A world that exists only for battle needs warriors to sustain it.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a fairly complex and fairly unusual game, and it arguably has the deck stacked against it in terms of establishing a firm foothold in the fighting game community. As a team-based arena fighter with very specialized needs for local multiplayer, it already is pretty far off the beaten path of traditional fighters — and it’s come to the market in the immediate wake of Dragon Ball FighterZ, not to mention competing for attention against Street Fighter, Tekken, Marvel vs. Capcom, BlazBlue… you name it, we’re inundated with games to choose from right now. What does Dissidia offer to warrant your time and attention?
For the love of battle
There is a singular draw to Dissidia that will pretty much answer that question — the Final Fantasy universe, of course. If you aren’t already emotionally invested in the Final Fantasy series on some level, it’s a long shot that this game would even be a blip on your radar. No doubt about it: the Final Fantasy license is the main attraction here, the chance to take your favorite heroes and villains into battle, revisit memorable locales, listen to the swell of the epic tunes from iconic moments in stories past. If you love Final Fantasy, chances are you’re already playing this game. The visual and auditory presentation easily does justice to the Final Fantasy source material. Including at least one playable character (usually two — typically the main protagonist and main antagonist) from every main-line Final Fantasy title, odds are you’ll find more than one character you love in the roster. The attention to detail on these fighters, the stages based on their respective worlds, and both updated and original music tracks from each game — this is pretty much a love letter from the Final Fantasy franchise to the fighting game genre. Hearing the new arrangement of “Antipyretic” from Final Fantasy Tactics was already enough to get me fired up for battle.
The tools of battle
To elaborate on the gameplay system, for those unfamiliar: if you love Final Fantasy, but prefer your action to be turn-based, you’re in for a bit of a shock — as you’ll have to steel yourself for some crazy stuff here. Dissidia is fast-paced, chaotic, and demands some time and practice to get a good handle on the control scheme. Once you get used to it, there is a lot of fun to be had here, for sure. With three-on-three fights in large arenas with varied terrain, and the summoning mechanic thrown into the mix, there is a lot going on at any given time, and it’s very easy to be blindsided by unexpected attacks, or have the tables turned on you from a last-minute summon. Battles you think are in the bag can turn on a dime, but the good news is it goes both ways, and you’ll find yourself unexpectedly victorious once in a while.
Dissidia’s battle mechanics use an interesting HP/Bravery system, with a separate attack button for each. Each team has three points (one for each player, essentially), and a fighter being felled in combat deducts one — whether it’s each player once or the same one three times, the result is the same. Fighters have HP, and are incapacitated when they lose all of it — but in order to deal HP damage to an opponent, you must first build your Bravery up (and reduce theirs) by using Bravery attacks. Your Bravery determines how much HP damage you can deal with your HP attacks; build it up enough and you can incapacitate a foe with a single stroke, definitely satisfying! You also gradually charge up special “EX abilities”: essentially Dissidia NT’s take on special moves, these can be magic or physical attacks that deal damage, or spells that buff yourself/your allies or debuff your enemies. Naturally, all of these — not to mention each fighter’s regular moveset — are based on classic Final Fantasy attacks used by the characters in their respective games, staying true to the series.
With three enemies to handle, you need to get used to utilizing your movement options — dashing, jumping, evading — and using the lock-on system to keep track of your opponent and watch out for who’s eyeing you up for a kill. Camera controls can be a bit troublesome, and in the heat of battle it can be easy to momentarily lose track of your targeted enemy or where you want to go — easily fatal, unfortunately. You need to keep an eye on your teammates too, of course; you can cooperate to extend combos and really lay the hurt down if you get your team synergy going. And there’s the summon cores to worry about.
The summoning system in Dissidia NT is based around “cores” that appear on the battlefield. Attacking them fills your team’s summon gauge, and allows you to call in your chosen monstrous ally when full. These powerful beings can turn the tide for or against you — they remain on the battlefield for a set period of time, attacking and laying traps for the opposing team, as well as powering up your team’s EX abilities. You don’t need to pull off a summon to win — but it sure helps.
The way of battle
The game has fairly robust offline options, and by playing against the CPU you earn customization options for the characters through earning Treasure (i.e. loot boxes of a sort, that each provide three random items when opened) or Gil that you can use to purchase them directly. You also earn “Memoria” — which is used to gradually unlock the cutscenes and battles of the Story mode, in a rather interesting arrangement that makes what is basically the usual watch a movie/fight/repeat story mode formula feel a little fresher, if only by making you play other modes to open it up and “earn” access to its branched paths. Story mode also includes boss battles against the game’s summons — which can be pretty difficult (even infuriating) until you level up enough to pack a bigger punch against them.
Online however, can be a mixed bag — matchmaking times can still be long, and lag still rears its ugly head. And this is a problem for a game that is fundamentally designed for three human beings to face off against each other. Unlike its anime-based arena fighter sibling Gundam Versus (which includes a one-on-one option, at least online), Dissidia is insistent on its team-based design, with no game modes that don’t utilize a three-on-three format (a few fights in Story mode do mix up that formula, though, with 2-on-3 fights, or the aforementioned boss battles). Even the offline versus-CPU modes make you fight with CPU teammates at all times (which will even send chat greetings before/after/during fights to encourage you, which is kind of endearing). Playing against the CPU with AI teammates can still be entertaining — but really, that’s not enough to support any kind of long-term interest.
There is no built-in local setup option — frankly, the game interface and presentation would not work in split-screen, anyway. That means six consoles, six monitors, and some LAN-foolery to run the game at a local or event… and some intrepid TOs have done this already, but it is a lot of effort and resources for a game that threatens to fall to the wayside as a niche title.
The future of battle
Now, Square Enix isn’t finished adding to Dissidia NT, and the game could still benefit greatly from some one-on-one “dueling” modes, and some built-in support for local setup — like a dedicated LAN mode. In terms of gameplay, this game has the chops to hold interest if supported, and there is enough crossover between the FGC and Final Fantasy fanatics to warrant giving this game continued attention. If Dissidia’s world — built for and sustained by endless conflict — is to survive in our own competitive landscape, it’s going to fall to the community to push this game’s visibility and reach out to new players to support its fledgling scene. So, let’s follow that moogle’s advice, and “Fight! Fight! Fight!”
Additional source: PlayStation