Review: Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy (PSP)

Title: Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy
Format: UMD / PlayStation Network Download
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix 1st Production Department
Original MSRP: $29.99 (UMD), $29.99 (PSN)
ESRB Rating: T

Know your audience. An axiom that Square Enix has slavishly followed since their Final Fantasy series took off in the late 1980s. However, this generation, with the expansions of the western RPG genre and a string of well hyped, but critically disappointing JRPGs, they are known more for remakes of past titles in their impressive catalog than new inspiring game experiences. Luckily, by tapping into what fans love about the Final Fantasy series Square Enix has crafted a worthy sequel to its inventive fighting series with Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy.

Let’s get this out of the way upfront – Dissidia duodecim, much like the original Dissidia, is not an RPG experience. Instead, Square Enix has crafted a third person fighting game with a deep customization system and progressive stat building. Leveling up and the use of classic Final Fantasy heroes and villains are the only concession to the milestone JRPG franchise.

Building on the engine introduced in Dissidia, duodecim provides fast paced, highflying, effects-rich one on one duels. From a cursory glance the characters in duodecim appear fairly generic, each having a handful of short and long-range attacks, with some personalities clearly favoring one strategy over the other. However, keep digging into this title and each character only gets more defined and fleshed out. Each new level up brings with it not only upgraded stats, but new techniques that can turn a minimally effective close range fighter at level 1 into a long range juggernaut by the time you hit level 10. Unfortunately, duodecim falls back on the classic cast of characters from Dissidia and only introduces six new characters to the storyline. However, these characters are quite memorable with Laguna’s machine gun and missile-heavy style and Yuna’s summon-based attacks being standouts.

In contrast to Dissidia, duodecim attempts to add an overworld to the dungeons full of combatants. Ultimately, this fails to feel like anything new as you end up in dungeons regardless and it just adds unnecessary down time between bouts. Another addition to duodecim is the assist system, which allows characters to hop onto the battlefield, in a very Marvel vs. Capcom-esque fashion, to deliver a single attack. These just end up feeling like just another summon to use in battle and are not differentiated enough to make them interesting. I may sound down on the game, but these are truly minor points in a massive edifice of a title.

I rarely feel overwhelmed by a game’s scope, but that is exactly the position duodecim puts me in. Besides trying to level nearly thirty characters I have a fifteen-hour quest that introduces me to the new cast members, about average for most action based games these days, but much shorter than most Square Enix titles. Oh yeah, I almost forgot that the entirety of Dissidia opens up once you beat the initial quest. There are no typos in that previous sentence, the entire original Dissidia, with its 60+-hour campaign, tons of arcade modes, etc. is available to you. I have never experienced a “sequel” that so superseded the original. And that is duodecim’s greatest trick is to make you believe that it is a “sequel” and not the super ultimate version of the original Dissidia that it so clearly is. For fans of portable fighting titles they may have just found their perfect “desert island” game.

One of the most difficult issues with bringing all the characters from over two decades of Final Fantasies together is the discrepancy in visual design. Final Fantasy back on the NES looked awesome, but how can the 8-bit sprites of yesteryear compare to the bazillion polygon models of Final Fantasy XIII? Well Square Enix solved this in Dissidia and continue to impress with duodecim. All the characters are now three dimensional, polygonal models and are the definitive designs of these characters. Even the earliest Final Fantasy cast members are given unique details, keeping them in step visually with their more recent brothers and sisters.

The overworld, while new for duodecim, is blandly designed and consists of an infinite plain of wandering monsters and occasional moogles. This uninspiring design, in addition to bogging down the game’s pace, makes it so the overworld should not return in any subsequent Dissidia titles. Luckily the individual battle arenas are more interesting, with various pathways to maneuver around and enough visual panache to make each locale feel like the setting of an epic battle. It’s true that I didn’t notice any arenas in duodecim that weren’t in Dissidia, but the design of these levels was quite solid to begin with, so I’m satisfied.

We all know that there is always a lot of talking in Final Fantasy games. While many quintessential elements of the series have been dropped in the conversion to Dissidia, this isn’t one of them. After each major set piece you are treated to interminable, rambling cutscenes that feel unfocused and overly drawn out. I made it through about two thirds of the campaign before I just started skipping them on principle. The overall story, Cosmos versus Chaos, is a simple one and the subplots of individual characters don’t really provide any satisfying color or depth to the narrative. Talk is cheap just let me fight.

The voice acting has high and low points, with some of the more off the wall characters, like Kefka, making the greatest impression. I still catch myself muttering “C’mon C’mon C’mon” as an homage to the demented jester.

I did not delve into duodecim’s multiplayer, however, given the amount of customization and character selection I would anticipate it being a good time. However, it would be best enjoyed, like most fighting games, by players of similar caliber and commitment. No one has fun when a level 30 Warrior of Light smashes in the face of a level 10 Exdeath in a single hit.

Do not look to duodecim for a fantastic, epic story that will stir your soul, see it for what it is, an amazingly complete fighting game that will literally take you hundreds of hours to see every nook and cranny of. While it treads on very similar ground to its predecessor it doesn’t lose any of the charm of the original Dissidia, and while the new additions don’t always work I still appreciate the effort. Like the often-summoned Phoenix, Square Enix has managed to rise from the ashes of recent, disappointing JRPGs to deliver a unique combat experience that leverages their past to provide new, innovative gameplay styles that hopefully will help define their future.


Written by Justin Spielmann

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