ursus_veritas's Dissidia Duodecim Final Fantasy (PlayStation Portable) review

An all-star brawler, refined

Last year's Dissidia Final Fantasy was a very unique take on brawlers from Square-Enix - the blend of over the top, Advent Children-esque battles with a layered and deep RPG character building system, tied with the fanservice-laden story was one of the PSP's biggest titles in a long time. Its sequel, the verbosely titled Dissida 012 [Duodecim]: Final Fantasy, offers little in terms of change from this format outside of a new campaign and several new characters to fight with, but it is a solid refinement of the original's unique and interesting gameplay. 
 
The story of Duodecim, as the unpronounced '012' in its title implies, focuses on the Twelfth cycle of war between Cosmos, the Goddess of Harmony, and Chaos, the God of Discord (Thus making this a prequel to the original game, which showcased the events of the Thirteenth cycle). The two gods wage war with each other by calling upon famous heroes and villains from across the main Final Fantasy series, from Garland and The Warrior of Light, to Gabranth and new addition Lightning. The story mode of Duodecim follows Lightning and the other characters new to the game - Final Fantasy IV's Kain, V's Gilgamesh, VII's Tifa, VIII's Laguna, X's Yuna, XI's Prishe and XII's Vaan - and their quests to fight Chaos and his warriors, and also offers reasons for their disappearance in the next cycle. Like many fighting games before it, Duodecim's story is hardly anything to write home about. While there are interesting moments of seeing how characters from different games in the franchise will interact with each other  (Lightning's stoic, no-nonsense attitude often means she clashes with the rest of the  Warriors of Cosmos - a.k.a, the heroes), it is largely convoluted plot threads glued together with generous heaps of fanservice, and rather than focusing on telling a solid story, is merely there as an excuse to gather the heroes and villains together to duke it out. As a plus, the Story progression has been changed from the original game's 'chessboard' style of movement, in favour of a more traditional 'World Map' for your party of characters to roam around and fight enemies (although the chessboard layout does survive in the game's dungeons, dotted around the world map for the player to explore and find items to equip), and, upon completion of the new - and still rather lengthy, clocking in at about 45 to 50 hours - Duodecim campaign, the entirety of the first game's story mode is unlocked, remade with the new changes and refinements, in itself adding another good 50+ hours of extra game, meaning that for the dedicated player, Duodecim can easily stay in your PSP for over 100 hours. 
      

 Lightning is not amused by your shenanigans.
The average story doesn't hamper with the solid gameplay of Duodecim, however. Along with the new characters, each with their own unique playstyles and signature moves - Lightning, for example, utilises the Paradigm Shift system from Final Fantasy XIII to switch on the fly between close ranged melee attacks in Commando mode, long ranged magic attacks in Ravager, and healing in Medic, whilst Yuna, clad in her Summoner robes, relies on her FFX aeons to support her in battle - each of the returning characters (bringing the game's roster to a hearty 22 fighters) has received new moves and tweaks to their other moves, giving the whole roster a subtle freshness that helps assuage any feeling of 'more of the same'. The biggest addition to the game's 'Health and Bravery' combat is the Assist System, which, after filling up an assist bar allows you to call upon a character of your choice (any of the roster can be picked, and so can Aeris Gainsborough, if you purchased the paid demo of the game, Dissidia 012 [Duodecim]: Final Fantasy - Prologus) to perform either a bravery sapping attack (using one section of the bar), or a health damaging attack (using both sections of the bar), allowing you to build up chains of combos and rack up extra damage. It may not sound like a lot, but it adds another layer to Dissidia's complex - sometimes unforgivably so for newcomers - battle system that rejuvenates the feel of the game. This refinement of the already solid battle system, tied in with the RPG-styled progression elements of leveling up to earn new attacks and equip better accessories and equipment, means that despite only a few changes to the format, Dissidia Duodecim feels fresh and just as fun to play as the original. The one detracting quality of Duodecim is that there is very little in the way of tutorials for the game's bewilderingly complex and detailed fighting system, which can completely stonewall newcomers to the series - although the story starts off slowly enough for players to adapt to the battle system's foibles and changes, and loading screens will offer brief tips on some of the basic aspects of the gameplay, a lot of time is still required on the player's part to delve into the layers of the fighting system and get the most out of the game. 
  
