by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I was a huge fan of the Dissidia franchise. In the last game, I spent a lot of time playing online as Gilgamesh (yeah, I was that guy). So when I heard that Dissidia was coming back in the form of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT? Oh boy, you couldn’t keep me away from watching the footage, streams, anything I could get my hands on. The greatest heroes, villains, and dads (Jecht gets his own slot: he’s dad of the year) come back to clash. Whether they serve Materia or Spiritus (Good or Evil respectively), you can team up with whomever in online gameplay. The story, such as it is, groups specific characters together to do battle with Manikins (basically soulless clones of characters). However, this title is actually a port; it originally came out back in 2015 in the Japanese Arcade scene, and just now came to the worldwide audience. That explains why the game just feels empty. Despite having 20+ characters, a host of cosmetic unlocks for characters, icons, titles, and weapons, there’s simply not a lot to do in the game.
The main screen of the Dissidia is neatly divided up into categories that are easy to follow. First is Options, which is pretty clear as to what it does. That’s where your video/audio settings are, including subtitles, unless you want to change it to Japanese/English audio (that’s done on the very first screen). Treasure is next, and that’s where you activate your winnings from battle. As you level your account/characters, you unlock Treasures, which give you a few cosmetic items, from skins, titles, battle themes, weapon skins, and avatars. So yes, Virginia, this game has lootboxes. But fear not! You cannot (repeat cannot) spend real money on them. They are only attained in battle, so while it is a grind, it’s not a retail game with real money lootboxes. However, spending Gil/GP on costumes/music is very grind intensive. They’re all expensive, so unless you’re winning matches, you’re gonna be in for a bad time. From there, we go to Online Modes. You can either play Ranked Match (Solo), Ranked Match (Party), or Custom Match. Custom Match doesn’t appear to let you play against AI with friends online, just other players. Its options are otherwise solid, with Connection Strength, Region, Playstyle (Casual, Hardcore, Training), and a max of 24 people occupying it (since it’s 3 person teams), that’s fairly robust.
Here’s the part that disappointed me the absolute most: Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT’s Story Mode. The story is wonderful, and it’s well-told; but in order to actually fight a single battle in the story, you have to go through a minimum of six cutscenes. That’s not counting if you check out both branches, which would put it around nine cutscenes. You also can’t skip ahead and see if it’s a cutscene or a fight. Another thing you unlock as you play against AI or other people is “Memoria”, which unlock the cutscenes and battles for the Story Mode. These battles, when you get to them, have specific characters in mind. That part doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that I spent several play sessions in the game and did not get a single battle, only beautifully crafted cutscenes. To their credit, they are lovely, in visual and audio quality, but this is not what I was expecting when I saw Dissidia had a story mode. I would at least like an Arcade Mode, where it’s random groups of characters duking it out till the end. This hurt me, it hurt me a lot.
Offline Modes are next: Gauntlet Mode and Sparring Match. The Gauntlet is as its name implies. You pick a team and control one character, with two AI helpers. This mode has a separate ranking from the ranked level. You start in Bronze, and as your team wins matches, it goes up in ranks, from Bronze E through A, then into Silver, Gold, Platinum, Mythril. You get it. You get to pick your matches from pre-determined groups/ranks, and every match beyond Gold is absolutely insane. As you grow in power, so does your team, and they’ll act smarter with each rank up. These matches feel very bland after a while though. You either stomp or get stomped, there’s no in-between. Then finally, the Tutorial. This tutorial is very useful, and you should definitely spend time in it. But now that we’ve talked modes, let’s talk mechanics.
There are two primary game modes: Core Matches and Standard Matches. The goal of Core Matches is to destroy your opponents Crystal before they destroy yours. Pretty simple stuff. The Standard Match features a 3v3 battle where the goal is to eliminate the other team. Each team can have three deaths, and when that is met (judged by the Red/Blue bar at the top left), victory is attained. In addition to this, the match also has Crystals/Cores. They randomly spawn, and you have to target them by tapping L2/R2 at the same time. They only take damage from HP attacks, so break them to fill a gauge. When the gauge is full, you hold your touchpad to charge the summon. Multiple players can do this to make it go faster, but you are vulnerable while it happens. Each Summon has its own attack and benefits, and amazing summoning sequence. You get one assigned to you at random, and you unlock the others (of course) through grinding the game. You might get lucky and get the one you want, but that is not really likely. I was hoping for Alexander or Odin but got Ifrit, then Leviathan. When playing online, each person on your team picks from the pool you have as a group, and one is picked randomly.
