The game that many Final Fantasy fans have been waiting for is finally here; Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (2018) has officially arrived on PlayStation 4. This latest instalment in Square Enix’s fighting game spinoff series, this time developed by Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja, has a lot of fans are excited about it, but is it all it is cracked up to be? From the perspective of a huge Final Fantasy fan who’s had some time to try it out, here is my review.
The first thing anyone is going to notice about Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is its incredible visual style that remains consistently impressive throughout the game. Considering the first Dissidia game and its prequel/sequel/half re-release Dissidia 012: Duodecim were released on the PSP, the graphical update is indeed astonishing to look at. The entirety of NT looks like a well-done computer-generated movie and is one of the best looking fighting games that I have ever seen from that perspective. With multiple different outfits and weapons to choose from for every character in the game as well, the visuals only get better and better as you customise the looks of your team.
There is one issue with the graphics, however, and that is the gormless looks of the entire cast. The synchronisation of characters’ speech and their respective facial and bodily gestures needs improving, and there is very little in the way of facial expressions, which even the PSP games did relatively well – making their personalities and authenticity quite flat while their appearances shine.
Something else that immediately caught my attention while playing was the voice acting. Iconic characters need iconic voices, and with the likes of Steve Burton (Cloud Strife), James Arnold Taylor (Tidus) and Ray Chase (Noctis Lucis Caelum) returning among others to voice the characters they bring to life so well, the game’s dialogue is fun to listen to and is thoroughly in-keeping with the characters’ existing characterisations. It was amazing to immediately recognise the characters not only by their appearance, but by their voices which as a fan of the series I had already grown to know and love.
But what about the game itself? How does it compare gameplay wise to its predecessors? Well, obviously the big immediate difference is that it is now two teams of three against each other, rather than a one-on-one brawl like before. This allows for team-based strategies to be unleashed against your foes, with good teams being made of the four different classes (Vanguard, Marksman, Assassin, and Specialist) which can dominate the competition. Certain classes beat each other in an almost ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ style format, so it is always a good idea to create a well-rounded team that can deal with any kind of opponent.
Sadly, the new gameplay is a bit of a letdown, at least to a veteran Dissidia player such as myself. With teams of three battling it out instead of a one-on-one brawl, the fighting mechanics have had to be somewhat simplified, as have the customisation options. The most basic mechanics still exist – you still build up Bravery with Bravery attacks and then deal damage with HP attacks, and you still dash, dodge and block – but assists, due to the new format, no longer exist, and neither does EX Mode, a personal favourite mechanic.
EX Mode in the previous games allowed you to unleash powerful EX Bursts (basically the equivalent of a Limit Break/Final Smash), and were exceptionally rewarding to pull off – but, alas, they are no more, and I feel that Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is all the worse for it. Ability customisation, too, has also been reduced to nothing more than choosing two EX abilities, a single HP attack, and the weapon and clothes your character appears in battle with, compared to the vast expanse of abilities and attacks to pick from in the PSP games.
The game also feels a lot less skill-based. Rather than reducing your opponent to zero HP (health points) to win, you just need to incapacitate them three times. You can either defeat the same enemy fighter three times in a row, or else take down the entire team as in a traditional team brawler. This can lead to encounters where you can pick out a weak link on a team and focus your effort on them to end matches quickly without really having to try. Sounds good, right?
Unfortunately, there are some issues with this format. Often, you will find that you will randomly be blindsided from behind whilst focusing on the enemy you are locked onto. Even if you do by some miracle manage to block or dodge perfectly, you will end up in the path of another enemy’s attack anyway. It’s difficult to tell how close behind you an opponent is, especially when all you want to do is land a combo on the guy in front of you. It’s like playing Super Smash Bros when you have multiple players, and rather than a one-on-one fight, you have three people all trying to kill you at the same time. It’s frustrating.
Another issue is just how easy and broken it can be to all gang up on one person at the same time. Previously, you could not chain attacks with yourself. You would either enter a chase sequence, taking it in turns to swing and dodge or smash them into a wall, with the only chaining option being a well-timed assist combo. Having dropped chases and assists, players can now chain with themselves. Smash the opponent into a wall, and before the recovery animation is finished, smash them again. Your teammates can join in on this chain too. This can leave players frustrated with little to no chance of getting out of this situation, with their Bravery going down as the opponents gain enough to knock them out with a single high power attack.
