Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is the third entry in Square Enix’s Final Fantasy fighting game franchise, and it’s a massive departure from its predecessors. If (somehow) you did no research on the game’s arcade run and found yourself in the beta, you would have likely been surprised to find that the Dissidia series has now morphed into a 3 vs. 3 team game.
Before we begin, let’s get something out of the way: I doubt that Square Enix and Bandai Namco (makers of the new Gundam Versus arena fighter) conspired together to run betas of their team-based fighters on the same weekend. The coincidence did make it difficult for me to not compare the two, particularly since I had interest in both. I feel like both of these games target the same respective crowds of franchise fans, while teasing open-minded FGC players with interesting system mechanics. I will restrain myself from mentioning Gundam Versus any further in this article, other than to say that my experience with Gundam Versus did not help — or hurt — my opinion on the Dissidia beta. [But I would definitely expect to see some very direct comparisons between these titles in the near future, especially after this one launches in 2018. Our impressions of the open beta for Gundam Versus can be seen here. – Editor]
The official in-game tutorial video.
As a brand-new player to the Dissidia series, I found Dissidia’s offense relatively easy to pick up. Even though the UI is overwhelming at first, and the in-game tutorial neglects some surprisingly important information (for example: HP Attacks are unblockable!), it only took a game or two before I began to feel like I was really in control of how to move and what attacks I wanted. Dissidia’s dashing/flying mechanics require just the hold of a shoulder button, and the combination of auto-locking and an evasive sidestep make the defensive aspects of Dissidia simple, smooth, and inutitive.
By far the biggest problem I had was losing control of the camera. It could be likely that manipulating the camera is just not a skill playing other fighting games has taught me, but the somewhat limited turning range the camera made it really tough to keep focus on what I wanted to. Sometimes action, or my proximity to a wall or building, would move the camera in a way that left my character completely out of frame, which was frustrating. I felt like by the time I was finally getting my bearings on how the camera works, the beta was done and over with. Controlling the camera was by far the most negative experience I had in the entire time of the beta, and I’m hoping that it becomes a little more clear upon release what actions will cause the camera to unalign.
Offense is easy to get to grips with because it is relatively simple, and largely based around footsies. On the surface, it seems like there’s a lot of weakness in defensive play: you can be guard crushed, sidesteps have very vulnerable recovery, and an opponent can only dash away for so long before their dash meter depletes. Combine that with the unblockable HP attacks and you end up with a game that rewards baiting whiffs or forcing mistakes and punishing them.
And I could probably stop there, were this a 1v1 game. But, ultimately, this game is about two things: positioning and teamwork. While, yes, you can outplay someone in neutral and do sick combos (to an extent — it is possible to cancel some attacks with dashing, and wall splats leave the opponent open to attack), that will only get you so far in a Dissidia match. Without a communicative team and awareness of Summoning Cores across the field, it’s easy to have a game go south very quickly.
An example of high level play from Japan’s 2017 National Tournament, commentated by Jaghancement.
Summoning Cores are large crystals that spawn around the map during the course of the game. Smash em’ to fill your summoning gauge. Once it’s full, one (or all) of your teammates can start holding down a button to call the summon you picked prior to the game. Summons are very powerful: they fill the screen with giant attacks and give various buffs to your party (or debuffs to the opposing team.)
Now is a good time to mention one other mechanical problem I had with the game: targeting the Summoning Core. Sometimes I’d sit there staring directly at the Summoning Core and would hit the “Target Switch” buttons, and it would continually spin me away from the core and target a member of the opposing team. This was frustrating — but I eventually found I could get the game to cooperate sometimes by just looking away from the Core after a failed attempt to target it, then look back at it and successfully select it. I suspect this a bug that will get ironed out, but I am surprised it happened to me with the frequency it did. [In my personal experience, I could target Cores by holding down both Target Switch buttons simultaneously, which should lock on to the nearest target. But even this was kinda twitchy in practice. – Editor]
Because of the power of Summons, there’s lots of fighting around Summoning Cores. Though battles can be won or lost long before a Summon is used, the fact that they exist and are so powerful makes it too important to ignore. I’m mentioning all this to tie in an earlier point I made: the team aspect of this game rules all decisions.
Without communication and awareness of your team, it’s easy to get wiped (or wipe your opponent’s team) because someone was a weak link, or someone didn’t go after a crystal. Each team has 3 “lives,” and you can theoretically kill the same person 3 times and win without touching the other two opponents. This will likely be the biggest thing that drives away many potential players that are more interested in the fighting part of this arena fighting game. Dissidia’s old 1v1 mode has yet to be confirmed, and even if it was, I kind of find it difficult to imagine some characters that were clearly balanced for 3v3 mode being even remotely viable in a 1v1 mode. More than once I would find myself paired with two random Cloud players and automatically know what the fate of our team would be. Shockingly, I couldn’t find a way to switch characters once a team was made, if there even was one. In a game where team composition is so crucial, it baffles me that this isn’t an option (yet).
If there’s no 1v1 mode, that almost definitely will reduce competitive play to just online, and… whew. Let me tell you. Six people all playing in the same game from around the country can result in some horrendously unplayable matches. When Dissidia’s netcode behaved it was a beautiful thing, but I think I was blessed with playable connections only about half the time. Otherwise, games either chugged, or matches straight up dropped at the beginning. I also occasionally would wait up to 10 minutes to find opponents. That may be forgivable right now due to the nature of a closed beta, but it still worries me.
Overall, I enjoyed the beta a lot, and I found that each character I played brought a uniquely deep set of mechanics to the battlefield. When I was locked in combat versus another person vying for positioning, the mental game was addicting. Every game left me wanting to play more, and 2018 seems really far away because of that.
But for every good decision in character depth or game design, I see a potential red flag for this game’s success and longevity. There needs to be a solution for the netcode, and at least some sort of custom ruleset to allow 1v1s. Without at least one of these issues being addressed, I think the core of the FGC will simply not be interested enough, no matter how good the game is. And while that’s a shame, I wouldn’t blame the average FGC player for thinking the 3v3 team game wasn’t for them.