When a world-famous series breaks out of the boundaries of its normally defined genre, one of two things can happen. It can be a wonderful experiment that pays off and can breed an entire new spin-off series of golden delights, or it can be an unplayable pile of bile, largely forgotten by all but the most hardcore fans of the series. Case in point, Final Fantasy Tactics is a game that made strategy fans of many players, whereas Resident Evil: Survivor is a game that no-one remembers existing. Luckily, back in the days of the PSP when Square Enix had huffed one too many paint cans and decided to release a Final Fantasy fighting game, they managed to hand it off to someone in the company who had at least walked past a 3D fighting game at some point. The first two Dissidia titles are some of the best fighters available on any handheld, and to this day they are still more fun than most of the modern tournament fighters out there, admittedly depending on who you ask.
So Dissidia and Dissidia 012 were both pretty good games, even if they had their problems. So does that mean that the latest entry in the series has managed to keep that rhythm going? Well, that’s a tough question to answer.
As with the previous entries in the series, the story follows the adventures of the main characters from the main entries in the Final Fantasy series as they’re summoned to a strange fragmented world and told to beat up other people. Effectively, this has been the same for all the games, not helped by the fact that the second game was just the first game again but with more going on. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has tried to break with this tradition by actually having some key differences from the plot of the first two games. The first difference is that this time they’ve been summoned by someone they’ve never met before, instead of by the gods known as Chaos and Cosmos. Also, their main opponent isn’t Chaos the god of discord but is instead an entirely new and definitely different god of discord who only slightly looks exactly like Chaos did…
If it’s difficult to tell from the sarcastic tone of that last paragraph, the story is basically exactly the same as last time. You and your friends have been summoned for a punch-up by the good god, and your enemies have all been summoned by the bad god. Your job is to try and save the universe or something by making your way through the convoluted mixture of character interactions and super laser fights. The gameplay follows a similar vein to the first two games but manages to swap things up enough to keep it interesting. You still build up your bravery by using a one time attack and then performing a damaging attack that uses the bravery you’ve built up as a damage booster. Effectively, this means that you end up using bravery attacks most of the time then occasionally spamming a health attack until you’ve actually managed to hit your target.
The biggest switch up is the fact that you’re now fighting in teams of three, so you and two other yahoos have to try and fight 3 bad guys at a time instead of just a simple one-on-one. This does make the gameplay feel slightly different from the previous instalments, mainly because it’s now down to you to try and avoid being smacked around while wailing on one opponent because the AI of your teammates is just about on par with the AI in Left 4 Dead. They’ve tried to get around this by showing you when an opponent is targeting you so you know who to go after. While this is useful information, it doesn’t always save you from taking massive damage, especially at higher difficulty levels. This is mainly because while it is nice to know who’s targeting you, it doesn’t stop all of the enemies from unanimously deciding that they’ve taken a dislike to you and then trying to smash your face back into the Lifestream.
The team-based combat has another major flaw as well, namely how you win. Instead of having to take down each individual opponent until your team is the last one standing, you instead have to score three knock-outs. Basically, this means that you can knock-out any of the opponents in any order as long as you manage to do it three times in total. While this is completely exploitable in so far as you can just focus on the enemy team’s weak link, it does also mean that you can lose a match without your character ever having taken a single hit. Obviously, we’ve harped on and on about why the team system can be difficult and the fact that the AI has almost completely shat the bed, but this all points towards the direction in which the game seems to want you to go: the online multiplayer. While the AI can leave you feeling frustrated, you can always play online and rely on real people instead, which might be a good idea if it weren’t for the fact that real players can be just as unreliable. You might be blessed with the luck of the gods and get a super team that helps you rise through the ranks of the online leaderboard, but you’re also just as likely to end up with someone who has only just discovered what a controller is.
While so far the gameplay has had its good points and its bad points, it is time to buckle down and explain why this game is such a massive disappointment. There is a rewards system where you can receive treasure randomly for completing different battles, which come across a little like loot boxes, except that you can’t use real money to buy them…yet. These rewards are usually something like a player icon, some new music for battles, or if you’re very lucky, a new costume to wear. As these rewards are completely random, the chances of getting something you actually want is pretty damn slim. If you don’t like the random loot, then worry not, for there is an in-game store where you can actually purchase most of the things that you would have received from the treasure system. The problem with this store is that everything in it is ridiculously overpriced. You get a thousand or so gil for finishing a 6-stage battle royale, but buying a single character skin can cost hundreds if not thousands of gil. This all points towards a system that incentivizes buying in-game cash or loot boxes, but there is no online store to buy such things. It’s as if they started to introduce a loot box system, but then something made them scrap the actual purchasing aspect, leaving behind an entirely unbalanced reward system.
The final nail in the game’s mediocre coffin is the story system. It’s unlike anything in gaming history, as far as we can tell. It actually gates off the storyline until you’ve played enough of the online mode or offline battle streaks. While it is normal for gameplay to come before the next cutscene, it is completely insane that you have to earn a special currency to be drip-fed the story. On top of all of that, there are actually gameplay elements in the storyline which for some reason have been locked behind cutscenes that you have to pay to watch. It is one of the most simply baffling things that we’ve ever seen. It feels as if the game didn’t have enough actual gameplay in it, so they locked everything down to make it feel longer. You have to do nearly 6 battles in a row to earn a few of the ‘story’ currencies. You then spend this to watch 2 cutscenes and then must go back to the non-story modes to earn more currency.
While the actual combat gameplay is flawed, it is entirely enjoyable, and dropping in and out of it is still something that is going to bring people a lot of joy. However, the gated off, entirely unbalanced and badly paced storyline and rewards system completely kill the experience. While the game looks good and doesn’t play too badly, it just feels like a game that has come out of the creator’s minds completely deformed. While Dissidia started off as an interesting experiment to see what a Final Fantasy fighting game might be like, it has now become a failed experiment. A massive disappointment to the legacy that the first two Dissidia games created.
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Square Enix, Koei Tecmo
Release Date: 30th January 2018