Square Enix isn’t really known for its fighting games with its pedigree catering more to RPG enthusiasts than those dwelling in the arcade—and don’t get me started on Ehrgeiz. The past Dissidia titles, while fun, were a far cry from competitive fighting games, putting a heavier emphasis on its single-player experience and customizable gameplay. This is precisely why Dissidia’s arcade release was a big surprise to longtime fans, breaking out of the traditional Dissidia mold and embracing a more competitive structure that makes it comparable to other established arena fighting games such as the Gundam Vs series.
For those like me who live outside of Japan, being able to play it felt like a dream, especially since people were lining up for the blasted machine during my visit (Golden week, ladies and gents). The game ran on what was said to be similar to the PS4’s architecture, and even borrows the console’s control-scheme, so a console port was likely to make an appearance down the line. Well, it’s here now! It took them a while, but it’s finally here.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a team based fighting game developed by Team Ninja and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4. The game boasts a huge roster, with a plethora of characters and key locations from the Final Fantasy saga. Dissidia games have always been magical to FF fans, being a celebratory spin-off that showcases the franchise’s many years of JRPG goodness. It’s this form of fanservice that really tugs the heart, especially if you’re looking to see your favorite characters duke it out using familiar skills they’ve acquired in their respective series. It’s almost like a sports fantasy booking, only geekier… and far superior *cough*.
Sadly, the magic I speak of may have to end as we dive further into our Dissidia Final Fantasy NT review. The game is a mixed satchel for me, offering an array of things that make it both fun and a nightmare to play. I’ve had to seriously ask myself a couple of times whether I’m still enjoying the game or just playing out of habit after all the grind.
The story is quite basic and comes in the form of unlockable cinematics, with some battles on the side. These panels are unlocked by farming ‘Memoria’, which can be collected by fighting or playing the game. I for one am not a fan of this process, as I would rather progress through the story at my own pace, instead of having to go back and forth to the story panel whenever I’ve unlocked a new scene. It’s this form of distraction that really cuts you away from the overall experience, be it through playing the game or watching the story. If we can bash the likes of Street Fighter V for not having a proper story mode, then I think we could say the same, if not more, for a title that’s supposed to be a spin-off of one of the most story-heavy RPGs in existence.
The game respects its prequels canonically, with the events taking place after the PSP’s Dissidia Duodecim. Here, the series’ heroes and villains were summoned to an alternate world to aid in a scuffle between the Goddess Materia and the God Spiritus—whom I’ve had a hard time warming up to since both deities were barely fleshed out aside for the fact that they hated each other. The true gold, however, stems from the interactions between characters, with some being quite endearing, and others being downright hilarious.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a game that stays true to its arcade release, sporting a fixed three-vs-three structure that is made complex by its cast of characters, each of them assigned to one of four distinct classes: the slow and heavy-hitting Vanguard, the agile Assassin, the long-ranged Marksman, and the Specialist, who have unique traits that differentiates them from the other classes. These roles are further emphasized by the presence of EX skill sets, which can be tweaked to further complement your playstyle. It’s a good example of a game that’s easy to learn, yet hard to master. Luckily, Dissidia NT does a terrific job of teaching you the basics via its lengthy in-depth tutorial mode, brushing you up on your offensive and defensive needs before engaging with other players. Adding more chaos to the battlefield are the trademark Summons from the Final Fantasy franchise. With a total of seven to choose from, these transient beings act as overpowered party members upon being called to the field, showering your opponents with devastating blasts, as well as granting buffs to you and your allies. Summons are easily one of the best ways to turn the tides against your opponents, so always be sure to strategically destroy Summon Cores when they appear.
While it thrives on rich combat mechanics, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT suffers from a severe lack of game modes. You have the traditional Default mode, where players battle it out until they incapacitate members of the opposing team three times; and Core battles, where teams are pitted against one another in a race to destroy the opposing party’s core whilst defending their own. The two modes are satisfying as they are, but a few extra ones would have been nice. The game does add a couple of fixed party gauntlet challenges upon progressing in the story, but it felt more like an illusory wall to keep the player from seeing just how lacking Dissidia is in content.
Weaved into its story mode are summon battles, which can range from hard to down-right frustrating. They are very difficult to deal with and will force you to play smart, bombarding you with mechanics that require a lot of patience and memorization, almost akin to an MMO raid. Said fights can even more annoying when the AI is using non-ranked characters, which begs the mention of what truly caught my ire in the game—the grind.
Everything in Dissidia NT is unlocked by simply playing the game, which really isn’t too bad considering that it’s a fighting game; however, it does a poor job of implementing this grind, almost like the game itself isn’t too sure about what it wants you to do.
