Just a huge gelatinous blob
The last time I had gotten my hands on Dissidia Final Fantasy NT it was in the middle of a hazy, exhausting E3. I’m not making excuses for how I reacted to Dissidia‘s massive wave of new information, but there has been a noticeable difference in how differently I’ve perceived it playing it at home during the online beta.
Now while I’ve been able to parse exactly what’s going on in these fights, it doesn’t change the fact that Dissidia is largely a stiff, unintelligible mess. And I love it.
The beta has three different options. The standard, random matchmaking which puts you in a team with two other folks (or a CPU if all six slots can’t be filled) against three other players, a practice mode which let me play alone while practicing against three computer characters (coming closest to feeling like the Dissidia games on the PSP since it’s a little more isolated), and a tutorial video which gives a quick rundown as to how the game works. If you take a glance at the above image, you’ll realize the HUD is unbelievably cluttered in comparison to the rest of the Dissidia series. I was hoping the HUD would be a bit more streamlined since the last time I’ve seen it, so I feel for folks with smaller TV screens who want to play this. There’s gonna be a lot of squinting in your futures.
It’s a shame the HUD covers so much of the screen, because the game is gorgeous. But crippling loading times come as a consequence of its beauty. I’m not sure how harshly I should judge the cruelly long loading and connection times since this is a beta currently working everything out, but Dissidia needs to nail the netcode if it wants to be successful as a fighting game. Seeing as how the series has been pushed further away from its RPG elements and is more focused on these 3-on-3 battles, then I can’t help but to perceive it as a fighter. If I were to judge this by fighting game standards rather than the Square Enix carnival the PSP titles were, there’s plenty to be desired.
With Team Ninja working on this, I was surprised to deal with as much stiffness in the controls as I did. Since the beta gives each character two pre-selected loadouts, there were only a few moves between the 12 characters. There’s no need for move sheets and the like since each move is relegated to one or two face button presses (though the secondary skills are on a cooldown meter and need an additional control pad press to activate), and the simplicity is welcome when the rest of the system is overwhelming. I’m hoping the moves can be customized like in the OG titles in order to keep this system interesting, however.
Seemingly appropriate for the huge blob of a system Dissidia finds itself in, movement has been slowed down in general from the older games. While one on one fights in the original games had player covering entire maps with dashes leading into combos, airborne flips eventually utilizing the entire scope of each arena, and the recovery frames between each move never felt crippling since your opponent would be reacting within that same window. But in NT, the recovery on each move is sooooo long and this leads to endless combos which can lead to wall traps (knocking your opponent into a wall and barraging them with attacks while they have no options for recovery). It’s even more egregious when two or three opponents team up and easily sap health. The lack of escape options can, and will, stunt the meta game since players have to both have to manage dash stamina, and the fact that dashing is limited and only covers short spaces slowly.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is an inherently imbalanced fighter, especially when factoring in summons (which build meter as you fight or break summoning stones), separate health bars (as you need to build “bravery” before you can attack to subtract that bravery from an opponent’s health), or the fact the full title will probably allow you to level up and change moves (as well as increase your base stats), but it’s a strangely compelling title. The arcade feel and fighting focus appeal to my sensibilities, but I see a lot of older Dissidia fans dropping this before too long if the beta is any indication of what form the full release will take.
But for every wonky match I had, I played through a match with incredible random folks and it led to some really fun moments. Victory and defeat can feel random since it only takes three KOs among the three teammates to end the match, but I really want to form a team with two buddies and wreck the joint. The core system is a huge mess, but if two other people are working with you and sort of compartmentalize Dissidia into easier to manage chunks, then it’s not so bad.
Sure it’s a lot to ask from players, but hey, this is the Dissidia series we’re talking about here.