Dissidia Final Fantasy NT
You’ll eventually uncover a singular, sophisticated addition to the genre underneath all the clutter
Developer Team Ninja Publisher Square Enix Format PS4 Release Out now
Team Ninja’s latest is a mechanically excellent 3v3 multiplayer arena fighting game, and nobody is playing it. We can’t blame them: Dissidia Final Fantasy NT’s core is a spirited take on the genre, mantled in a mess of inadequate base content, poor presentation and technical issues. Yes, you can enjoy its lavish fan-service battles on a superficial level, but getting the most from Dissidia NT requires a significant time investment. Finding ways to meaningfully invest time in becoming a consistently great player is difficult: instead, we spend plenty of it pondering where it all went wrong as we wait, twiddling our thumbs, to be matchmade, eventually, with other players online.
A console port of arcade game Dissidia Final Fantasy, it’s easy to see why Dissidia NT’s singleplayer offering might be lacking, if harder to forgive it. The token tutorial gives scant information on the game’s controls and unorthodox battle system. Each team of three players shares three stocks, or lives, between them – the first team to lose them all is defeated. Hitting X has your character perform Bravery attacks to build a meter: when it turns a glittering purple, you can fire off an HP attack that deals damage. Pre-selected EX Skills on triangle offer alternate attacks, party-wide buffs or enemy debuffs. The right bumper lets you dash after (or away from) the enemy team, until your stamina bar is depleted. Well-timed bumper presses also allow you to chain Bravery attacks into each other for longer combos. The left bumper is reserved for your guard, turning into a swift sidestep when combined with a directional input.
These are the basics, and a surface knowledge of them will get you through what Dissidia NT optimistically dubs Story mode, a series of short cutscenes that offer thin justification for why the Final Fantasy series’ best and, predictably, bustiest are beating each other up. The Goddess Materia has summoned them against their will, in need of the raw energy they create through battling to save the realm – a premise that sounds mad enough without coming from a woman dressed in a sexy laundry basket. Largely noninteractive, it’s a patchy disappointment that doesn’t make the most of its rich roster. Most bafflingly, every cutscene is locked away behind Memoria, an in-game currency earned by participating in online and offline battles. The offline arcade mode is almost instantly wearying: the enemy AI swings between useless and cheaty, while your two companions never manage to crawl out from the former bracket and cost you the majority of your stocks. The preferable option is jumping straight into online play, with nary a practice mode or character move list in sight.
The results, unsurprisingly, are mixed. For the first few hours, Dissidia NT can seem impenetrable, as you fumble around with alien button configurations and get tossed about in mid-air like a spiky-haired frisbee between two Zidanes and a Cecil. Countless bars, meters and indicators litter the screen. Switching between targeting each of three enemies with the triggers feels like spinning a nauseating roulette wheel, as the camera veers wildly to locate a player somewhere in the chaos. Players zip through the air in 3D space: even if you’re well-acquainted with the arcs that indicate who’s targeting you, attacks can hit seemingly out of nowhere.
If you’re clued in on fighting games, you’ll eventually uncover a singular, sophisticated addition to the genre underneath all the clutter. Four character classes offer range and depth, and can be played in multiple ways thanks to Dissidia NT’s customisable EX Skills. Marksman fighters such as Terra and Y’Shtola make for great supports, peppering opponents from the backline with ranged shots to build bravery, then distributing meter amongst the team using a preselected Share Bravery EX Skill. Once we have a firmer grasp on timing their tricky attacks, they can be rebuilt to deal huge precision damage. Given that a balanced team composition is so crucial, it’s unfortunate that you can’t coordinate with strangers’ picks, forced to pick a fighter before being matchmade online. Changing EX Skills to make up for weaknesses, however, is possible – providing you’ve unlocked a good range already. If you’re patient and experienced, there’s always a way out of a sticky situation in Dissidia NT’s battles. Getting comboed against a wall can be frustrating, for instance, but observant teammates will see the opportunity to ambush your abuser, leading to some exciting bait-and-switch plays. What’s more, if you’re attacked by a follow-up Wall Rush combo, you’re granted a brief window of invincibility during which to escape. And while we perhaps wouldn’t expect a tutorial to spoil the more emergent tactical plays of Dissidia NT, a clue as to that invincibility aid would have been useful, as panicked rookies are liable to mash buttons and counteract its effect. All this assumes you find your way into an online match in good time, and are blessed with a lag-free round. We regularly wait upwards of five minutes as Dissidia NT casts about for somebody who still cares, and then often proceeds to struggle even on a wired connection, making blocks, combo timing and target-switching impossible.
Infuriatingly, Dissidia NT’s focus on 3v3, its limited modes and lack of beginner-friendly packaging means that, as the online well of competition runs dry, we’re repeatedly matched with a single opponent with the remaining four slots filled by incompetent AI. Those of you solely targeting our bots for an easy win ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Really, though, the blame lies with Dissidia NT: struggling against its many issues only serves to sap everybody’s energy, despite what that laundry-basket-case may insist.