Final Fantasy: Dissidia
Game type: Fighting, mostly. Sorta-kinda. The actual fighting is more action gamey, and it has RPG elements, but overall it "feels" like a fighter. But beefier.
Time demand: However much you want to put in at a time.
Platform: Sony PSP
Released: 12/18/08 (JP); 08/25/09 (US); 09/04/09 (EU/AUS)
What it is: Addicting. XD
I realized a bit into it that instead of a short, helpful review I was writing up a damned treatise on the ins and outs of the game, but didn't want to just erase all my work at that point, so I'll give you the short sweet version, and the longer version for those who haven't tried the game but want details before they consider if it's for them.
What we've got here is a game that's a fighting game at heart (with it revolving around "beating up one out of a list of enemies at a time, rinse, repeat" in some format or other), but a generally more action-game fighting style than usual (certain moves you trigger with simple buttons/combinations, rather than long strings of inputs), and definite RPG elements (levels, tons of unlockables, equipment, summons, yadda. Oh, and more of a storyline than you usually get from a straight fighting game).
There are multiple modes to play in, from quick battles to a longer story mode to a weird Duel Colosseum that uses cards and random chance and fighting in a weird but nicely-working system. And an online mode, although that doesn't work as well with the PSP.
One of the big draws for some of us is of course that fact that it's also Final Fantasy. Ever wanted to see Squall and Cloud interact (well, more than in the Kingdom Hearts games)? Ever wanted to smack the crap out of Tidus with Sephiroth (or just about any other character in existence)? Now's your chance! Not to mention getting to see more gorgeous (and in some cases more faithful to the original Amano art) versions of some of the older characters.
The story itself is meh... more weak than you'd expect from an RPG or from Squarenix in particular, but beefy enough for a fighting game, and more coherent than I'd expect for such a mash-up. Graphics and music are, of course, great.
Really the game feels like a big melange of styles, both gameplay and otherwise, with elements from multiple genres and characters and items from almost 20 years' worth of games. But it works (IMHO) amazingly well, and while I myself don't generally tend to like fighters as much, I've been playing this one like a madwoman.
Long Version Is Long
This is broken down into subsections, although a bit oddly, especially since I'd already gotten a ways in before deciding to break it up more.
General Story and Modes
Okay, here's the concept. There are these two divine beings: Cosmos, Goddess of Harmony, and Chaos, God of Discord. They're fighting this ever-repeating battle in this particular world/plane/whatever, and they bring in fighters that are mostly aligned with them (read: heroes and villains respectively, although it gets a bit grey in areas) to do the general dukingout. The heroes and villains in general are from each (well, most) of the various Final Fantasy games, one hero and one villain from each game I-X, and a couple "secret" characters that you can unlock later on.
The problem is that Cosmos for whatever reason (we never really see) is pretty much on the ropes at the game's start, having been more or less defeated, so the heroes get to go on a last-ditch quest to fetch the usual macguffins (and if you're a Final Fantasy fan in general, you shouldn't even need to be told what they are) for $insert reason here, which means that each hero has its own Odyssey to play through to overcome some internal or external problem.
This is of course the Story Mode. There are other modes, but I'll go into those later. Anyhow, you can play through all ten of them, or just play through one - as soon as the first one's finished, it unlocks the next bit of the story mode, which any of the characters can do, and on from there. I won't go into too much detail on the stages / different story modes/ who can do what, but that should at least give you a general idea of it.
Now, each story in Story Mode consists of a number of stages (usually five, but sometimes fewer), which has your character represented by a token. You move that character around a board (with each stage having its own shape/size), and interact with other pieces on the board which can be chests (for treasure), various other tokens for enemies (which are "Mannikins" that take on the forms and abilities of the heroes or villains), potions (to restore health and fill up your EX gauge), Elixirs (to refresh your skills), or the end goal piece of the board, sometimes just a symbol that moves you onto the next board, sometimes a boss fight that you have to win past first. Each stage has a number of DP, or Destiny Points, to start with. Each time you move off your "home" square, you lose one DP, and interacting with an item (or just selecting a random spot on the board and clicking on it) stops you and resets your home square, so that your DP constantly dwindle as you move around and do things on the stage. You can go into the negatives with no huge drawbacks, but different amounts of positive DP at the end of the stage give you different rewards as a bonus, some of them quite nice, and you also get a number of "story points" at the end of each stage based on things like retries, remaining DP, how many enemies you fought, etc. When you're done the story, all the points are added up, and you unlock new things for replays of the story, like tougher enemies to fight, new treasure chests, and so on.
