Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dissidia Final Fantasy

GENRE: RPG / Fighting
Parental Guidance Recommended
2009 Square Enix

Dissidia Game
Dissidia Strategy Guides/Art
Original Soundtrack
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Everything Final Fantasy Product Description:
Celebrating the 20th year of the renowned franchise, Dissidia Final Fantasy for PlayStation Portable brings together the largest collection of Final Fantasy characters ever in a fighting-styled game where players must choose their allegiance between good and evil, as they utilize the more than twenty playable characters available.

Players, prepare to profess your allegiance to either Cosmos or Chaos...Cosmos is the goddess of harmony, while Chaos is the god of discord. Reigning from distant realms, the two gods had gathered warriors from all lands to lead them in savage war. At one time Cosmos and Chaos were of equal in strength. It was believed that their conflict would last forever. However, the balance is now broken. Those who answered Chaos' call created an inexhaustible force. And under vicious attack without relent, the warriors fighting for Cosmos started to fall one by one. The conflict that has continued for eons is now about to end in Chaos' favor...The world has been torn asunder, sinking into a vortex of disorder. As for the few surviving warriors… their fates have yet to be determined.

Updated Opinion: The real fun starts AFTER the final battle! >>> by skysenshi (04.09.2010)
A few days earlier, I experienced gameplay fatigue just before the final battle. So I hastily put up a review about the things I like and did not like about this game (scroll further down to see what I mean). The thing was, I underestimated my curiosity. About a few minutes after I unlocked the extra features -- which come out when you defeat Chaos -- I decided to give the new additions a shot.

Lo and behold!! I reached another level of addiction. Apparently, many of the treasures cannot be gotten through the Story Mode, so I ended up collecting medals and buying treasures via the new Colosseum and leveling up other characters as well. I am still frustrated with some of the characters, who are hellish opponents are as equally hellish to control, but overall...well...obviously, I still have not stopped playing the game.

There are also new features in the Story Mode itself. You get to fight Final Fantasy XII's Gabranth and Final Fantasy XI's Shanttoto. The more you unlock in the Story Mode, the more features and possibilities you open. Talk about continuous adventuring, which is what I think games for hand-held consoles should be. This should tide me over until I get Lunar: Silver Star Harmony.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate to Difficult
COMPLETION TIME: 70 hours and counting
HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: Bartz at 100, Terra at 100
RATINGS: Gameplay 9; Battle 8; Story 8; Visuals 10; Characters 10; Sounds 10; Replay Value 8

Great eye candy for Final Fantasy fans but is equal parts addictive and equal parts repetitive. >>> by skysenshi
You may notice that while everyone is playing Final Fantasy XIII on the PS3, I'm stuck on the PSP. For, hopefully, an understandable reason. When you put all the first 10 Final Fantasy heroes in one platform, the result, for me, is a tingling sensation that crawls up my spine. The story is very basic, Cosmos (light, harmony) versus Chaos (dark, discord) and their minions fight each other to the death. Thing is, I got Dissidia for Cloud and Squall so I had no complaints whatsoever when it comes to the story. Well, that is until I got to the middle of the storyline. But first, we need to dissect the good and the bad.

The preliminaries -- a set of chapters called the "Destiny Odyssey" -- will give you a pretty simple background as to why the heroes of different Final Fantasy games end up in Dissidia. Each chapter deals with seemingly unfinished businesses between Bartz and Exdeath (FFV), Terra and Kefka (FFVI), Cloud and Sephiroth (FFVII), Squall and Ultimecia (FFVIII) etc. These chapters also will give you a quick taste of what it's like to play each character, so that you can find whose fighting style you are most comfortable with. There's not much in terms of plot, at least not the way I like my RPGs, but that's because Dissidia is a cross between an RPG and a fighting game.

This is obviously Dissidia's selling point. It reeled me in -- hook, line and sinker. What I loved best about this is that I got to know a little bit of the characters that I've never encountered, like Firion and the Cloud of Death (the only Final Fantasy I haven't played is FFII). I also got to appreciate Bartz of FFV. I never liked FFV, and I still burn with hatred whenever I remember the game, but playing Bartz here is an extremely enjoyable experience. What I'm really amazed with is how the different characters were able to interact with each other. I'm no Zidane fan but I laughed at how he dealt with Squall's aloofness. Then there's the matter of Squall and Cloud's combined apathy raining in on Tidus' parade (although they do show that they care...juuuuust a bit). Immersion made me realize a lot of things about the old FFs. Like how, if you think about it, Squall and Rinoa didn't really have chemistry and that it freaked me out when he smiled in the end credits. Zidane's refusal to battle women is quite apparent here, which hilariously makes me remember how bosses in FFIX seem to be gender benders: masses of spheres, deformed monsters, Kuja....

Of course, there were some instances that made me go, "WTF?" Especially since Firion seems to have a thing for Cecil (whose girlfriend in FFIV was named Rose). Don't even get me started on Bartz and Zidane. I don't know. Something about the new costumes of the old school characters make the game a treasure trove for yaoi fans. (Thank goodness, I'm a yaoi fan.)

