Dissidia Final Fantasy is my favourite video game of all time.
This is my favourite opening for any video game, ever.
It and its sequel/prequel/expansion pack Dissidia Duodecim Final Fantasy 012 are my favourite video games. The original game was developed and published by Square Enix, and was released on PlayStation Portable in Japan on December 18th, 2008. Duodecim was later released in Japan on March 3rd, 2011. Both games were localized in other countries with a year of their initial releases. I suppose that one could refer to them as my favourite game, as the entirety of the original is in Duodecim. Because of this, when I refer to “Dissidia” in this article, you can (unless otherwise noted) take that as me talking about Duodecim.
I love Dissidia to bits. Every single piece of it is appealing to me, and I have sunk over a hundred hours into it. In fact, my playtime may exceed 200 hours. I haven’t checked in a while. When I have the time though, I’d like to get back to it and continue my quest to unlock the final character, Feral Chaos. Or I can just download a PSP emulator, the game itself, and a completed save file to play it on my computer. Eh… that can wait. There’s still so much left to do on my PSP save file, so there’s no point in dropping the skew just yet.
Anyways, Dissidia is overflowing with content. It has every mode that a player could ask for, and each one is not only fully realized, but expanded to an absurd degree. Expectations start being exceeded as soon as one inspects the case of the original game and realizes that it has a reversible cover. One side shows the heroes and the other side shows the villains. Duodecim lacks this, but it makes up for it in other ways.
Let’s examine the modes in Duodecim, shall we? First off is the story mode. In the first Dissidia, it consisted of a bunch of barely animated boards with tiles and unmoving game pieces on them. These came in sets, usually of four or five, and were sandwiched in between cutscenes. It’s long and interesting (if you’re into Final Fantasy), but it’s very plain. Duodecim doesn’t just add more story (featuring generally more animated cutscenes with slightly better voice direction). It also adds a traversable world map with a miniature combat system and visually upgraded dungeons (the boards from the first game), among other lesser things. Oh, and the unlockable backstory reports in Duodecim now include cutscenes and entire fights as well as text. And of course, the original story mode is included inside the new one, with everything but the cutscenes revamped. That’s major. Square Enix did not need to do any of that. The story mode alone is worth the price of admission.
The rest of the modes in Dissidia are nothing to sneeze at, either. There is an arcade mode with different lengths and different character presets. You can also take one of your own customized characters (more on that later) in, if you want. There is a Labyrinth mode that allows you to traverse a very long, multi-part dungeon built up through random card draws. You can form a group/party of characters, and you can find special abilities, rare materials, and powerful boss enemies along the way. In Quick Battle, you are essentially given full control over the game’s rules, and you can set up any battle you want with a wide variety of different rulesets. You can make short stories (called “Quests”) and release them online. There is a shop where you can buy all kinds of game content using special points, a model viewer, and a sound test. You can also play against other players online, and you have a huge selection of unlockable avatars to choose from to represent yourself there.
And I haven’t even started talking about the core gameplay yet! Dissidia is an arena brawler, a type of fighting game where characters can move completely freely within a 3D space. This is different from the definition of a 3D fighting game, which tends to involve two characters always facing each other on one plane, but being able to sidestep to other planes in a 3D space. A 2D fighter consists of, obviously, a single plane of movement and nothing else. Now, arena brawlers have a reputation for being shallow, unbalanced, and generally of a poor quality. However, Dissidia aspired to reach competitive heights. If it wasn’t on a handheld gaming console, there would likely be a known tournament scene for it going on to this very day. The original game had 22 characters, and the sequel had 31. All of them were completely different from one another (some even requiring alternate input methods to play effectively, which is weird for a 3D action game, and unheard of in an arena brawler), and, somehow, half-decently balanced. This bizarre situation led to me picking up the term “so unbalanced that it’s balanced”, where every character has (or can be customized to have) something strong enough to match most of the other characters in equal combat.
There have been a couple of long stretches where I haven’t played Dissidia. During the most recent one, this video reminded me that my memories of Dissidia’s high quality were not obscured by nostalgia. The game really is this good.
Combat consists of using Bravery attacks to steal Bravery from your opponent, and then cashing out your Bravery by landing an HP attack, which directly damages an opponent’s health. Once someone’s health has been decreased to zero, the other combatant is declared the victor. Other game mechanics include EX Modes and EX Bursts (special modes and super attacks accessible in those modes. Each character has different effects in their Mode, and a different minigame in their Burst), dodging and guarding (which can be upgraded to include better blocks and guards if you time them well), dashing (in which your character essentially flies freely through the air or just above the ground), quickmoves (which allow you to run/fly up walls and grind on rails), and assists (a mechanic introduced in Duodecim, allowing you to call in another character to use a Bravery attack, an HP attack, or to defend you by swapping places with you).
