Remember Ehrgeiz? This incredibly strange fighting/action RPG game set the tone for every fighting game that contained Final Fantasy characters since. For fans of Final Fantasy, it was a no-brainer to give it a try, and it was those characters inclusion that turned an otherwise mediocre fighter (with a very underappreciate RPG quest mode) into a must-buy for many players. Fast forward 20 years, and we're still facing the same issues with fighting games starring Final Fantasy characters including the latest, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT.
Dissidia has nothing to do with Ehrgeiz, but it faces the same quandary. Would it be a desirable game if the Final Fantasy references were removed? Not really. However, Final Fantasy is such a stellar franchise that fills so many gamers with nostalgia, that glaring flaws tend to become minor irritants in titles that involve characters from past entries.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Review - Choose Your Destiny
The latest entry in the Dissidia subseries, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, makes some significant changes from the last game, Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, and marks the series debut on console. You'll have access to 28 characters in the initial release, some good, some evil, with more coming via DLC as time goes on.
The first disappointment in the game is the selection of characters. It's not that there's not a great line-up here. It's that it's the same old heroes and villains we see in every spin-off. Maybe you'll get what I mean by looking at the roster:
- Final Fantasy: Warrior of Light, Garland
- Final Fantasy II: Firion, The Emperor
- Final Fantasy III: Onion Knight, Cloud of Darkness
- Final Fantasy IV: Cecil Harvey, Kain Highwind, Golbez
- Final Fantasy V: Bartz Klauser, Exdeath
- Final Fantasy VI: Terra Branford, Kefka Palazzo
- Final Fantasy VII: Cloud Strife, Sephiroth
- Final Fantasy VIII: Squall Leonhart, Ultimecia
- Final Fantasy IX: Zidane Tribal, Kuja
- Final Fantasy X: Tidus, Jecht
- Final Fantasy XI: Shantotto
- Final Fantasy XII: Vaan
- Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning
- Final Fantasy XIV: Y'shtola Rhul
- Final Fantasy XV: Noctis Lucis Caelum
- Final Fantasy Tactics: Ramza Beoulve
- Final Fantasy Type-0: Ace
Unfortunately, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT includes fewer characters than Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy did upon release and the only new characters are from Final Fantasy XIV, XV, Tactics, and Type-0. Some fan favorites like Gilgamesh from FFV, Tifa and Aerith from FFVII, Yuna from FFX, and Gabrath from FFXII, among others didn't make the cut for the new roster.
As I stated above, there will be more characters added via DLC. However, given that the battles in Dissidia NT are now 3-on-3 instead of 1-vs-1, the lack of character selection is sorely felt. In fact, you can't form a three-fighter team with the base game using characters from only one Final Fantasy title. So there's no building FFVII and FFVIII dream teams and pitting them against each other to see which PS1 title will take home the gold. With a major part of this game's allure centering around the what-ifs of Final Fantasy characters fighting each other, being able to rep just one title is a sorely missed feature.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to customize your warriors. You can get costumes or weapons by earning treasure boxes in-game or buying them outright from the shop with Gil. You can also get new titles and voice clips to play. This makes up a bit for the lack of character selection, but not by much. You can also use experience won in battle to level up and add new moves to your characters which adds another level of customization.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Review - Gatekeeping the Plot
The story is the same throwaway deal that we saw in the first two Dissidia games. The conflict in the first two games has destroyed the balance of that alternate world, and a new one has spawned. Thus, the Final Fantasy characters are called again from throughout time and space and must once again take up arms and fight each other.
This time the characters retain their memories and mostly just want to get home. Unfortunately, there's a good chance you may not actually make it to the end of the single-player story because of how it's set up.
I would say 99% of games allow their single-player campaigns to be played without interruption. That is, you can keep playing the same mode until you complete the story. Well, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT belongs in the other 1%. The already thin plot is gated by nodes you have to unlock with items called Memoria. To earn the Memoria you need to unlock new story cutscenes and battles; you have to grind in the other modes.
Gauntlet Mode is the player-vs-AI mode that lets you take on a tournament. For completing a tournament, you get experience, Gil, (usually) treasure chests, and Memoria. By the time you finish a gauntlet though, there's not much motivation to actually keep progressing in the story mode. Having to battle so that you can fight in other battles is redundant, and the plot of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is too weak to justify the labor involved. It would be serviceable if you could just go straight through it, but it becomes a tedious slog as the drama is robbed from each scene by you having to return to another mode to get more Memoria.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Review - Set the Stage
The stages in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT are more expansive than the PSP entries in the series. This is owed to the game being on console and because the 3-vs-3 gameplay makes it imperative that there's plenty of space to roam around in. You'll find one stage from each of the first fourteen main entries in the series, though there's little to set them apart besides the scenery.
I loved seeing some of my favorite Final Fantasy locations rendered in 3D, and there are some cool transitions in the backgrounds as you fight, but I feel like something could have been done to make each of them more unique. I would have liked to see unique obstacles or game mechanics featured in them. Midgar could have had you dodging attacks from Diamond Weapon or being momentarily blinded by the Sister Ray firing at the Northern Crater.
However, the main difference in the stages is how big or small they are and what few obstacles are set up inside them. Each of them is very pretty, but without any mechanics to set them apart, you quickly ignore them to concentrate on fighting your enemy.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Review - Online Multiplayer Blues
Part of why the story takes such a backseat in the game is the focus on multiplayer. Dissidia NT features online fighting with ranked and custom games. This is probably where most players will spend most of their time, both playing the game and waiting for matchmaking.
I found myself waiting for up to five minutes for an online battle to finally matchmake and load, and it wasn't long before I stopped caring about online entirely. When I did get into matches, there was lag spikes, and framerate issues at times, and I just didn't find the reward for investing time into multiplayer to be worth it.
There's a possibility that the online issues will improve with patches, but for now, I'm sticking to offline. Unfortunately, that means the only thing there is to do is to play Gauntlet mode which is exhausting in and of itself.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Review - Meh
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT isn't a bad game. It's just that standards for fighting games have risen dramatically since the first game in the series was released. The bizarre implementation of the story mode and the lack of other things to spend your time doing really hurts the game. Also, it lacks quite a few characters that the previous title had and just isn't the evolution for the series I think Square and Team Ninja were going for.
For fans of Final Fantasy though, there's a lot to be liked here. There are some beautiful recreations of locations throughout the series and enough references and throwbacks to the franchise to keep you entertained for a while. I had fun with it, but I wasn't blown away by it, and Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is an excellent example of why nostalgia is never a substitute for proper gameplay.