My favorite part though is the actual combat. You have a Bravery Attack (Circle), HP Attack (Square), EX Attacks (Triangle), and a Jump (X). L2/R2 are your targeting buttons, all very easy to remember. Bravery Attacks also have a direction attached, and each one (including neutral) have different functions. Kefka’s a good example. Kefka’s neutral is “Blizzaga Blitz”, his grounded down+circle is “Core Decoy”, and up+circle in the air is “Snap-Crackle Thundaga”. These are all very different attacks with different ranges, properties, and movement speeds. These moves deal damage to opponents, but cannot KO them. Only your HP Attacks can do that. Once someone has “Broken!” on them, you can work on hitting them with HP attacks to Incapacitate them. That counts as a death for the team. Some of these HP Moves are still useful anytime, but it might be better to focus on landing combos with your Bravery Attacks. You have one equipped at a time, and you have to level the character up to get them. Kefka’s list, continuing the example, is Havoc Wing, Hyperdrive, Trine, and Forsaken. I highly recommend looking up movelists, to find which one is likely going to work for you. Finally, there are EX Skills, and each character has one. Kefka’s is “Heartless Angel”, which you use to Apply Debuffs to opponents. The longer you charge it, the more debuffs it gives.
In addition, there are generic Ex Skills, which you unlock through gameplay. These apply buffs/debuffs, from lowering defenses, adding Bravery (Attack Stat), healing, buffing your defenses, pulling people into a clump, you name it. There’s a fair amount of them, so find which works for each character. There are plenty of slots per character to set a variety of builds, for whichever situation you find yourself in. These movesets are what I love about the game. They all feel like they belong to the characters, and don’t tend to spill over to others. For example, Golbez and Kefka are both Marksmen (as opposed to Vanguard, Assassin, or Specialist), and both magic users. However, Golbez uses his dragon, the Shadow Dragon to help him breathe icy doom on his foes. Kefka on the other hand charges incredibly powerful magic and taunts and teases. It’s incredibly important to find who works for you and spend time really playing them in online/offline matches to get their additional powers/find your synergies. However, I’m finding that the game doesn’t feel super balanced. Some characters simply feel overwhelming, like Cloud and Jecht. I’m still learning the game, so there are lots of things I simply am not prepared for yet, like a three mage team focusing me down, and there simply is not enough dodge time/defenses against their onslaught. Despite that, it’s an incredibly fun Arena Battle game. There are so many different playstyles, with at least one hero/villain per game, including Final Fantasy Tactics/XIV. The only games that I did not see a villain for are XI, XIV, XV, Tactics, and 0. I’m hoping that means we’ll see Wiegraf and Ardyn Izunia.
This is my Story: Good (3/5)
Mechanically, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is incredibly sound. The gameplay is phenomenal, and each character has their own very unique attacks, animations, and abilities. Some of the spell-based characters kind of feel similar, unfortunately, as a lot of their casts are spherical, but even still they have their own special properties. Team composition is important, knowing who is good at what also matters. This is a game that takes a lot of practice (unless you’re Cloud), and you can choose to queue solo for Ranked play, or group with a few friends to go at it online with the best of the best. Visually, it’s also breathtaking. The games sounds, looks, and aesthetics are perfect in every single way. But it’s very threadbare everywhere else. There’s only Ranked play and lobbies, and no regular casual play online without setting up/finding a lobby. Then there are almost no offline modes, and you have to grind to play the story.
Why must you grind to play the story? What does that gain us, other than waste our time? I love this game, I love what it represents, but I feel like something is missing. With such a huge cast, you better go online, look up who does what, find out who might be the most fun and focus on them as you have to unlock new abilities for your HP Attacks and EX Skills. I’m grateful you can’t spend money on the lootboxes though, and you get them through leveling characters, but it’s just … it’s such a slog. If you’re into Arena fighters and love the Final Fantasy universe, this game is for you. But be warned, it’s basically only an online game with a “story” mode. I hope that’s all fleshed out later. If I were judging this solely by how well it plays, it would easily be a 5/5, one of the best fighters I’ve played this year. But everything that surrounds this wonderful experience is seriously lackluster. These are things I think can be addressed in future updates, but right now, it’s just like walking through molasses.
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.