Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Mixes Old and New to Create Something Unique

Fans hoping for a proper Dissidia game on consoles had their wish come true back at E3 2017, where Square Enix announced Dissidia Final Fantasy NT for PS4. The Final Fantasy fighter franchise that, up to this point, was exclusive to PSP was finally coming to consoles with some significant changes, which we got to try out over the past week thanks to the Dissidia Final Fantasy NT beta. Can this chaotic fighting franchise capture the hearts of console goers?

Both limiting and expansive, the beta offers little to do, but lots of characters to try out. There’s an online matchmaking option that pits two teams of three players against each other, a practice mode to play against AI and a tutorial video. Not a lot of choices, but the full game will likely have a lot more to see and do. On the flip side, there are fourteen characters to play as, which is way more than what other fighting game betas and demos offer (i.e., Pokken Tournament DX only has three playable fighters in its demo).

What makes Dissidia Final Fantasy NT so interesting is its blend of old and new. The game carries over many of the PSP game’s mechanics and characters but attempts to do new things with them. This is most evident in the battle mechanics.

Lifted straight from the PSP games are the Bravery and HP attack systems. Bravery is filled by attacking enemies with swift attacks and lost by taking damage. Actual damage is dealt through HP attacks, which take off a certain amount of health based on how much Bravery you have. In NT, a match is won when a team loses three lives. Dissidia’s combat has always been a risk-reward system. While Bravery attacks are fast and easy to pull off, HP attacks take time to set up and recover from, leaving you open to attack. It was fun back on the PSP and the addition of more players on PS4 piles on the intensity.

What isn’t so rosy is the fact that these are all characters we’ve played as before. Asides Y’shtola (from Final Fantasy XIV), the NT beta is all returning characters who have the same move sets they had on the PSP. Sadly, the final game doesn’t appear much rosier. Square Enix and Team Ninja seem more concerned with bringing back all the old characters and adding very few new characters. It’s a trade-off. Previous players will feel right at home with these old characters, but the lack of new characters may leave many wishing for more.

While combat and characters remain holdovers from the PSP game, where players fight has not carried over. Gone is the verticality and speed of the original games, and in their place come wide open arenas. For example, in the PSP games, the Final Fantasy X map was Dream’s End, and in NT its Besaid Island. Dream’s End contained multiple different platforms players could jump to, walls to wall-run on, and pits to fall into. Besaid Island is an open area with few distractions. This change was likely done to facilitate the 3v3 matches better, and the maps do work well in NT, though they aren’t as flashy as the previous maps.

One unintended downside from this change is the movement speed. The PSP games featured high-speed matches that aimed to replicate the frenetic action seen in CG cutscenes. Players could zoom across the battlefield, run up walls, grind on rails, and quickly recover from attacks. NT is a slower experience, and there are no new escape options. It can take a long time to recover from an attack, and it’s too easy to get wall-trapped on a map’s boundaries. For the final version, Team Ninja should definitely consider increasing the speed of recovery from attacks to give players a fighting chance, because right now they don’t have much of a chance.

Of course, that is if you can get into a match. Matchmaking is long and tedious with it taking up to five minutes in our testing. Even getting into a match doesn’t mean things are all rosy. Some games featured significant lag, a death sentence for any fighting game. Others, however, were silky smooth. It’s difficult to say if these are all issues to do with how many people were playing the beta, or if this has to do with the netcode. Whatever the reason, Square Enix and Team Ninja have a lot to do to make Dissidia Final Fantasy NT a strong competitor when it launches in January.

For all the matchmaking problems and too many returning characters, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT still retains the same core combat that made the original PSP games so fun. The balance between building Bravery and unleashing it as an HP attack at the right time continues to be compelling on PS4. Whether the change to more arena-style maps for 3v3 matches is a good thing or not, it’s a refreshing change from the status quo. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has a long road to go before release, but it’s already shaping up to be chaotic fun. Hopefully, Square Enix will host another beta closer to release to showcase all of the game’s improvements.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is out January 30, 2018 on PS4.