Monday, March 24, 2014

Review #104: Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy

 The name sure is a handful.
 Dissidia is a real oddity, it's a one on one arena-based fighter featuring characters from most numbered Final Fantasy games. But it's not a simple fighter, oh no, it really tries to do its own thing, and it actually works pretty well.

 I'll get the gameplay out of the way first. Firstly, the camera is behind you, third person, almost all the time, and you are free to move around pretty large arenas. You can move in any direction, you can double jump, you can run on walls or rails at the push of a button, and you can dash towards your enemy. After you get used to moving around, then comes the fighting, there's two numbered gauges that you need to keep track of, HP and Bravery. Circle attacks sap your opponent's Bravery and adds it to your own, you can then press Square to use a Special Move that actually deals damage equal to your Bravery to their HP. It's way easier to understand when you play. If at any time your Bravery drops below zero, you enter Break status, where your attacks don't sap Bravery(But do add to yours) and you can't hurt their HP, you exit Break status by letting your Bravery raise back to its default number. There's two other gauges at play, Assist and EX. The Assist gauge is made up of two blocks, using one block lets you summon your partner to deal an attack that saps Bravery, while using two blocks makes them use an attack that deals your Bravery into damage. EX is raised by grabbing orbs that drops when you hit your opponent or grabbing the EX icons that appear on the stage, once it's full, you can enter EX mode that raises your stats and lets you use a special ender if you hit with a Bravery attack. While the camera is not perfect, it does a good job at keeping up with the action and not getting stuck behind objects, except when your opponent goes above you, in which case you depend on the D-pad to move the camera up. It sounds convoluted, but it's actually very easy to just pick up and start playing.
 It doesn't end there, something that I didn't like, but that's probably because I expected something more defined, is that everything in this game revolves around customization. There's actually five different currencies, Experience Points that go towards leveling up your characters, AP that goes towards mastering skills, KP that is used on Moogle Shops and can only be earned on Story modes, PP that is used to unlock stuff and Gil that is used to buy items. That's a lot of numbers. Going back to customization, you can actually attach 6 different "combos"(3 on air and 3 on ground) to the circle button, and then 6 Bravery Attacks. You earn both of these by leveling up, allowing you to somewhat tailor your character to your liking. Once again, as fun as this sort of customization this is, I would've preferred defined movesets, but that's just me. Besides Attacks, as you level up you also earn skills or passive attributes that you can set on your characters, thing is, you have a numbered gauge(I think the maximum is 450 at level 100), and each attack and skill "costs" a certain amount of points, so you can't equip everything you like. But by playing you earn AP, and mastering an skills greatly reduces their cost, so that you can equip more things at a time. It sounds like a grind, and it is, but there are ways to lessen it in the form of Calendar bonuses and equipment. Calendar bonuses means that, certain days, the amount of some of the currencies you earn is increased. You can increase these bonuses by buying them with PP, and you can increase the frequency of these bonuses by buying them with PP as well. Furthermore, you can also set a day so that every week, on that day, you earn bonuses on every currency.

 Going back to customization, there is another layer: equipment. Luckily, equipment is shared by everyone, so buying something for one characters means that everyone gets access to it, if they can equip it. I can see the value of this sort of customization, I do, but I would've preferred something that's more balanced, so that it doesn't matter what your equipment is, or what your level is, characters would be well balanced so that skill would do all the talking. Regardless, the game takes customization to another level by actually allowing you to somewhat tweak the mechanics so that you can create your own rulesets for use in Free Battles! This is actually really cool, as it can make for widely different experiences. The game also offers a Quest Creator, if you are so inclined, so that you can create custom quests for other players to take part in! If you are the sort of person that loves tweaking with stuff, this is your game.
 There are 3 different story modes in the game, Scenario 012 that follows the story of the six new characters and lasts a solid 10-20 hours, Scenario 013 that lasts twice as much and follows the 10 main characters, and lastly Scenario 000 that holds the game's toughest opponents. Story Modes have you traverse a rather bland overworld as you enter gates, once inside a Gate, the game enters into a grid, in which there are different types of enemies, items and an objective you have to reach. Enemies are stationery, so you can engage them at will, but sometimes you can just enter the objective and move on if you so wish. Besides Story Mode, you get Arcade Mode, Time Attack and Labyrinth Mode. To say that there is a lot to do and see is an understatement. Story Mode also has tons of fully voiced-cutscenes, and while the story is pretty dumb and needlessly convoluted, watching characters that you recognize interact with each other is pretty cool treat.

 There's about 32 characters, each one has 2 alternate costumes, and there are over 20 stages, even if some are just alternate versions of other stages. While the cast is not very diverse, as it consists of, mainly, very effeminate men, it does contain every main character and main villain of the first ten numbered Final Fantasy games. Most stuff has to be unlocked with PP, but there is an overabundance of extras to unlock, you won't be getting done with this game any time soon, and that is actually fantastic.
 Dissidia 012 boasts some great looking graphics, from the stages to the character models themselves. While some may be shocked at how effeminate some of the older characters look, they are actually very faithful to Amano's original art, the NES and SNES just couldn't do Amano's designs justice. Besides that, characters enjoy a great deal of detail on their models, and the stages themselves have tons of objects that break as your throw your opponent around, and there is no slowdown whatsoever. As for the music, every piece comes from Final Fantasy games, and you are bound to recognize a lot of tunes if you have been following the series. The soundtrack is huge, with more than a handful of songs already unlocked, and some that you need to(with PP). As for the voice-acting, it gets the job done. Not all voice actors are equally as good, but none of them are terrible.

 Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy is the first must-have title I have played on the PSP, there's just so much for the player to do, it just keeps on giving. The Gameplay, while hardly competitive, is very easy to get into.
 9.0 out of 10.

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