I've had quite an interesting relationship with Square Enix in the past. My first experience with playing one of their games was when I played Final Fantasy 9 back in the early 2000s and late 1990s and man did I think it was magical. I loved the music, the characters, the setting. I loved all of it, well except for the final boss because he felt shoe horned in, but I digress. As of late, Enix's more recent games just don't really appeal to me because of their tone and the fact that I don't own a system that can play most of their games. Luckily, Enix held a large summer sale recently and I purchased many old Final Fantasy games that I haven't played (6, 7, and 8) plus Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, the Final Fantasy fighting game. From what I've seen of the Dissidia series is that has a rather unique fighting system and I bought it to see if the fighting system was good, well that and the fact you could play as Gilgamesh from Final Fantasy 5 who is similar to Rawk Hawk from Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door.
Though I said Dissidia was a fighting game above, that's not completely true, it's more of a mix between a fighting game and a RPG. The gameplay is that of a fighting game with a unique twist on regular fighting game conventions. Instead of directly attacking an opponent's HP you must first build up brave by attacking your opponent with brave attacks and then hitting an opponent with an HP attack which deals the amount of brave you have to the opponent's HP. Also, each fight takes place in a 3d arena where you can maneuver behind obstacles or pick up items to gain an advantage on your opponent. The RPG elements come in the form of character customization in that you can equip each character with different attacks, equipment which alters the characters stats, assist character, and many more elements. Also, the game has a lengthy story mode, which explains the setting of the game and it explores many of the characters in the game as well. Overall, Dissidia 012 Final Fanstay has a ton of content that will keep anyone engaged for a long time.
There are a lot of risks involved when creating a 3D battle arena fighting game. You need to take into consideration how the players can navigate the arena, what is in the arena, and how the camera will act within the arena itself. What I've just listed are major problems I have with the gameplay because they aren't executed well enough. Navigating the battle arena can be incredibly frustrating because you have a limited amount of options to navigating the arena quickly. So if your opponent is acting extra flighty, it'll take a while to actually get to them. This is exceptionally apparent in some of the more gimmicky battle arenas because there are so many obstacles or other gimmicks that make moving through the arena extremely painful. The camera doesn't fare too much better because the camera can't look completely up and so if your opponent is directly above you, you won't be able to see them.
Despite these flaws, I find the combat actually to be fairly interesting because it creates a huge risk reward dynamic because of the brave and HP mechanics. Essentially, brave attacks are like quick attacks, which build up HP attacks, while HP attacks are slower than brave attacks, but do actual damage. So, the gameplay turns into an intense game of dodging, attacking, and positioning. All together, the battle mechanics are very fluid and strategic, which feels like a unique take on the fighting game genre.
The RPG Elements
Merging two genres into one can be a difficult task, which can easily end in failure, but if done correctly it can lead to a unique experience. Unfortunately, Dissidia 012 takes some of the worst elements of the RPG genre and merges it with its fighting mechanics. Before each fight, you have a chance to customize each of your fighters. You can alter their level and stats, you can alter their equipment which alters their stats, you can change around their moves, you can change around their summon, and much more. It's just way too much stuff to keep track of before going into a fight that would last about 5 minutes. Plus you have to level each character up to a certain point to unlock all their moves, which is extremely tedious, if you want to play as more than one character. Basically, the game is designed so it's easy to play as one character, which makes getting through story mode incredibly annoying because you have to play as multiple characters to finish it. These elements added nothing to the game and only made getting through the game more tedious.
It's common knowledge that most fighting games stories are crap and this game is no exception. The problem with the game story begins with the fact that two thrids of the story is just tacked onto the story of the first Dissidia game, which isn't that great to begin with. The story of the first game is pretty bad because it's about the main protagonists from the Final Fantasy games up to ten finding crystals that help them defeat the main villains from Final Fantasy games. Also, everyone on the hero's side has amnesia… This use amnesia is mostly used to reset all the hero's personalities to who they were at the beginning of their respective games and so most of the hero's stories are about them undergoing the same changes they did in their own game, except in less than a tenth of the time and it simply does not work. Also, there is virtually no villain development in the story. They're just there to be obstacles for the heroes to over come and get their crystals and nothing else. It's kinda sad because it would have been interesting to get some more characterization to these villains, but we only get characterization for Golbez, which is amazing, but it's only a small part of the story. There are few exceptions to this general trend in the story, where there is a lot more character interaction between the characters, but it doesn't offset the sheer amount of crap story that's in the game.
The story elements added to Dissidia 012 didn't help the over all story, but it did a good job of adding interesting character moments. The best part of the new story in Dissidia 012 involved most of the new characters added to the game interacting with each other. We got to see how these different characters from their different worlds interacted with each other, which almost always resulted in some interesting character moments or some good comedy, but where this new story feel apart was when it tried to explain the setting of the game itself. See the game is set in a sort of rift like world where areas from each final fantasy game collide and two gods are warring. The setting itself was already messy, but trying to explain it in detail only made the story messier. In the end, I wasn't sure what was happening, which characters were involved, and what I was supposed to get from this story.
This game is gorgeous. Every character model looks amazing and the english voice over is amazing. First off, the game does a great job of capturing the intricate designs of Tetsuya Nomura and making great character models of them. Every single bead and bobble on from original design is included on the model and it makes each character feel unique and cool. I especially love the designs of Golbez and Garland because of the detail put into their character models reflects their personalities. The only problem with these models is that it can make the art direction in the game feel eclectic because you will have characters with very intricate designs, like Exdeath, in the same game with characters with less fantastical designs, like Squall's or Cloud's default costumes.
Also, the voice cast for game is amazing. Huge talents like Johnny Young Bosch, Yuri Lowenthal, Chris Sabat, and many others voice the characters in the game and they do a great job of bring out the personalities of each character. I have absolutely no problems with english VO, it's just that good.
Final Fantasy is a series that always has great music and this game goes above and beyond the regular tunes of the Final Fantasy series by lifting some of the best tunes from each FF game, remixing some tunes, and even having some amazing original tunes. Almost every battle great theme from every FF game is included in this game and it's great to hear them again in a fighting game because they can really get you pumped for the fight. Also, some of the remixed tunes add an interesting twist to the original song, which makes them refreshing to listen to. By far my favorite pieces of music are the original themes composed for the game because they have really good vocals and a really good melody, while conveying some emotions to boot. If you don't like the gameplay of the game, you will definitely like the sound track.
Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy is game that wasted my time. What I mean is that the game had so many menus and grinding elements that I had to get though before I could get to the actual gameplay. All the RPG elements in the game felt like they served no purpose and merely extended the time I had to wait before I could get in and out of gameplay. Normally I could forgive these elements, but the story failed to engage me, navigating the 3D battle arenas was incredibly frustrating and so I couldn't get invested in the game. Luckily, the game has an incredibly good sound track and voice over, which alleviated some of the tedium generated by the game. In the end, this game makes me sad because I saw a great game with high production quality under all the poorly implemented RPG elements. If this game ever gets a sequel, I hope the designers focus on what they want to make; either a fighting game with RPG elements or an RPG game with fighting game elements.