Now here's the problem with a game that has so many interesting characters: you just don't do a one-on-one battle system for its kind. You don't. Period. What happened here is that you can repeat the chapters and if you progress through the second arc ("Shade Impulse"), you get to repeat chapters using different characters. Like if you finished Shade Impulse using Bartz, you can go through it again using Cloud and so on. I don't really like the idea of repeating the entire second arc with all ten characters for the sake of completion, even if I can skip through the exact same cut scenes. That means I have to repeat the arc ten times. Did I mention that each chapter has five stages and each arc can have about four to ten chapters? Did I also mention that some treasures can only be accessed when you repeat a chapter two or three times? The math for Shade Impulse is something like this: 10 characters x 4 chapters x 5 stages x 3 replays if I want to get all the treasures. Needless to say, I got bored. I lament the fact that Bartz was my best character while I couldn't use Cloud or Squall as support.

Another regret: How come Gabranth is here but Ashe isn't? (I still maintain that the hero in FFXII is Ashe and not Vaan. Though I'd also love for Balthier to be there, I doubt he counts as a protagonist.)

When I mentioned that this is like a cross breed between an RPG and a fighting game, it means that depending on the kind of player you are, you can try the Story Mode, the Arcade Mode or just beat up guys at the Quick Battle section. I can't figure out why you'd want to go hardcore on the Quick Battles because there are only a limited number of characters to spar with. Other features include the Mognet, where you exchange emails with those cute little Moogles and then they give you rewards for keeping in touch; the Museum, where you can view character icons and cut scenes; the PP Catalogue, where you can purchase game add-ons with points. Theoretically speaking, all these should make the game interesting, but there's a catch...and it's in the battle system.

Battle System
It had been more than a decade since I was a fighting gamer. My last fighting game was Street Fighter III on the Sega Mega Drive. With the advent of FFVII, I became an RPGamer. So I don't know if anyone could understand my initial refusal to go beat up some guys via random button mashing. Don't get me wrong. I used to do combos in the 90s, but Dissidia's controls actually made a random button masher out of me.

The problem is that there are so many things one little button can do. Instead of simply doing a down-left-down-B or a right-down-left-down-right-B combo, you can change the functions of your command buttons when combined with the shoulder buttons, much like how SHIFT, CTRL, FN and ALT can change a computer keyboard's functions. Why is this problematic? I end up doing the wrong thing 80% of the time. So I disabled the other controls. Like blocking. I sure as hell cannot block properly in this game so why even try? I'm pretty good with evasion and timing, though, so I enabled all the evasion-related controls. I also disabled nearly all of the non-automated commands.

A lot of gamers complained about the two units of measurements used for the battle. One is the HP and the other is Brave. Brave points determine how much damage you can do to your opponent's HP. Many have said that they tend to get confused. I have no complaints in this department, though. I kind of like the idea of adding another dimension to damage. It just gets scary if your opponent's Brave reaches 9999 and your HP is only about 7000. You'd be a one-hit wonder if that opponent manages to touch you.

Another thing I absolutely hate about the battle system: Destiny Points (DP). Each stage presents you a map and every time you move within that map, one DP is deducted from you. The only way to regain that DP is to fight battles with certain conditions, like if you defeat a hard-to-chase mage within 10 seconds. I don't really get the point of DPs. Sure you get prizes, but it's frustrating when there are some conditions you cannot follow and you end up with a -4 DP at the end of a stage just because you like to fight a lot.

Lastly, I will reiterate: Why do I have to choose only one character? Can't I have something like Kingdom Hearts, wherein I control one character that will be supported by someone else (or two others)? They can add more enemies in the map for balance; I really just want to see my boys (and girl) fight together.

In summary, all they really need to do for the battle system is to simplify it. Most Final Fantasy fans are RPGamers, who would buy this for nostalgia's sake. If they're going to come up with a fighting game in order to stretch an old storyline, maybe we can at least work with conventions?

So far, this is the best-looking game I have played on the PSP. I love the concept art and I equally adore the low-poly 3D. Cloud and Squall always look good and it gets better since you can buy alternate costumes in the PP Catalogue. We get to see Cloud in his Advent Children outfit and Squall in his Balamb Garden uniform. The stage designs are beautiful as well, many of which are reminiscent of the different FF's final battle stages.

The sounds elicit a wonderful trip down memory lane. If you're battling Jecht or Tidus' doppelganger, for example, you get to hear a souped up version of FFX's battle music. In addition to the remixed BGMs, I admire Squeenix's choice of voice actors. They did a good job capturing the various personalities of the FF protagonists: serious Cecil and Warrior of Light, timid Terra, bored Cloud, grumpy Squall, energetic Tidus, Bartz...well, I used to imagine him sounding like his chocobo.

The only gripe I have in this department is that after finishing the game, I got to see one of the loveliest FMVs in PSP experience. Why is that bad? There nearly isn't enough of it. After that, it's straight to the end credits, where they replay various cut scenes from Destiny Odyssey, accompanied by a beautiful medley of Final Fantasy themes. Something as awesome as the final FMV tells me that there should have been more. In fairness to the creators, they did come up with extras at the end of your battle with Chaos...but honestly? It will take me quite some time before I replay the game again.

The Verdict?
I love Dissidia for the promise it can bring. Conceptually, you cannot beat something that assembles all your favorites in one platform. Operationally, well...I just want the ability to use three or four of my beloveds at the same time so that the theatrics don't go to waste. I hope they come up with another Dissidia, though. I would really be ecstatic to see Balthier (or Ashe) and Lightning interacting with the old timers.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate to Difficult
RATINGS: Gameplay 7; Battle 6; Story 6; Visuals 10; Characters 10; Sounds 10; Replay Value 6

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