Hands-on Dissidia Final Fantasy NT at E3 2017 and its Insane 3v3 Fights
Few games are as visually busy as Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. Square Enix’s upcoming sequel to the once dormant fighting game series is exciting, confusing, and even a bit of a mess. We last saw it six years ago on the PlayStation Portable with the oddly named update of the original - Dissidia 012 (Duodecim) Final Fantasy.
I’ll be frank - things have changed a lot since then; some for the better and some for the worst.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has been at the back of everyone’s mind for a bit. Initially released at Japan’s arcades in late 2015, it has continued to receive balance updates, new stages, and roster additions. Its console release will not mark the end of its support though. Square Enix has said that they’ll continue to release updates to arcades first before bringing those changes to the PS4 version.
Developed by Nioh and Ninja Gaiden’s Team Ninja, Dissidia NT plays to the studio’s graphical prowess. Character models look fantastic as little details in their weapons and armor stick out making them look sharper than ever. Environments are equally stunning if the fidelity of Cornelia and Midgard are anything to go by.
Players of the previous Dissidia games will be familiar with the basic flow of combat. Just like the previous two, it’s a mashup between a fighter and brawler that takes place in 3D arenas. Fighters can freely fly and dash toward opponents in this space. Battle is entirely in real-time; no flipping through menus. Offensive and defensive capabilities are tied to your Bravery and HP attacks.
Think of Bravery as the amount of damage you’ll deal upon a successful HP attack. Whacking away foes with Bravery slashes or spells also decreases their Bravery value. It’s easy to think of it as a game of tag, but each tag steals your target’s power and adds it to your own.
That’s why your Bravery value is a crucial defense mechanism as well! If your character’s Bravery is completely depleted from an enemy assault, they’ll be plunged into a Broken state. This bolsters the attacker’s Bravery as a bonus; more importantly, it places a severe negative effect on you. Both Bravery and HP attacks do no damage in a Broken state - you either have to wait for your Bravery to recharge or hit an opponent with a HP attack to immediately recover from it.
Enough reviewing of what Dissidia was and let’s get into what Dissidia is now.
The biggest fundamental change in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is that it is now two teams of three facing off against each other. That means it’ll support up to six players in online multiplayer, which is quite a drastic change from the 1v1 duels in the past. If you thought it was hectic before, brace yourself.
Battles are decided by depleting the opposing team’s life bar three times. Defeated foes will respawn, so a team can flat out lose by having its weakest player die again and again. As long as a team incurs a total of three casualties, they will lose the match.
There’s a lot to consider before the match even begins. Similar to team-based games like Marvel vs. Capcom and even MOBAs to a certain extent, achieving victory starts at the character select screen. I noticed that each of the 14 Final Fantasy protagonists were assigned one of four types: Vanguard, Assassin, Marksman, or Specialist.
Vanguards like the Warrior of Light and Cloud are the most straightforward of the bunch to play as. They generally have meaty attacks and can stand their own ground when the going gets tough. Squall and Tidus of the Assassins, on the other hand, rely on their attack speed and mobility to relentlessly bash their enemies in brief hit-and-run spurts. Meanwhile, Marksmen unleash their onslaught from safe distances in which Terra and Y’shtola were apart of. The last type, Specialists, are bizarre in every sense of the word; Bartz, for example, changes Jobs mid-combat and can level them to increase his combat efficacy with their tools.
Every character could choose one of two selectable EX skill sets in the build I played. These specialized moves, one for HP and two for Bravery, worked on cooldown timers. Zidane could equip one with offensive moves not normally seen in his default moveset. On the flipside, the other set provided players the option for Zidane to cast a healing spell over time to him and nearby allies, along with a poison spell that did the exact opposite to unfortunate enemies by him.
Another important factor worth mentioning are the iconic Final Fantasy Summons. Unlike previous installments, Summons in Dissidia NT provide more passive bonuses to your entire team. They’re summoned by gathering power from crystals that prop up during a match. Your team works together to summon them and as they enter the battlefield, they usually do a certain amount of damage for you. More importantly, your team benefits greatly from their overhauled passive effects.
Ifrit in past Dissidia games would instantly raise your Bravery by 50%; in Dissidia NT, the duration of his summoning effect increases the amount of Brave damage your team inflicts. Other Summons affect your team in similar ways, whether it comes in the form of upping your mobility, extending the span of buffs, or even raising the regeneration speed of your team’s Bravery to press the offensive.
Each and every single character I played felt special and unique. Their playstyle and moveset stay faithful to where they came from. The previous Dissidias displayed this for sure, but Dissidia NT is on a whole other level. Watching these heroes and heroines duke it out for the first time in HD is a sight to behold, especially with such strong sound design. Clashes with slashes are clean, while multiple spells and abilities firing off onto a cluster of occupied combatants roared throughout the headphones. Lunacy brought on by the constant cacophony got my adrenaline pumping.
Despite a strong showing, it’s undeniably overwhelming to take in all at once. This new Dissidia will take me some time getting used to because there’s so much going on at any given moment. Toggling between three foes rushing at you, sapping away their Bravery little by little, and getting in HP attacks when you can is manageable on paper. Then I start to account for situations for what kind of skills my enemies have, where summon cores are spawning, and the general madness of engagements happening all across the battlefield.
To top it all off, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has one of the busiest HUDs I’ve ever seen in a game. Numbers are flying off your hits, a Break Bonus value, a minimap, skill names, team life bars, match timer, and the amount of bravery and HP both teams have at opposite sides of the screen (along with your own of course) are all displayed at once 24/7. I somewhat saw the game underneath all of them, but its special effects are off the charts too.
Usually, I’d be all for pretty flashy particle effects adding to a game’s style. Dissidia NT has a problem of putting so much on-screen that it’s hard to tell what I’m doing and what exactly is happening when skirmishes occur.
I do understand that this kind of UI is almost a necessary evil for competitive players. Each part of it is invaluable information to a tournament player. Square Enix has high hopes for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT’s life as the next big e-sport. Still, I hope there’s some way for more laid back players to tweak elements of the HUD. As a spectator sport, Dissidia NT will have to figure out how to scale it back if a spectator mode is added.
As far as console performance goes, Dissidia NT still has a ways to go for optimization. It manages to hold 60fps in most situations but when six players start going at it in a small area, framerate drops become very noticeable. Early days for Dissidia NT nonetheless; it won’t see release till early 2018 on the PlayStation 4.
There’s an undeniable abyss of depth in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. My first match had my team losing in seconds from more experienced players. I see a lot of potential in introducing these kinds of unconventional fighting games to a lot more crowds. There’s a certain charm and allure that this new Dissidia is going for and I’m excited to see what the future holds for it.
If it’s still clawing away at you, Square Enix has confirmed that NT does stand for New Tale.