In the early days of his career, writer and animator Monty Oum created a six-part video series called Dead Fantasy, which pitted characters from both Dead or Alive and Final Fantasy against each other in an epic brawl. It was a phenomenal piece of work: a raw, intense and expertly choreographed 30-minute fight scene that elevated it beyond the simple pleasure of fan service.
That excitement, of seeing the likes of Tifa and Yuna and Cloud duking it out in wildly acrobatic brawls, is the undeniable draw of Square Enix’s Dissidia series. Now, after debuting in Japanese arcades back in 2015, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has made the journey to PS4, offering up a fascinating, if flawed, fighter.
It’s a strange one to get to grips with at first. The game’s 3v3 battles have an interesting and unique rhythm to them as you barrage foes with a bevy of attacks to build up your stock of bravery while reducing theirs. You can then unleash it all with a HP attack that will actually damage your opponents and potentially eliminate them from the fight.
To that end, the game encourages you to see how far you’re willing to press your luck. Do you want to steadily whittle your target down with frequent HP attacks, or is it better to build up a huge bravery pool and take them down with a single blow? That’s further complicated by having to worry about what your other two opponents soaring around the battlefield are up to, as if you focus too closely on one, you leave yourself wide open to a surprise attack.
It is, undeniably, extremely overwhelming – there is so much to follow on screen at once and death can come in an instant. Mastering the pace of combat – of when to attack, block, dodge or simply flee – is what separates the best players from the newbies. It’s a game that heavily discourages button-mashing, which is always a good thing, but you really need to dedicate time to even have a basic understanding of the flow of battle.
When it clicks, though, it can be magical. There are thrilling moments slamming a defenseless Tidus against the arena walls with a sweeping attack from Cloud and watching your Noctis ally teleport in to finish them off with a warp strike. There’s the smug sense of satisfaction sending the enemy trio scattering across the field with an explosive Holy attack from Y’shtola. Or you can encase the entire enemy team in ice by summoning Shiva to assist you.
But that joy can quickly start to wear thin because, as a package, Dissidia NT does feel awfully limited. There are 3v3 skirmishes and the slightly more strategic core battles, but that’s it in terms of multiplayer game modes. Things aren’t helped by some painful queue times, especially in the game’s team mode, though solo queue only fares a little better.
There’s so little single player content too, outside of the game’s gauntlet and story mode. The latter is simply a handful of battles strung together by a number of cutscenes, all of which must first be unlocked with a resource called Memoria that you can earn by playing other modes. New characters are promised to flesh out the already healthy roster, but if you’re not going to be diving in online it’s a tough game to recommend.
It does still have flashes of brilliance and if you gather up two other passionate Final Fantasy fans you’ll have a blast battling with your favourite characters from the series. The only question that lingers is whether there will be enough of a healthy community around the game to continue supporting it.
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Square Enix, Tecmo Koei
Release: Out Now