I have quite a bit of nostalgia for the Dissidia Final Fantasy series on the PSP. I only owned several games during the PSP’s lifetime, but I have them drilled into my head because I played the hell out of them. If you’re buying Dissidia Final Fantasy NT hoping for a similar experience to the first two games in the series, be ready to be surprised. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is far different, which may or may not disappoint longtime fans.
For those who aren’t familiar with the series, it’s essentially the Smash Bros. of Final Fantasy. It’s as weird and quirky as you’d probably expect, but there’s a certain charm to the games. This entry in the series was revealed a few years ago but was initially exclusive to Japanese arcade machines.
Although I love the first two Dissidia games, I was well aware that Dissidia Final Fantasy NT wasn’t built by the same team that worked on those. Comparatively, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is much faster than the previous two games and focuses on three-on-three matches instead of one-on-one. There are four character classes and two attack buttons for each character.
Each of the 28 characters manages to feel unique, even with the game’s simple control scheme. You can play as just about every mainline Final Fantasy protagonist and antagonist. Ace from Final Fantasy Type-0 and Ramza from Final Fantasy Tactics also make their debut in the series alongside characters from Final Fantasy XIV and XV. In terms of balance, I don’t really think there’s an issue going with whatever characters you like from the series. There is a multitude of factors that play into Dissidia’s matches making specific character balance less of an issue here. Even some of the more weaker characters can focus on taking down summoning crystals and using EX skills to buff their team.
If you’ve played these games before, the formula is still the same. You build up your bravery points and unleash a bravery attack, inflicting damage on the enemy’s HP bar directly. You hit circle to activate a standard attack animation that can be changed based on your directional inputs, this attack is used to build up bravery points and won’t actually have any effect on the enemy’s health. Bravery attacks are used with square and will cause direct damage to your opponents HP based on your bravery point count.
Surprisingly, battle works very well even though the number of players on the field has tripled since the original games. The only notable downside is the camera can sometimes be problematic in tinier spaces. In the heat of the moment switching targets can prove to be relatively tricky and keeping track of everything can be frustrating at times, even with the game’s new HUD.
Battles become deeper with the addition of EX Skills and Summons; EX Skills are magic abilities or buffs you can use to impair the other team or help your own. Like Poisonga or Slowga for instance, if you cast Poisonga and it hits it’ll cause your opponent’s bravery points to drain slowly, and Slowga will lower the enemy’s movement speed. These spells can be dodged so timing them correctly is important. You can mix and match different EX Skills to your liking. Furthermore, an area of effect EX Skill can be activated that’ll help you out and any nearby teammates. There are buffs for HP regen, movement speed, attack power, and more. Also, each character has an individual skill that’s unique to them. This skill is usually based on an ability from their Final Fantasy entry.
Your team can also access summons by targeting a special crystal that appears on each map. Think of it as a Smash Ball of sorts. Once you fill up a meter on the top left of the screen from hitting the crystal, you and your teammates will be able to bring out one of six iconic summons. All of them can also affect battles in small ways by giving you a bit more HP, lowering an enemy’s stamina, and more. Summons inflict damage to the opposing team’s bravery points, and can quickly get them to 0 if they’re not careful. On the other hand, summons can be avoided if you’re against them — but with three other players often coming after you, it can be tough.
There’s also another game mode in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT called Core Battle. Essentially, it’s a mode where each team has to defend a crystal on their respective side of the map. This mode is more about focusing on an objective as opposed to eliminating your opponents. It offers a little more variety to the game, but I still wish more modes would’ve been included. You can access one-on-one matches but only through an online lobby that you’ll have to create. It’s fine that the game wants to focus on the bigger three-on-three battles but it would’ve been nice if I could have used these settings in the AI sparring mode.
I’d say that going online is ideal with two other players you can communicate with. The only way to communicate with random teammates online in-game is to use a bunch of preset phrases. You get some to start with every character, and more are unlocked by playing and leveling up with each character. But like all things team-based, the more communication between the players the better the outcome will be.
While Dissidia Final Fantasy NT offers two polished game modes, there’s not much content in the whole package for players who won’t be checking out the online. Dissidia has a story mode, an arcade mode that offers different challenge modes based on the story, and special challenge maps where you can fight against the game’s summons alongside two AI companions. It’s a crime that this mode isn’t available to players online as it offers the most noticeably unique gameplay experience out of everything in my opinion. Being able to take down Bahamut or Shiva with friends would make for a much better experience, even if it isn’t the bread and butter of the game.
The story is divided up into a grid system where you use points to unlock different cutscenes and battles. You acquire these points by playing other things in the game and leveling up your overall level. While this encourages you to try other parts of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT it can make the entire story feel incredibly fragmented.
I was able to see the end of the game before I even finished different parts of the grid, so I had no idea how other characters got involved with one another because there’s really no chronological path. It’s tough for me to put an exact playtime on the story, it’s definitely considerably shorter than the first two titles’ offerings, and I was able to get to the end after a couple of hours. If you plan on unlocking every path before going to the end I’d say it could take you anywhere from 10-20 hours but keep in mind a majority of that time won’t be spent in the actual story mode.
Arcade mode is probably the best way to grind enough levels to complete the story. It’s an appreciated addition to single-player offerings but doesn’t do anything that’ll keep you coming back to it. You can play with a custom team or use one of the groups from the game’s story mode. Each battle is chosen beforehand and your rewards will be determined by your performance and what difficulty you choose.
If you’re a hardcore Final Fantasy fan, you’ll appreciate all of the little details included in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. There are 14 maps, all of them being a location from each game in the mainline series. After a certain period (or after a certain amount of damage has been inflicted), the maps will change based on events that occurred in each game world. Some of my favorites included Corneria from Final Fantasy, Midgar from Final Fantasy VII, and Eden from Final Fantasy XIII.
There’s also a whole slew of unlockables in the form of music, weapons, costumes, avatars, and more you can find in a loot-crate type system that’s very easy to obtain. Speaking of which, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT’s soundtrack is fantastic — it’s filled with some remixed tracks as well as original pieces.
There’s a handy screen that’s accessible at almost any time in the game where you can customize each character’s EX Skills, weapons, and costumes. I appreciated how easy this menu was to access as it made it quick and easy to edit my characters quickly in between battles.
If you’re on the fence about Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, you have to ask yourself what kind of game you’re looking for. Those looking for an experience that offers a rich story and the RPG mechanics of the first game might be disappointed. NT is a more streamlined, competitive experience that anyone can hop into and enjoy. It can seem a little complex at first, but I assure you it isn’t.
There’s no doubt in my mind that most Final Fantasy fans will appreciate the attention to detail in regards to every character, map, costume, and weapon. I believe that Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has the potential to grow its audience if the developers evolve the game based on community feedback. Right now I think it’s a bit bare bones compared to other fighters on the market, but if you’re looking for a new, quirky competitive fighter to get into, you may enjoy Dissidia Final Fantasy NT a lot more than you expect.