Square Enix, Koei Tecmo Games, and Team Ninja’s Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is the first Dissidia title to hit a home console and while the console port may have taken a year to release after the arcade version hit, the wait has been well worth it. The game includes a story-mode that you don’t need to play through, you simply unlock a series of story cutscenes by competing in matches against AI opponents or in online matches. Granted, it takes five offline matches to get one unlock while you’ll get one unlock for each online match to account for the disparity in difficulty.
The story mode is well, a study in cliches. It hits all the major points that every Dissidia does – characters from all of the various Final Fantasy mainline titles are gathered together to take part in an epic battle of good versus evil. Players take on the role of Noctis, albeit unofficially, as he is new to the fight with NT and needs to get the basic introduction to the rules of the world. The rest of the cast are pretty much veterans to the fighting series, including Final Fantasy XIII‘s Lightning. Noctis is the new guy, alongside FFXIV‘s Y’shotla and FF Type-0‘s Ace. So we do get a couple new faces, but the rest of the characters are pretty familiar and that might be the game’s biggest problem. The Final Fantasy franchise includes over 100 games, many with their own original characters, and while many are not in the main line of numbered games, it would be nice to see some of them hit Dissidia. With Type-o on the Dissidia slate now, it’s more likely than ever that we’ll see the fighter branch out.
While the handheld Dissidia games were more of an RPG with a compelling story mode, you shouldn’t come to Dissidia FF NT for the the story. It isn’t anywhere near as cringe-worthy as the story mode of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite but it is a little too cookie-cutter with a premise we’ve seen so many times before and would-be pithy one-liners that hurt me more than they do their in-game targets.
The real highlight of the game is its hybrid strategy battles. No fight in Dissidia is best won by simply mashing buttons at your opponents as there are some interesting mechanics at play. If you haven’t played a Dissidia game ever, or its been a long time since you have, you’ll definitely want to go sit through the entire two-hour tutorial as it covers things like dash-canceling and how to best use your poise to stagger opponents. You even get a chance to put what you’ve learned into practice in some sample battles.
From there, your best option is to hit up the offline battle mode. The offline battles scale in difficulty as you progress through a gauntlet of five matches, which actually gives you some great practice for going into online matches. One of my biggest issues with the Closed and Open beta phases of the game were the incredibly mismatched matchmaking algorithms, so while those haven’t changed, at least you can get some practice in before getting your virtual butt positively kicked.
And you absolutely will get slaughtered in your first few online matches. The matchmaking imbalance is frustrating especially when you consider the fact that each player has a level score in addition to their character level, but after some practice, you should be able to at least hold your own even if your team loses. One of the difficulties of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is that one way to win a match is to run through your enemy’s life point counter. Each team gets three knockouts total, so if you have (or are) the weak link on your team, you can very well sink the whole match for everyone in a very short amount of time. Essentially, you can punish your teammates for not having your back which is a pretty unique mutli-player mechanic. Most often, to balance out player performance online team matches are called by racking up points rather than by total number of team deaths.
Now, each character has a few different base skill sets, unlock-able skills, and skins. You unlock the skins by using your match rewards in the game’s loot box system which will net you cosmetic items like skins and player icons. You unlock skills by racking up points on your player and character levels. You can save your favorite skill combinations for each character in the customization menu, which requires its own tutorial. One of the weird things about Dissidia FF NT is its lack of customization options for your display. You can’t set your own screen-bounds which can lead to weird cutoffs in the key legend at the bottom of the screen.
The story-mode is positively hilarious, the online matches are brutal, and even the offline modes scale to punishing levels. Despite a few weird inconsistencies in customization options, frustrating matchmaking imbalance, and a lack of fresh blood Dissidia Final Fantasy NT was worth waiting for because there isn’t really anything else like it on PS4. It isn’t a fighter, it isn’t really a brawler either, and its far too action based to be a strategy game. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is somehow all of the above. Sure, it isn’t as much of an RPG as the handheld Dissidia titles, but considering how flooded with Final Fantasy games the RPG market is already, that makes Dissidia FF NT something unique because it is more about fighting and strategy and skill than story.
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