Final Fantasy: Dissidia Preview
The last time Square decided to do a fighting game with Final Fantasy characters, we got Ehrgeiz, which turned out be decent and entertaining, especially for fans of the legendary franchise. This time around, Square-Enix is delivering something similar for the PSP, although Final Fantasy: Dissidia is like no other fighting game in history. Get that old-fashioned idea of a one-on-one match taking place on one screen and one arena, and forget about the standard default camera view. Instead, picture something along the lines of a 3D action game like Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden fused with the traditional fighting of a Tekken or Virtua Fighter. You can even control which method to utilize, either the free-roaming three-dimensional view or the fixed head-on combat view. You can explore the environment all you want at first, but your ultimate goal will be to target and lock on to your opponent, thereby switching to the focused one-on-one style. In short, Dissidia almost seems reminiscent of Final Fantasy: Advent Children's final showdown between Cloud and Sephiroth. How cool is that?
We've wanted a sequel to Final Fantasy VII for over a decade, but we can always take out our frustrations with a great fighting game featuring characters from our favorite set of RPGs. As far as we can tell from early information, there's nothing even remotely "role-playing" about Dissidia, which may or may not appeal to die-hard fans. Actually, we're kinda hoping this one will target an all new audience; a demographic that enjoys the fast action of fighters and action/adventure titles, and doesn't really respond too well to the slower role-playing gameplay. Furthermore, this innovative way of approaching a fighting game boasts a whole new way of dealing "damage" to an opponent, and before we explain, we'd like to give a shout-out to all you Final Fantasy Tactics lovers out there...because you'll instantly recognize the word: Brave. See, Brave dictates combat power in this game - similar to what it represented in Tactics - and you can actually "target" that stat and knock it down in Dissidia. Obviously, you can always attempt to drain your opponent's actual health as well, but the Brave adds a whole new dimension to the fighting.
And it's not nearly as difficult as you may believe. Those who have already managed to go hands-on with an early build of Dissidia say you simply press the Circle button to attack your foe's Brave, and the Square button to attack their HP. We know what happens when all the HP is depleted, but what happens if we drain our enemy's Brave entirely? Anything? Or are we just looking at a very weak sparring partner? Well, we do know there's another damn good reason for hitting that Circle button: your attacks drain Brave, which means you may have to steal your opponent's Brave out of sheer necessity. We just wonder if Square-Enix plans to take the idea to the critical level. Remember being able to perform a Stamina kill in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater? The victim was just as dead as if you shot him. Wouldn't this make for a sweet idea in Dissidia; death is inevitable if you can manage to take away all of your opponent's Brave? That would truly be another dimension to the gameplay, even though there appears to be plenty of depth already.
For example, there's the EX gauge that fills up during combat. When the meter is full - yep, you guessed it - you can unleash a flurry of ultra-devastating attacks. Perhaps battles will come down to who can maintain his Brave long enough to build up that gauge...considering FF's track record, the ensuing fallout from an EX explosion should be epic. Furthermore, when the battle stages range drastically in both distance and height, you should be able to use that diverse background to your advantage. We'll assume that attacking from a higher position will allow you to deal more damage, and getting nailed from behind will probably result in critical strikes. The only question we have about this dynamic environment is this- can we get hurt while running around? If we fall too far, will we incur damage? Are the backdrops destructible, and if so, will we be able to use certain parts of the environment as weapons? There's a huge amount of potential, here, so forgive us if we have plenty of questions to go along with the details. It doesn't mean we're not excited, though, ‘cuz we are.
Square-Enix showed off the game at the recent Jump Festa event in Japan, and the demo featured only a single-player option and the ability to select up to four fighters: the Warrior of Light from FFI, a character from FFII, Squall from FFVIII and Zidane from FFIX (what, no Cloud?). Of course, both Tidus and Sephiroth - pictured in the now-popular CG footage - should be included, but they weren't available for an appearance in the Jump Festa play test. The final product will also allow you to select between a few difficulty modes, and according to IGN, it seems that we'll actually have a whole new set of moves and combos when playing on Hard. In fact, these modes are labeled as "Standard" and "Technical" if you select multiplayer, which certainly makes more sense if the gameplay itself changes due to your difficulty options. We have a feeling that this game could be one of the better multiplayer handheld experiences of the year...which is kinda strange to say about a Square-Enix game. But hey, just because they want to dip into the FF franchise yet again, that doesn't mean they have to utilize tried-and-true formulas.
One last thing- we were somewhat inaccurate before when we said nothing about Final Fantasy: Dissidia is RPG-oriented. We said that just for effect; to set the tone of the preview, you know? In actuality, there does seem to be experience - in some form - in this game, because you are awarded with gil and AP points after a victory. The characters use AP to level up, which, as we all know, is a trait that is generally limited to role-playing titles. But like we said before, this game is like nothing you've ever seen, as the blending of genres is most intriguing. Dissidia is scheduled to arrive some time this year in Japan, and currently has a big fat "TBA" for North America. Let's hope that changes soon, because we can't wait to get our hands on this one.
1/3/2008 Ben Dutka