Square Enix returns to the Final Fantasy universe with a prequel to the highly popular Dissidia: Final Fantasy. This action RPG promises to improve on its predecessor in terms of gameplay and plot. But Dissidia 012[duodecim] Final Fantasy really hold up on its own?
Dissidia 012 takes place before the original Dissidia: Final Fantasy. It’s about the continuing conflict of two gods, Chaos and Cosmos. Cosmos has summoned the warriors from the different Final Fantasy worlds as her champions against Chaos and his army of Manikins (essentially doppelgangers that appear and fight like you and your group). Your quest is to retrieve a number of crystals that will help you defeat Chaos and restore balance.
Dissidia 012 brings in a number of new characters from the Final Fantasy universe. You begin the game as Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. Other playable characters from the series are Kain Highwind from Final Fantasy IV, Gilgamesh from Final Fantasy V, Tifa Lockhart from VII, Laguna Loire from VIII, Yuna from X, Prishe from XI, and Vaan from XII. Aerith Gainsborough is also available as an assist character provided you purchased the Dissidia 012 Prologus DLC.
The concept of the game is an interesting one, blending RPG elements into a fighting game. You gain experience and items to upgrade your characters statistics, as well as being able to unlock special accessories through the Battlegen. These special accessories are obtained by accomplishing certain feats such as finishing off an opponent during a battle with a Bravery attack, or by inflicting a Break on an opponent. However, like many fighting games, during a battle you have a primary and secondary attack, as well as the ability to summon other in-game characters for a quick assist during a battle.
HP attacks are, just as the name implies, attacks that reduce your opponent’s HP, while Bravery attacks reduce the amount of Bravery points your opponent has, effectively reducing the amount of damage they can cause. In turn, the more you lower their Bravery, the more yours increases and subsequently the more damage you can do. Also available to you is the ability to summon an ally much like the tag team feature in many fighting games. Once you summon that ally, they quickly step in and attack your opponent for a brief moment, allowing you to get in an extra lick or two.
There is also the EX Mode which can be triggered when you’ve collected enough orbs in the world map to fill your EX gauge. If you hit the square button within the prescribed time limit, you can activate EX Burst. This is an uber-powerful attack that causes massive amounts of damage to your enemy. Each playable character has a trademark EX Burst attack such as Gestalt Drive for Lightning. This attack is somewhat similar to the Gestalt mode in Final Fantasy XIII whereby using a series of analog stick and button combos you can inflict a series of attacks on an enemy.
While in EX Mode, you are also granted certain attributes such as Regen, which regenerates your HP over time; or Critical Boost, which increases your chances of a Bravery attack dealing a critical hit.
For those who aren’t too adept at fighting games, you can change the battle mode to RPG. This simplifies the battles by allowing you to choose what types of actions you want your character to take. You can select between HP or Bravery attacks; or Move, which is essentially a way to flee from an enemy or make a move towards an EX core automatically; or Dodge, which obviously is used to dodge an enemy’s attack. Enabling RPG mode really frees you up to sit back and enjoy the action while staying involved with the strategy behind the battle.
Outside of the battles, you’re free to roam around on the World Map. Here you can find orbs (which give you different skills to be used in battles when enough are collected) as well as treasure chests and more enemies to battle. Each section of the world map is locked and only accessible by traversing Gateways – small, maze-like areas with a number of enemies blocking your path. You can either systematically clear out all enemies in the vicinity or choose to take the path of least resistance to make your way through to the end where a Stigma of Chaos awaits. Inside it, you’ll need to defeat one of the many champions of Chaos who are none other than the enemies you’ve faced in the previous Final Fantasy games!
Another neat feature is the Chocobo mini game, Chocobo’s Journey, which resides within the Customization Menu. It’s not a game that you play. Rather it’s a game where the Chocobo’s progress through this little minigame is determined by how far you’re progressing through your current play session. As you play through the story, the Chocobo progresses through his world, picking up Chocobo Greens or treasure chests containing items that you can use. Depending on how many Chocobo Greens it eats or just its mood in general, Chocobo gives you an additional bonus to your experience points. It’s like having a little mini-pet inside the game!
On top of solid game play mechanics, Square Enix has also managed to build a superior controller scheme for a third person action game on the PlayStation Portable. Typically the largest complaint about PSP third person games is a clunky control scheme where the camera control has been sacrificed. But while it is true that the camera is controllable through the D-Pad, which is the worst place to put it, Square Enix has added in a camera lock feature that is very rarely fallible. This allows you to really concentrate on playing the game without getting frustrated with having to stop or contort your hands to be able to adjust the point of view.
Dissidia 012 is a game that really brings out the best in Square Enix, showcasing the company`s historically superb game development in both game-play and storylines. The many cut scenes in the game flesh out a deep and rich story for all of the characters. As the game progresses, you learn more about why each character is there, and more importantly, you gain an understanding of the dynamics between characters, friends and foes alike. This is the kind of story telling that has made Square Enix such a legend in the role playing genre.
For true fans of the Final Fantasy series, this is a game that shouldn’t be missed. The beautifully detailed graphics, rich story and a game play format that is customizable to the player makes Dissidia 012[duodecim] Final Fantasy an instant classic!