Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Review: Nostalgia Can't Overcome Bland Story And Gameplay
Way back in the days of the SNES when Final Fantasy VI was dominant (then called III for the North American crowd), nobody ever could have foreseen how wide ranging this series would become.
From the unexpected Chocobo Racing to the turn-based combat of Final Fantasy Tactics to the open-world style of FF XV and on to the crossover brawler mechanics of Dissidia, this is a franchise that just can't stop morphing into new forms.
PS4 players who have ever wanted to see Golbez beat the snot out of Cloud Strife or watch Terra from FF6 go to town on Ultimecia (in a non-hentai way) are now getting their wish with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT.
The frenzied nature of an arcade game meshes with team-based, 3v3 fighting mechanics in this crossover entry that sees dozens of Final Fantasy characters duking it out for combat supremacy.
The Chaos of Combat
There are some changes from previous entries to the Dissidia series, although the basics remain the same. If you are just jumping in, the lengthy tutorials make it feel like there's an incredibly complex system going on here, but in practice, it all pretty well devolves into chaos when actually in play.
There were times in either online multiplayer matches or offline AI battles where I honestly had no idea who I was targeting or who was targeting me. All the dodging, guard raising, combo chaining, and combo stopping to get your poise attacks off first just collapse when real people are mashing buttons.
With six players fighting and other potential objects on the screen to target, there's not much use in trying to focus on a coherent strategy most of the time. More than just a ground-focused battle, combat is also frequently acrobatic and air-based to a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon level.
That being said, there is absolutely room for skilled players to take advantage of the game mechanics and rise above the chaos, but on the whole, any given battle is a giant mess of screen-clearing sword strikes, energy blasts that launch across the arena, and summons that overtake the entire match.
Two different modes are available, one where your group of three lays the smack down on the other group of three until one team is dead, and another where you have to defend your core or take out the opposing team's core.
Combat is essentially the same experience in either mode, as players try to knock down each other's bravery and then go in for an HP attack kill. You can make yourself vulnerable to launch a summon that helps your party, with the usual suspects like Odin and Leviathan on tap.
Ex Skills are essentially the spells of the series, like Poisonaga sending green damaging orbs or Regen giving everyone an HP or bravery boost. Ex Bursts have been nixed since they'd interrupt the flow of 3v3 combat so frequently, but summons still give you a mini cut scene to sit through.
Final Fantasy History Brought to Life
The whole point of Dissidia is the lineup, and there's an impressive character roster here, featuring 28 Final Fantasy heroes and villains from the very first NES game all the way up to Final Fantasy XV's emo boy band front man.
I'm not personally a fan of this 3D interpretation of Kefka, but otherwise, the wide range of character types offers just about anything an FF fan could want, from Cecil to Zidane to Cloud of Darkness.
The character lineup is broken down into Vanguard, Marksman, Specialist, and Assassin types, each excelling at various skills and offering differing speeds and attack order precedence.
There's a lot of customization possible as well in play style, since you can choose different Ex Skills and summons between matches, and each character has a variety of basic bravery attacks to call on.
The Non-Paywall Paywall
There's one potential major pitfall to consider for those who like to play the single-player story segment of fighting games.
To experience the Dissidia Final Fantasy NT story, you need to spend points called Memoria (essentially unlocking memories), but you only start with one single Memoria for unlocking the opening scene.
A whole bunch of nodes are found along the story mode path, some of which are cut-scenes and some of which are actual battles. Unlocking further nodes means earning more Memoria, which only happens when you level up -- and that only happens by playing online matches or going through lengthy offline AI battle sequences.
It's not exactly a paywall, but at the same time it's odd that single-player story segments are locked until you grind through online matches. On the one hand, that does make players improve their skills, but on the other, it doesn't make much sense to force someone to play online before they can go through the single-player areas.
On that front, Dissidia NT's basic story framework is something interesting to consider -- that all these iconic characters through the franchise's history have literally no purpose in a peaceful world free of strife -- but the overall execution is about what you would expect from a fighting game.
The Bottom Line
I can see how Dissidia Final Fantasy NT would be a blast on a Friday night at the arcade with your five buddies all hopped up on Rockstar, but as far as actually playing at home for extended periods of time, there's a limited fun factor here.
While it has the iconic music, classic locations, and interesting character mashups that will appeal to Final Fantasy fans, without the continuing story of a traditional RPG or the more structured format of a typical fighting game, there's just not a lot of reason to keep coming back to Dissidia Final Fantasy NT.
3v3 brawler fans might get some use out of it, and of course series fanatics will want to try it, but otherwise, this is very much a "rent before you buy" scenario.