Fan service? Absolutely. Fun? Unquestionably. Dissidia is a Final Fantasy fan's dream come true, the kind of crossover that's sure to make franchise aficionados giddy. Yet it's far more than just a love letter to series fanatics. Dissidia: Final Fantasy is an exuberant and addictive game in which showy one-on-one fighting and role-playing mingle so effortlessly that it's hard to pull yourself away. And the more you play, the more Dissidia keeps giving, showering you with extra features and in-game rewards as if you were in the center of a ticker-tape parade. The visual drama of battles is unfortunately undercut by some camera foibles, and the feeble narrative is out of step for a series renowned for excellent storytelling. Yet this is a generous package that offers untold hours of over-the-top spectacle that almost anyone can appreciate, even if they've never played or cared to play a Final Fantasy game.
6215708Squall versus... Sephiroth? None
If you are a fan of the series, however, you're probably curious about the story that confines the heroes of Square Enix's famous role-playing game series to a single universe. Heroes and villains from Final Fantasies I-X roam this world, where the gods Chaos and Cosmos have provided the balance that supports reality. When Chaos gains an upper hand, 10 brave warriors clash with 10 nefarious rivals in the hopes of saving the world as they know it. This is your opportunity to revisit old rivals on the battlefield--and to experience some unlikely possibilities. Cloud versus Sephiroth and Tidus versus Jecht are natural choices; but have you considered the idea of pitting Squall against Golbez, or Bartz against Ultimecia? Dissidia's story modes are crammed with such improbable scenarios, though the tale they tell is a disappointing mess of shallow cliches and awkward voice acting, stripping each character to the barest essentials. You'll follow each hero as he or she take parallel journeys, which involve finding Cosmos-curing crystals while occasionally stopping to hear Firion reminisce about roses and Squall grumble about, well, everything. The aftermath of this search is told through an additional story mode called Shade Impulse, in which you can choose your own playable hero in each chapter. And once you complete this story, Dissidia gifts you with even more chapters, more playable characters (it's best to discover who they are on your own), and much more. It isn't an involving tale, but there's a lot of it, and the more you play, the more the game gives you.
While the story won't be enough to captivate you, Dissidia's mix of role-playing and fighting will keep you hooked for some time. In the story modes, you move a battle piece that represents your fighter across a game grid where treasure chests and enemy engagements await. Each move on the grid consumes a destiny point; completionists will want to clear each board of all items and foes without overspending the allotted points, though doing so isn't necessary to progress. It's simply a contrivance (and a good one at that) to move you from one encounter to the next so that you can level up your character, earn funds (Gil, of course) used for purchasing new equipment, and unlock hundreds of new items, moves, and accessories. This constant flow of rewards is the basis of Dissidia's addictive nature. It starts with the promise of a better sword for Cloud and becomes an obsession with unlocking new voice samples for your fighters, multiplayer fighting arenas, and even enhancements to how quickly you receive other enhancements. It's an embarrassment of pleasures.
But even this muscular network of rewards wouldn't be able to support weak combat, and fortunately, Dissidia's fighting system is great fun even when taken on its own terms. You won't find all the subtleties and tight balancing of a traditional fighter, but the combat is vibrant and exciting, and the fighting system is intricate enough to keep battles tense and dynamic. Your attack power is represented by bravery points; brave attacks steal points from your opponent's pool and add them to yours. The higher your bravery total climbs, the more damage you'll do when landing a standard attack. Battles often begin as a nervous dance as you and your opponent spar, trying to pilfer each other's brave points, and then lead to all-out offensive collisions when one fighter gains enough confidence to move in for a heavy blow.
The battle arenas are large, and most offer the freedom of movement necessary for clashes both on the ground and above it. Each character has different attacks whether they are hovering in the air or their feet are planted on terra firma. The swift speed at which you can dash through the air and your ability to grind on rails that wind through most of the arenas lead to liberating and occasionally breathless fights. The beautiful and bright visuals make clashes look extravagant, and culminate with EX attacks. Such attacks are governed by your EX meter, which can most quickly be filled by obtaining glowing cores that will appear periodically on the battlefield. Once the meter is full, you can activate EX mode; if you land an attack while it's activated, you initiate a stunning and colorful burst attack. This initiates an awesome scene that dramatizes the incredible amount of harm your opponent is sustaining, and it's accompanied by a quick-time event that determines how much damage you will do. In many (but not all) cases, a burst attack provides the battle-ending blow. And what a stirring way to do it.