I'm enamoured with the Dissidia series for all the wrong reasons. After my friend (a fanatic of Final Fantasy 7) showed me the movie Advent Children, I questioned (no one in particular) why Square Enix didn't design the battles to look as cool as the final clash between Cloud and Sephiroth in any of their newest games. They certainly knew how to animate it, and being a JRPG with minimal direct input (read: direct input) meant that there were no barriers controller wise to make the battles look this like a scene from Advent Children. That's when he produced a copy of Final Fantasy: Dissidia and put the PSP in my hand.
It was a terrible game.
But like all terrible games that you still want to play, Dissidia suffered from squandered potential. The game was fully functional and it did exactly what I expected after watching Advent Children: provide flashly, flamboyant the likes of which would make both Dante and Bayonetta gape in awe. On the flipside, it just didn't offer any more than that. But even after being thoroughly disappointed with the two games, I keep looking forward to the possibility of Dissidia 3. Because there's really a good game here that's just waiting to claw out of the dirt that taints the past two titles, and it'd be a shame to never let it see the light of day.
But how could they go about doing that? What exactly was missing from former Dissidia titles that the new one could implement to make better?
Lots of things, but after playing them extensively, I've got a good idea on what they have to do.
DESTROY The Original Story and Make a New One Entirely. You're Welcome.
There's no gentle way to put this. The story in Dissida is pretty much the worst thing I ever suffered through in a video game story. It is terrible in every possible way, so bad that you couldn't even laugh at it.
Firstly, the characters, which drive the plot, have absolutely no personality of their own. It may seem like they do. After all, certain characters behave nicer than others, and differently in some respects. But they're all completely one dimensional, or two at best. Largely this is in part of the fact that most of them are the Silent Protagonist, ripped from the context that develops them in the first place. This includes their reasons for saving the world, their world's culture, and more importantly, the other characters in their respective games that solidify their existence. To compensate for this, Square Enix has given them the one thing that somehow made them worse: A voice. What good is giving a story character a voice if they have nothing of value to say?
The above is a cutscene in Dissidia when Firion and Cloud talk about their dreams, which basically translates to "reason to fight so they can stop fighting." You can turn off the video after it reaches that fan-made segment with Zach (or any time, really). It rips from just about every possible anime cliché at once, doesn't do anything interesting with it, and worst off, is actually serious. Because of the abysmal characterization, the dialogue suffers. And to put a cherry on that cake, the story, itself, is just an excuse to have characters duke it out with each other for no reason. And nothing else. We never get to learn anything we didn't know about the characters before, but we also never get reminded of anything we did know, either. And the story... It's best not to say anything, so as to avoid spoilers. But not because the story is so intricate that anything is a spoiler. Rather, because the story is so paper-thin that if I told you anything it'd probably snap like a twig. It's like the writers were scraping the bottom of the barrel of the fanfiction archives in search of one which doesn't have a cohesive plot or good dialogue, and then amplifying the serious intent behind it times 10.
Also, amnesia. Enough said.
I honestly cannot fathom how the story can get any worse. Really, the best course of action they could do is scrap it entirely and pretend the previous entries never existed. Rewrite the whole story. Give a new reason for characters to meet up with each other beyond the reaches of their universe. Why not pull a Kingdom Hearts (not the best example, I know) and have there not be an actual barrier between the worlds to begin with? Why not go a step further, create an entirely new world where all these protagonists have been around from scratch, and reimagine their personal stories (including how they met their respective antagonists) in this new world? Anything's better than what we have now.
It's Not a Fighting Game. It's not a Fighting Game and RPG Hybrid. It's Just an RPG. Thrive on It!
Let me put it this way: In Dissidia, unless you're the best of the best, the elite of the elite, it doesn't matter how good you are in the game. What makes and breaks every encounter isn't your skills, it's your equipment and planning. For Final Fantasy, that isn't wrong! Far from it! But it also isn't even remotely fair to dub something like this as fighting game, when much of your progress is determined by character levels and equipment. It also isn't fair to keep treating it like a fighting game when it simply isn't one, especially since unlike all fighting games there doesn't seem to be any room for complex maneuvers or combos.
