If nothing else Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy will win any award given to the most convoluted name for a game on the PSP this year. Going forward this title will be referred to as Dissidia duodecim (although that is still quite the mouthful) in this review. This is the follow-up to the successful Dissidia Final Fantasy released in 2009 and while it is a terrific game, it would have been nice to see some true innovation over the previous title.
Dissidia duodecim is staged as a prequel to the original game and from the start lets us know that this battle between Chaos and Cosmos is one that has been waged for a long time. In fact the ‘012’ from the title is to signify that this is the 12th time the forces have battled each other. The entire original cast of Dissidia Final Fantasy returns plus nine additional characters, the highlight being Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. Square Enix knew she would be a big draw and the game opens with her chapter as she meets the characters and begins battling across the varied stages. The other characters of note are Kain from Final Fantasy IV and Yuna from Final Fantasy X, sadly Balthier and Auron are still absent from the roster.
The story, such as it is, is told generally through in game cutscenes that look amazing thanks to the terrific engine being used for the game. There are a few breathtaking CG cutscenes as well that have the trademark Square Enix quality. Neither really make any sense of the plot, but that is okay, the general idea is the same as in the first game — Cosmos needs heroes to fight the villains gathered by Chaos. During the course of the game the characters interact and reference their respective universes and their own motivations as they move from stage to stage. The story does become confusing from time to time, as some characters switch sides, but the narrative does serve to loosely carry the game forward.
The gameplay is relatively unchanged from the original title, but there are a few tweaks throughout that add some fresh life to the series. The first major one is the inclusion of an overland world map. The map looks similar to a number of Final Fantasy games (and is kind of ironic in its inclusion as Final Fantasy XIII did not have one) and generally serves as a way to collect treasure, talk to companions, and move between stages. Once on the stages, the familiar chessboard style map is in place and you can chain enemies together to get reward bonuses. When the battles begin you have the ability to call in an assist move from one of your companions once your assist gauge fills up. This quick special move adds a nice layer to the combat and despite my fears does not further complicate matters.
Combat is as fast and furious as before and despite the simple amount of commands can be very strategic. Battles are equally fought in the air as they are on the ground with large jumps and travel points catapulting your character into the air as often as not. There are two types of attacks, Brave and HP, which are symbiotic as you need to eliminate your opponent’s Brave meter before you can actually hurt them with the HP attacks. At the start you get one or two moves in each type of attack but as you progress you can unlock more and assign them to your direction presses. During battle you can also obtain an EX core which allows EX mode or EX revenge if timed when you are attacked. These special abilities add a distinctive edge and can mean the difference between success or failure.
Combat is what you will be engaged in throughout most of the game (as well as watching your characters interact) so it is a good thing it is quite fun. Once you unlock a number of moves it is very satisfying to pull off a series of diverse and flashy maneuvers. Most characters have their distinct style which also impacts how the game is played. Lightning can do a paradigm shift switching her between Mage and Fighter type, Kain is very air focused and Yuna can summon creatures as examples. These diverse play styles really add a nice depth to the game and prevent it from becoming repetitive.
Dissidia duodecim also features the same RPG trappings from the original game which add a nice depth and progression mechanic to the game. As before you can equip items, level up, and learn new abilities. The game also has a time tracking system that rewards you for consecutive play or with bonuses on your favored day. During the course of the game you can also complete challenges which reward you with items, Gil or bonuses. There are other features like Battlegen (creating accessories through special tasks), PP catalog (spend your PP on game enhancing features), and the ability to customize your assists and summons. All of these features add a great deal of incentive to keep playing through the game and fight just one more battle.
There is a great deal of extra content to be had in this game as well, from local online battles, the ability to create custom quests, and a Museum mode. The Museum is very cool because as you play the game you can unlock cutscenes, character profiles, and music. I often wish that Final Fantasy games would give you a way to look at the beautiful art and CG again and this game delivers that with this mode.
Another great, and surprising, feature with Dissidia Duodecim is that once you finish the lengthy campaign you unlock the entire original game enhanced with the new features. This is a terrific bonus as it makes Dissidia Duodecim the perfect starting place for the series as both games are present. While I played the original in its entirety a couple of years ago, I still found it interesting to play through with the new tweaks added.
In the end, Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy is a terrific game that offers a few new tweaks to the original title but fails to achieve true greatness as it does not add enough innovation to the series. The gameplay is tight, the new characters are great, and the additional features are nice, but at its heart it is the same game, and while it is not a terrible thing I had hoped for more.
Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes.