels really good even if I don’t have to earn it with a lot of physical dexterity.

Meters and target reticules and numbers fill up a lot of the screen’s real estate.

All of that is promising and respectably fun when you’ve sorted it out, but what makes Dissidia NT quite intimidating is how busy it is. While most fighting games have boiled down the information you need to keep track of to health, a super meter, and the two characters on screen, Dissidia NT is cluttered with extra stuff. There’s so much going on, with meters and target reticules and numbers filling up a lot of the screen’s real estate, that it’s more about learning what you need to filter out in the moment. Being able to quickly identify which of the three players is locked on to you, which of them is the most immediate threat, where your teammates are, and what is the next best action is key, but that takes some practice.

Also, this makes Dissidia NT a game that must almost exclusively be played with a pre-made team. Without direct communication with other players on your team (which is the case if you hit the solo matchmaking queue) it is difficult to get the message across that you need protecting, or that they should gather around to receive the health regen spell you’re about to cast. There’s a built-in message system which goes a small way towards resolving this, but in the heat of the battle it’s simply not enough. Also annoyingly, there’s no standard practice mode as you’d find in most modern fighting games, so if you want to test out a new character’s abilities before jumping into Ranked matches (there are no casual battles, unless you create a Private match) your only option is to replay the mock battle from the end of the tutorial.

Standard matches, which require you to deplete the opposing team’s three lives, take place in large arenas set in locations from the Final Fantasy series, such as the iconic Midgar from Final Fantasy VII. Some are much better tributes to the series than others, with Midgar and Rabanastre standing out thanks to their detail and bits of scenery to mix up to combat. But others, like the Promised Meadow and Porta Decumana, are just big open spaces with nothing going on in them outside of some admittedly lovely graphical effects. (Sadly, there’s only one map from each game.)

To make things more interesting, cores periodically spawn around the map, and the team that destroys them fills a gauge that grants the ability to call upon one of Final Fantasy’s spectacular-looking gigantic Summons. These monsters hang around for a good solid minute of wreaking havoc, giving the summoning team buffs, and generally turning the tide of the match. Thankfully, this isn’t some random event that unfairly hands a match to a team that should’ve lost: once the gauge is filled, a player has to hold down the touchpad to fill a meter, leaving themselves completely vulnerable for the duration to call down the Summon. So again, good teamwork is required to keep them safe.

If a relatively straight-up ruck doesn’t do it for you, you can also play in the more objective-focused Core Battle mode in which you have to concentrate on defending your core while attacking the other team’s. I find these matches quickly turn into chaotic light shows because all of the action is pushed into two specific areas, where in the standard matches the battle is defined more by the characters and strategies the teams have chosen. Annoyingly, Core Battle mode can only be played in private matches or offline with bots – there’s no matchmaking available.

Dissidia NT relies too much on battles against bots for its sparse single-player content.

Speaking of playing with bots, Dissidia NT relies too much on that idea for its sparse single-player content. After Capcom’s Street Fighter V, which was lambasted for a lack of single-player content at launch, you’d think fighting games would go out of their way to avoid the same criticisms. (Look at the meatier Injustice 2 or Dragon Ball FighterZ, for instance.) But Dissidia NT disappoints, for many of the same reasons. The story mode is the definition of barebones in terms of content. It’s almost entirely cutscenes, with only a handful of actual battles throughout.

Weirdly, story progression is actually tied to the other modes. You don’t just move through each section one after another – instead, you earn ‘Memoria,’ which are essentially tokens that unlock the next story sequence or battle, as you play, regardless of what you’re playing. So, you’re either playing a lot of battles online or grinding away against the AI in one-off offline matches just to proceed through the story and reach the ending.

And while the little details that are packed into those story cutscenes are crowd pleasers, there isn’t really enough of it to make this a real celebration of all things Final Fantasy the way Smash Bros is for Nintendo. Hell, that’s a game where the guy from the Game and Watch can throw Mr. Saturn at the Wii Fit Trainer. In Dissidia NT, by contrast, there’s barely a Cactuar or Chocobo in sight. Sure, the characters, music, and stages are excellent, but that’s all you’ve got. For a series with such a rich legacy, it is a missed opportunity to cut corners like having most of each fighter’s six unlockable costumes be nothing more than palette swaps. Even some of the character choices are a bit disappointing, sticking too tightly to the whole one good/one bad dynamic. No Tifa, Vincent or Barrett? No Gau, Sabin, or Edgar? Maybe DLC will fill in some of those holes, but right now it’s just weird that they’re not here.

The Verdict

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT tries to spin too many plates at once. As a team-based arena combat game, it creates some interesting battles but comes up short against the depth and accessibility of something like Overwatch. As a fighting game, it fails to find a balance between the challenging execution of a Street Fighter and the pick-up-and-play chaos of a Super Smash Bros. And as Final Fantasy fan service, it ticks some boxes but has some glaring omissions in its lineup and surrounding features. Even those who consider themselves Final Fantasy completionists aren’t going to have enough story content to keep them playing for long. That’s frustrating, because when its various parts all come together in harmony it is a fun, unique team fighting game.

Editors’ Choice



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