T'was the week before Christmas
And upon a distant shore
Japanese players recieved a fine little score.
For Final Fantsy Dissidia had come to them there,
Leaving all of those in the West bored and bare.
But I got my hands a copy
You bet your rump I did.
Now take a seat and listen
As I share this treat
A review of this surprise and delight
For the Playstation Portable on this Christmas night.
Earlier this month, owners of the Playstation Portable were gifted with quite a fine addition to their collections, one which has been highly anticipated, at least by those savy in the Japanese homefront. With the PSP being one of the most widely distributed consoles in Japan, next to the Nintendo Wii thanks to the exclusive Monster Hunter franchise by Capcom - SquareEnix decided to cash in by tossing PSP fans a new Final Fantasy themed fighting game that couldn't be more deep and complex than this. The title is Dissidia: Final Fantasy, and it has taken Japan by storm.
The game is very large, nearly double the size of the last Monster Hunter release, jamming nearly 1.5GBs of information into a tiny little UMB disc. Once you turn it on you're greeted with an 11 minute long pre-rendered cinematic featuring characters from various Final Fantasy games duking it out under the summons of a dark chaos god and a earthly goddess. Two characters from each game ranging from one to ten are featured, including favorites like Cloud and Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7, Onion Knight and Cloud of Darkness from FF3, Kefka and Terra from FF6; and the list goes on and on. All together there are twenty two known, playable characters which include characters from Final Fantasy 11 and 12. Yes, that's right, Final Fantasy 11 (The MMORPG).
Menu Sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYtCjvwGFh0
The characters are highly detailed, surpassing PS1 graphics and really butting in on near PS2 potential, with clever textures and a new art style that is bound to bring some nostalgia to Final Fantasy fans everywhere. After you go through the tutorials, you'll have access to the character selection screen which allows you to pick one of ten characters, all of those which were 'good' of course - everyone else you must unlock using PP points which you earn from doing story mode or completing challenge matches against an adjustable AI difficulty and even players via Online play.
The game monitor's your PSP's calender, keeping track of time for you and also offering you rewards on your Birthday and various Holidays. For instance, Christmas gave EXP Bonuses. Each match you complete you character gains experience points, allowing you to eventually level the character of your choice all the way to 100. As you level, the character will become stronger and you'll unlock new abilities, armor, weapons, and summons that you can equip to your character anyway you like. This is because each character is fully customizable, allowing you to set the attacks you want to use and also the moves they do during battle.
At first, you don't start out with much at all. But as you level, you'll find that the game becomes much easier to play as you'll get more nimble abilities that suit your play style. The fighting itself can be quite a rush, considering that the is not a simple fighting game like Soul Calibur or Street Fighter - no. It's more on par with Dragon Ball free-roaming type games, sporting the new style of SquareEnix's extremely over-the-top fighting between main characters in villains. Anyone who has seen Final Fantasy: Advent Children knows what I'm talking about, or heck even played Kingdom Hearts 2.
Advent Children Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkDx1dOvy7k
You can relive this battle in this game, almost exactly as it is seen in the clip above. With this in mind, Characters can fly around the maps, run up obstables, walls, anything really - as much of the terrain is useable and destructable. There are even 'slide ways' on each maps, allowing you to skate across vast distances in seconds, much like Titus in one of Final Fantasy 10's numerous cinematics.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy Clip: Cloud v Seph http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8raiVQDk45U
Combat itself is actually more complicated than it looks. Yes, complicated - but in a fun, and enjoyable way. In this particular fighting game, just wacking the crud out of your enemy will not kill them, in fact, it will likely not even hurt them. The whole purpose of the battle is to fight over the ability to slay your enemy with a mass of what are called "Brave Points". You have normal attacks and Brave attacks, each can be supported by a Summon. In the clip, you likely saw a Magic Pot and Alexander appear at random, and they will when you attach them to an attack.
Normal attacks allow you to gather up Brave Points and steal them from your enemy. Do this enough, and you will Break them, taking away their defenses and leaving them very vulnerable to a critical blow. Using a Brave Attack, or (HP Attack) attack as it is seen in the game, allows you to unleash your gathered Brave Points and deal that gathered number of damage to your foe. During this process you will gather EX points, and also be able to collect items on the battle field that will charge your EX bar. When it is full, you can entered EX Mode and when you successfully score a Brave Attack on your enemy, you can twitch-hit the square button to activate an ultimate attack.
