Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy Review

Though I can't remember reviewing the original PSP Final Fantasy fighter, Dissidia, I do remember playing it for quite awhile. As a merely moderate Final Fantasy enthusiast, a good bit of the fan service was lost on me, despite having played most of the core titles. For me, it was more about the upgrading and character building. Each and every battle, whether won or lost, gave players some type of reward, from extra gear to new weapons and even stat boosts. Dissidia the first played like a Final Fantasy title, but with none of the problems like story, exploration, etc. to get in the way (sarcasm, folks). Now the game has been given a sequel in the form of Dissidia 02 Final Fantasy. SquareEnix took what made the first game work, added some stuff, took away some other stuff and even included the ENTIRE first Dissidia as a post-game bonus. While the first one was pretty good, I'd have to say the sequel is simply just OK.

We won't spend more than a second discussing this sequel's story. Two gods clash, forcing characters from across the Final Fantasy spectrum to do battle for some reason. It's identical to the first, and it is as unimportant as ever.

I suppose the fact that some new characters were added to the roster qualifies as part of the "story," so we'll talk about them here. For Dissidia 02 Final Fantasy, players get the entire original roster of fighters with a few new additions, including, but not limited to, Tifa from FF7, Laguna from FF8 and Lightning from FF13. They certainly aren't the fighters I would have picked to include (Vincent Valentine? Duh?), but they are all interesting additions and fun to fight with. The older characters retain their same actions and such, so vets will probably want to start their game with one of the new ones (on a side note, the game's downloadable prologue and forced intro put you in Lightning's shoes, so you'll be using her whether Cloud is your favorite or not). For me, this is Lightning's first appearance in a game that is halfway decent, and I enjoyed her fighting style and moves. When viewed through the game's lens, it's a pretty good lineup of characters with some (still) missing favorites.

As with Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, SquareEnix seems to have fallen in love with grid-based progression. Like BBS, you'll move your character on an oversized game board, littered with enemies, items and power-ups alike. You basically just need to make it from one end to the other, but going back after you've gotten a little stronger keeps things fresh; don't kid yourself you won't be able to win against the level 8 foes on your first walk across the board. And since even attempting the easier fights without gaining levels yields rewards each and every time, you'll spend a lot of time with this Final Fantasy version of Chess or Checkers.

A huge addition for me was another layer to the game's progression in the form of some open world areas. In these smallish arenas, you can run around freely, talk to other fighters (they don't usually have much of anything useful to say) and collect stuff. Your goal is always to enter a foreboding portal, which sets off the next game board segment, but getting a little freedom is a big help in distancing this from just another Street Fighter or Tekken).

Dissidia 02 has been described as everything under the sun a 2x2 Smash Bros., an action RPG, an arena or tactical fighter or even a simulation. It is none of these. This game is a straight up fighter with extras tacked on to make it appear closer to the Final Fantasy RPG model. As the Highlander said, "Two man enter; one man leave." If you played the first, or even seen it in action you won't need any explanation here. Two fighters reign blows on one another until one of them has lost all his health. In keeping with fighting game trends, "assists," or powered-up attacks that involve other computer-controlled characters, have been added to this sequel. They go a long way in spicing up the fighting, but not enough to change the entire proceeding into something much different than the first. Aside from those assists, this is the same game as Dissidia drain other character's attack power before beating him/her into submission. Yawn.

Though I've not yet met the requirements (Dissidia 02 is an amazingly deep and long game), there is a way to open up the ENTIRE first Dissidia game, making Dissidia 02 a placeholder in the "best unlocks ever" race. Sure, I'd bought and played the first, but if I hadn't, I'd still be getting the entire Dissidia experience for one $30 price tag. Not too shabby. The pickups and unlocks that seem to appear after every single fight also make you want to keep going, but unlocking an entire game will keep a stranglehold on the attention of those who never got around to playing the first Dissidia.

That said, both Dissidia and Dissidia 02 are meh fighting games with truly amazing casts of characters. The zippier fighting will seem ok at first, but once cheap, tougher enemies lead to insane button mashing you'll probably get bored. I did. Good thing I've got Patapon 3 and the 3rd Birthday (not to mention my new 3DS) to play for awhile.

Final Rating: 71%.

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