PAX West 2017: Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Brings the PSP Brawler to the Big Screen

Since the dawn of the 21st century Final Fantasy sequels have gotten rather unorthodox with their numbering system where they have chosen to combine Roman and Arabic numerals to create titles that make no sense when spoken to people who know nothing of Final Fantasy (ten-two, thirteen-three). The Final Fantasy fighting spin off Dissidia takes this numbering malarkey a step further with the ordered titles going Dissidia, Dissidia 012 [duodecim] and Dissidia NT. At least when Capcom was making new a Street Fighter II every few weeks one could usually figure out the chronology based on assuming whichever title had the most words that didn’t include “World Warrior” was the newest. Luckily for us, Final Fantasy Dissidia NT’s appeal is not tied to making coherent sense of its title.

Up until 2015 when Dissidia Final Fantasy NT appeared in Japanese arcades, Dissidia games lived exclusively on the PSP. An arcade cabinet is the perfect way to experience the head to head combat in a Dissidia title, and us westerners will be able to experience the action on the PlayStation 4 on January 30 of next year, provided no delays occur. The basic gameplay of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT remains essentially the same as earlier titles but has been rebuilt for this new title to focus on three on three team matches. The Bravery and HP attack system returns, which is a strange feature but does add to battle strategy. Bravery attacks increase a player’s Bravery meter, but HP attacks are needed to directly damage an opponent. How much damage a player does is based on how full their Bravery meter is and can’t be executed as quickly. Finding the best opportunities to use these attacks does make this more cerebral than previous entries, especially when you factor in this could be occurring in a six player three on three match. Players have their own individual health meters, along with a team health meter, stamina meter, and summon meter. Every time a character is defeated the team health meter depletes even if the character can respawn. Filling up the summon meter allows the player to call forth an eidolon, esper, summoned monster or whichever game’s lexicon you feel like using, you get to call someone like Odin or Bahamut to mess up the opposing team.

The demo that was at PAX featured fourteen playable characters from various Final Fantasy titles, though it will launch with over twenty and there is talk of that number increasing substantially with post release content. This would be great, since as much as I love Terra, Cecil, Cloud and Zidane, these are heroes we have seen in previous Dissidia titles. Locke, Dagger, Balthier or Rydia would be great to see in this arena. The characters are divided into four different classes,  power-based Vanguards, agility-based Assassins, ranged-based Marksmen, and unique trait-based Specialists. This deepens strategy a bit beyond just forming a team based on what Final Fantasy games the player preferred. The EX Mode that is familiar to Dissidia players returns and allows each character to equip one HP attack and two EX Skills.

Making the battles three on three matches required some changing of the arenas. Final Fantasy combat has typically been slow and methodical, so when Dissidia first appeared on the PSP the frenetic pace and high level of verticality took some adjusting to. Even though the combatants are returning Dissidia veterans and the gist of the gameplay remains the same, the speed has been toned down and the battles are now fought in big open arenas. This was probably a necessary adjustment to the environment, since a single player running up vertical walls and dive bombing an enemy is fun and entertaining trying to choreograph such destructive acrobatics with six players can become messy.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has different modes for competitive online matches, custom lobbies for friends, offline single player matches with AI and training mode so players can practice and hone their techniques. After each battle the player is rewarded experience points and gil which they can use to acquire new skills and customize their character. Currently there is no distinct story mode but story events are revealed as the player progresses through the battles. The story takes place after the events of the first two Dissidias and centers on the conflict of Materia the Goddess of Protection and Spiritus the God of Destruction.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT brings the handheld action to home consoles where players will be able to compete against their friends on a larger screen and the team-based set up can lead to some great trash talking opportunities, particularly if one encounters a team composed of those ten year-old Call of Duty hoodlums that constantly deliver the kill and teabag combo. The action of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT controls in the same manner as its PSP predecessors. That is to say if someone enjoys fighting games but hasn’t touched a Dissidia title is going to have a bit of a learning curve to overcome in order to make sense of the mechanics, but it can be an enjoyable experience once it’s figured out.