The demo for Final Fantasy: Dissidia is among the more interesting things I've played lately. A "fighting game" manufactured after the immensely popular Final Fantasy RPG series, Dissidia is a game that probably needs no introduction.
Regardless, I can't help but feel like the game has done something entirely unique, and that's a bill that isn't fit onto Square-Enix very often, and hardly ever to the Final Fantasy series as a whole. In that way, I can't help but already call Dissidia a pretty remarkable success.
Though I'd always suspected Squeenix had a reason for formulaic games for years, and Final Fantasies XI and XII proved that even innovation sometimes has to settle down a little in favor of playing cards a little closer to the chest. While not bad games by any technical standpoint, XI and XII just didn't "feel" right, trying to simultaneously breach real-time into a turn-based concept.
Dissidia feels like the next step into that, calling into consideration less of the frantic flailing and adrenaline-pumping action that's made Guilty Gear so wildly successful, and more finesse and planning. For lack of any other analogy, Dissidia should market itself as the Thinking Man's fighter.
The system is a teensy bit complex, giving the player three bars to pay attention to. First, there's the health bar, the staple of the Fighting genre. There's also the Brave value, which has a direct correlation on the player's and the opponent's attack power, variable depending on how much Brave either combatant has.
Lastly, there's EX Mode. The EX Mode the bar on the far left, and upon both filling the bar and being in control of the EX Core, EX Mode allows a combatant to use a devastating attack after a successful hit on an opponent. These are really where Square shows its roots, with flashy CG attacks that call for some interaction on both sides of the attack. The opposition varies with the characters, and asks you for a specific command such as navigating menus to cast a specific spell or coordinating button-presses from the D-pad and the face buttons. The end result is unique, but sometimes feels like it's trying to keep the player busy.
Sadly, EX Mode is the fire to the Thinking Man's ice, allowing a desparately losing character to get a comically strong cheap-shot in and gravely turn the tides of battle. Or end it outright. Considering EX Mode demands the collection of the only EX Core on the map, it sometimes turns into a race for the item. Characters like Zidane and Onion Knight rule the court here, easily capable of skipping past the bigger, slower characters and collecting the item at their leisure. It seems like there should be some fracas involved to keep the slower characters in the running, but the one-on-one nature and large maps really provide unfair advantages for the more mobile characters.
This is further offset by the game being occasionally just too fair for it's own good. Any character, at nearly any time, can overcome nearly any attack. The game has a remarkable stop-go rhythm that allows players some breathing room, which is nasty when any momentum built up gets thrown away. It feels like a turn-based fighter, which has a lot of time between exchanges to let players pop a piece of candy or take a sip of their drink. It's what makes it unique.
But its claim to fame is also its biggest flaw. Fighters should have some level of see-saw, letting the players who really get the ball rolling to keep running with the punches. Yet every single opportunity for furthering momentum gained is lost every twenty to thirty seconds.
Especially where air-dodging and blocks are concerned. Given enough time for a character to stop recoiling from a blow, any character can slip out of the line of fire. Air combos are just as bad, letting players tap X at the moment a strike occur to dodge and counter. The opponent is also given the chance to do the same. Given two players with equal skill, these chains can last for tens of minutes at a time, with absolutely no progress being made.
It just spends a little too much time trying to be cinematic. Air battles can go on through the length of a match, the attacks are more dependent on timing rather than combination of player-based button presses. It feels like playing an interactive, climactic movie conclusion rather than a fighting game.
However, Dissidia tries a new system, does something new, and carries itself with a flair for the dramatic while still maintaining poise. It's a fun little romp with a new system that took a shot in the dark, and didn't really miss. However, there's a lot of untapped potential already visible, and it's not even the full game.
Still, go download the demo, and try it out. It's fun, it's new, and while not exactly exciting, it does have style.