The war between Cosmos and Chaos came to a close in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. As a prequel, Dissidia 012[duodecim]: Final Fantasy is a record of the twelfth war and sets up the events for the final battle between the two gods. While you could select any character’s Destiny Odyssey (read: story) in Dissidia, Dissidia 012[duodecim] tells its story in linear chapters starting with Final Fantasy XIII lead character Lightning.
The new Cosmos characters Laguna (FFVIII), Yuna (FFX), Vaan (FFXII), Tifa (FFVII), Kain (FFIV), and Lightning (FFXIII) and their battles with crystal doppelgangers called Manikins are the focal point in story mode. Dissidia 012[duodecim]: Final Fantasy, much like Dissidia before it, touches upon each character and the universe they’re from, but never delves deeply into any of them. A taste of Laguna’s lighthearted nature, a flash of Lightning’s stern personality, and a dash of Kain’s shift allegiance were thrown in a giant Final Fantasy melting pot to create this game’s story. In battle, the characters fit in much better. Each newcomer has a unique fighting style.
Lighting brings the Paradigm Shifts from Final Fantasy XIII into the Dissidia series. She can switch between an up-close attacker and a Ravager when you want to spam the screen with spells, like giant water bubbles. Lightning can also cast Cure spells to boost her brave without striking her opponent, but since offense is more important than stocking brave being a Medic isn’t that useful. Pick Laguna and Dissidia 012[duodecim] almost feels like a third person shooter. His basic attack is a machine gun blast that automatically chains each bullet. The President of Esthar can fire homing rockets, lob grenades, and combo shotgun blasts. Tifa is an agile brawler with Blizzard spells. Kain has his trademark Jump attack, which lets you leap into the air and crash into an enemy from the sky. The Final Fantasy IV dragoon is also a powerhouse in the air with spear dives and throws. Yuna uses her Aeons to attack. Since Shiva and Ifrit (partially) pop out of portals Yuna has more range than other fighters.
Perhaps, with the exception of Vaan (another weapon master), all of the new characters add a new flavor to the established Dissidia combat system. If you skipped the first game, Dissidia 012[duodecim]: Final Fantasy recreates the flashy Final Fantasy battles, but this isn’t exactly a fighting game. Your basic attack takes "brave" away from your opponent and adds it to your side. You chip away brave from each other until one player triggers a slower attack that converts the brave into HP damage if it connects. New for Dissidia 012[duodecim] are assist characters. You can summon an ally to distract an enemy while you pull off a HP attack or call in an assist during while you’re under attack to cancel a combo. Assist characters add some extra variety to the game, but EX Bursts are still your most powerful move. If full, your EX gauge (read: super meter) can also be used for an EX Revenge, a combo breaking technique that slows down time for a few seconds so you retaliate with a combo. Instead of blocks and counters, fights in Dissidia tend to comedown to who can grab the glowing bell to charge their EX meter the fastest.
It’s that or your character’s level. Actually, that’s probably the most important factor in a Dissidia battle. Outside of arcade mode with preset characters, strong characters trump weaker ones. After each fight you’re awarded with experience points, gil to buy weapons, PP to increase the effect of bonus days, and maybe KP (kupo points) to buy items from moogles. You’ll see moogles with giant red noses flying around the barren world map. While the map is a throwback to the Final Fantasy series, the area you explore is more like a hub world. There are a few glowing orbs to touch, a handful of treasure chests to unlock, and the occasional Manikin wandering around. Most of the action takes place on game boards again, but this time its easier to chain fights (a trick to earn more KP to buy more stuff) since battle skill items are plentiful.
Complete the twelfth war and you can play the thirteenth war, the story from Dissidia: Final Fantasy too. While the original game is part of Dissidia 012[duodecim], you play through those events with 012’s rules and balance tweaks. Square Enix also added reports with additional quests and labyrinth mode. That’s a souped up version of colosseum mode where you use cards to move through a dungeon. Players seeking high level equipment will want to check this out. Dissidia 012[duodecim]: Final Fantasy also has a robust quest maker where you can set up a few fights and more importantly pre-battle events. Using the PSP’s keypad is a bit of a nuisance to write a fanfic, but it’s possible to create your own stories to swap with friends. Too bad Dissidia 012[duodecim]: Final Fantasy doesn’t have an online level sharing hub that supports infrastructure mode. The main way of sharing quests is copying files from your Memory Stick on to the internet.
Square Enix learned a thing or two from seeing sales of Capcom’s Monster Hunter G re-releases. Dissidia 012[duodecim]: Final Fantasy may be labeled as a prequel to Dissidia: Final Fantasy, but I think this game is more of an expansion pack. Dissidia fans will enjoy the new characters and the assist system. However, if tug of war style brave system from the original Dissidia: Final Fantasy didn’t pique your interest this game won’t change your mind. Since Dissidia 012[duodecim]: Final Fantasy is made for fans, are there any fans out there that made custom quests? I’d love to see them!