Sometimes, too much of something can be bad. In the case of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, out now for the PlayStation 4, that adage rings true. The first console version of the popular RPG/fighting game mashup series tries to do too much, and in doing so, loses what made the first two games in the franchise fun. The end result is a mess of a game that leaves much to be desired in its wake.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT takes 28 classic Final Fantasy characters and once again draws them into a battle between two gods. Replacing Cosmos and Chaos are new “gods” Materia, the paragon of good, and Spiritus, the horned embodiment of evil. The two gods call upon the champions of the Final Fantasy series to a new world to fight each other. Simple enough, but then Square Enix and collaborators Koei Tecmo and Team Ninja pour in so many complications that Dissidia Final Fantasy NT stops being a fighting game and a game that you constantly fight.
The player will fight the controls, the camera, the lock-on system, and even blocking. Attacks come in two forms, Bravery and HP. Bravery attacks drain the opponents Bravery while raising yours, and HP drains the hit points. To pull off a kill shot or finishing move, you have to completely drain the opponent and then have enough stored yourself to unleash the attack. This is way over complicated for a fighting game, and is an instantly infuriating turn-off for a casual player.
Huge maps based off of classic Final Fantasy locations, and the addition of 3v3 battles instead of 1v1 create new forms of frustration. Players can lock on to another player using the L2 and R2 button — when it works. There are multiple times in a match that I’ve had to scroll over and over trying to highlight the person I wanted to attack, only to take a beating while trying to do it. And the camera will only focus on whoever is locked on, so you cannot tell when an attack in coming your way, save for a targeting line on your character, the majority of which is offscreen until you start taking hits.
L1 serves as the blocking button, but it seldom works right, and leaves the player open to devastating attacks. The core mechanics of a fighting game are attacks and blocking, and when one is complicated with needless variety and the other barely works, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I have never been more frustrated at a game than I have been in the last week playing Dissidia Final Fantasy NT.
Other head scratchers include a story mode that you have to earn to play through. The 52 chapter story is locked behind materia, which you earn by leveling up the various characters in either online matches or an offline mode. You then spend that materia to buy a chapter. And with so many chapters, most cutscenes, others battle stages and boss fights, the drive to grind in online and offline matches isn’t worth it. And just like recent games like Star Wars Battlefront II, players can purchase treasure chests with earned gil to unlock new skills, skins, conversations, and icons. The treasure is awarded randomly and you can get repeats, which is frustrating when trying to unlock stuff for your favorite characters.
The heart of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is in the online play, and most of my excursions into the online world have been met with stutter and lag. This is a game that demands a player put in the time with the tutorial and offline play to learn the ins and out of the characters, and to unlock skills and EX moves, but offline and online are measured in two different ways, so playing one means you still have to play the other to increase your level and standing. The battles, while incredibly complicated and frustrating, are chaotic — especially online, and fighting with a group lasts just one battle before you get reshuffled into a new group of three for the next battle. This also comes with additional matchmaking and loading times, meaning it’s fight, then wait, fight, then wait again.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has massive Summons that can be called into battle, but you start off with one — also randomly selected — and then earn others through playing — again, randomly. During the course of a battle, a summon crystal will fall to the battlefield and players have to stop fighting each other and attack the crystal to earn the right to call the Summons. The Summons, like Ramuh, Shiva, and Ifrit, work independently, standing on the map dealing devastating attacks that, you guessed it, you cannot block. It’s just another frustration that the game heaps on the player.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT does have some bright spots. It looks fantastic, especially on a PlayStation 4 Pro, and the voice actors return to their classic characters where applicable. The music and songs are either classic Final Fantasy tracks or remixed versions, which are fun to unlock. The updated character designs on older characters, some of which had their genesis as 8-bit creations, are very sharp. The character interactions are also well done, especially with newbies like Noctis, from 2016’s Final Fantasy XV, Ramza from Final Fantasy Tactics, and Ace, from Final Fantasy Type-0 all joining the fight this time.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT takes what was a novel idea on the PSP and PS Vita, and tries so hard to make it “worthy” of a fully-priced, current-gen console release. By over complicating almost every facet of battle, and locking rewards behind in-game currency walls and luck, and then forcing the player to grind needlessly over and over to even play the full story, the decisions made by the developers really hurt this game and the franchise as a whole. I enjoy fighting games and Final Fantasy, and the previous Dissidia games have been fun amalgamations of those two genres while representing both. Sadly, that trend ends here, and only the staunchest of fans will put in the time to play and have fun. Casual players need not apply.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 Pro version of the game, which was provided to us by Square Enix.
In Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, the characters of Final Fantasy are once again brought together in the ultimate fight between good and evil, but an overly complicated play scheme and other decisions make for a game that you fight against, not a fighting game.