[12 January 2010]
Has anyone watched the fight sequence between Cloud and Sephiroth at the end of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and wondered why there’s still nothing even remotely close to it in video games yet? The divide between the passive and interactive elements of gaming is a common complaint amongst fans. Many developers have tried (with varying results) to narrow the gap, but many games are still divided in two parts: one where we’re in control and the other when we’re not. It’s a nuisance that’s been bugging Square Enix as well apparently. For years, Square has attempted to narrow the gap between cut scene and gameplay. Afterall,why is it that I just saw something so cool but stand no chance of doing it in the game?
So with Dissidia Final Fantasy, Square Enix has attempted to rectify the aforementioned problems and at the same time to treat their loyal followers to the biggest Final Fantasy orgy imaginable. Unfortunately, however, they have succeeded at only mildly arousing their fans.
The game’s story is that the God of discord (the aptly named Chaos) is locked in eternal combat with his rival, Cosmos, the Goddess of harmony. Just as Cosmos is about to lose the battle, a band of warriors from nearly the entire Final Fantasy universe group together and fight back. But, just as Cosmos has heroes, Chaos also has the villainous entities of the same universe to call upon. Thus, the heroes embark on their own personal journey, capturing ten crystals to defeat Chaos. The loosely told, paper thin plot is backed up by the usual Square Enix production values, and by usual, I mean brilliant. Stunning graphics, the best FMV around, and, of course, the staple of any Final Fantasy title—the blaze out of your car stereo soundtrack. So far, so Square Enix.
Unfortunately, the characters are as stilted as ever. For instance, you have Tidus from Final Fantasy X ever the happy go lucky pup. At the other end of the spectrum, you have Cloud “get over it she’s dead” Strife from Final Fantasy VII, who is the same mopey, whiny emo kid that you remember. Their “acting” in the cut scenes is both wooden and uninspired and not helped in the slightest by the campy, cheesy script. Again, so far, so Square Enix.
The role-playing elements see you collecting money and experience points from the numerous battles fought (mostly against generic enemies). Of course, this means grinding, of which there is a lot. The game even includes an item crafting tool and performing specific moves in battle grants success in crafting. Additionally you have to factor in concerns for which weapons, armour, moves, and summons each character must be equipped with pre-battle. A further complication of grafting role playing onto this formula is an endless stream of cluttered, confusing, and generally poorly organised menu. These unnecessary complexities seem at odds with what is essentially a one-on-one beat-em-up game.
As far as the fighting goes, disregarding Newton’s laws seems to be the order of the day. The characters perform all the twirling, whirling, flying, speeding through the air, climbing up walls, sliding and skating antics as seen in Advent Children. This means that a lot of the time is spent chasing your enemy. Still it looks cool…right?
However, there are some nice touches such as beating the bravery from your opponent, thus, reducing his attack power and adding it to your own. Yet, assaults on his bravery bar inflict no damage on him, which means that you’ll constantly be torn between stealing bravery, biding your time and building your power, or risking an all out attack. This is one of the truly best pieces of strategy available, and the game would have done better to come up with more of these ideas. Also, there are the “EX” moves, randomly placed items which grant you access to super attacks carried out by some simple QTE inputs.
Ultimately, Dissidia Final Fantasy is a mixture of the wrong things and the right stuff. Clearly, a huge investment has been made on the cosmetics, but in other areas, SquareEnix has dropped the ball. The best and worst of their abilities are on display here, an oral and visual delight but action that gets KO’d faster than Ricky Hatton. So, we must carry on hoping that one day the gap between the passive and interactive elements of gaming are finally bridged.