Review by Kwing
"Is buying the prequel worth it? Click here to find out. (A review for veterans of the original.)"
This review is specifically for people who have played the original Dissidia Final Fantasy and are considering getting the prequel. I will not be going over any material that players of the original will already know about, so if you never played the original, don't bother reading this review. For those who never paid attention to the previous game's storyline, the wars between Cosmos and Chaos are fought in cycles in which each consecutive cycle is fought with the warriors who survived from the previous cycle. Since the warriors are almost always badly injured or on the verge of death, they are healed in between cycles. For the purpose of this review, I will refer to the prequel as 012 and the original as 013.
Gameplay - Story Mode
Several things have been changed as far as the gameplay goes. Story Mode now begins with 012 rather than 013, so you play the prequel before you get to the original. The prequel is played with the six new Cosmos characters (Lightning, Tifa, Vaan, Laguna, Kain, and Yuna). However, the gameplay for both cycle 012 and cycle 013 include a world map and a new system for dealing with special rewards.
On the world map, you run around and can get into random battles, collect treasure chests, and collect little orbs that give you abilities. You can also enter both story and optional 'gateways'. The map itself is set up so it's not very open, herding you into a pretty linear path toward the next story-related gateway through choke points which are either the gateways themselves, or open gateways that you might have to fight in during a separate mission. Between the gateways you have to make use of in your mission are usually only one or two small diversions to a treasure chest and very few random battles. The interesting thing about these new features is they're all ON the world map. The random encounters will chase you down and attack you if you get too close to them, resulting in an official Dissidia-styled battle. But if you attack them first, their bravery is set to 0 when the round starts. This is interesting but kind of annoying, especially when enemies don't pose much of a threat and still disappear if you flee anyway.
As for the ability-granting balls of light, they grant you the abilities you used to get on the game boards in the original Dissidia, like Cure or Maser Eye, every time you collect 4 of them. Strangely enough, the game loves to give you these balls in multiples of four between gateways, which kind of annoyed me as I think making people get into a random encounter for that last ball would have been a good way to break up the linear gameplay.
As a whole, the world map is a nice interlude between the gateways, but suffers from the fact that the controls only recognize 8 directions on the analog stick, rather than 16. This can make it feel a little bit annoying when you run around, especially if you have to dodge the attacks of a wandering mannikin. The closed world also makes you feel a little bit ripped off, but it's easy enough to deal with.
The gateways themselves are like the boards in the original Dissidia, with tiles, enemies, and goodies for you to collect, as well as Stigmas of Chaos. However, instead of getting DP for changing your home area fewer times, you now gain KP, an alternate currency (like Pokke Points in Monster Hunter or Z-Tokens in Adventure Quest) for fighting multiple enemies in a chain, and no penalty for changing a home area. While normally you could only fight two or three enemies at a time, there are new abilities added (in the same place as Maser Eye, you activate them with square for one turn) that allow you to attack far away enemies in chess-like patterns. Most commonly you'll find Straight Chain, which allows you to engage enemies on the same X or Y axis as you, like a rook, except that you fight all of the enemies falling within range. At the end of a chain you gain KP equal to the amount of KP earned in those battles multiplied by the amount of battles you fight. Now all enemies have a KP chance, rather than only a few, so it's easier to get KP than DP was in the original. However, the chain system means that while many single battles can yield 1 KP, you could also hypothetically engage 6 enemies and gain 36 KP, or combine that with KP Gambler and get well over 100 KP. KP can be spent on equipment and items now, plus some Summons (including two Ivalician summons for fans of Final Fantasy Tactics) and abilities (even though you can always collect them).
You can also gain a KP boost at the start of a gateway by adjusting your level below the bonus level stated on the gateway. Setting it higher can incur a penalty, preventing KP gain for that gateway. This encourages you to keep the game difficulty if you load save data from the original and play through a Destiny Odyssey with a high-level character.
The change to gateways is really nice and allows more freedom for the player without necessarily letting up on the difficulty, which is nice and keeps you from getting stuck redoing parts for equipment, which happened a lot in the original Dissidia. Better yet, since the moogles that sell you things for KP have different stock depending on their location on the map, you can seek out certain items at certain places, adding a little bit of an adventure feel to the game, even though you're actually selecting a specific quest rather than walking over to a shop if it's out of range. This is about as far as the changes to Story Mode go.
Gameplay - Battles
Battles have also been changed slightly. EX Cores now restore less EX Force, and EX Bursts are less powerful. In my opinion, both nerfing the frequency and power of them makes the whole idea of ultra powerful attacks worthless, I would have preferred just one or the other. For this reason, I never found much use in equipping accessories that boosted this feature, so the whole EX Gauge thing is essentially removed from the game.