Carrying most of the game’s unlockables are lootboxes which contain cosmetic items like extra costumes and weapons, along with other features such as music tracks from other Final Fantasy games. You can also forego the randomness by purchasing your item of choice via the game’s Gil shop, but earning Gil can be a chore, especially when your method of farming involves online matches. Unfortunately, the best way to earn Gil, ‘Memoria’, and various EX skills is by grinding Core battles offline with the difficulty ramped up. For some reason, the AI tends to ignore players frequently, allowing them to chip away at the enemy’s core with little to no difficulty. This makes farming relatively easy, albeit still time-consuming. I find it absurd that an online fighting game with no local versus options would reward players more for playing offline. The game’s method of progression was designed in bad fashion and acts more like painful torture that buyers are subjected to before unlocking the actual game. Another feature I found rather insulting was the fact that the story AI’s overall intelligence is tied to the character’s singleplayer rank. This means that you will be subjected to even more offline grinding if you want the AI to mess up less during boss fights.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is the franchise’s first entry in the competitive arcade scene and the three-on-three setup works really well in giving the game a proper esports appeal. For those looking for a one-on-one match, I’m sad to say that you will have to create custom matches to play those, as the game only lets you play ranked matches as a party. Matches can get chaotic on occasion, but despite the many projectiles and actions taking place on your screen, you know that in the end, strategy and proper teamwork will always prevail. It really gives you that sense of satisfaction whenever you pull off a strategic move in the midst of combat—simple things like taunting players off a weakened teammate or placing a trap on a summoning crystal to ward off melee users. The summoning system also works seamlessly on each match, granting players a much-deserved advantage/comeback mechanic that isn’t too cheap due to the strategic effort needed to focus down a crystal during the most heated of matches.
Learning Curve: 7/10
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is not your everyday fighting game and is more akin to MOBA clashes than the likes of Blazblue or Guilty Gear. This means that those familiar with the traditional fighting game fundamentals may experience a couple of difficulties adjusting to Dissidia’s system. As I mentioned earlier, the game does well in teaching you the basics via its tutorial mode, giving you some basic combo tutorials, along with some complimentary mock battles to help cement that information further. However, it tends to hide information on some abilities that can be considered crucial to a character’s gameplay. This lack of explanation left me a tad surprised when I realized that Terra’s spells are enhanced if I stopped attacking for a short period of time, or that equipping a different HP attack will make her EX skill charge faster. I’m usually fine with fighting games holding off on teaching you the most optimal combos, but it wouldn’t hurt to put a short description of a character’s quirk in the selection screen.
Graphics and Sounds: 8/10
Made famous by the gorgeous ladies of Dead or Alive, I must say that Team Ninja did well in updating the cast to fit modern visuals. Each and every one of the old cast translated well from their PSP models and looks as they should. Being an avid FFXIV player, I was very happy with how Y’shtola looked in Dissidia NT. You could even say that she looks a lot better here than she did in the original game. The spells and effects are marvelous to behold, especially when facing summons who literally flood your screen with lights. The inclusion of original Final Fantasy tracks were also a good throwback to each of the character’s respective games, with some enhanced/updated songs that blend really well with the action on screen. I’m not really a big fan of the “Massive Explosion” theme, but its many renditions per boss fight just ramps up the intensity by a lot.
As for the voice acting, the Japanese and English dubs were both pretty good. There are still some cringey moments, but both do well in portraying their respective characters. I tend to gravitate more towards the English dub, as each character delivers a more personal line upon successfully calling a summon, instead of just saying the Summon’s name followed by its special move.
The score could have been lower but we did get what we wanted, which was a Dissidia arcade port. Unfortunately, I feel that Dissidia NT is a tad overpriced for what it delivers, I just wish the game was more prepared for its console debut. For a game priced at $59.99, it really doesn’t offer much outside of what you’ve already experienced in the Beta, aside from the story. Even just adding a one-vs-one mode would have helped. Co-op Summon battles would have also been a fine addition, as taking on the likes of Ifrit with a party of friends could make for some JOLLY COOPERATION!
By no means do I think that Dissidia NT is a bad game. Despite its shortcomings, the game still delivers what it’s supposed to—an addictive team-based fighter built from the ground up to appeal to the arcade market. I think Dissidia NT’s problem stems more from its console features rather than its mechanics as a fighting game. While I would enjoy fighting players online, the lack of incentive for online play really hinders the player from enjoying the game for what it is—an online fighting game. It’s a problem heavily emphasized by its flawed rank-tied AI, and the desire to farm more ‘Memoria’ for the story.
Those looking to buy this game without a PS+ subscription hoping to get the same satisfying content they got from its PSP predecessors might want to hold back. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a port of a brilliant arcade game mired down by its lack of content and modern expectations of what console fighting games should and should not have. I love the fight… I just hate what came with it.
- The team-based format is brilliantly implemented
- Solid depth for an arena fighting game
- Tons of unlockables
- Summon battles are challenging, but a blast to play
- Tons of Final Fantasy characters
- Severe lack of game modes
- Terrible grind
- An unlocked cinematic system for the story isn’t very effective
- Little reward for online matches, even after winning or ranking top
- Ranking up characters you don’t intend on using for the AI’s sake