A crossover fighting game featuring characters from every Final Fantasy is currently free to play on PS4 – but is it for fans only?
The idea of a fighting game featuring Final Fantasy characters from all the mainline sequels seems like such an obvious idea that the only surprising thing is most Western gamers have no idea it already exists. Dissidia Final Fantasy started life on the PSP, but this third entry in the series is based on the arcade version which has proven very popular in Japan for the last several years. And now you can play it for free, or at least you can for the rest of this week.
The open beta for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT started last Friday and will continue on until Sunday, January 21. So as long as you’ve got a PlayStation 4 and a PS Plus account you can play it for nothing until then. Square Enix has change the line-up of characters once already, and plan to do so again on Thursday – but you can get all the specific details on that here.
Although it sounds a bit like Super Smash Bros. in concept, Dissidia is nothing like Nintendo’s game. It’s also nothing like Street Fighter or Tekken, especially since now you’re competing in three-on-three battles with two other human or computer-controlled players. But that’s not all, since you’re also moving around large 3D areas and everyone has the wire fu-inspired ability to run vertically up walls and dash through thin air for short distances. In other words, there’s nothing quite like Dissidia.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA2BOWZ84yE?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent&w=640&h=390]
Like any fighting game you’re basically just hitting someone until their health runs out, but Square Enix has managed to make it all very much more complicated than that. The user interface is very confusing at first and the fact that all six characters are fighting at once, with all manner of over-the-top magic attacks going on, has an almost paralyzing effect on your mind, if not your trigger fingers, when you first start.
Despite their very different backgrounds – including everyone from the nameless Warrior of Light from the first game to Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII – the characters’ moves and abilities are standardised enough to allow some semblance of accessibility, especially as the gameplay emphasis is on movement and timing rather than complex button combos.
There are two kinds of attacks: normal physical ones or bravery ones which deplete your opponent’s attack power and adds it to your own. This is confusing at first, but once you understand what’s going on it creates an interesting tactical dilemma where you have to do decide between doing real damage or making it easier for future attacks – and harder for the enemy to hurt you.
As you can imagine, famous Final Fantasy summons are also part of the game, from Bahamut to Shiva, with the exact one you’re able to use being voted on before a match starts. The EX moves from the original games work quite differently now though, with each character having access to one major special attacks and two customisable support moves.
Although the controls are relatively fairly simple, Dissidia is not an easy game to grips with. Because it’s not like any other fighting game, the learning curve is long and steep. And while the tutorials are very clear and comprehensive they seem to go on forever. So if you can resist the temptation to skip them, do try and sit through at least the basic ones before you start a proper match.
Unlike the first two games, the arcade version was developed by Dead Or Alive creators Team Ninja and the action certainly feels more fluid and visceral as a result. But unfortunately the camera is still easily confused, especially when it comes to walls, and at times it can render the game almost unplayable. The online connection has also been worryingly unstable during the beta, although testing that is what they’re for.
There’s only a hint at the story mode in the beta, but it’s never been the focus of the series and we don’t hold out much hope of it being a highlight. What other modes there might be in the final game is unclear though, as there is an alternative play mode – where you’re trying to destroy the other team’s crystal and defend your own – but in the beta it’s only available offline.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is an intimidating and confusing game. But while it does require a certain amount of perseverance to get into, that effort is eventually rewarded, and it quickly begins to get its hooks into you. So we not only encourage you to give the beta a go yourself, but to stick with it long enough to appreciate what is guaranteed to be one of the most unique fighting games of the year.
Formats: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: 30th January 2018