There is now an Assist Gauge as well, which fills up as you attack and has two bars. When the first is full, you can use L + O to summon your assist character to perform a Bravery attack before vanishing. Similarly, when both are full, you can use L + [_] for an Assist HP attack. These are also fairly useless, with the small exception of them being able to get you out of a pickle if an enemy is unloading a really nasty combo on you.
The AI for the game has been changed, too. In order to give characters more personality, Square Enix added new traits. The only real difference I noticed in AI battles are that enemies are now capable of noob-like spamming. Not only do they prefer bravery attacks or HP attacks (which I don't mind), but they have an affinity toward using specific attacks over and over. I guess it adds variation, but it's the most annoying change from the original by far.
Lastly, there are now party battles. Tiles in a gateway can contain them, as can cards in the Labyrinth (the new Duel Colosseum). When you encounter them, you should have a party of your own, made up of up to five characters. When you select the battle, you can play it in tournament (where you fight one enemy after the other with one character) or Round-Robin, in which the first party member in line fights the first battle, the second in line fights the second battle, and so on. This was a fun addition to spice up the gameplay that actually did work out well, but isn't implemented enough in my opinion.
The Labyrinth, the new Duel Colosseum, is interesting and has its ups and downs. You now get booted out for losing even once, but can add members to your party to prevent one loss from spelling defeat, and you also get cards which are doors to different areas of the Labyrinth. These doors stay in your hand until you go through them, which gives you time to fulfill the conditions for unlocking them and going through. I thought the Labyrinth was really fun and added an adventurous flair to the game where you could really explore, especially since you can reach new starting points so you don't have to start over completely when you lose. The biggest issue is that each area has a limited number of cards, and some areas boot you out after you beat them. This means you aren't going to find a true 'endless' mode in Dissidia anymore, which sucks. The Labyrinth is still really fun though. I just wish there was still an option to fight in the original Colosseum as well.
One last thing to mention is you can create your own quests in Duodecim by creating your own dialogue and battle lineup, then sharing it LittleBigPlanet-style. I thought this would be cool, but the biggest downside, which is really so much of a downside it makes the entire feature practically worthless, is the fact that the battles don't even allow you to utilize the world map. With a closed world map, it would have been so easy to allow you to pick which gateways were open and which were option, but this is not available.
As far as battle mechanics are concerned, the biggest flaw in the original Dissidia is still the biggest problem in Duodecim. You need super fast twitch-reflexes to play more than you actually need coordination. Just run up to an enemy without attacking; you can see them preemptively try to block an attack you haven't even begun performing yet! The mechanics are severely flawed and love to trap your characters into attack combos while you wait, whether you're the one being hit or you're stuck attacking yourself. The controls are somewhat clunky and the gameplay is frustrating and still very unbalanced. The game feels like it was programmed to be an exercise in frustration, or just for cinematic value (when you look at battle replays, whoever wins the round looks like they were kicking ass). This game is really fun when you're winning because you're victimizing the opponent, but when you're losing, you begin to see where the real flaws are.
In the cycle 012, the six new characters are fighting against an endless horde of mannikins which appear in numbers much too large for the warriors to even begin to think about fighting Chaos. They try to figure out what they can do, but things look grim. Most of the plot points come from character interaction, which is thankfully better in 012 because some characters have swapped sides, and mainly because Lightning is a great character who behaves very realistically: She's snappy, impatient, intelligent, and thinks the war between the gods is pointless. The story is scores better than the original plotline, but still suffers due to the characters being unrealistically conversational with the bad guys. If you do like the plot, though, you can autoplay all the cutscenes in the museum for a super-movie that's over three hours long.
The graphics are largely untouched, but the new areas look nice. After a few years, the polygonal graphics do seem kind of outdated, though. Thankfully, the loading screen and color theme have changed from pure white to a pale blue, making it a bit easier on the eyes. The game still loves to fade to white between cutscenes, though.
The music sounds great and has been expanded greatly, including some awesome tracks from FFXII. Voice acting is good for some characters (Lightning, Kain, Golbez) and poor for others (Kuja, Exdeath, Cloud of Darkness). If you played the original Dissidia, you should know what's up in terms of graphics and sound.
You've got an extra 8 characters, a huge labyrinth to explore, and several new stories from the twelfth cycle on top of everything from the original Dissidia. You also get downloaded content. I'd say the replay value is almost endless, although party battles will level up several characters faster, saving time (though I think most people will like this).
This is a big improvement from the original Dissidia, but it's still frustrating and at many times just stupid. Buy it at your own risk, I would recommend it, but be ready to have another game to switch to when this one wears on your nerves.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/10/12
Game Release: Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy (US, 03/22/11)
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