Marvel vs. Capcom, Super Smash Bros., King of Fighters, Fighters Megamix, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe… what that do all these games have in common? Well my friend, they’re all fighting games! Obvious. But what separates games like these from your typical ilk of fighters is that these are the crossover ones. The fighting games that pair up characters from different properties to (sometimes team up and) beat the crap out of each other in the name of pleasing the fans. So it comes as no surprise that Final Fantasy would jump into the fray of crossover fighters. They’ve done it before. But this time around, it all about the Final Fantasy characters, and it’s not your typical Left Side/Right Side kind of fighter. Two years ago, Square released Dissidia: Final Fantasy, a fighting game that was one part Virtual On, one part Kingdom Hearts. You were free to move everywhere, and you customized your character as they leveled up. In the end, it only appealed to the Final Fantasy crowd, and critics panned the game for its limited fighting system. So how does this prequel, Dissidia Duodecim fix the issues of the old? Hit the jump to read on.
System: PSP Players: 1-2 via ad-hoc
Story and Concept: The story of Dissidia Duodecim takes place before the events of the first Dissidia. In Dissidia’s world, the battle between Chaos and Cosmos is caught in an endless cycle of conflict (characters abuse this word a lot). Every time a side wins, the winners retain their memories while the losers must be revived by whichever side’s deity and, in turn, have their memories erased. From the looks of things, Chaos’ side seems to kick a lot of ass as they know a helluva lot more than Cosmos’ heroes. The more a character wins, the more of their memories they get back. They get even more of their memories back if they face someone from their original world. The story of Duodecim takes place during the 12th cycle of battle (hence 012=duodecim). In this one, the new characters take center stage to tell the story. The story of the 12th Cycle is a bit more interesting than the 13 Cycle (the first game’s story). The voice acting and writing is improved as well. Unfortunately, this campaign is short. I was able to beat it in under 15 hours. You do unlock the 13th cycle story with the Duodecim improvements, but I can’t shake that feeling of this being more of an expansion pack than a full-fledged sequel that Square was pushing this as. There are reports with extra bits of story and gameplay. For those hoping that the story of Gabranth and Shantotto to be expanded (along with Prishe and Gilgamesh) shouldn’t hold their breath as they still don’t have much of a bearing on the game’s story (except maybe Prishe). The overall story is still just an excuse to pit a bunch of Final Fantasy characters to kick each other’s ass, but I do appreciate the effort. And I do commend Square for managing to create a story that that looked impossible to do given the first game’s setup (especially the story of Chaos’ creation). Score: 7.5
Graphics and Presentation: The graphics are ever so slightly improved over the first game’s. The character models for the new characters are done well. Unfortunately the high-res models (used for major cutscenes) are still just moving their lips around like they’re chewing gum and not really opening their mouths. Also, angry mind-controlled Terra is very frightening looking, and not in a good way. For some reason, in the 12th Cycle campaign, everything seems to have some kind of faint gold-brown filter during the cutscenes. Maybe it’s to play along with the color scheme of the logo, but it’s a bit jarring when you don’t see it in the 13th Cycle. The menu and HUD design is much improved over the first game and it doesn’t look like an early demo build. The few FMVs in the game are still entertaining to watch. Some outfits for characters look rather good in 3D. Some do stand out for being too simple and sticking a bit too close to the original source material. Others are just lazy (namely Kuja and Tidus). Overall, things in this department are okay. Not too flashy, not too dull. Score: 8
Music and Sound: Let me start with sound first. I will reiterate that the voice acting is improved. However, the acting in the 13th Cycle is unchanged, and brings to light how awkward the acting was. Everyone would stop after every 3rd word Captain Kirk style. Kinda unfortunate that those cutscenes would be left alone and not re-recorded. Battle voices are a bit better, with some nice oneliners being spoken. It still gets annoying hearing the same lines being spoken though (Kuja). Next, the sound effects. Nothing much to really complain about. Although Lighting being the only one to have a blade slice sound effect is weird since almost everyone else uses swords. For music, many of the tracks are still great. All of the songs from the first game make a return (and yes, that includes The Messenger). The new remixes are good for the most part. Though, Theme of Love is far from a song for fighting (yes, that version is in it. And no, it does not fit…At. All.). Also, you’ll love (aka hate) Laguna’s World Map theme. Score: 8.25
Gameplay and Ease of Control: Here is where most of the changes took place. For starters, the Chase sequences. In the first game, and Hachi pointed out one time, practically all battles got reduced to nothing but chase battles as moves were easy to read and the window for input being very wide. Now, the speed of the Chase Sequences has increased as now the characters move faster and the input time is a lot shorter (roughly a quarter of a second). The increase in speed makes things a bit more strategic, as now you might be more inclined to not Chase, or get into a chase but not do an HP attack. This is because if the enemy does it, they are more able to kick your ass. Next up, the Support Character function. At first, this seemed like a bit of a shoehorn and not very useful. But you’ll see that bringing out your partner can help in a variety of ways. They include attacking your opponent, distracting your opponent, or getting out of an opponent’s combo. Physical characters and Magic characters tend to work really well together in this regard. The returning characters all have new attacks at their disposal, especially Cloud of Darkness). I also applaud Square for added Party Battles (aka Team Battles a la Tekken and King of Fighters), as I always find these modes especially fun to play. Unfortunately, the control scheme is still rather unwieldy, as I keep finding myself either blocking when I don’t need to, or wall-running when I don’t want to. And attacks are still relegated to 3 directions. It would’ve helped to maybe map attacks to directional doubletapping or holding. With all the improvement added, battles can still get repetitive in the beginning (especially for hard opponents). Also, if you have a save from the first game, you can retain the items, levels, characters, and content purchased from the PP Catalog. Score: 7.75
Replay Value: Once you beat both the 12th Cycle and 13h Cycle campaigns, there may not be much reason to keep playing. There are Reports that are playable, and extra scenario that reveals more about the story, if you’re up for grinding your character like hell (if you didn’t transfer you character levels that is, like I did).
So the bottom line: this game is an improvement over the first game. For those that played the first Dissidia, you might want to get this game at a reduced price. Maybe around $20 would do. For those who haven’t played it, you’re better off getting Duodecim as there is more to do in this than in the first game. And it has a world map. There are more things that I want to cover for this game, but in the interest of time and space, this is all I’ll be talking about. I recommend this game mostly to fans of the Final Fantasy games. Everyone else can try, but you might miss most of the nods to the original Final Fantasy games.