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October 24 2009
Dissidia: Final Fantasy - PSP Review
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A popular Final Fantasy Character.
Final Fantasy is something that we've all come to grow and love, and a game with "Final Fantasy" in the title almost always guarantees a top quality role-playing experience. When Dissidia: Final Fantasy was announced, Square Enix surprised the gaming population with what they described as a "Dramatic progressive action game"; had they taken a sidestep away from the role-playing genre which they'd mastered? When the game finally released in September, that was definitely the case – Dissidia is focussed around one-one-one battles between friends and foes from throughout the Final Fantasy universe. But has Square Enix pulled it off and made it more than just a fan-service of a game? In this reviewer's eyes... sadly not.

The initial welcoming into Dissidia is a flashy FMV sequence in typical Square-Enix style, featuring 22 Final Fantasy heroes and villains in a big mashup of good versus evil. The overall tone for the game is ongoing fight between the gods Cosmos and Chaos; Chaos appears to be gaining the upper hand, so it's up to the 'good' heroes to recover ten crystals which will hopefully save the world from Chaos. The 10 heroes are ripped straight from Final Fantasy games of the past, and have their own storylines which bear similarities to the storylines of their respective games. Flashbacks and back-reports throughout the game will thankfully fill in newbies to what they may have missed out on if they haven't played through each and every Final Fantasy game.

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Dissidia: Final Fantasy on the PSP.
The gameplay in Dissidia is a hybrid of a fighter and a role-playing game, with the fights being purely one-on-one battles. Unlike Final Fantasy RPGs with their traditional HP/MP bars, you now have Bravery (the equivalent of your attack strength) and HP (hit points; the equivalent of your health). Coinciding with this, your player has two attack types; one reducing your opponent's bravery (and hence makes their attacks weaker), and the other reducing their HP (redunce your opponent's HP to zero, and victory is yours). The fighting too is quite airy, almost reminiscent of mecha fights; there's loads of jumping and air-attack combos, and your fighter has their focus continually locked on your opponent. Couple that with the particle effects and trails, plus sharp camera angles, and Dissidia really is quite easy on the eyes even for spectating.

It's not purely fighting in Dissidia however. The character you choose navigates over chessboard-like maps, which determine either which bonuses you'll pick up, or which foe you'll be fighting against next. Bonuses you pick up will go hand in hand with more RPG-friendly goodies that you might be used to – there's experience points to level up your character, purchase points for unlocking outfits, custom icons, game cosmetics, extra characters, and gil for purchasing items and weapons. Yes that's right, while it may look purely like a 2d fighter on the surface; it's technically an RPG under the hood with loads of attack/defence statistics, upgradeable and interchangeable items.

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Dissidia's visuals are fairly nice.
The biggest disappointment about Dissidia is how it falls oh so short in the strongest area of all other Final Fantasy games; the storyline. Dissidia's storyline is oh so woeful, particularly when having to play through each of the 10 playable characters. They all seem to be wandering around in their own little worlds without any cohesion to tie them all together. Couple this with a lack of personality for most of the characters, and some weak scripting, and it doesn't make it too inviting to replay the game (either to level up your current character, nor to complete the storyline with all the other characters).

“But what about that RPG under the hood” I hear you screameing? Yes, there's a lot to unlock, but sadly there isn't the variety between levelling up and progressing through the differing characters story such that you'll struggle to play it through to its full potential. Think of it as countless levelling within an RPG, just without the epic story or overall goal that you have to aim towards. You just simply run out of motivation, and feel like doing something more exciting like doing the dishes or watching paint dry.

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A classic Final Fantasy battle.
A quick glimpse at the screenshots shows that Dissidia has plenty to offer in the visual department, and it looks even more appealing in motion. The characters are all visually appealing in different ways; characters vary each with their own fighting styles and attacks – for instance Tidus and his blitzball (which is used as a range projectile), as compared to say Cloud and his giant buster sword. In an interesting breath of fresh air to most (if not all?) genres on the PSP, replays of fights can not only be saved, but also edited! It's a bit of a strange addition; however it's doubtful you'll use this more than once to see what it has to offer.

As mentioned earlier about Dissidia's opening, both cutscenes and visuals are as you'd expect from Square Enix – the FMV sequences scattered throughout are rich and detailed. While the in-game realtime cutscenes aren't the most intricate (and are coupled by some horrendous voiceovers), they still fit the part. While the cutscenes are plentiful, couple these with a drab storyline and it soon becomes a case of quantity over quality – even though they may look nice, after a while they don't really tell anything different, and you'll soon be hammering on the pad to skip past them.

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Another PSP Dissidia screenshot.
One of the highlights of Dissidia for me would have to be its soundtrack; think of it as a 'greatest hits and remixes' for the Final Fantasy Series with all of the classics to bring yet more nostalgia to the game (Otherworld and One-Winged Angel anyone?). Voiceovers fall short of the mark however; while they're present throughout most cutscenes, many are in Engrish, and are made even worse by some dodgy voice acting.

Dissidia is a bit of a confused mixed bag of genres. Fighting too isn't all that it's cracked up to be; while it does look pretty and is easy to get a handle on, it stops short of having any depth with only two attack types. But the RPG side too is lacking in story and as such is devoid of reasons to keep playing. While square enix have taken a gamble in what they're trying to achieve here, I feel it's failed on both fronts. Fans of the Final Fantasy series will be saddened at the components from RPG games mashed together into a fighting game mould which doesn't fit. And newbies to the series will be lost from the outset wondering what all these characters, Chocobos, etc are all on about. It's great for a trip down nostalgia lane (though newcomers to the Final Fantasy world will be feeling a little lost), but at the same time you can't help but feel a little disservice to the series.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

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GRAPHICSGreat character models, loads of effects and minimal slowdown.
SOUNDVoice acting can get a little corny, but loads of nostalgia to be had.
GAMEPLAYInitially fun, but not hugely in depth and degrades into grinding.
VALUEA load of stuff to unlock, but will you play it for long enough?
OVERALLDissidia isn't a fighter, isn't an RPG, and unfortunately doesn't bring across any of the strong points from each. The nostalgia is great, but it's a shame that the storyline will most likely put most people off before they get a chance to fully appreciate it.

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