By Evan Schwab
As I unboxed my collector’s edition version of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, the newly released PS4 version of the popular arcade title in Japan, I couldn’t help but feel a mixture of excitement and nostalgia. Ten years ago, Square-Enix released Dissidia Final Fantasy, an excellent brawler for the hugely popular PSP (PlayStation Portable). A few years later, Square-Enix launched a sequel to Dissidia, and it was during that window of time that I became a huge fan of the brawler series. Due to surgery and required bed rest, I was able to explore through both Dissidia and Duodecim fully, and it was one of the best fighter experiences I’ve ever had. For those reasons, Dissidia NT has been one of my most anticipated releases of 2018.
Now, the original two titles pit players against a series of mannequins (weaker versions of characters) and iconic characters from the Final Fantasy franchise. Combat was quick and smooth, utilizing multi-level 3D arenas for battling. Each character came equipped with their own special attack sets, with EX attacks serving as a sort of limit break. Attacks were split between brave and HP attacks, with the goal being to drain your enemy’s brave points before eliminating them with HP attacks. As you utilized brave attacks, you gained power to expend in your HP attacks; after you attacked with an HP attack, your brave points were briefly depleted. It’s a fairly complicated system that took a little while to grow accustomed to, but once you’ve begun to master the combat, the games become awesome chess matches of strategy and skill.
Dissidia NT takes the combat from the original two games and expands it into a 3 vs. 3 arena match. The hub of Dissidia NT serves as your gateway to both online and offline modes, which currently consists of one online game type (your choice of whether it’s ranked) and two offline game modes, as well as a campaign, tutorial and practice levels. In order to navigate the campaign, you must play in both offline and online modes in order to receive Memoria fragments - items that unlock sections of the campaign story. As you play your characters and level them up, more EX abilities become available for use, and you can unlock hundreds of collectibles, as well. But the real question is: how does it play?
Utilizing the same combat ideology of the original games, Dissidia NT continues the fast paced combat and doubles down on skill based play. Dissidia NT introduces character classes (Vanguard, Assassin, Specialist, and Marksman), each with different attack types, ranges, and strategies. For example, Cloud (VII) is a vanguard, holding much more health than most characters and offering a pretty hefty challenge when facing him alone. Likewise, Kuja (IX) is a marksman, flinging ranged spells in devastating combos. Squall (VIII) is an assassin, and his attacks require extremely close ranges to deal brave damage, but his HP attacks are devastating and difficult to evade. Lightning (XIII), then, represents the specialist class, and she can change between melee and ranged combat as she paradigm shifts, but she doesn’t yield crazy power in either brave or HP category. Each character within each class type is unique, though, and playing each will unveil their true potentials. In addition to characters, your party can vote on which summons to take into battle. Basically, you unlock summons as you progress your characters, campaign, and unlockables, and each player pools their available summons before a match to be voted upon. The summon with the highest votes is chosen for the game, and you can summon it in battle by gaining enough of your special bar (and then staying unharmed during the summoning process).
In offline mode - and outside of the campaign - you are offered two basic types of battles: a 3 vs. 3 brawl to the death (where you must defeat three enemy players) or a crystal battle (where each team has a crystal, and team that destroys the opposing team’s crystal first wins). Each mode requires a different approach, and they’re both great environments for learning and improving your favorite characters. Ranked online play only allows for 3 vs. 3 deathmatches, so you also gain the necessary experience before taking on the world.
The ranked online matches I have played serve as not-so-gentle reminders that I need a lot more practice. This game requires much more strategy, precision, and care in order to succeed, as you can quickly find yourself surrounded by two or three players while your partners are either incapacitated or too far away to help. In a sense, Dissidia NT plays a lot like Gundam VS., but you’re always required to play 3 vs. 3 matches here. That’s okay, too, as the crisp system allows for a lot of fun to be had in intense matches. My advice for those new to Dissidia or unfamiliar with high speed 3 vs. 3 combat arenas is to fool around with the tutorials and partake in the different offline game modes. I found the higher ranked computers (they rank up to mythril) to put up a challenge at first, so slowly working your way from bronze to mythril should help improve your basic skill sets.
Square-Enix and Tecmo Koei are pushing hard for Dissidia NT to become a mainstay in the eSports arena. Prior to its launch, Dissidia was pushed hard in tournaments to fairly successful results. Personally, once Square-Enix incorporates more characters (at least six more are coming) and balances the current cast a bit better, I believe Dissidia NT can carve itself a niche in the fighter segment of Esports. It certainly serves as a different type of fighters with a different type of player, but the skill involved make it an intriguing prospect. At the very least, Dissidia NT is worth the purchase, as it offers potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay as you attempt to make your way through the full campaign, level up and master your characters, and work your way through the ranked online system.