Dissidia: Final Fantasy is a love letter to Square Enix's hugely popular RPG series, simultaneously a thank-you to the fans for their continuing support and a self congratulatory pat on the back to everyone at Square for keeping the series afloat and fresh for so long.
The title takes the Action-RPG combat that's been so successful in Crisis Core and Kingdom Hearts and puts the player in command in one of 22 very famous characters - the lead hero and villain from Final Fantasy I through X as well as two extra characters from XI and XII.
The game combines the fan service and nostalgia factor of Smash Bros with the satisfyingly fast but still distinctly RPG flavoured combat of Crisis Core to make an action-packed, crowd-pleasing title. On top of all that, for a PSP game, it's undeniably pretty.
Sitting down with the English language version of the title for the first time at E3 2009, we were pleasantly surprised with what we found. The game pitches any two of its cast against each other in an all-out battle 'til one falls, and each character has a range of skills at their disposal.
Each character sports a health meter and a 'brave' meter. The more bravery a character has, the stronger their attacks will be and the more damage they will do. You have to juggle between attacking normally and using brave attacks - attacks that don't do any HP damage but lower your opponent's brave and raise yours.
Amongst attacks you'll see familiar magic and signature moves from characters and the development team has taken care to animate characters as closely to in their original games as possible, with each character having a slightly different but recognisable design spruced up by Tetsuya Nomura.
Besides HP and brave attacks, you're free to jump around, block and dodge in real-time as you battle your opponent. When the battle reaches a head, one player will be able to trigger their EX-mode. This is where the nostalgia really kicks in.
EX-Modes are the Dissidia equivalent of the big FF attacks. Limit Breaks, Overdrives, Trance, Blitz - whatever you want to call them. Activating Terra's EX mode turns her into an all-powerful Esper, for example, while Cloud's of course activates Omnislash. These are devastating moves that tend to put an end to a battle - and they sure are pretty.
Outside of battles there'll be the usual stat-increasing and equipment changing that keeps this game classed an RPG as well as a fully-featured multiplayer versus mode.
The E3 demo allowed us access to play as FF3's Onion Knight, FF4's Cecil, FF6's Terra and FF7's Cloud and Sephiroth. Each of the characters has different unique abilities and a distinct fighting style - Terra is a ranged magic character, Sephiroth fights from a distance with his huge sword, but Cecil is entirely different as he can switch between Dark Knight and Paladin classes easily.
To be honest, we've been playing the Japanese version of Dissidia: Final Fantasy for quite some time now. We were unable to control our desires to see some of our favourite heroes and villains face off and so felt the need to import. We're sure many of you guys have done the same.
The English-language version of the game appears to be shaping up to be a perfect port of the original, with fitting sounding voice actors and actresses chosen for each of the roles, as well as familiar voices returning to voice characters such as Squall and Cloud.
For those fans who've already stumbled through the Japanese Release Square is promising a selection of new content for the Western release in addition to the full translation, giving everyone an incentive to try this final, definitive version of Dissidia.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy ships later this year - we'll have a full review prior to its release.