God Bless the Ring
The Final Fantasy series has been around for twenty years, and for its anniversary, Square-Enix has decided to create the ultimate Final Fantasy creation. The end result is Dissidia: Final Fantasy, a fighting game with the ease of control of Super Smash Bros. to the hectic 3-D arena madness of Power Stone. Does Dissidia represent the best of the Final Fantasy series, or is it a spin-off that's better left thought of as a fantasy?
Dissidia is latin for conflict, and you'll be getting a whole lot of conflict with this Final Fantasy fighter. There's over twenty fighters in all, and two characters, a hero and a foe, have been selected from each Final Fantasy game from the beginning all the way to Final Fantasy X. Ever wanted to pit Squall (FFVIII) against Cloud (FFVII)? Now you can. The roster of playable fighters is wide and varied with Warrior of Light (FFI), Firion (FFII), Onion Knight (FFIII), Cecil (FFIV), Bartz (FFV), Terra (FFVI), Zidane (FFIX), and Tidus (FFX). The villain side features Garland (FFI), The Emperor (FFII), Cloud of Darkness (FFIII), Golbez (FFIV), Exdeath (FFV), Kefka (FFVI), Sephiroth (FFVII), Ultamecia (FFVIII), Kuja (FFIX), and Jecht (FFX).
Each of the heroic characters has their own story to play through with voiced cut-scenes and narrative. They'll face off against past foes on their way to bring balance to the shattered world, one character at a time. Each character's story plays out along five different chapters. Story mode works by placing the character on a grid-like board. Each time they move on the board in order to get into a fight with an enemy or open a treasure chest, they lose a Destiny Point. When the map's conditions have been met, the way to the goal-- which is sometimes a boss encounter-- will be opened. There's also a quick battle mode where your story mode characters' stats will transfer over, so you'll be able to gain experience in that mode as well.
Forget all you know about the rules of fighters like Street Fighter and Tekken. Dissidia plays with a new set of rules. Dissidia utilizes a system of two types of attacks-- HP reducing attacks and Brave reducing attacks. Each fighter in the game has two sets of points. Brave Points determine how strong a fighter's HP attack will be, and HP points are the actual health of a given fighter. Brave points are siphoned off your opponent through Brave Attacks. Their Brave points go down while yours increase. If you have 575 Brave Points and you unleash an HP attack that hits, you'll take off 575 points of HP damage on your opponent. Considering how high your accumulated Brave Points can be, a match can be over in one combo. After an HP attack, the attacker's Brave Points reach zero before slowly regenerating to the normal amount. If your Brave Points become depleted, you'll enter a Break state where your fighter is vulnerable and open to attack for a second or two. Meanwhile your opponent will earn all of the Break Points in the pool for shattering your defenses.
Dealing damaging generates bluish white balls of light. When a character absorbs these orbs their EX-Bar will increase. There's also bell-shaped items that spawn during matches which fill a larger portion of the bar. When the EX-Bar is full, that character can transform into EX-Mode. They'll become stronger and able to perform an ultimate move dealing huge amounts of damage. For instance, Cloud from Final Fantasy VII fame will strike multiple times with his Omnislash limit break when his EX-Move is used. When such an attack is used against you, you're encouraged to smash on the circle button to raise your defense. Tapping too much, however, will actually lower your defense against the attack, so it's all about discipline.
Besides HP, Brave, and EX attacks, a Final Fantasy staple, the summon, is a part of the action in Dissidia. Summons are support skills that affect the balance of Brave Points in battle. These can be from blatantly stealing an opponent's Brave Points to copying the exact amount of Brave Points that your opponent has. Only one summon can be equipped at a time, and with excess of fifty of them in all from Ifrit and Shiva to Bahamut and Carbuncle, there's plenty of options for players.
Dissidia wouldn't feel like a Final Fantasy game without the extensive ability to customize your character, outfitting him or her with equipment and leveling them up with experience. Each character starts at Level 1, and they gain experience in and after battle. Players can beef up a character's health, Brave, attack, defense, and luck as they gain levels. You can outfit your character with a list of moves and assign them to a direction on the analog nub. You can also equip a weapon, shield, armor, and headgear for battle. These won't be shown visually in battle, but they will show the difference between having them equipped and not having them equipped. As your character gains experience points through actions in and out of battle, they'll level up which will allow them new skills and abilities to tinker around with. Gil, the currency of the Final Fantasy series, is used to purchase new equipment and accessories in the shop located in the menu screen.
In battle, Dissidia uses the analog nub to move around and in conjunction with the attack buttons, used for moves. The square button is for HP attacks while the circle button is for Brave attacks. You can use the triangle to run up walls while attacking your enemy from above. With the L button you can lock onto your opponent to make him/her always in your sight. You can also block with the right shoulder button or evade attacks all together. For the most part, everything is well, but the camera can occasionally cause problems, and some fights can just feel insanely unfair for beginners.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy is a fan's wet dream. It's full of memorable content from summons to items to battle locations like Kefka's Tower and the moon to the soundtrack which full of familiar songs remixed for the game as well as pieces taken directly from past Final Fantasies such as Final Fantasy X's Otherworld. While not all of the remixes are winners, most do their job well of being great background music for battles. Dissidia boasts a very impressive visual package. The presentation is some of the PSP's best with gorgeous cinematics and in-game engine cut-scenes. These are all voiced fully save for a few brief text conversations.
Overall, Dissidia: Final Fantasy is a sure-fire hit for fans of the franchise. Others may want to give the game a rental first as the game can be incredibly frustrating to play due to camera errors and dastardly AI. Regardless, the amount of content on one UMD is astonishing with ten character stories to play through, achievement-like accomplishments to earn, and plenty of fighters to control. Players will definitely get their gil's worth with this title. While it's not my idea of the perfect Final Fantasy collection for 20 years worth of games, Dissidia: Final Fantasy stands as a conflict not worth missing.
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.25/10]