Review: Dissidia NT (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): January 30, 2018
- Release Date (EU): January 30, 2018
- Release Date (JP): January 11, 2018
- Publisher: Square Enix/Koei Tecmo
- Developer: Team Ninja
- Genres: Brawler
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Welcome to the World of Battle
Following the events of Dissidia and Dissidia 012, the heroes are once again summoned to World B, once again engulfed in chaos. World B is a peculiar place - the entire realm sustains itself on the energy created by heroic battles. Unfortunately, every so often, its energy reserves start running low, which prompts its caretaker Cosmos to summon heroes from across all known universes and pit them against the warriors of Chaos, thus to fueling it with a fresh injection of battle energy. In this process World B continues to expand as new physical manifestations of locations form from the memories of the summoned avatars. This time is different though - Cosmos, the goddess of harmony, seems to be missing. In her stead, the warriors of Cosmos are summoned by Materia, the goddess of machinery, while the villains are called upon by Spiritus, the god of destruction. In order to keep the world in balance, Cosmos has created both in hopes that by operating as two entities with their own champions she would be able to protect the world and ensure its expansion. Suspicious of this unexpected developments, the warriors venture forth to investigate. Epic battles and unlikely alliances ahead!
If this introduction seems a bit farfetched, it's because it is. Dissidia is a fighting game first and foremost and the story functions exclusively to explain how come World B consists of familiar locales and all the characters come from vastly different, disconnected Final Fantasy games. I was perfectly fine with this premise, at least initially. As a primarily Single Player enthusiast, I dived into the Story Mode immediately after finishing the tutorial... or I tried to, because the structure of the Story Mode is the first deviation from the norm that differentiates Dissidia NT from your everyday video game. The Story Mode is divided into small chunks, each of which must be first unlocked using orbs of Memoria. How does one obtain Memoria, you might ask? By playing Online and Offline battles, of course - I'll write about both more later. This seemed to be an odd choice to me straight away. Normally the Story Mode in a video game functions as an extended training mode before the player jumps into competitive play. Putting this order upside-down was counter-intuitive, it pits players relatively unfamiliar with the game against possibly highly proficient players. I'm sure the rank system prevents absolute newbies from facing pro players, but in my experience it was hit and miss - sometimes I was matched with players who were weaker or matched my skill level, other times I got the walloping of my life. No harm done, thankfully - going online is not necessary to obtain Memoria, you can always enter the Gauntlet against bots that more accurately match your fighting ability, but the delayed unlocking of story elements still left a bad taste in my mouth.
The bad taste did not go away once I actually gained some Memoria and began unlocking chunks of the story. The game presents it as a branching tree, you can spend your Memoria in any branch and play any part of the story at any time. This allows you to be pretty flexible in following the story as it unfolds and remind yourself of the portions you've already seen, but may have forgotten about due to having to earn more Memoria before being able to unlock further sections of the tree. The system, while odd, is interesting and works well - the main problem I have is the story itself. In my very first sitting I unlocked about 1/5th, maybe 1/4th of the story tree, at least judging by the amount of chunks available to unlock. Worse yet, the great majority of them seemed to be cutscenes. Out of the many chunks I've unlocked in my adventures, only 4 of them were battles - that's a bad look. The cutscenes themselves are pleasant, they usually depict somewhat charming exchanges between the characters, but after a while they become somewhat samey - you spend your hard-earned Memoria on unlocking another chunk and... you get to see three or four familiar characters bickering in the middle of a desert wasteland. Again. It didn't take long for the experience to become somewhat frustrating and I basically gave up on the story altogether. After all, it's not paramount in a fighting game anyways, right? What actually matters is the fighting, so let's get to it!
It's Time to Smash!
