There have been plenty of Final Fantasy spin-offs throughout the years, but when Dissidia: Final Fantasy arrived on the scene it allowed fans around the world to live out their fantasies. They could finally pit characters from the different main series Final Fantasy games against each other in fast-paced battles, but the title didn't deliver on every front. Cue Dissidia 012 duodecim: Final Fantasy, a title which hopes to make up for the original's deficiencies.
Set as a prequel to the original Dissidia: Final Fantasy, 012 features an array of new characters who take the forefront throughout the experience. The original characters do appear, but Lightning, Tifa, Vaan, Laguna, Kain and Yuna are the main focus, as they try to find a way to stop the endless war between Cosmos, the Goddess of Harmony, and Chaos, the God of Discord.
One of the main criticisms of the original title was with the execution of its story, and the lack of any real depth. Things which have been somewhat rectified in the prequel, but some concessions have been made. There is a lot more structure now, as each chapter progresses the story, allowing you to experience a new character each step of the way. It allows for a more paced progression as unlike the original, taking the role of a different character actually adds some depth to the experience. The downside here though, is that you may have to use characters you don't like, and at the start of almost every chapter, you'll be greeted with a character who's all the way back at level 1.
The story still isn't the deepest around, and it pales in comparison to the standard Final Fantasy experience. But it does help to explain exactly what's going on in the original title, and has a plausible explanation of why these new characters weren't featured. In short, if you were disappointed with the execution of the story in the original, you should feel a bit more satisfied this time around. The characters are more involved, the story is better and the interactions between characters feel much more natural.
With those improvements out of the way, let's get onto the gameplay. Dissidia is a fighting game at heart, albeit a wildly different fighting game, but there is a distinct twist to its execution. Each character does have a health bar (HP), but they also have bravery (BRV). The catch, is that your BRV stat denotes how much damage you'll do when you land an HP attack. So, without BRV, you can't decrease your opponents HP. Much of the battle is then a back and forth, with both characters trying to accumulate BRV in order to win the battle. It was an innovative system when it came out two years ago, and it's still an innovative system now.
To mix things up a bit, there are some new mechanics thrown in, but it's worth pointing out that each of the new characters brings some new depth to the table. Each character, new or old, performs different attacks when they're in the air or on the ground, but the new characters have a lot more variety. Laguna, for example, has moves which focus on charging. His basic BRV attack is a machine gun, but a simple button press isn't effective at all. Holding the button down allows for a considerable amount of BRV damage, but while firing, you also have the option to move around freely. His air attacks follow a simple premise; his shotgun being very weak if tapped; his rocket launcher only firing one missile unless charged. It might not seem like a lot, but it means that different strategies have to be employed. And this could be seen as a benefit of the new campaign structure - it makes you experience the different characters on offer. Going from Laguna, to Kain, for example, is a difficult transition. One is a predominately long-ranged fighter, while the other specialises in close-ranged combat.The crowning element to the original combat was always the EX Mode. While fighting, it's possible to build up an EX bar, which, when activated, makes you a much more powerful proposition. Land an HP attack while in this mode, and you'll effectively enter a "limit break" state. Here, the game will pay tribute to where the characters are from. Lightning has to enter in button combinations, just like she does when summoning Odin; Vaan will have to choose moves, just like in his Quickenings; and Tifa has to pick from a slot machine.
The new additions though, come in the form of EX Breaks and EX Revenge. After being attacked in a certain situation, you'll have the chance to enter EX Revenge. In this mode, your opponent will be slowed down, meaning they can't dodge your moves as easily, but it will sacrifice your entire EX Gauge.
EX Break relates to another new mechanic, Assists. Now, you can call in other characters to briefly assist you in your fight. They are great for continuing BRV combos, or actually, disrupting an enemies combo on you. However, it's possible to turn the tide in either scenario. If your opponent summons an Assist character, you have the ability to attack them too. EX Break though, happens if you use an Assist character to stop your opponent's EX Mode, something which will transfer all their BRV points to you. It probably all sounds a bit complicated, and when things are flying around at break-neck speed in the game, it won't seem any less complicated. However, over time, the systems will make sense and you'll learn when to react, and in what way.
The only downside, is that if you didn't really get on with the game in the first place, Dissidia 012 probably won't convert you. Yes, the changes are nice, but the core experience remains much the same. If you don't level up, you'll struggle to beat opponents who're a higher level than you, and there are still plenty of cheap, spammable modes. However, bear in mind that every character has another which is more than a match for them.
Graphically, the game is much the same as the original. All of the characters are easily recognisable, and some of the new stages, like Orphan's Cradle, look fantastic. It's also nice to hear the original voice cast returning to voice the new characters. Actors like Ali Hillis and Bobby Edner do a great job of reprising their roles. The only voice that's perhaps a bit out of sorts, is that of Laguna. This title marked the first time we'd ever heard his voice, and it's odd that the developers rooted for a younger sounding guy, despite Laguna being one of the older heads.
With regards to the title's replay value. Well, there is just as much as the original, if not more. Levelling up all of the characters will take a considerable amount of time and there are tons of things to purchase in the PP Catalog, like all of the antagonists. There are also some extra characters to unlock in Gilgamesh and Prishe. In short, Dissidia 012 will keep you occupied for a considerable amount of time, especially if you love the grinding aspect of RPGs.
In many ways, Dissidia 012 duodecim: Final Fantasy is the game the original title should have been. The story actually has a proper structure now and the new characters help to add an extra element of depth to the gameplay. The core experience hasn't changed all that much, but with the new additions brought to the table, like Assists, this prequel is a must have for fans of Final Fantasy.
|The story mode actually feels like a story mode now|
|The new characters are a welcome addition|
|Tons of replay value is present with this title, it will last for ages|
|The core experience is still the same, it may still frustrate you|
|Laguna's voice really doesn't suit him|
|Despite the improvements, the story still isn't all that developed|