But I'm not saying we should remove the combat system of Dissidia. Rather, I'm saying expand on the RPG aspect in more meaningful, deeper ways. Duodecim did this by introducing a sort of party system as well as an "open world" to explore. But it was brought back full circle by the party system being a set of one-on-one battles and the open world just being a proof of concept before going back to the original Dissidia's "board game" mode for every encounter. The more things changed, the more they stayed the same. The new Dissidia could drastically be improved by either forgoing or keeping the board game segments to a minimum, especially since they could last up to hours, and focus more on the open world segments. Put in some secrets! Exploration! Map-wide puzzles that probably won't be solved in the next ten years! Maybe the last one is a bit of a stretch. But that gets the point across, right?
Another pitfall into the road to the RPG is the Polygon Te- I mean, manikins. These fighters replace the standard "monsters" of RPGs with weaker versions of enemies that really should be bosses. They don't even put up a good fight. It's like if the only enemy in Devil May Cry was Vergil, but with crappy AI and you only got to fight one at a time. And then you go fight the real Vergil, only to find that you know all his tricks, all his surprises, and the only challenge becomes a contest of who has the bigger sword. In the PSP era it was probably a memory issue. But Duodecim actually does have one monster fight, and it was an awesome surprise. But again, for all the wrong reasons. The next Dissidia should take advantage of the new tech and focus on fighting against actual monsters in the overworld, throw in a boss fight or two, and then have the player face off against the humanoid characters. At best, it'll provide a fresh and unique challenge each time the story progresses, and at worst, it'll break up the monotony of fighting clones over and over again.
Let Battles Feature More than Two Players at Once
This is a real lost opportunity. Dissidia features huge maps and a "lock on" system, and Duodecim even went so far as to feature a party system, yet none of those features seem to really be used to their fullest potential. There is literally nothing stopping more players from appearing on the screen at once. Fighting game balance? It's RPG centric to the core, so that's been thrown out the window long ago. Stage size? They're all massive, and I can easily imagine 3 on 3 battles or even free-for-alls happening without feeling claustrophobic. Heck, Smash Bros did it on smaller maps, and even smaller maps. What's to stop Dissidia to do it in open spaces? Technical Issues? Nope. Duodecim on the PSP could support up to four characters on screen at once via the "assist" system without a single dip in framerate. Why can't the Vita do more?
And think of the benefits. The party system could be vastly improved by allowing teamwork. Allowing teamwork could add actual combos to the game if they're not interrupted by the enemies' own teammate (or assist). Moreover, it would add both the possibilities for co-op as well as party control, which has been in the series until Final Fantasy XIII, the latter of which would really bring the party system to new heights. And don't forget about the possibility of interesting encounters, either.
Replace "Assist" with "Swapping"
Assist was Duodecim's greatest feature that was almost also its greatest disappointment. It showed that the engine clearly supported up to four characters in battle at the same time, and it clearly showed the ease of locking on to the assist character for combat without a hitch, and they clearly proved that there's actual combo potential when there are more than two characters in play against the same enemy But aside from doing a single move and then disappearing (or taking the damage you've been receiving before vanishing). Really, it just makes me question the above problem all the more each time I use them.
Assist should therefore be swapped with... uh, swapping. As in, tagging in a teammate to take over in a "Marvel Vs. Capcom" style fashion, wherein the second character attacks when jumping into the scene to replace the first character. Duodecim's already half-way there. Now all it needs to do is ensure that the second character stays there and lets the player take control of it. Like putting multiple characters in play, it would give the party system a much needed overhaul.