 Big, flashy attacks like this are common place in Dissidia Duodecim. Epilepsy sufferers, you have been warned!
Once again, Square-Enix have bought their presentational A-game to the PSP, bringing another gorgeous looking title to the platform. Whilst the stages themselves can be a little bland and flat, Character models (based on designs drawn by Tetsuya Nomura, and in some cases of alternate costumes, inspired by the series' famous artwork by Yoshitaka Amano) are some of the best looking on the platform, rich with detail. Duodecim's 'EX attacks', the game's answer to other Fighting game's supercombo moves, are visually stunning as well, recreating character's Limit breaks from their own game with style and aplomb - Duodecim is an absolute delight to watch sometimes, with characters dancing about the screen and initiating over the top, stylish special moves almost nonstop. Voice acting for each character can be a little hit and miss, however most actors turn in admirable performances given the some times excruciating script. Takeharu Ishimoto's rearrangement of classic Final Fantasy pieces once again shines, the soundtrack (which includes all of the original Dissidia's music as well) is laden with great remixes of classics like The battle music from Final Fantasy VI, as well as tracks from more recent games such as XIII's Battle theme, Blinded by Light. Final Fantasy XI is finally given more well deserved audio time too featuring the original versions of pieces like Ronfaure and Heaven's Tower, as well a great remix of A Realm of Emptiness. With Square-Enix's promise of extra music tracks coming later on in the form of DLC, I can't wait to see what Ishimoto does with some of the FF series musical gems.  
  
 The game's EX moves, which hark back to special moves from each character's respective games, are by far the most visually impressive moments in the game.
Dissidia Duodecim is once again another solid entry into Square-Enix's fantastic library for the PSP. With enough changes, tweaks and additions to the original's layered formula to keep it feeling fresh, and enough content to more than quantify the price tag, the game's storytelling flaws can easily be forgiven. If you're a fan of Final Fantasy, or a fan of fighting games, or someone who just wants to show a little love for the PSP in it's twilight years before the arrival of the NGP, Duodecim is an essential title to pick up.
6 Comments
Posted by Silock
Good review, nice to see lightening in the game. 
Posted by Yummylee

Wow, lightsaber battle in the background of the first pic!

Posted by AngelN7

Gilgamesh and all Gabranth still is the Most Badass fighter of Chaos, and your right this game is a must have for a PSP owner even if you aren´t the bigest Final Fantasy fan this game has so much content in it I played the first one for 40 hours and I know I could unlock so much stuff  , the fighting is fun and strategic its the perfect game for the PSP can´t wait to play it

Posted by Mesoian

The biggest problem I have with this game is that the tutorial is absolute garbage. It assumes you played the last game for at least 20 hours and know absolutely everything there is to the gameplay. If you're coming into this game cold, it does nothing to explain simple mechanics like dodging or blocking. The learning curve is still INSANELY high and the camera being mapped to the face buttons while movement is mapped to the analog stick creates a ton of times where you're not going to looking at the person you're fighting. 
 
I don't know, to me, this game feels like a mess.

Online
Posted by Ursus_Veritas
@Mesoian: I do agree that tutorials would have been incredibly welcome - I put over 100 hours into the first game and still, coming to this I was rusty enough to be absolutely stonewalled near the start. The opening introduction fights and the little tips and hints during loading screens help a little, but it's nowhere near enough. If there ever is a Dissidia 3, I think they're going to have to start putting some sort of opening tutorial in beyond 'here's a fight, do it'. 
 
I've never found the camera to be awkward to be perfectly honest. Having it mapped the d-pad is annoying, but at least world map camera movement is done by L and R, and in fights, the auto lock on system to either your target on the EX Core when it comes into play is more than suitable for the fighting - I've never tried doing a battle manually taking myself off the lock on, and frankly you never need to. You don't really need camera controls in the fighting, the lock on is more than enough to see you through.
Posted by AngelN7

I got the game with me now, and the tutorial "joke" for those consider masters of the game came out of nowhere, but it was danm funny , I find the aditions of Party battle to be great to lvl up your roster faster and the whole assist system is very tricky but great in battle, I also notice that the flow of the battle is not only faster but totally umprectiable (if playing same lvl Character of course) finally I got the timing right for blocks I wasn´t able to pull those of in the first Dissidia and overall the content is massive in this game , I love it two Dissidia games in one.
 @Mesoian:
The tutorial in this one is bad, the first game had at least two of them and they were good enough to get you ready for battles I recomend you to use the help screams before battle the combat is quite simple actually with some time you can master it , and the problems with the camera I find them mostly in close arenas like Pandemonium (wich I hate) but for the most part you can do with the default setting

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