I unwrapped Dissidia: Final Fantasy and jumped into quick battle mode eager to control Kefka, but couldn’t do that. Only the ten heroes from the Cosmos side are initially playable. You need to unlock all of the villains by purchasing them with PP.
Time to switch to story mode.
The first episode is a prologue where you’re introduced to Cosmos’ plight and take control of the Warrior of Light. These missions are mind numbingly easy since you’re learning the basics from static screenshots shown before battles. Beat the prologue and you can choose one of ten “Destiny Odyssey” storylines and “Shape your destiny”, a quote flashed when a stage starts. Each character has their own Destiny Odyssey to play and they aren’t a standard difficulty. Frionel, Tidus, Cloud, and Cecil are some of the easier Destiny Odysseys to clear while Terra and the Warrior of Light’s arcs are tougher.
I jumped in with Cecil and was whisked away to an outer space-like game board. The goal in each of the stages is the same move Cecil or whatever character you’re controlling to a checkpoint. Touch it and you move on to the next stage. The only problem is metal helms representing fights block your path. At the start of each stage you get a set number of Destiny Points. Each time you pick up your Cecil game token you consume one Destiny Point. However, you can move Cecil as many squares as you want, providing that nothing is blocking you, and only use one Destiny Point. Since you’re rewarded with more gil or bonus PP you want to try to use less Destiny Points when you complete a level.
The easiest way to conserve Destiny Points is to put Cecil in between things. If Cecil stands next to an enemy and a treasure chest you can grab the treasure and fight while only spending one Destiny Point. This strategy won’t get you to the end of a stage with a healthy stock of Destiny Points though. Chaining enemies by fighting them in a row sometimes recovers DP. I was able to get through some of Cecil’s levels with one DP in reserve, but in one level I ended up with -2 DP.
Instead of holding out for intangible-at-the-moment bonus gil I went straight for the treasure chests. One of them had a sword which boosted Cecil’s attack. Every character in Dissidia: Final Fantasy can be equipped with weapons and accessories. These can be purchased from an always accessible shop by spending gil. Weapons like swords and spears strengthen attack. Rods have the uncanny ability to enhance HP, attack, and defense. Shields increase defense and occasionally HP. Helmets boost brave. Armor bumps up your HP. Accessories do all kinds of things that range from increasing CP (command points, we’ll get to these in a bit) to adding a fixed percentage to your damage.
The other item I snagged on my negative DP run was a potion. Grab one of these and you recover your HP plus fill up your EX gauge. Since your HP, or lack of it, carries over the course of a stage you may want to sacrifice one DP to pick up a potion before facing an end of stage boss. If a strong enemy is up ahead you can soften it up too by using one of your field abilities like shooting a missile that diminishes a future foe’s HP by a set percent.
Now to fights. Dissidia: Final Fantasy looks like a fighting game, but it isn’t a Soulcalibur clone or Street Fighter like fighting game. Dissidia: Final Fantasy is something else, something unclassified. You have an upwards of twelve attacks and only two attack buttons to concern yourself with. The type of attack you do depends on the direction you’re facing and if you’re jumping. Let’s take Cecil as our example. Press circle and he slashes his sword. But, if your opponent is behind you and you press circle Cecil unleashes a blast of dark orbs, which is his Dark Cannon attack. In the air the circle button fires gravity balls.
I only mentioned three attacks here because Cecil only starts out with three brave damaging attacks. You earn more attacks when you beat his episode. These can be assigned to one of six positions: circle, forward + circle, back + circle, mid-air, mid-air / up, and mid-air / down. You can set the same move in the same position, but that’s just a waste of command points. CP is also used to assign other moves like an air dash and passive abilities. Dissidia: Final Fantasy gives you lots of character customization options.
The circle button only does “brave” damage. See the number above the life meter? That’s your brave. Each time you hit an enemy with a brave attack you steal a bit of their brave, but you don’t do any damage. You use the square button to hurt an opponent. These attacks convert your stored brave to HP damage. If Cecil is standing on the ground the square button activates the Souleater move which has Cecil thrust his sword. In the air Cecil uses Saint Drive. This move transforms him into a paladin and makes him glide towards his opponent like a bird.
After you use an HP damaging move on say Golbez your brave drops to zero and it takes a few seconds to recover. At this point you’re extremely vulnerable. Golbez can counter with a flurry of brave damaging attacks, knock your brave below zero, and put you in break status. If this happens Golbez gets the number in between the two life bars added to his brave. Basically, this prepares Golbez ready for a powerful, and probably more damaging counter attack if you were mashing square. This break system is one way Dissidia: Final Fantasy discourages button mashing. You don’t want to use a lot of weak attacks since there is a recharge time between each HP damaging strike. I found fights much easier if you chip away at your opponent’s brave first, snag the bonus brave, and then use a devastating HP reaping strike.
Each time someone gets hit a trail of glowing shards appear. Touch these and your EX gauge goes up a bit. The quick way to fill up your EX gauge is grabbing a blue bell that randomly appears in the level. Once your EX gauge is full you can switch to EX mode by holding R and pressing square. While in EX mode Cecil’s HP gradually recovers, but the real reason to be in EX mode is for the limit break-like EX burst. Hit an enemy with an HP damaging attack in EX mode and then quickly hit square to activate your EX burst. Cecil’s EX burst begins with three random D-pad direction and button commands. Press these in time and you do bonus damage with your EX burst. If you happen to get caught in an EX burst you can defend yourself by hitting circle to move a marker on a meter. However, the top spot actually weakens your defense so you can’t mash the circle button without looking at the screen.
The one thing that still surprises me about Dissidia: Final Fantasy is how large the stages are. Pandemonium and the Empire’s Magitek facility aren’t tiny arenas with ring out zones. Dissidia: Final Fantasy has enormous stages with areas you can’t even reach with basic jumps. The only way to get around levels is to use the triangle button which lets you run up walls, immediately jump from one platform to the next, and grind as if you had Soap shoes.
I mean grind like Tony Hawk skateboard grinding. You can grind on the surface of the moon and on the Lifestream. I don’t understand why, but it’s in the game.
All of the fast movements and flashy special effects makes Dissidia: Final Fantasy’s battles feel exciting. One moment you’re flying around the screen with paladin Cecil and the next you’re dodging Terra who is covered with tornados.
Once I beat the five stages in Destiny Odyssey IV I switched to Terra. She’s a magic user and unlike Cecil she’s powerful from far away. Her basic brave attack shoots a wave of fire on the ground. If this touches an enemy like the Cloud of Darkness it launches her in the air. At this point a quick time event occurs prompting players to hit the X button. Do it and you air dash towards the Cloud of Darkness and can follow up with a sword strike to sap more brave or deal HP damage. Terra’s mid-air move is a blizzard spell which throws icicles. When it’s time to do HP damage the square button casts Flood. This spell makes a cone of water appear right underneath an enemy. If the Cloud of Darkness is standing still and not blocking she will get hit by the water burst even if you can’t see her on the screen. Terra’s mid-air HP damaging move is a tornado spell that encircles her with a ring of spinning tornados.
Now that I fought Kefka a few times I should be able to unlock him and maybe some other villains. Hmm… who else should I unlock? Exdeath? Jecht? Shoot some suggestions in the comments and I’ll write about them in the next Dissidia: Final Fantasy report.
Images courtesy of Square Enix.