Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dissidia: Final Fantasy on PSP Impression

Dissidia: Final Fantasy good and evil covers
What does a publisher do to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of one of the most influential gaming franchise of all time? Simple answer, create a fighting game with all the name characters from over the years and call it a day. Well, not quite the decision Square Enix made as they’ve crafted much more than a fighting game with Dissidia: Final Fantasy for the PSP. This unique story of Chaos vs. Cosmos pulls characters from each of the first ten Final Fantasy titles and pits them head to head in a unique fighting game that shared more in common with Kingdom Hearts than Castlevania: Judgment. Let’s take a look …

Gameplay – It’s a fighting game RPG that had and affair with a chess board and is a third cousin of Kingdom Hearts. First the RPG aspect. Gamers play as a variety of characters and as fights progress they gain items, levels and abilities which are managed as any RPG, any Final Fantasy would be managed. This is not a 1:1 fighting game in the vein of Tekken. So second it’s a fighting game, but gamers are put on a field with various levels and roam in 3D with a lock-on system pulled from Kingdom Hearts and lacks ‘rounds’ instead implementing a health/break system which allows for gamers to come back from defeat with the proper luck. Yes, luck is a huge factor as a fight can be over in seconds with the proper attacks. Third and final, gamers progress through the story on a grid based map, moving around with destiny points to take on foes, collect items and advance. So there’s the fighting game, chess, Kingdom Hearts, RPG angle. There are also quick fights to jump into outside the story where it’s man-on-man action, much more fighting game style. The actual combat is hit or miss, no real rhyme or reason which is a bit of a shame.

To further explain this game lets compare to Castlevania: Judgment. Konami’s anniversary Wii fighter took a bunch of characters, threw them into a time-spanning storyline and caused them to fight each other for various reasons in a 3D fighter a cross between Smash Bros. and Tekken. What Dissidia does it takes FF characters, throws them into a story that is Chaos vs. Cosmos spanning but allows for leveling up and growth as well as using a free-roaming battle system with lock-on most def needed. So by far this is not just a thrown together fighter.

Graphics – The cut scenes are spectacular and using so many iconic characters, beautiful. The menus are sharp and crisp, easy to follow. The in-game action is very fast-paced but looks great minus the bland levels. Special attacks and summons are as over-the-top as expected and look outstanding when pulled off. The in-game cut scenes also show a great level of detail and for the most part voice work syncs well with each character. Square Enix have proven before it can do the PSP proper and Dissidia is no exception.

Sound – The voice work is good as the industry has progressed and crossed over with anime. There are some very recognizable voices here. The speech itself is good if not corny at times. The music is a combination of games past matching the characters, foes, and settings, great to hear again. Think of this as a greatest hits collection of tunes, great for a CD and great in-game.

Design – Bland and confusing at times. Gamers can zip around on lines of light but the levels don’t offer any real direction. Falling off a cliff is easy to do and the overall design is very bland. The levels are a weak point for Dissidia, just not spectacular. The grid-based movement system requires some thinking and is well implemented and the menu’s feel ripped from the best Final Fantasy where gamers can level up, equip, etc.

Miscellaneous – Two very large items and they happen to be the reason to buy Dissidia. First the story, second the cast.

The story is simple, yet complicated. Simple in that it pits Cosmos against Chaos in an ever waging war. The scale tips to Chaos and his champions leaving Cosmos to call on her champions to pick up the slack. Complicated in the champions on both sides consist of goods and bads from Final Fantasy I-X and each has associations with other characters in each series, yeah it gets … interesting. The level of effort and detail put into this story blows away most collections like this and it gives gamers, especially FF fans, a deep reason to keep playing and leveling up. It’s not all about seeing each characters story but rather it feels more like playing another Kingdom Hearts type of RPG.

The cast of characters is great with Cloud, Tidus, Squall, Zidane over to Onion Knight, Cecil, Terra, and Bartz … and that’s just the good guys. Each game gets one main character, both good and bad, and for a series built on parties it’s a tough pill for characters missing, but there are cameos to make up for this fact. Seeing all these characters come together is made all the better by titles like Kingdom Hearts which pulled in familiar faces to unfamiliar places. Fans will dig the updated looks and interesting interactions, this fan did.

Overall, it’s tough to classify Dissidia: Final Fantasy. It’s a tribute to many great games and boasts an outstanding lineup of characters. The mish-mashed gameplay types works but may turn off fighting game fans while satisfying RPG’ers at the same time. Graphics and sound deliver as does the entire package. At the end of the day Final Fantasy fans need to own Dissidia as do most hard-core PSP gamers since it’s one of the systems most unique and enjoyable titles, not to mention it’s one of the most unique titles on any system right now.

Oh, and there are cards and a coliseum battle system, but really it’s icing on a pretty delicious cake.

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