There are a lot of twitch-hit buttons, and you have to think quickly during battle. In the clip above we see Cloud and Seph duke it out in mid air, taking turns dodging and swiping one another at one point. This is a part of the game which happens at the conclusion of a normal hit combo, allowing your enemy a chance to avoid you and counter you. How and where you dodge greatly depends on your success, and these exchanges can take a long time to finish sometimes.
Despite the vast number of characters, there are two main classes that players of the game will quickly catch wind of. There are casters and fighters. Fighters, like Cloud for instance, need to be close range and use swift, brutal attacks and combos to deal damage. Casters however, don't even need to be near their enemy most of the time. Terra Bradford from FF6 can cast Gale around her, summoning up tornadoes to deflect attacks and deal a massive amount of damage. She can also call down Meteors, Lightning, and a massive Gravity Ball to crush enemies. Not to mention one of her best attacks is the powerful Meteo Ball which she can charge up, ala Dragon Ball Z, into a huge destructive sphere that homes in on her target.
Many of her attacks can be safely cast behind walls and obstacles, making her a very difficult character to kill. Other mages like Golbez from FF4 and EX Death from FF5 can teleport themselves around the field to become even more difficult. This is because they are huge, lumbering mages who use their magic as speed and strength. Customizing characters take a lot of time, but it's worth it.
Story Mode Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnezdFBoCeY
Every character has a story mode, and it is played out in sort of a tactical board game taking part in five to six main Odyssey Phases. Each phase is a different map, themed to each character's game and sporting familiar sound tracks in each battle they engage in. You are the only person on the board, but you have various obstacles that you can engage combat with and level up your character. Each move you make costs you a Destiny Point, which when you run out can take away from your final score until you finally reach your goal. On the field are rewards, treasure chests, and jewels you can obtain, but it may cost you DP to do it.
Once you complete a story mode for a character, you can replay it again and new obstacles will appear more challenging than the last. Along with new rewards. Not to mention pathways previously blocked will open up, offering replay value for each character. While on the board you can collect special abilities in the form of red jewels, which allow you to heal yourself and deal damage to obstacles before you engage in combat. This typically helps to benefit your final score, but the skills can only be used once per story mode. Some maps have a green chalice on the field which will refill all of your abilities - so plan when and how you use them.
The story is clever and amusing, though because my Japanese is bad I can't make out everything.
The game completely revives old themes to every game, including classic battle music and boss themes, map venturing songs and even wonderous new tracks. Each is elequent and perfect, making for an amazing sound track very much worth whatever it may cost to buy it on CD when it comes out. Each theme has been reproduced, offering some great background noise as you battle against old foes from your childhood.
English People CAN Play it, yes!
If you figured out how to switch the region code on your PSP, then you're in luck - you can play this game. Typically you'll need some custom firmware to do it, but the time and effort pays off. The game takes some getting used to, and the learning curve is even steeper with when you can't read the language. But rest assured, the game is very fun and enjoyable, and learning it may take time but eventually you'll start navigating it nicely. I don't fully understand the game myself, but I'm doing fine and whooping rump online.
Sadly, the game doesn't have built in infrastructure. Like many Japanese PSP games, it has Ad-Hoc Mode. Not a big problem for those of use used to Monster Hunter on the PSP. I play online via Xlink Kai using a Planex device. Read more about how to set it up on the guide I wrote.
Planex Guide for Win XP
Nostalgic action fighting that is freshing and challanging.
AI is adjustable, and can be very complicated if you want it to be.
Can be played onlin via Xlink-Kai.
Great score, often intense and even soothing. Really captures the mood.
Combat is frantic, fast, and brutal - but does very well to capture all levels of Fantasy Fantasy Series perfectly.
Over a 100 hours worth of things to do.
Still in Japanese!
The complexity of the game making importing a very hard thing to do. As there are many menues, items, and hordes of instructions.
Sometimes it can be hard to find English people to fight, but there are more of them coming in each day.