Story Mode isn't the only Mode of course. There are a number of modes you can play:
Arcade Mode: You use a default version of a character rather than the one you've been leveling up and equipping, which can get confusing. You have to defeat a certain number of enemies, and at the end you are given a reward. Since it's not your "real" character, you don't earn experience or items during the actual fights.
Quick Battle: This is unlocked, but fairly early on, IIRC. It's just what it sounds like - a quick matchup with a computer player, where you select the general settings and then fight. You can get items/experience while fighting.
Duel Colosseum: This is unlocked later on, but is one of the more fun modes - it's something like a Survival Mode where you play through battles, represented by cards. You select the card you want from your hand, earn medals if you win, get other random cards to choose from (some of which are treasure you can "buy" with the medals, some of which are "jobs" that affect the play, and so on. A bit complex, but this is already running on, and I haven't even gotten to the fighting/equipment/etc. yet...
Communication Mode: This is open from the start, but a bit weird. See, the PSP uses a whole rigmarole if you want to battle someone over the internet, which I haven't even looked into much. (I know for the main method a PS3 actually wired to the router is needed, I think there MAY be other complex ways of doing it but.. meh.). But anyhow this is what you use to fight another player - you could also fight someone in the same area that has a PSP in the game, I believe, or you can fight the "ghosts" of friend cards you collect, some of which you get over the course of the offline game, which at least is nice. And the only use I get out of Communications Mode.
There are other things you can do from the start menu as well, although they're not really modes as such. There's a Museum, where you view data you've collected (cutscenes, voice files, character bios, etc.). There's also a PP catalog, where you spend PP (something Points) that you get through the game (from the various modes as rewards, and small amounts from each fight) on unlocking new game features - including the villains (although they don't have their own separate story modes), bonus characters, files for the museum, unlockable modes, and so on. And of course options, player settings, yadda.
Equipment, Items, etc.
And now that I've talked about all that... there's the fighting and characters themselves. Gulp.
Each character starts out at level 1, and can max out at level 100, like an RPG, which is a bit weird for a fighter (and which is one reason I suppose it was billed as an "action game" a lot of places). They also can wear equipment - a weapon, headgear, hand items, and body item, as well as a number of accessories (three normally, although you can trade a certain item for extra slots up to ten for each character). Each character can also equip a summon (or rather equip one, then have a list of up to five to change between when one is recharging).
Along with experience, each fight also gives you PP to unlock new things, gil (money), AP (which is used in mastering abilities, see below), a small chance of a component of the enemy's equipment (or even more rarely the actual equipment item itself), and possibly battlegenned items. Which is yet another topic. Each character has a list of things that can be battlegenned off them, starting with one item for the heroes, and once you get that you unlock another item (and possibly one for a stage and/or villain) that can be battlegenned in future battles. To get an item, it's a small drop chance that goes up as the level of the enemy goes up, and each item has a different requirement ("breaking" the enemy in the fight, doing damage to them, whatever). Whenever you meet that requirement, you get a chance at the drop. These battlegenned items are used in creating new equipment.
See, this is how the equipment works. Although (as mentioned) you may get something as a reward for a Mode, or rarely at the end of a battle, most of your equipment is going to come from the Shop (which you access in the individual character's menu, along with the equipment screen, and other character setup). To start with most of the items are going to be just flat-out purchased with gil, and are going to be very basic (since equipment has minimum levels, and you'll need to wait to use the better stuff). But as you get levels and components (weaker equipment, battlegenned items, other items that you pick up from, for instance, Duel Colosseum), you unlock "recipes" for other equipment. (Although rarely other equipment doesn't unlock until you get a copy of the actual item itself.) When you have all of the items required in the recipe, as well as a small amount of gil, you can pay the money, trade in the items, and receive the new equipment. This is the way to get all of the higher-end stuff, including the weapons exclusive to each character. (And believe me, some of those items you have to get are a PAIN. But Sephiroth has his One Winged Angel weapon now, oh yes he does... *ahem* I digress.)
