Dissidia: Final Fantasy

Fighting games have been around since the 1970s, although the genre didn't become popular until around a decade later. Square-Enix is definitely not a company one affiliates with fighting games like say, Capcom, although in 2008, the publisher announced a hybrid RPG/fighting game for the PlayStation portable featuring crossovers from most Final Fantasy games entitled Dissidia: Final Fantasy, which saw foreign release the next year. Does the hybrid work?

When starting a new game, after a prologue explaining the game's basic mechanisms, the player can select protagonists from the first ten Final Fantasy games to control in their own story scenarios. Their chapters include several mini-maps with pieces representing mannequins to fight that take the form of other Final Fantasy heroes or villains. Treasure also occasional dots the mini-maps, with the player having a default amount of Destiny Points that decreases whenever the player opens up a chest or engages a mannequin. Special conditions in battles can increase DP, and if the chosen character is adjacent to more than one treasure chest and/or mannequin, the game will force them to battle the adjacent mannequin, a technique sometimes necessary to increase DP to a certain amount necessary to obtain an end-subchapter reward.

Outside battle, the player can outfit the chosen character with equipment, set up abilities, or quit to the character selection screen, in which case experience that character has acquired remains intact. Battles are one-on-one between the selected hero and the mannequin, or in some cases, the actual hero/villain the mannequin's form takes, with fights essentially being a tug-of-war over the Bravery stat. Using the circle button siphons Bravery from the opponent, while using the square button executes an HP-decreasing attack consequentially resets the player's Bravery to zero. Reducing an opponent's Bravery to zero will "break" the opponent, in which case their attacks do no Bravery or HP damage to the player's character, with breaking essentially being the ultimate goal of battle to obtain victory.

Other actions include jumping, and blocking or evading enemy attacks, with the latter two options being somewhat difficult to master but sometimes necessary in tougher battles. Winning a battle nets the chosen character experience for occasional level-ups, AP for all equipped skills, and money to purchase equipment from the game's shop, with the player afterward going back to the mini-map, and the battled mannequin disappearing from the field. Sometimes, it is necessary to fight specific mannequins to open blocked areas of the map and/or cause other mannequins to appear on the field. The player progresses to the next subchapter upon reaching the indicated goal on the mini-map or fighting the boss of the subchapter if there is one.

Battles tend to be fast affairs, with the presence of ten (initial) different playable protagonists largely preventing the gameplay from becoming too monotonous. Some of the more complex mechanisms, however, are difficult to master, and while the cap of a hundred levels might seem generous, some of the post-game battles can be especially difficult even if a character's level is at its maximum. It can also be somewhat difficult at times to find materials necessary to unlock better equipment, with a guide in these cases sometimes being necessary. Some of the DP-increasing objectives for battles can sometimes be a tad difficult to fulfill, with said conditions and consequential rewards counting towards a hundred percent completion for each character. Still, combat helps the game far than hurts overall.

Controls are mostly solid, with a decent amount of freedom in terms of which storylines the player decides to play in whatever order, and an easy menu system and shopping, but players can only manage a specific character's equipment by playing their chapter or one of the end-game chapters with that particular character. Still, interaction in the game is generally solid.

The story is perhaps the weakest link of Dissidia, with the chapters for each character not really adding much to the plotlines of their respective games, alongside the typical lack of artistic merit of crossover storylines and typical good-versus-evil milieu of the central plot. The translation is all-around solid, despite some minor punctuation errors, although the story, while not terrible, could have definitely been better.

Dissidia's soundtrack consists almost exclusively of remixes of composer Nobuo Uematsu's battle and overworld themes from the first ten Final Fantasies, with very little original music, although these remixes nonetheless remain solid. There's also plenty of voice acting, which is largely solid, and ultimately, the aurals are a boon to the game. The graphics are also solid, with a realistic style akin to the current generation of Final Fantasies, although the battlefields can get a tad repetitive at times.

Finally, playing the game to the point of seeing the ending credits takes somewhere from twenty to forty hours, although post-game content can easily drive this to well over a hundred hours. Ultimately, Dissidia: Final Fantasy is a mostly solid hybrid of fighting game and RPG gameplay, with most of the other aspects, aside from the story, being well above average. Given the game's success in both Japan and North America, it is unsurprising that the game would spawn a sequel that definitely gives an opportunity to build and improve upon the original.

The Good:
+Solid fighting system and control.
+Great music and graphics.
+Plenty of lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Disappointing story.
-Some post-game content is difficult even with maxed levels.
-Not much original music.

The Bottom Line:
A solid fighting RPG.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Varies
Playing Time: 20-40+ Hours

Overall: 8/10

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