Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy Review
No, it isn’t an RPG. To say it features role-playing elements probably won’t be enough for hardcore fans of the genre, but those who enjoyed the first Dissidia effort are bound to like the sequel. Essentially, the focus is the same: take your favorite Final Fantasy characters and toss them into epic combat situations. In other words, it’s designed for the franchise faithful; for those who want to throw down with some of the most recognizable faces in gaming. For the most part, this is an improved title with plenty of that patented Square-Enix visual flair and a ridiculous amount of seizure-inducing action. Personally, I find some of the intricate elements to be a tad overcomplicated and even unnecessary, and the difficulty can spike at weird times, but beyond that, it’s a fun experience. You just have to be prepared for a steeper learning curve than expected, that’s all.
It likely comes as no surprise to learn that Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy is a brilliant-looking game. The characters are beautifully drawn, the animations are top-notch, and the special effects are some of the best you’ll ever see in the portable world. The presentation shines brightest when engaged in a suitably hectic confrontation, which encourages you to hit the gas pedal from the outset. Thing is, if you stop for too long and gaze about at your surroundings, you’ll realize there isn’t much to see. The environment really doesn’t contain much and the mostly empty world map (that new overworld) can make the game feel unfinished and a little uninvolving. I have to mention it but in all honesty, the sparse blandness didn’t bother me too much, primarily because you really are feasting your eyes on the positives more often than not.
In the audio department, the soundtrack reigns supreme. It overrides the decent voiceovers and sparkling effects and always comes to the forefront, regardless of the situation. Final Fantasy has been lauded for many reasons in the past, but as far as I’m concerned, the franchise’s stellar music never gets enough praise. Speaking of the…well, speaking, the voice acting isn’t fantastic but turned out better than anticipated, despite some iffy writing. Then you’ve got those intense, vibrant effects, which continue to resonate with every new encounter, and every executed crowd-pleasing skill. From a visual and auditory standpoint, this sequel is great, even if the sound balance can be wonky at times, and a few of the characters could’ve had better actors. If you want to lay eyes on a technically accomplished handheld title, this is a darn good option.
As you might’ve guessed, this game is all about the combat. If you’re familiar with the first title, you should be able to dive right in and get started: each character has a health and bravery meter; the former is obvious but the latter is a bit more complex. Not only does bravery dictate the amount of damage you will inflict, but it also can represent a general strength stat. Each character can equip 6 different hit-point attacks and 6 bravery attacks; the idea is to build your own bravery by landing bravery-based attacks. This acts as preparation before you start directly assaulting your opponent’s HP. And that’s the basic explanation…but the in-depth description goes a little beyond the bounds of accessibility, although the intricacy is bound to appeal to the RPG fan in you. Between your equipment, breaks, summons, the EX Gauge, and the new Assist meter, there’s a lot to learn.
Square-Enix has altered the EX mechanic a bit and the assist characters offer a nice twist to the gameplay formula. When in a pinch, you can bring in an assist character, who is tasked with getting the enemy off your back; used effectively, this can save your ass against particularly difficult foes. But be careful, because your summoned help can be knocked out of the battle. This is the assist break, and it can be mighty annoying, especially if the character in question didn’t provide much in the way of help. The Battlegen system is yet another feature that must be sampled to be fully understood and overall, you could spend a great deal of time learning the ropes. Even the Dissidia veteran might take a moment and go, “wait…I think I know what that does but let me check.” This new level of depth and challenge can be considered a detriment, depending on your point of view.
If you’re of the opinion that awesome customization is a huge bonus, and you fully intend to pump a lot of time into perfecting each character, this game will have you hooked from the outset. However, bear in mind that you could very well end up spending more time customizing and equipping than actually fighting, and for the less patient, that’ll go over like a lead balloon. While we’re on the subject of potential drawbacks, let’s discuss the new overworld- basically, this addition lets you explore a world map, but it’s not as entertaining as you might think. You spend most of your time running to the next gate, where you’ll find the same gameplay from the first title. Yeah, you can locate treasure chests and battle manikins that wander around the map but besides that, it feels like a tacked-on feature that’s borderline unnecessary. It’s just a little bland, as I mentioned in the graphics rundown.
The control can also be iffy but I found that most of my issues were my own damn fault, and over time, I was able to gain a firm grasp of the gameplay. The story isn’t anything to get excited about, either, but honestly, I was never playing this game for plot and character development. I was playing it for the gameplay and technical prowess and in that respect, it didn’t let me down. The presentation is top-notch and being a fan of the series, I very much enjoyed experimenting with some of the most memorable characters in role-playing lore. Really, that’s what this is all about: reflecting while playing; embracing a fair amount of nostalgia while running around an engaging battlefield. Lightning is a new character this time around and she looks great, and you’ll undoubtedly have your favorite fighters.
Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy has a lot going for it, especially where the FF fans are concerned. Sure, it can be a little overwhelming, the difficulty can really turn you off at times, and the control and camera aren’t always perfect, but the entire package remains solid. It’s a technical tour de force for portable productions, the cast of characters is satisfying, the combat can be mega-satisfying once you’ve wrapped your head around all the systems and mechanics, and there’s a boatload of content. I suppose some could harp on the various shortcomings, but most are minor and none seem to kill the fun factor, which is significant. The bottom line is that you’re bound to have a blast if you simply drop any anal attitudes and simply indulge in the flashy excitement. Probably didn’t need the overworld, though. Just saying.
The Good: Technically proficient. Fantastic for Final Fantasy fans. Great customization. Gigantic amount of content. Responsive control. High fun factor.
The Bad: Control and camera can be erratic. Overworld feels bland and unnecessary. Depth feels overwhelming at the start.
The Ugly: Sweet character models remove all traces of ugliness.
3/28/2011 Ben Dutka