Accessories are much like equipment, but equipment generally affects your stats and may rarely have an extra effect, while accessories go in more for special effects, such as increasing your Brave after certain actions in battle, giving you a one-shot resurrection, increasing your damage directly, or boosting other accessories. Between accessories and summons you really start to focus on your "build," or the unique way you want to play your character. There are four types of accessories:
Basic: A straightforward category. Just has a straightforward effect.
Booster: These accessories don't have any specific effect themselves, but instead boost basic accessories that are equipped, when certain criteria are met. For instance you might have a "Level 10-19, 1.2x" accessory that boosts your basic accessories by 1.2 times whenever your character is level 10-19, or a "opponent summon unused, 1.5x" one that boosts the basics by 1.5 times while your opponent (duh) hasn't used a summon in the fight. In general the higher the boost, the more stringent the criteria.
Special: These are much like the basic accessories, but aren't impacted by booster accessories. In many cases the effects are nicer than you'd get with a basic though. Many of these have a chance (or certainty) to break after a battle, which is included in the description.
Trade: These have a small effect of some sort when equipped, but generally they're just fodder to trade in the shop for "real" equipment or accessories. The battlegen items are trade accessories. You can also get some from Duel Colosseum, or for trading in the more basic trade accessories for the more rare ones in the shop, which in turn you can use for better equipment. It gets... complicated. :p
Accessories also have a rarity, which determines how many copies you can equip at once.
Let's see, I've talked about equipment and accessories, so that mostly leaves summons.
As mentioned, each character can equip a summon, with others to switch in as it needs to recharge. Each summon has a number of charges, and whenever they're used up in a battle, it swaps out, then gets one recharge per battle you fight while it's in your "alternate" list. Usually it's one recharge needed per use in battle, but for more powerful summons it might be different.
Some summons are automatic and triggered in battle when certain criteria are met, while others you trigger yourself, usually the latter being more powerful. Summons are picked up in Story Mode either from the board (like the treasure chests), or as rewards for having a high number of DP left over when you're done the stage. Each summon has a set effect, and usually affects your or your opponent's Brave in some way (see below). You can only (barring special circumstances) use a summon once per fight, so you need to choose your time wisely, but they can really effect the course of the battle.
Character Development and *gasp* Battles
As mentioned, one way for a character to develop is through leveling. Levels are gained through experience, which you get by, duh, fighting. You get some for performing moves, and some for completing the battle, as well as possibly bonus experience from various sources. Each level raises your stats a bit, may unlock new abilities, and may allow your character to equip new items (since each piece of equipment has a minimum level).
Since I covered equipment already, and since stats are fairly general, that leaves the abilities. For each character, you have a list of moves that you can set. There are slots for three land brave attacks, three air brave attacks, three land HP attacks, and three air HP attacks. For land attacks you can set one for a neutral O button press, one for pressing the stick toward the opponent while pressing the button, and one for pressing the stick away from the opponent with the button-press. For air attacks, it's the square button, and instead of toward and away, it's just up or down on the stick. (Which is a bit weird honestly, but you eventually get used to it. mostly.)
There are also other abilities to be set besides combat moves. Some are battle basics such as locking onto things, dodging, blocking, and so on, which you generally don't want to unequip. Others are special things like automatic performing of some of the tasks (recovering while falling through the air after being hit, inputting commands for EX Bursts, and so on), boosts to things like speed or jump height, and so on.
Each ability also takes a required number of CP (Character Points... I think) to set. You have a specific amount of CP to start with, you gain one per character level, and you can increase the amount with a few rare accessories. Although you have enough CP for everything to start with, you quickly outstrip what you have, and start having to prioritize.
Eventually though you also start to master abilities. This is done by gaining AP at the end of battles. When you gain AP, your currently equipped abilities gain them, and each has a certain amount of AP needed to master it. Once the ability is mastered, it costs half the CP to equip, and in some cases may unlock a new ability to equip. Thus as you equip abilities and use them through a lot of fights your characters are able to equip more at once, and gain even better abilities.
