Square Enix had initially trademarked Dissidia Prologus a while ago and we weren't too sure what exactly it meant. Come January and Square Enix released a great deal of information regarding Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, including character reveals and details on various gameplay mechanics. What came alongside the string of announcements was Dissidia Prologus, a demo featuring a glimpse of Dissidia 012's story and gameplay.
Unfortunately, the demo hasn't left the best of impressions since it actually costs 300 yen to purchase and the thought of paying for a demo is just like paying for those sample tidbits at the supermarket. Surprisingly, there is plenty in Prologus to warrant that little extra change.
There are a couple of modes in Prologus, including a short story mode where you play as Lightning, one of the new characters added to the brawler roster, through a series of events that give you a glimpse to Dissidia 012's story. Unfortunately, the new overworld system isn't included and you'll be playing through the demo story between in-game events and cutscenes.
In all honesty, at first you wouldn't think this was a sequel game. In fact, the game is so dang familiar in almost all aspects, including graphics, presentation and gameplay. The gameplay is essentially the same as the original: steal Bravery from your opponents by performing Brave attacks and deal massive damage by executing HP attacks. It's basically a tug of war between you and your opponent.
The only things that are new in Prologus, or at least what you'll get a taste of, are the Assist system and the new characters. That's exactly where things get exciting. Square Enix are bringing in a bunch of new characters to Dissidia 012 and Prologus features at least two of them: Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII and Kain from Final Fantasy IV. Other playable characters in Prologus include Warrior of Light, Garland, Kefka, Sephiroth and Jecht.
Things got exciting, or at least nostalgic in some sense, when I took Lightning for a run through the demo's Arcade Mode - it features two difficulty settings: Normal with five battles and Hard with thirty battles. Lightning's battle style brings a bit of freshness and dynamism to the game's already addicting battle mechanics. To reflect Final Fantasy XIII's gameplay mechanics, I was able to execute Lightning's core Paradigm Shifts on the fly.
Lightning can swap between her three core Paradigms as seen in Final Fantasy XIII: Commando, Ravager and Medic. That means no Saboteur, Synergist or Sentinel - so bad luck there if you loved those Paradigms as those were only accessible after a certain point in Final Fantasy XIII. But I digress, Lightning's HP attacks remain the same, however her Brave attacks will change accordingly. As a Commando, Lightning has access to abilities like Blitz and Launch; as a Ravager, she can cast Water, Aero and other magic-based attacks to steal Bravery Points from the opponent; as a Medic, she can heal and gain Bravery, giving her a little extra amount of points - although it really isn't a lot and I wasn't able to spam it to any ridiculous amounts. Changing Paradigms is pretty straight-forward and all I had to do was tap both the R and L buttons at the same time.
On the other hand, Kain's mechanics feel a bit more traditional in that he doesn't change up his move sets with Paradigm Shifts. Playing as Kain was a bit interesting as he doesn't exactly have the longest reach even though he's a Dragoon, but he is outstanding when it comes to verticality and the mid-range category. Kain's Jump attack can be charged and it determines how high and how big the area of effect will be. Moreover, Jump will take out any opponent that just happens to be in the way above you.
The Assist system acts just as how it's been described. A gauge fills up and I had the opportunity to either call in an HP or Brave Assist. The former brings in your Assist character, Warrior of Light in my case, who promptly moves in to deal some damage to your opponent and the latter will have them stealing their Bravery. There's also the Assist Change wherein if you're caught up in the middle of a nasty combo, you can swap places with your Assist character in order to perform a counter-attack.
EX mode also returns in Prologus. It's a special ability that can be used once the EX Gauge has been filled up - giving you a boost to your attacks, usually letting you perform them twice in succession. You can also execute an EX Burst, by hitting R and Square while in EX mode. Hitting an opponent with an HP attack will then execute an EX Burst. It's essentially a fancy finish that uses quick time events. However, unlike the first Dissidia, entering EX mode while being attacked no longer grants you the ability to perform an EX Burst. Instead, everything moves in slow motion, allowing you to either steal Bravery or dole out some damage.
Dissidia Prologus, while merely a demo for Dissidia 012, has quite a bit of content to its 300 yen price tag. Simply put, it's a mini fighting arcade game for your PSP and for 300 yen it's actually quite a deal. Not to mention, you'll be able to unlock Aerith Gainsborough from Final Fantasy VII as an exclusive bonus Assist-only character.
If Prologus is any indication, it looks like the addicting mechanics introduced in the first game will be returning with improvements and expansions like the new Assist system. Lightning and Kain bring a new dynamism to the roster and hopefully the other new characters will too. I caught a glimpse of Yuna's combat style while duking it out with Bartz, a character that mimics the move sets of others, and it's something certainly worth getting excited about.
Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy is slated for release on the PSP on March 22 in North America. The demo is currently available only in Japan and there has been no word on if it'll make its way to Western shores.