Square Enix has released their second installment in the Dissidia line of Final Fantasy handhelds. Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy has some subtle changes and system tweaks over the first game and is Square Enix’s second round at this twist on the typical Final Fantasy type of RPG.
The two entities Cosmos (Goddess of Harmony) and Chaos (God of Discord) are interlocked in the never ending struggle of good vs. evil. Cosmos has recruited many of the heroes from the Final Fantasy universes while Chaos has done the same for the villains. This crossover within a franchise promises some interesting matchups and interesting plot twists. Now let’s get this clear from the start, this is an RPG that presents itself as a fighting game. As much as you may think it’s simply a button mashing PSP title, understand that this is a Final Fantasy RPG through and through. Keeping this in mind, the game looks like what we are used to seeing from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series. The characters are very beautiful and are animated lavishly. The cut scenes are also very nicely done and look really clean on the PSP. The game sports a robust roster with characters from almost all of the Final Fantasy sagas.
Aside from having the chance to use all your favorite characters in this title, you’re also given a lot of familiar BGM from the original game. You can battle to “Binded By Light” from Final Fantasy XIII or even “J-E-N-O-V-A” from Final Fantasy VII. The gameplay itself is actually pretty fun and has quite a bit of depth. Now as I said, this is an RPG, not a hack-and-slash button-masher. While you can fight using an Action-Style (you control movement and attacks manually) or an RPG-Style (classically choosing your character’s actions on a menu), you will have to use strategy and play to each character’s strengths (e.g. mid-long range fighters, magic users, brawlers etc.). The fighters themselves aren’t the only aspects that need mastery; it’s also your equipment, abilities and accessories. In true Final Fantasy fashion, the way you build your character prior to an actual encounter will drastically sway the outcome. The learning curve for equipping the best items is a bit steep but the game does have in-game help manuals that shed some light on all aspects of the game.
Admittedly, the game did begin to grow on me but that didn’t erase some of the less than desirable points. In the tradition of FF games, this game can not only be very wordy, it can also have additions that are just downright confusing. The menus are easily navigated but there are some options that don’t really add to the game. Aside from possible nostalgia, these additions are just easily overlooked or completely forgotten. The Mognet mail is one such point. I randomly get mail from “Moogles” that are nothing more than casual conversations. Yes, you get some items through it but it enhances the game in no way whatsoever. The game also suffers from some pretty harsh load times. Luckily if you have a memory card with enough free space, you can do a data install (which can take an hour for the biggest install) that will drop them drastically. It doesn’t eliminate them but this is a necessary evil with PSP games. Honestly, what makes this issue more prominent is all the cut scenes. While they are visually good looking, they take time to load before and after. Aside from loading the large amount of cut scenes, there are a lot of extra reading pieces called Reports that have cut scenes and links to other Reports. So you’ll spend a lot more time reading useless mail, reports (give the game some added depth) and help manuals rather than actually playing the game.
While the fight system and in game action did start to grow on me, there were one too many unnecessary distractions from what personally made this game fun. The time spent in customization gets lighter once you get more comfortable with how the game works and it can actually add to the fun. After all, it still is an RPG. The robust roster of nostalgic characters makes this game a fun play on a franchise much like Smash Bros. To be able to pit Laguna Loire against Sephiroth or Lightning vs. Ultimecia can lead to some intense battles and heavy debates. After conquering the learning curve and overlooking the shortcomings of the extra content, this game can get pretty addictive. With the lack of really gripping PSP games, I see Dissidia putting some much needed mileage on my PSP.