And now that the moves are explained, we're down to the actual battles. Which are, well, one-on-one fights taking place in a variety of stages. 3-D, if you didn't expect that, and with the set moves rather than having to press, say, up down left right left right A B or something in order to trigger a certain move. And unlike fighting games, there are no generic punches or kicks or whatever - you only use the set moves, along with dodging, jumping and blocking, and just general careful positioning. This all leads to a lot of variety between characters - some have quick moves that are tough to avoid or block in time, often comboing into more deadly attacks, while others have generally slower moves that might leave them open if you're not careful, but hit a lot harder. Some are casters, fighting from afar with magic, while others are melee monsters, and still others are blends.
The stages themselves are something to keep in mind - many of them are confined in some way, with some (Ultimicia's Castle) being worse than others, and tending to let your characters getting trapped in corners, and maybe even screwing up the camera (grrr). Most stages also have parts of them that can break off, which can be used in battlegen. You can Quickmove on certain locations by pressing the Triangle button while by them, which has your character, say, run up a wall, or slide along a banister.
There are also two more elements to certain moves that naturally come up at this point, since one of them, Wall Rush, involves the walls of the stage. Different combat abilities that you set have different attributes to them, among them things like Wall Rush and Chase. If a move has a Wall Rush in its description, that means at the end of the move it'll knock the enemy back a long way, and if there's a wall behind them they smack into it for extra damage (although a Wall Rush itself can't take an enemy to 0 HP).
On the other hand, if a move has Chase in its description, that means it will knock the enemy up into the air, and you can then press X to start a chase sequence. During that, the characters will take turns attacking, up to three times for each. On your attack turn you can perform a Brave attack, which lowers Brave and knocks the enemy back (if it connects) to open up a new Chase sequence, or you can use a HP attack, which damages the enemy's HP (if it connects) and ends the Chase. Your enemy may of course dodge, which it usually does at higher difficulties. On your enemy's attack turn you press X to dodge, but you have to try to figure out if the enemy is using a (quicker) Brave attack or (slower) HP attack by the animation/sounds, and press the button at the right time to avoid the attack. The Chase ends usually when either both characters dodge three times (both then drop down and continue the fight), when one hits with an HP attack, or when a Brave attack knocks a character back into a wall for a Wall Rush.
And since I've been throwing out the Brave and HP mentions quite a bit, I guess I should go into those, huh?
HP is fairly self-explanatory if you've played... well, nearly any video (or pen-and-paper role-playing) game evah. When a character's HP hits 0, the fight ends. Simple. It's affected by the character level, equipment, which specific character you're using, and the usual.
Brave is a bit more original. Each character starts out with a given amount of Brave, based on level, stats, equipment, etc. As one character connects with Brave attacks, this lowers the opponent's Brave and raises his own. Then when a character performs a HP attack, it simply does damage equal to the amount of the attacker's current Brave. (Well, plus possible Wall Rush damage.) Thus defense, +attack power, and so on don't directly effect Hp attacks, they instead affect Brave attacks, which indirectly affect the HP attacks. Once an HP attack connects, the attacker's Brave drops to 0 temporarily, then raises back up fairly quickly to the starting Brave value.
When one character's Brave drops below zero, they are "broken," and when a Break happens, the attacker gains a large amount of extra Brave. Along with being a requirement for some Battlegen items, breaks are useful for building up Brave quickly for devastating HP attacks. Of course, Brave can also be reduced if you're hit in turn by the enemy's Brave Attacks, or lost due to summons (or even copied to the enemy's Brave), so careful strategy can weigh the benefits of straight-out HP attacks as much as possible vs. trying to go for a Break and storing up high bravery. A broken character remains with no Brave for a decent amount of time (or until they land an HP attack, although it does no damage), after which point it quickly raises back to starting Brave.
There's one other main element to battles that I should cover - EX Bursts. While the characters fight, small glowing globes of EX energy build up around the stage (usually around where the two come into contact), and occasionally a large EX Core will appear somewhere (usually closer to the character with a higher Luck stat). By coming into contact with these (or near them - some accessories increase the range) you collect them, and gradually fill up your EX Gauge. When this is full, you can press the right trigger and Square to unleash an EX Mode.
