The premise of Final Fantasy‘s Dissidia spin-offs is one we’ve all seen before – the heroes and villains of World A get transported to World B for some wild, yet justifiable reason, and are then thrust into a battle for their lives and the fate of the world. It’s no different here, with Dissidia NT beginning with characters from every major Final Fantasy title finding themselves stranded in the aptly named ‘World B,’ upon which war is being waged.
Guided by the opposing gods of harmony and chaos, Materia and Spiritus, each group of villains and heroes carve a path across World B in order to gain dominance over the land. If the story seems wildly unoriginal, there’d be a reason for that – in its previous form, Dissidia NT functioned solely as an arcade brawler, with little story at all. It’s not surprise a then, that the story has only minimal impact on gameplay, and leaves a lot to be desired.
In order to unlock scenes within story mode, players must earn ‘memoria’, tokens that allow you to progress through various scenes and battles to learn more about World B and its conflict. These memoria tokens are earned by undertaking a variety of fighting challenges from long gauntlet matches to solo battles both online and offline. While the battles themselves are great fun, memoria require a long grind to acquire, making the story mode stilted and padded with filler battles. While it is a joy to see your favourite characters interacting, wasting memoria on long cutscenes featuring x character bickering with y character in the desert soon gets old.
The main draw for Final Fantasy Dissidia NT is the chance to pit your favourite fighters against each other and have them battle enemy teams for supremacy. There are currently 28 heroes and villains from the main Final Fantasy games to fight with, and more planned for future development. The range they’ve chosen is satisfying, although I personally would have liked to see characters like Vincent Valentine, Reno, Tifa, Gladiolus or Snow Villiers appear. That said, my go-to team of Jecht, Kefka Palazzo and Sephiroth (my one-winged bae) served me well.
Fights play out in 3v3 mode, with each player able to choose their teams. The battles themselves are ridiculous, over the top and just plain fun, although the novelty does soon wear thin. Each fight plays out rather like a Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts boss battle, with players having to chip away at enemy health through a variety of Brave, HP and EX moves, each with their own unique stats and consequences. Brave attacks increase your bravery gauge, which in turn allows you to inflict higher damage on your opponents with HP attacks.
EX moves function like high-powered special attacks and deal greater damage than regular HP or Brave attacks. To break it down: hit people more to get stronger. Occasionally in battles, a summoning core may appear, and breaking it open allows players to build their summoning gauge and call forth classic monsters like Ifrit, Bahamut, Ramuh and more to wreak havoc on your enemies. While this doesn’t guarantee victory, it certain helps weaken opponents and creates a dangerous battlefield to traverse.
In order to win battles, you must incapacitate each of your opponents at least once, although certain battles have different requirements for victory. If your whole team is incapacitated, the battle is over.
More than that, each battle feels as if it takes place in a vacuum. There are few rewards for completing a fight, and no form of character development or level progression as featured in previous Dissidia games. With the absence of an intriguing, necessary story mode, battling feels ultimately inconsequential.
If you’ve ever wasted fruitless hours facing an overpowered enemy in Kingdom Hearts (I’m looking at you, Ansem), the battle system in Dissidia NT might bring back some war flashbacks, but with each battle being a short, high-powered melee fest, they’re much easier to stomach, and far more fun.
The decision to lock much of the story mode behind these endless, non-canon battles is a strange one, however, as its only through this grinding process that you can gain enough memoria to progress through the story. The entire first chapter of the game is hidden behind the need for memoria, making it a frustrating process to even make it to the first canon battle. For those looking for a fighter with a linear story and rewarding progression, you won’t find it in Dissidia NT.
In addition to memoria, each battle also allows you to unlock ‘Treasures’ which function suspiciously like loot crates, although there’s thankfully no option to spend real money on these crates. Treasures contain a variety of cosmetic items to enhance your characters, including new skins, taunts, music, weapons, avatars and more. These can also be purchased with gil, a very slow to accumulate currency you earn from taking on battles. While this system does provide a reason to keep battling and grinding, the rewards you get are minimal, and it often feels like a shallow feature designed to aid the addictiveness of the game.
Final Fantasy Dissidia NT desperately wants your attention, and it throws multiple vapid incentives at you to keep you a slave to the grind. Unfortunately, this only barely covers up the fact that it is an inherently (and disappointingly) empty game, relying on novelty rather than the strength of its gameplay. While its easy to claim its release was overshadowed by a much larger and more formidable release in Monster Hunter World, the truth of the matter is that it simply isn’t strong enough to compete. Those looking for their next Final Fantasy fix won’t be satiated by this minimal morsel.
Review Score: 6.0/10
Highlights: Visually stunning; great frenetic battles
Lowlights: Lacklustre story; reliance on grind; lack of content
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Square Enix & Koei Tecmo
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro with a retail code provided by the publisher.