Review by ArkfellerKonan
"Perfect? No. But damn near close."
Ever since, oh, a while ago, Dissidia: Final Fantasy has been heavy on the minds of many PSP players. It's been hyped up and worshipped by many Final Fantasy fans (and nuts) but... how good is it really?
The fighting mechanics in the game can be rather hard to understand for most newcomers (unless you know a lot of Japanese) and _can_ be a major letdown.
Dissidia means 'conflict' or 'fight' in Latin. Yes, it's a fighting game, which is unique for the long-running Final Fantasy series. Initially, when you first start the game, 10 characters (the protagonists of the first 10 Final Fantasy games) are straight out playable. The antagonists from the same (and later) FF games can be purchased using PP, which is earned when you fight in a battle, regardless of outcome.
The actual fighting, however, is the crown jewel (and was always meant to be) and probably exceeds the graphics in importance here (that's why I put it first). The game lets you be completely liberal as to how difficult the opponent AI will be, which stage you fight in, and what background music will be playing. Your character will do two types of attacks: assist attacks and HP (damage) attacks.
You and the AI (or human opponent, whichever) will start off with a set number of Brave points. That number can be boosted with various pieces of equipment in pre-match customisation. As you do assist attacks, the damage done in the attack will be taken off your opponent's Brave points and added to yours. After a while of sparring, combos and button mashing, you're going to drain the opponent's Brave points to zero, which will put them in Break (unable to affect your own Brave points) and pile a whole lot of bonus Brave points on your total. The problem with this gameplay mechanic is it can be exploited by either you or the AI. Or both.
After even more button mashing, artful dodging and pretty stuff, you're going to have more Brave points than your opponent's current HP. That's when a HP attack will come into place. The HP attack will deal the actual damage to your opponent's health points - equivalent to how many Brave points you've got. If you do a HP attack in EX Mode you'll have a character-specific sequence (think button mashing, reflexes and Overdrive) giving you a chance to deal even MORE damage.
Right. EX Mode. Basically, when you go into EX Mode, your character becomes all warm and glowy, heals gradually, deals more critical attacks and generally feels faster. The EX Mode gauge gets charged with the blue orbs that disperse when you hit your opponent with an assist attack. After a while, when enough orbs have congregated, it will get together and form a bell with wings at a random place in the map. The bell gives you a gauge boost. It's up to you to find it before your opponent does, and get it quick. When you've got an extraordinarily difficult opponent, chances are it's going to spawn right next them, which really makes you all pissy when your opponent is racking up Brave points, just went into EX Mode and is now kicking your a**.
The story mode is fundamentally the same as the 'get-in-and-kick-some-booty-with-Cloud' mode, but this time around you don't get to adjust the difficulty (all well and good) and enemies are levelled, unless you super-levelled your character while still in the middle of playing a Destiny Odyssey. Each Destiny Odyssey is like a condensed Final Fantasy game with lots of Dissidia goodness added to it. You know, in Destiny Odyssey IX, your character would be Zidane and you would get through everything to reach Kuja at the other end. Or Squall to Ultimecia. So on and so forth.
When you start a Destiny Odyssey, you're presented with a little board game-like map. Your enemies, represented as helmets, are scattered around, along with treasure, potions and whatnot. At the same time, you get a few Destiny Points to play around with. You lose one Destiny Point with each move you make, so the game does NOT let you strut around the board like you're king of the world - and mind you, there are 5 of these maps (Chapters) every Odyssey. If your Destiny Point count goes into negative you lose Story Points at the end of each Chapter.
It's evident the Dissidia developers tried their best to maximise the PSP's graphics capabilities while making sure the PSP doesn't lag like hell. They did a pretty good job. All the sparkly, flying stuff (like blue orbs and EX Mode characters) look like they are miniature lamps when they should be. I still have a problem with the complete lack of any antialiasing - something the PSP really can't pull off - but that can be forgiven. There's almost no extensive clipping and really, the graphics on this game are some of the best the PSP has ever seen.
Sound and Music: 8
Takeharu Ishimoto, the guy who brought you heavy metal in Crisis Core, makes a return, this time (again) remixing golden oldies from Nobuo Uematsu's genius. The battle BGM consists of 2 or 3 battle tracks from each Final Fantasy game featured in this game, along with some brand new material composed specially for this game. Luckily, there is also an option to mute battle music - which, considering the freedom you get while picking the tracks themselves, is not really needed.
The compositions themselves remain true to the originals by Nobuo Uematsu, but at some point or another, things (like sounds) Takeharu Ishimoto added enhances the overall experience. In the Destiny Odyssey field maps (with the Destiny Points... you know...), the exploration music from that particular corresponding FF game is played - if it didn't have a notable exploring track, it would use a more... well-known song.
And Otherworld fans get the original track untouched. Lucky you.
Replay Value: 8
If you don't play this game purely to max your favourite character out and see him/her own everyone, then you could count on coming back to this game for quite a while. Sure, the battles might get boring, but spice it up a little and crank up the AI difficulty. Replay the Destiny Odysseys until you get maximum points in every one. Whatever. This game is all about freedom... and fighting. But for those real hardcores... sorry, fellas.
Overall Score (averaged): 8
Square Enix certainly didn't let expecting fans down, but this game (at this point in time) might only attract those people who: a) REALLY like Final Fantasy; b) understand a bit of Japanese; c) are good at button mashing; and d) are good at these games.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 01/05/09, Updated 01/07/09
Game Release: Dissidia: Final Fantasy (JP, 12/18/08)
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