If you're like me, then you've certainly played your fair share of fighting games. Between Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken and Soul Calibur, I've experienced just about everything the genre has to offer. I don't care if it features polygons, hand-drawn pixels, fatalities, combo breakers or whatever, there's nothing that will surprise me about fighting games. At least, that's what I said before I started playing Dissidia: Final Fantasy for the Sony PSP.
While Capcom, Namco and Sega have the lock on influential fighting game franchises, one shouldn't overlook the contributions made by Square. Known mostly for their deep role-playing games, Square has made some of the most unique fighters on the market. One of their earliest efforts, Bushido Blade, had the balls to throw away all of the usual fighting game trappings (life bar, fireballs, etc.) and instead opt for a realistic one-hit kill approach. Tobal 2, on the other hand, allowed you to earn more than 100 playable characters, all while you fought your way through a crazy fighting game RPG hybrid. Sure the company faltered when developing The Bouncer and Ehrgeiz, but at least they were interesting disasters.
Now comes the company's newest fighting game, the curiously titled Dissidia: Final Fantasy. This is a game that is equal parts exciting, baffling and awe-inspiring. At its core Dissidia is nothing more than an excuse to turn our favorite Final Fantasy characters into pugilists. But this is more than Super Smash Bros. with Emo characters. Instead of giving us a run of the mill fighting game, Square Enix flips the fighting genre on its head and gives us a game unlike anything before it. This is not one of those games that is easily comparable to Street Fighter or Tekken, even after dozens of hours I'm having a hard time finding another game that comes close to even attempting to do what Dissidia does. This is a game that probably shouldn't work as well as it does; a disaster that was waiting to happen. But Square Enix pulled off the impossible, they proved to me that maybe I haven't seen it all.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy finds the cheesiest way possible to force twelve good guys to battle it out against twelve bad guys. Apparently the world's two Gods (Cosmos, the Goddess of Harmony, and Chaos, the God of Discord) have created a battleground using pieces of other worlds. The two gods each selected ten champions to wage war for eternity in an unending cycle of rebirth until the balance of power tipped in favor of Chaos. But evil is starting to grow stronger and the end is near. So the surviving heroes have decided to band together to take on Chaos' minions and restore order.
All of this back story leads us to the Destiny Odyssey, a series of ten intertwining story lines that introduce you to each of the game's ten hero characters. Each storyline is represented by a Final Fantasy game and character. For example, the very first story has you playing the Warrior of Light, the daring hero from the very first Final Fantasy game. From there you'll find Firion (Final Fantasy II), Onion Knight (Final Fantasy III), Cecil Harvey (Final Fantasy IV), Bartz Klauser (Final Fantasy V), Terra Branford (Final Fantasy VI), Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy VII), Squall Leonheart (Final Fantasy VIII), Zidane Tribal (Final Fantasy IX) and Tidus from Final Fantasy X. Each character has its own unique style, moves an attributes.
As you might expect, each of these heroes has a nemesis pulled straight from one of those classic Final Fantasy games. Some are more obvious than others, such as Final Fantasy VII's nefarious Sephiroth. However, not all of the enemies are as instantly recognizable. Regardless of whether you know these villains or not, the game gives you a quick summary of each character and what their motives are. Plus, you'll find that a lot of the dirty laundry will come out through the game's many cinema sequences.
In an ironic twist, the fighting mechanics found in Dissidia aren't based on any of the past Final Fantasy games. In fact, as far as I can tell the gameplay isn't based on any game, no matter the genre. Instead the game attempts to mimic the over-the-top aerial combat found in the dreadful Final Fantasy: Advent Children movie. Say what you will about the movie's hackneyed storytelling and distractingly awful dialogue, the lengthy battles are as exciting and you can get. It's clear that Dissidia shoots for that style of gameplay and, believe it or not, manages to succeed.
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