Expand on User Generated Quests
Duodecim also introduced the concept of player created quests. This was a leap in the right direction, but also one that leaped right into a ditch. The quest creation mode was excruciatingly limited. For one thing, the only actual game content one could generate is one-on-one fight conditions with a "cutscene" before and after. This would have been the best place to create one of those "board game" dungeons from the main game! Or maybe take it a step further and create quests in the open world! But all it really was is a set of "versus mode" presets that can rarely amount to anything interesting. Largely in part to the fact that the cutscene generators were extremely limited, and I don't just mean that graphically. Each cutscene can only support up to ten elements of each type: character dialogue and "effects." Not only does nothing really happen on screen, but there also isn't room enough in the quest generator to at least describe events that should be happening. The whole system is a joke, and practically doesn't exist, but wouldn't it be great if it worked like it was supposed to?
PUT IT ON THE VITA!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I cannot emphasize this enough. And if anybody can screw this up, it's Square Enix. And they will screw this up because they are far from infallible if this whole piece is anything to go by. I need a reason to still own this thing, and Square Enix has been doing the most work to convince me that I made an even bigger mistake than I originally imagined. Besides, Dissidia was built for the sake of portable gameplay. As was Type-0, no doubt. To strip the portability from a portable title is like to remove its very backbone which it was built upon. Like using the insane power of a super-powerful gaming PC to run Angry Birds. Simply put, don't bother making Dissidia 3 at all if there's not at least a Vita (or PSP) version. Sounds extreme? Probably. But I still stand by it.
Give Everybody the Ability to Paradigm Shift
This also sounds extreme, doesn't it? But hear me out.
Yes, this is Lightning's schtick, and yes, it's what makes her especially stand out from the rest of the cast. But the implementation of the Paradigm Shift to every character would solve the game's most major problem; repetitive combat. All the characters (apart from Lightning) have six moves at a time: three Bravery damage moves, and three HP damage moves. It can grow to be really monotonous, especially when you figure out what moves your foes are limited to. Now, throw in Paradigm Shift to the mix and it changes anything. Think Cloud's only good for short range attacks? Nope, Paradigm Shift! Now he can hit you even when you're trying to attack from afar. Does Laguna have a rather small arsenal? Boom, Paradigm Shift! Now he focuses on a variety of traps instead of just long range weapons. It would give each character the opportunity to learn more moves as well as the opportunity to use more of them in battle and give them the opportunity to be used in creative succession.
Remove the ability to use HP attacks after Bravery attacks
There's a clear, important distinction between the two that is readily made known by their speed, which is slow for HP attacks and fast for Bravery attacks. Combining them into the exact same move is does not only remove challenge, but is just plain unfair. Especially when you consider that some characters don't have this ability while other's do. There's no tradeoff, either. It's just naturally better than any other technique in the game. This isn't some sort of microscopic difference that's barring the game from eSports (it just isn't a game for eSports to begin with). This is a "win" button. Plain and simple. I'll be honest, it's the only move I've been using when I got to the final part of the game's story mode, because it's the only move that I can win some encounters with, because the AI uses only those moves in those battles. It's that overpowered.
Therein lies the problem why I cannot consider Dissidia a fighting game.
In case you didn't hear me the first time.
Have Some Fun with the Story
Guys, it's a crossover. The last thing this story could be is something that takes itself legitimately seriously. Especially if you don't even have a good story to back it up with to begin with. What's with this incredible sense of despair and impending doom that just doesn't seem to fit with anything the characters are saying, or anything that's happening? Why does it have to be serious? Why does it have to be dramatic? It's not an actual entry in Final Fantasy, after all. If anything, it should break free of the narrative chains that bind it and go totally wild with ideas. Try for some witty writing, awkward moments, out of place interactions! Who knows? Along the way, you might even get some awesome ideas for the next Final Fantasy, or maybe just some ideas for unique gameplay.
Well, that sums up my rant. If you could (or wanted) to change Dissidia (or another game) in a sequel, what would you want to do?