EX Modes are useful first of all because they break combos that the enemy's currently performing and usually stagger the opponent, so they make a nice "Get out of a tight spot and turn it around" card to play if you've got a full EX Gauge saved up. But mainly they're used for the effects. Each character has different effects while the Ex Mode is going on. For one, all characters (I believe) regen HP at given intervals. Then each has other individual abilities - some aren't staggered at all during EX Bursts, some regen HP with any HP attacks they perform on the enemy, some just get to do higher damage, while others yet have special abilities they can use only during an EX Mode.
During EX Mode, if you land an HP attack, you can also press the Square Button to launch an EX Burst. This is a special attack that damages both Brave and HP pretty nicely, and you get to do a quick series of button presses depending on the character to increase the damage. For Sephiroth for example you would just mash the O button repeatedly to build up a gauge, while other characters require certain sequences of button presses input quickly, or a button pressed with certain timing, or what have you. In general the characters tend to have EX Burst inputs that match something in their own game, if possible. Squall's for instance mirror's the R-trigger input that's used to increase damage on his FFVIII gunblade attacks, while Onion Knight has a menu that pops up and you have to quickly select and input the right menu command.
EX Mode ends with either use of an EX Burst, or when the EX Gauge runs out. With the right accessories and if you can grab some extra EX globes or cores, you can keep it going a fairly long time, though.
There are a few other last things that I should at least mention briefly, now that I've already gone on in depth about so much of the game. In for a penny, in for a pound.
The game also has Bonus Days that go off of the PSP calendar. At the start you select one day of the week to count as your special bonus day, and on that day you have increased EXP, AP, PP, and Gil. You may also get random bonuses on days throughout the rest of the week, with the likelihood and amounts of bonuses increasing as you purchase upgrades for them in the PP Catalog.
Along with the calendar, there is also Mognet. Each day, you can receive a new message or two from the Moogles. (It's just part of the game, you don't actually have to have it hooked up to the internet.) You can gain extra PP this way, and sometimes bonus accessories, or Friend Cards (used to fight the ghosts in offline communication mode).
There is a Chocobo Board that I should also mention - you can select from one of a number of different "plans," and at the end of eat fight, the chocobo moves forward one square. At each step the Chocobo may give you a bonus to experience points for the next fight, and at the end of the plan reaches a treasure chest with an experience-raising (but breakable) accessory inside. The "easier" plans have a short path, but weaker item, and vice versa. Once you reach the end of a path the Chocobo starts out again, and each plan resets at midnight when it goes into a new day.
And like most games these days there are also Achievements. These are fairly self-explanatory, but a) there are a lot, and b) these are a little more useful than in many games, since completing an achievement gives you a reward - usually a Booster Accessory, although sometimes an icon or something similar.
And I'll finish up with two things that I haven't even tried out yet (despite having played a ton) - passwords and command battles. The Command Battle option is unlocked fairly early on, for people who don't like the action-style fighting to use, and apparently is a bit more like previous Final Fantasy fight systems. I've been hooked on the normal system though, so I haven't even gotten around to trying it and can't say how it works.
The passwords are used on Friend Cards - the things you get either from people you fight online or from Mognet, and which let you fight Ghost battles. If you input a password into your friend card, it apparently unlocks a special Ghost that you can fight, for rare equipment, player icons, and things like that. The list of passwords was (I believe) leaked by Squarenix and passed around over the internet, and I haven't yet tried them out.
Aaaanyhow... that should about do it. I think I've covered most of the stuff in the game, at least. At more length than I should or than anyone will probably read, but hey, I've been playing the game this much, I might as well blab about it a bit. XD
Recommendation: If you love Final Fantasy games and like fighting/action games at all, give this a try. If you are "meh" about or even hate fighting games... you still might enjoy it, depending, but I'd see if I could find somewhere to try it out, or look on YouTube for various videos, before deciding. The game's a lot deeper than I'd normally expect from a fighter, and the RPG elements make it fun - especially for FF fans. If you're not a Final Fantasy fan but the gameplay sounds interesting... you still might give it a try. You'll miss a lot of the nostalgia, but the game itself is a lot deeper than the general fanservice that I expected.