Dissidia Final Fantasy is an epic game exclusive to PSP.
Not only is it epic from the sense of what you’re battling for (basically the future of the universe), it’s also an epic game in terms of its size and scale.
It’s one of the most ambitious and bold titles released on the platform.
It could easily have turned into a case of the developers biting off more than they could chew with its risky fusion of fighting and RPG.
If not handled with enough care, it could have resulted in a bloated, muddled, confusing game which failed to deliver any enjoyment to fans of the Final Fantasy saga or newcomers.
Luckily, rather than fall flat on its face, Dissidia Final Fantasy flies high to become one of the flashiest, freshest, deepest and most fun experiences on the PSP.
In keeping with all the Japanese artistry and flair in the game, the plot is suitably flamboyant. It features gods of harmony and disorder (good versus evil) engaged in the ultimate war which has rumbled on for eons. With the world torn apart and just a few warriors surviving, the conflict is about to be settled once and for all.
This is where the game comes in, pitching you into battle to control the destinies of a cast of weapon-wielding magical characters drawn from various Final Fantasy titles spanning the past 20 years.
Fighting takes place in the form of one-on-one brawls inside huge multi-level arenas which you can roam (and fly) around.
It is a true fighting game in the sense that you must attack your opponent while defending yourself, but Dissidia veers off the normal course with its combat system.
Rather than offer the usual multitude of directional punches, kicks, slashes and other moves, this game goes for a more yin and yang approach with its delicate balance of hit points (HP) and bravery.
Land a successful bravery attack on your opponent to increase your bravery meter and reduce theirs.
Then launch an HP attack to damage your opponent’s HP bar by the same score as your current bravery level. Your bravery then resets to zero and the process begins again.
In addition there is a power-up system known as EX mode which activates special high-damage features for each character.
Each battle continues until either character’s HP bar is whittled down to nothing.
The fighting system may sound odd at first it doesn’t take too long to get used to, and in actual fact offers more strategy and skill than many other fighting games.
Attacking will get you so far but counts for nothing without good defence and tactical movement around the arena. Each character has its own fighting style which adds extra depth.
Visually, this game is nothing short of stunning. The graphics are absolutely amazing – so colourful, so vivid, just so altogether magnificent. Like all Square Enix games, it oozes class.
Controls are pretty simple, with two main attack buttons, one for jump and the rest for quick move, block and ex mode among other functions. There isn’t too much crazy button bashing to do – success is more down to timing and positioning.
The pace of the action in the battles is breathtaking. It’s frantic, intense, edge-of-your-seat stuff.
One slight criticism though is that the characters flit about the screen so fast that it can occasionally be hard to keep up with what’s happening, especially when they are gliding around the arena. The third-person perspective gets slightly out of sync sometimes and it can feel like the camera is struggling to keep up with the rapid movement. Scenery can occasionally obscure the view.
As huge as the fighting part of the game is, it’s still only part of the overall package.
That’s because this game has an incredible amount of options and customisations.
Rarely have I seen a game that spoils players for choice to such an extent.
Even before you get in the fighting there is a wealth of selections to make relating to how you want the game set up. You’re even asked on which day of the week you will play the game most often. There is an in-game calendar which rewards you with certain perks for playing on bonus days.
Once you’re into the game properly strong PRG elements emerge which really set Dissidia apart from other fighting games.
The game provides a huge, in-depth level-up system in which you can use credit gained through winning battles for acquiring equipment, abilities, armour and other accessories to help each character develop.
These RPG elements add variety which goes far beyond other fighting games. Characters aren’t pre-set, one-dimensional avatars who remain the same throughout hours of play. Here they evolve over time, with your help.
The game offers three modes for you to play through. The main mode is story, which is split into two parts, the first part featuring tales relating to all 10 heroes and the second involving selecting one hero to play as through to the grand conclusion. I’m not going to go into the intricacies of the plotline here but suffice to say there is a lot of content to play through.
Arcade mode challenges you to defeat a line-up of five opponents, with rewards on offer if you make it to the end.
Quick play lets you pit one character against another in a customisable battle.
Overall, Dissidia is a colossal game.
It might not hit the pleasure spot straight away because some of its greatest treasures are hidden underneath layers of features. It can take time to discover the game’s true splendour, but the more you play the more of the game’s riches you reveal.
If you’re looking for a shallow fighting game then Dissidia isn’t it. Its combat system is more strategic and subtle than slugfest while out of the arena the game provides chasm-like depth.
Dissidia is complex, sophisticated and demanding but ultimately deeply fulfilling.
It’s hard to think of a better fighting game on the PSP.
Verdict: 9 out of 10 – Lots of warriors, fierce battles, engrossing character development – Dissidia Final Fantasy packs a seriously powerful punch.