Dissidia is a curious thing. It reunites heroes and villains from Final Fantasies I to X for the ultimate scrap. But that definition is misleading: Dissidia's depth of features, darker storyline and intricate character development make it so much more than your average fighter.
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Nor is this simply Final Fan-service. Yes, enthusiasts will be delighted to see the Final Fantasy glitterati in one place - especially because older characters have been re-envisioned in glorious 3D - but even if you have no clue who these scantily clad ladyboys are, you'll appreciate their unique characters and marked fighting styles, from Cloud's skull-shattering sword swings to Terra's blistering magic.
With the tutorial complete, you can hop between any of the characters' stories, each of which has five stages represented as chess-like boards strewn with battle pieces and treasure. Using Destiny Points (which can be replenished by meeting certain conditions in a fight), you can carve a path straight to the end of each level, but you're best off kicking as much ass as possible along the way, as brawls reward you with experience points, which in turn unlock new attacks.
This encourages you to fight resourcefully, using tactical combos and big moves to achieve the biggest bonuses. In that sense, this is just as tactical as a regular FF RPG.
A challenger approaches
Though new players will easily learn how to land some pretty advanced attacks within minutes of playing, Dissidia isn't short of a twist or two. To deplete an opponent's health, you first need to launch attacks using the e button, sapping the enemy's Bravery bar and filling your own. The greater your Bravery, the mightier your Health attacks (mapped to the r button). Instantly, fights become a tactical affair, as you're constantly struggling to lead the offensive fighting and get off the back foot.
FF fans will revel in the fact that everyone's moves are inspired by the original games. Blizzard, Fira, Sphere Shot, Omni-slash...they're all here. Even better, the all-powerful Limit Break attacks are here, under the guise of show-stopping, pick-up powered EX attacks. Collect bell-shaped Cores strewn about the levels and you can enter EX Mode. Land an HP attack and the screen will explode into a QTE. Complete it successfully and you'll unleash a monumental attack that's more than likely to decimate the enemy. Sounds complex, but it makes sense mid-scrap.
Dissidia's vibrant levels also encourage gravity-defying battles. You'll scamper up walls and propel yourself from pillars into the opponent's face - aerial attacks that create colourful set-pieces and exploit all three dimensions of each arena.
Developer Tetsuya Arakawa has said there's more dialogue in here than in Crisis Core but, sadly, it doesn't have the depth of a usual Final Fantasy game. Given that the heroes can only interact with each other and their nemeses, it's all a bit limited and tiresome, which is a let-down. It's as if Square wasn't brave enough to make a full on fighter, and tried to fall back on the series' RPG heritage.
Aside from the absence of quality narrative, though, Dissidia is a solid fighting package. Yes, there are a lot of hardcore features and technical terms, which may turn away traditional beat 'em-up fans or Final Fantasy newbies, but this is made for fans. Anyone looking for something more accessible should look for a bargain copy of Power Stone Collection or Tekken: Dark Resurrection.
Sure, the way Dissidia combines RPG and beat 'em-up makes it a curious thing, but the overall result is a handsome game that doesn't pull any portable punches.
Overall A challenging fighter that shows off the PSP's power. Slightly intimidating for non-fans, though.