As far as the fighting mechanics are concerned, the game is solid and play out well. The stock game features an impressive roster of 28 characters and the developers are aiming at a final roster of 50 characters since the game is expandable through a Season Pass. No matter whether you enjoy the classic games or the latest emo rock band adventure, Dissidia NT has you covered. The characters are divided into four classes - Vanguards, Assassins, Marksmen and Specialists. Vanguards are the heavies of the game - they have plenty of health and at the same time they can pack a punch, but their strength comes at a cost of their mobility. The Assassins are an inverse of Vanguards - they're highly mobile glass cannons. Marksmen are Dissidia NT's long-range fighters who focus on ranged attacks as opposed to close quarters combat. Finally, Specialists mix up close and ranged attacks and serve as the jacks of all trades. Using this sizable selection of characters the players create squads consisting of three characters and face each other in 3v3 battles, either against other players or against AI. Bots adjust to your skill level and become stronger as you play the game, gradually learning new tricks from the Dissidia book to both support you better and pose a bigger challenge respectively. In addition to your standard set of moves, your characters also get access to EX moves which either buff yourself and your team or debuff your enemies. Initially you get access to a short list of them, but more moves can be unlocked through gameplay. Each team also gets to choose a summon which they can call into battle once they fill the summon gauge to assist them in battle. Initially players get to choos one summon at the start of the game, but as you progress up the ranks, you'll be able to gain more summons to complete your collection. Each character is customisable, from their move set to skin and weapon, so you've got plenty of room for personal preference in terms of building a dream team. With all that said, the character roster is a bit on the unbalanced side and, in my experience, things often boiled down to "leave it to Cloud", so if one character isn't quite working out for you despite your best intentions, it might not be your fault - perhaps you're just underpowered, comparatively speaking.
The battle system is another way that makes Dissidia NT stand out from the crowd. Rather than use simple HP, Dissidia NT implements an additional statistic called Bravery. In simple terms, the strength of your attacks is dependant on your and your opponent's Bravery level. The more Bravery you have the stronger your attacks hit and conversely, the less Bravery your enemy has, the more damage they take. Your attacks are divided into a number of Bravery attacks specifically dedicated to chipping away at your enemy's Bravery while replenishing your own and Health attacks which drain at the enemy HP. Depleting an enemy's Bravery completely leaves your enemy Broken, which means that they're particularly susceptible to Health attacks and can be easily Incapacitated. If this seems a little confusing, think of it in terms of the Smash Bros. setup where the more percentage of damage you inflict, the easier it is to knock the enemy out. Dissidia NT puts a spin on it by giving you the ability to replenish your Bravery, but in practice the system plays out exactly as it does in Smash - you whack the enemy relentlessly until your Bravery exceeds the enemy's Health and once they're Broken, it's time to Smash. Once Incapacitated, the fallen fighter has 10 seconds to re-enter the battlefield, losing one out of the team's collective three lives in the process. Although somewhat derivative, the system works well and is quite enjoyable, at least as long as you're the one doing the juggling, not the one getting juggled. The game trains you to implement cancelling and other "advanced" techniques from the get-go, so it's relatively easy to get enemies into nearly endless combos regardless of your skill level. This makes combat somewhat "cheap" in certain instances, but on the other hand, by doing so Dissidia NT stresses that mastering defensive maneuvers is as important as learning offensive ones. Unfortunately, I've never been particularly good at defense in fighting games - I'm a "get in there head first" kind of fighter, so in my experience battles went either splendidly or horrifically - your mileage may vary. There's an additional battle mode called "Core Battle" in which the main focus is destroying the enemy team's summoning crystal while protecting your own. The trick is that the crystal can only be damaged if there are no enemy players in its proximity... which makes the mode completely unplayable since there's always somebody next to it and characters are so incredibly mobile that whacking all of them out of the sumo-like ring is nearly impossible. I tried the mode several times to very limited success, it's just not particularly fun and needs some extra work before it becomes even remotely playable, at least in my estimation.
Your rewards for smiting your foes are numerous - they range from unlockable weapons, costumes, summons, moves, avatars and new dialogue options for your characters, as well as precious Memoria. Didn't get exactly what you wanted through random chance? No worries, opening treasure chests gives you additional items, and if you still didn't quite land that item you were hoping to get, you can spend your Gil directly in the in-game store to pick exactly what you wanted. There's certainly lots of incentives to play, even if dividing your spoils into three separate categories of random loot, loot from treasure boxes and loot from the store seems excessively complicated.
