Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy Review
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On 04/21/2011 at 10:59 AM by Kyle Charizanis
Advent Children: The Game (feat. Kefka)
For anyone who has a PSP, but especially people who have played more than one Final Fantasy game.
Dissidia 012, as you probably already know, is an RPG/fighting hybrid which pits characters from various Final Fantasy titles against each other. The deities Cosmos and Chaos have summoned all the greatest heroes and villains from the series to fight as their own personal armies, and the characters’ memories have been erased, so they don’t remember anything about their origins. It’s kind of depressing, actually.
The game’s main draw is that it’s an RPG, with a twist. You can equip swords and armor, level up, learn new abilities, and so on. But the battles are closer to what you’d expect from a 3D fighting game. You control one character as they run around an expansive, destructible stage and fight with another character (always based on one of the playable ones). These encounters quickly escalate into aerial, acrobatic swordfights, sometimes interspersed with huge magical explosions. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it would look like for Cloud to fight Zidane, this is the game for you.
I’ve never played the first Dissidia, but I feel like I have anyway. At one point I was searching for a video of a particular fight, and when I thought I’d found it, it took me a second to realize I was watching something from the first Dissidia. The screen and characters looked very similar, and some of the attacks were identical. Basically, if you liked the first one, you’re almost certainly going to want to pick up 012.
One of the game’s weaknesses reveals itself almost immediately. The load times are... bad. Quite bad. Fortunately, you can speed them up by installing a set amount of data to your memory stick (about 400-800MB), but that’s still a lot of space. And it’s pretty much a necessity, too—by default it takes around 5 seconds just to open the equipment menu. The data installation process took around two hours for me (I chose the largest option) but, to be fair, it really did reduce the load times a whole lot. I highly recommend it—even if the loading times don’t get to you, the constant and obnoxiously loud disc whirring noise will. And on the plus side, the data install screen looks like the beginning of Final Fantasy 6 (with the three Magitek suits walking through a snowstorm).
Dissidia 012 looks great. As far as I can tell, those hefty load times are the price that was paid for the game’s visuals. All the attack animations are smooth and highly detailed. Some of the high-powered attacks really push the PSP hardware to its limits. But even the regular character models are impressive to look at. I’d place the graphical quality of the game somewhere between Final Fantasy 10 and 12.
The game’s sound is excellent. How could it not be? Pick a Final Fantasy game at random and it probably has a great soundtrack. Dissidia 012 gets to take some of the best from across the series. Many of the older ones are updated, but they are not remixed so much as recomposed in a higher quality sound format. The developers would have had to make some huge mistakes for this game not to sound fantastic. (And they didn’t.)
My favorite part of the game was actually just beating people down in Battle Mode with Cloud to the tune of Final Fantasy 10’s final boss theme. There was something so viscerally satisfying about it.
The voice acting and overall characterization are also impressive. There are a few misses, but for the most part, the voice actors knew what they were doing. Kefka is especially well done. They really got his character down for this game. He’s a bit over the top at times, but that suits his character as well—he’s intentionally theatrical. He reminds me of the Joker from Batman. And the Riddler. Come to think of it, I’ve never noticed how similar those two are.
It’s really the little touches that make Dissidia 012 what it is. When Kuja uses an HP attack, the text at the top appears in the characteristic gray text box from Final Fantasy 9. When you’ve finished enough battles, a little chocobo appears and makes adorable squawking noises to indicate a bonus experience or treasure award. And the game is constantly rewarding you with new items, abilities and points to spend on all sorts of things. You can even use some of them to unlock things like new characters and additional music. There is no shortage of little things to do outside of the storyline and the combat.
You might be wondering at this point what took away that last star. For starters, the storyline is somewhat lacking. Admittedly, I haven’t beaten the game yet, but I’ve gotten decently far into Story Mode and the plot has mostly consisted of theatrical dialogue between the good guys and the bad guys. It’s not a big deal, though. Dissidia 012 is not focused on delivering a compelling plotline. The game is more interested in giving you interesting dialogue, activating the part of your brain responsible for nostalgia, and showing off its wicked awesome fight scenes.
The fighting system, while fun and intuitive, has its own problems. Basically it works like this: your primary moves are either bravery attacks, which increase your bravery when they connect, or HP attacks, which use up all your accumulated bravery to do that much damage to the opponent’s HP. The first one to run out of HP loses. You can also do cooperative attacks with a pre-selected assist character, go into EX mode (Limit Break, Trance, that sort of thing), call in summons, and move around the battlefield by flying or running on walls. All these options take some getting used to, but fortunately, the game is forgiving to newcomers. Its great tutorial system gives you unobtrusive tips in the top corner of the screen, and even in Normal mode you can retry every battle endlessly. That option might sound too easy, but trust me, it’s not. The boss battles can be surprisingly difficult.
All of these features are well-executed. What’s wrong with the battle system, then? The problem is more fundamental: you never really feel like you have full control over your character. It’s not a major detriment, but you’ll quickly notice that pretty much all the attacks you can use automatically home in on the other fighter. They can do this too, so it’s not a difficulty issue; the game is definitely hard enough. But a lot of the time, the only way to avoid these types of attacks is to use the “dodge” command that’s built-in. It would be nice to be able to simply run or jump out of the way, but that usually won’t work. It feels a bit artificial to use my auto-dodging move to avoid their auto-homing move, instead of just, y’know, jumping out of the way. Attacking is the same—I don’t see why I can’t just attack the space in front of me.
Those auto-homing attacks are also very laggy if you miss. The logical choice, then, is to play defensively until the other fighter misses with one of their attacks, and hit them afterward. I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly enjoy “camping” a computer character. The quicktime event combos you can perform once you’ve launched the opponent into the air don’t appeal to me much either. They’re fun at first, but the novelty does wear off for that feature.
All that said, the fighting system is definitely still good. There’s a large variety of characters to choose from, and the animations are exceptionally fun to watch. If a perfectly finessed fighting system is not your primary concern, you should definitely pick up Dissidia 012.
I’ll leave you with a strangely appropriate quote from Kuja: “All the encounters and memories in this world—none of it counts for a thing. If I'm to treasure any memories at all, I shall content myself with those I brought with me.”