Dis­sidia Fi­nal Fan­tasy NT

EDGE - - GAMES -

PS4

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.

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