The one thing that holds Dissidia NT back in terms of gameplay is the distinct lack of any form of splitscreen capabilities - there's no local multiplayer whatsoever. I see this as a big oversight in a fighting game that had the potential to be a great couch co-op/versus staple - the PS4 accepts multiple controllers for a reason. For shame!
The area where the game hits every possible nail is the aesthetics. It's hard to find a fault in Dissidia NT's audiovisual presentation - the graphics are both stylistically on-point and high quality, running at a high 60FPS framerate which gives the game a crisp look, especially on the PS4 Pro, as the game is natively Pro-enhanced. The sound also makes Dissidia NT shine since the soundtrack features many of the classic themes, both in their original remastered form as well as a number of remixes and rearrangements to make things more interesting. In fact, you can even customise your soundtrack to play specific tunes as you play specific characters, ensuring that you'll always fight while listening to your favourite jams. If there's one thing that was particularly annoying about the presentation, it's... the Moogle. Your little Moogle helper gives you hints from the very beginning, and if you thought that Omochao was overbearing, wait till you hear a load of Dissidia NT's idea of being helpful. Thank god there's an option to disable him completely via System Settings, kupo - he's charming for the first five minutes, but after that it makes you want to throw your PlayStation out the nearest window just to get a brief moment of solace. Turn that bugger off as quickly as possible, you can thank me later.
It's hard to quantify what makes a good fighting game, or what makes fighting games enjoyable. Dissidia NT comes across as a beautiful, ornate vessel that, although pleasing and expertly crafted, is ultimately empty. This is a bit of a shame, and although I can fully undestand that it's an arcade port originally intended to chomp on people's quarters, it's also not what I expected from the Final Fantasy brand. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a huge competitive player and there's only a few competitive games that I truly enjoy, so the distinct lack of Single Player content was a turn-off for me. That being said, the game is otherwise competent and despite a few hiccups here and there I can see Dissidia NT becoming quite popular in the tournament play crowd. If Super Smash Bros. in 360 degrees seems like a great idea to you and, in addition, you happen to be a Final Fantasy fan, Dissidia NT might be just what you're looking for.
+ Impressive roster of characters
+ Very simple and easy to pick-up-and-play combat system
+ Strong focus on competitive play
+ Extensive customisation options
- Severe lack of Single Player-oriented content
- Basic and barebones story that lacks the depth expected from the Final Fantasy brand
- Moogles... the damned Moogles!
- Core Battle borders on unplayable
The game has amazing presentation that's exactly what you'd expect from a Final Fantasy game. It does justice both to old classics and the new favourites as they fight in smooth 60FPS in all possible directions. Both the graphics and the sound are top-notch, now, if only the Moogle could shut up for a minute to let me take all that in, that'd be great.
Gameplay-wise Dissidia NT follows the brawler formula while giving it its own unique spin, and all in all it works. There's a few hiccups here and there and sometimes your "homing" attacks aren't quite homing enough, leaving you flailing in the air like a fish out of water, or they have range that's a bit difficult to get used to, but overall it's a solid fighting experience that's worth trying out. It's a shame that a game with a roster set for success is somewhat flawed, especially in the Core Battle mode which borders on unplayable.
With such a strong focus on competitive play I can't really see myself picking the game up later down the line to give it another go once I'm bored with it. Unfortunately, the odd lack of couch multiplayer makes the prospect of digging it up during a house party even more unlikely. The longevity of the game is entirely dependant on its Season Pass and its competitive play lifecycle. This might be fine for players interested in tournament fighting, but for the average gamer that's not great news.
out of 10
(not an average)
Dissidia NT carries over a lot from its arcade original, perhaps a little too much. It's clear that the developers put a lot of love and care into the product, but it didn't quite hit the spot for me. Dissidia NT fell a little short from achieving excellence, but nevertheless it's definitely a good game. Should you buy it? Yes, you should give it a try, although perhaps not at full retail price - it'll take more content to justify that. Seeing that the Season Pass promises to nearly double the roster, I can sense a Definitive Edition on the horizon, and that's the one I'd be aiming at.