And the depth doesn’t stop in battles, either. At the end of battles, you earn several different kinds of points and currencies to spend on various things. Earlier, I alluded to “your own customized characters”. Well, this is the part where they come in. Every single one of those 31 characters has their own level, abilities, and equipment. You can level every individual character from 1 to 100, unlocking and upgrading all of their various offensive and passive abilities along the way. That means you can actually choose what attacks your characters have. You can enter a second(!) shop to buy weapons, equipment, and accessories. Equipment and accessories are two different kinds of equip-able things, by the way. And if any of this (or any other aspect in the game, for that matter) becomes so overwhelming that you can’t remember the details, you can open a tutorial menu that changes for almost every screen in the game, and features in-character advice from a wide variety of characters from the Final Fantasy series. Dissidia had it all. The only thing it needed was a console port, and the fanbase would be set for life.
The launch trailer for Dissidia Arcade.
Coming out of nowhere, an arcade (and, eventually, console) entry for the Dissidia franchise was announced and released in 2015. I’m extremely excited for this, of course, but I’ve been wrestling with a few reservations. This new Dissidia (currently just called “Dissidia Final Fantasy”) is a 3-on-3 arena brawler instead of a 1-on-1 brawler. This has led to large swathes of the design being changed. Custom combos have become more limited, and guarding and blocking are not as good as they used to be. Players are encouraged to act cooperatively, and are intended to frequently switch targets during battle. EX Modes have been completely removed in favour of summoned beasts. While summons previously just caused some kind of effect involving your Bravery and/or HP to happen, they now appear on the battlefield and fight alongside you. Dashing is now limited by a meter, and is generally a little bit slower (at least, it looks slower to me. Different characters still move and dash at different speeds, so it’s hard to tell for sure). Status buffs and debuffs, often with areas of effect, have become much more prominent.
The various characters have received many changes. I feel like some of the creativity and energy some of the characters previously had have been lost in the transition. Sure, there are new gimmicks for just about every character, and some of them are really weird. However, there are currently no special inputs or bizarre attack designs in sight. I really liked how innovative the original Dissidia was with its attacks, and I hope the new Dissidia starts to move back towards that as more characters are added. The “ballmages” (long-range spellcasters with very homogenized, and often spherical, attacks) are still a problem, though.
As it is currently an arcade game, the new Dissidia lacks additional modes. While this is understandable given its multiplayer platform, I am left wondering if it will be as jam-packed with content when it comes to consoles and is localized. I’m sure it will have a larger roster of characters by that far-off point (it has 16 characters and 6 summons right now), but I’m more concerned about the number of modes it has. To me, Dissidia represents an ideal game where built-in content never seems to stop flowing. You can play for hundreds of hours and still unlock new things. The new Dissidia could inspire that much play time, but only if you are willing to play online. To maintain balance in a more traditional sense, character customization and progression has become severely hampered. Currently, every character has the same base HP total, and no amount of levelling will change that (or any of their other statistics, for that matter). Bravery attacks cannot be altered, and each character is now restricted to choosing a single HP attack out of an individualized pool of four (except for Vaan, who can select 2 HP attacks from a set of 6), as well as two EX Skills out of a pool that every character has access to. There are alternate colour palettes and weapon skins, but they do not affect gameplay in any way. All of the equipment and accessories from the previous games are gone.
To sum things up, the new Dissidia is very different from the old ones. The more footage I see of it, the more I approve of it, though so far it does not look like it will accrue my favour like its predecessors did. I still eagerly await any news of it and its eventual launch, however. I know I’ll enjoy it regardless of the result, so I can still keep a smile on my face as I cheer it on from the sidelines. No use getting mad at a video game, much less a video game that is DIFFERENT (the horror!) from another game.
(Exdeath better be exactly the same, though. Characters should be balanced, sure, but the laws of the universe mean nothing!)
The Dissidia, Dissidia Duodecim, and Dissidia Arcade pages from the Final Fantasy wiki. I know it’s not very professional to cite a wiki, but I just needed to refresh my memory of a few details, and I can confirm the validity of the site’s information myself: http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Dissidia_Final_Fantasy, http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Dissidia_012_Final_Fantasy, http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Dissidia_Final_Fantasy_(2015)
Opening of the Original Dissidia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4SIpUUc-Fk
Cool Duodecim gameplay video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAjuaWJpKPs
Launch trailer for Dissidia Arcade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0oTJiy6j8g
Exdeath Vs. 000 Feral Chaos (Perfect Run): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgoR4RpzioI