Pocket Power: Dissidia Final Fantasy

Though today you can stuff stereoscopic 3D and console-quality graphics into your backpack, that once seemed inconceivable. Handhelds have evolved quickly, but we shouldn’t forget the games that made them great in the first place. Though these games lack raw processing muscle, they have a power all their own.

So apparently some dude named Cloud Strife has been added as a playable character in the most recent Super Smash Bros. He will also be a star in the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake for some reason. With this relative unknown seeming to make a gain in popularity, it seemed prudent to explore Square Enix’s Dissidia Final Fantasy, a title that has been mentioned as a touchstone for the battle system in the upcoming game no one, ever, has requested…

All trolling aside, this is exciting news. A remake of a beloved classic that fans have been clamoring for since the tech demo used for showing off the power of the PlayStation 3 is finally coming to fruition. See what a decade of begging can bring? Since the focus on battle will apparently be more action based, this seemed a good time to dust off the PSP only to have it yanked from my hands by the wife, who has already put in hundreds of hours in the series.

Dissidia 1The story for this 2008 classic serves as an excuse to bring in characters from Final Fantasy parts I-X, with a hero and a villain from each, as well as a character from XI and XII. Cosmos and Chaos are at war. Being deities who believe that everyone should get in on the fun, they basically kidnap folks from different universes that they feel can serve in the struggle. Of course, the heroes find excuses to kick the holy snot out of each other before getting on with the whole “save everyone” bit. True to the original writing, some characters have more snot than others. Final Fantasy X’s Tedious Titus comes to mind as remaining consistently off putting where ever he pops up.

During the course of the lengthy story, the characters will find themselves having conversations while taking a stroll through the numerous environments. During these conversations, a villain might pop up, bringing in the action. The battles play out as a form of high flying aerial chaos. Players are forced to zip through the air or run up walls, using spells and melee combos in hopes of putting the foe down. Victory means a bounty of XP and loot to equip. Defeat means a loading screen to try again.

Each character does manage to feel and play differently. Cloud tends to rely on melee attacks whereas Ultimecia focused on harassing the opponent with spells and traps. The balance here was actually well done, with even players who are not series fans being able to find a character that suited their style. With the action comes a satisfaction that can only be earned from a hard fought battle.

While initially confusing, the unique two gauge battle system adds a great amount of depth to the proceedings. There is the expected health bar found in any fighting game. Players must also work with a Bravery stat. Higher amounts of bravery means stronger attacks. This can be stolen from the enemy using specific attacks and gained in stage. Zeroing out the opponent’s bar “breaks” them, allowing the astute player to decimate the poor schlub with one well placed HP attack. Pretty neat stuff, overall.Dissidia 2

Special mention must be made for the graphics. Even at the time of release, the PSP was already showing its age. The fact that the 3D graphics hold up pretty well even now is quite remarkable. The sense of speed found from whizzing through the air is exhilarating. The clash of swords enticing. It really is surprising how well this title holds up.

When speaking about all of this, it must be mentioned that this title is incredibly addictive. To really bring perspective to the love that fans have for this title, I feel compelled to allow my Dissidia junkie wife at the keyboard to say her piece. While she is here, I will be finding a place to hide for describing her as a “junkie.”

Junkie, here. I suppose that’s an apt term, as I *did* put in 400 (700?) hours on the darn game, and am eagerly awaiting for the arcade version to make it to the home systems. I also put in hundreds of hours with the sequel, 012 [duodecim]. (Really, Squeenix, your titles…) My strategy guides are well thumbed and I own the soundtracks. Despite the numbers mentioned above, I tend to describe myself as a casual gamer until I find a game I love, like the former titles, or FFVII: Crisis Core. Then I’ll sink several hundred hours into it. Dissidia was my introduction to the larger FF world; I came into VII through Advent Children and CC (I’ll wait for some of the more hardcore of y’all to stop groaning).

It was a great experience to see such a wide range of fascinating characters, and how the different worlds of the series compare and contrast. I definitely developed favorite characters, both in playing style and for their general personality (I never did get the hand of laying traps as Ultimecia…). As someone who has little patience with turn based RPGs and gets herself stuck in the corner in an FPS, this was an ideal game for me. I was able to master the controls quickly, and most of my characters are maxed out at level 100.

Dissidia 3I very much enjoyed the two tournaments that were held at PAX Prime back in the day. By turning on the WiFi feature, you can send and receive friends’ cards, which contain a specified character with all their stats and equipment. You can then battle this foe at anytime, and earn extra goodies for doing so. I do still carry “my” PSP (the husband pretty much gave up on getting it back) around at various PAXen in the hope that someone out there may still be playing. It’s a great game, and I highly recommend it, and not just because it was in the fine print when I signed my soul over to Squeenix.

So, Dissidia remains a title that can pull in the die hard fans and casual observers alike. With the reduced ease of availability of even used PSP titles, this one can be a bit more difficult to find. Still, when it can be found, it’s usually cheap. Of course, those who do not enjoy the thrill of the hunt can just cheat and pick it up on Amazon, or digitally from the PlayStation store. This one comes highly recommended, even to those not ready to become frighteningly dedicated.

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