Summons have also been changed. Originally, summons were one-use moves, each with different abilities, buffing and nerfing the user and their opponent. Now, once you fill the summon bar, a team can call down a summon, with a cool looking cutscene, to wreak havoc on the battlefield. These wide range attacks make it even harder to dodge and block attacks, and whilst the aim of the game is to get your summon as fast as you can, it is a little unfair to have to deal with that much all at once.
Somehow, they even messed up the story mode. I cannot even say if the story is any good or not due to the confusing and restrictive structure Team Ninja has implemented. To progress in the story, which is mostly cutscenes, you have to earn ‘Memoria’ to unlock the story paths. You do this in single player mode, but only the trials will help you there. Once you score enough points in a trial to earn a Memoria, you cannot get that same Memoria prize again. Stupidly, you must rely on leveling up to earn Memoria, but this, of course, gets harder the higher the level you are, as it takes more time to level up. By the time you level up and earn another Memoria, you have forgotten what you have already seen, and have to watch it all again. The only option to counterbalance this is to not play Story Mode until you earn enough Memoria to play it all in one go.
One of the biggest selling points of Dissidia NT is the online fighting that players can take part in, so long as they have PlayStation+, of course. Sadly, not even the online gameplay can do much to make this title any better. Many players have been experiencing large amounts of lag, and with a fast-paced game about hitting as fast and as hard as possible, this is quite problematic, for obvious reasons. With online frame rate issues and connections getting dropped regularly, Dissidia NT‘s online mode may only be suitable for those with amazing internet connections who already have PS+ for other games. PS+ is not worth it just for this one game. Speaking of online gameplay…
The trophies in this game require the player to put a lot of time into the game online. 36 (37 if you include the platinum one for getting them all, which will include the online ones) of the 56 trophies require the player to be in online ranked matches to earn them, shutting out many who cannot afford the online subscription, so trophy hunters can and will be ostracized as far as the Dissidia NT trophies go. Of course, it costs money to be able to play online, which means that the game doesn’t just cost what you pay for the game in the first place, but essentially the cost of the online stuff itself (the reason I despise online gaming subscriptions as a whole), which for a Final Fantasy nut like me who only normally plays single player games, is not worth it…
The PlayStation store page does mention one more thing that really worries me. It states that there are optional in-game purchases. I haven’t come across them yet (I presume that they will be added in an update), but regardless, this disappoints me. Yet another good franchise has been tainted by the mark of microtransactions. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the treasures you can earn are destined to become loot crates of sorts, purchasable if the player should wish to put money into the game. Considering how expensive this game already is, especially the digital release, as well as its highly priced season pass, I honestly get the feeling that this game is nothing more than a cash grab targeting Final Fantasy fans.
Despite all of this, the game can occasionally be fun at times. However, you may find it most fun online with your friends. The CPUs you team up with in single player modes can be extremely dense at times, even after levelling up, and partnering with strangers can be frustrating, especially considering how inconvenient the in-game character dialogue chat system is to use which is the only in-game means of communication with your teammates. I cannot get into the online fights, as previously stated, but I can tell that you are going to want to be able to communicate without having to press the directional buttons and then X, Circle, Triangle or Square. So if you do play online, play with friends, and do it in a voice chat party so you can communicate more easily.
Overall, Dissidia NT is an occasionally fun, often frustrating arcade-style fighting game which I only recommend to fans who enjoy a more arcade-like style to begin with. This new style is its shortcoming, as Team Ninja have replaced a far better battle system in favour of faster, more streamlined fights that just don’t feel as fun, nor as fair, as the more intimate one-on-one fights from the PSP – at least in my opinion anyway. I can only hope that future updates are released to improve the game. Whilst a complete overhaul to make it like the PSP games is nigh on impossible, there are some improvements that will make me likely to pick up my controller again.
The latest entry in the Final Fantasy fighting spin-off game is rage-inducing, and vastly inferior to its PSP predecessors in almost every way but graphically and audibly, and even then there are issues. I only recommend it to those who already enjoy arcade fighters.
Should you want to try it for yourself, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is now available for purchase from the PlayStation Network, GAME, and Amazon. Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have been excited for Dissidia NT and are playing the game now that it’s released! Be sure to follow us here at PixelTome over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well to stay up-to-date with all our latest reviews, news, features and more.