Review: Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy

Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy Review

A noteworthy movement of the PSP’s swan song.

Publisher: Square-Enix

PSP

Release Date: March 22, 2011

Players: 1-2

Rating: Teen

The PSP’s days are numbered. While a lot of handheld gamers are flocking to the recently released 3DS, people are quick to write off the PSP as yesteryears craze, thinking it has nothing left to offer. Although triple A PSP titles have been few and far in between, when they do show up, the competition can’t help but blush. Judging by the hundreds of hours I’ve put into the first Dissidia Final Fantasy, it’s clear that this game will always be known as one main reason that I own a PSP. When it comes to sequels to fighting games, the best solution to improving on a great formula is to simply add more of everything, and Dissidia 012 does just that.

The main storyline of Dissidia 012 is actually a prequel to the first game. Two gods, Cosmos and Chaos, are perpetually at war with one another. Dissidia 012’s name comes from the twelfth cycle in this war. To settle their eternal conflict, they summon various warriors to fight in a battle that seems to last forever. The premise is simple enough, but still succeeds at being more convoluted than the games it pays homage to. The disjointed narratives in each characters story offer a small piece in this puzzle of a plot, and the differing perspectives certainly keep things fresh. However, with the amount of fights between each plot point, it was a chore to bother keeping up with the story, other than the fact that there were good guys and bad. The true appeal to this game is seeing a representative from each Final Fantasy on the PSP screen. The huge roster doesn’t lend itself to much development, other than background information any Final Fantasy fan would already know about.

Square Enix has always known the importance of great visuals, and they definitely delivered in terms of eye candy. Every character and battlefield are faithfully recreated from their respective game and brought to life again here. Seeing characters from older Final Fantasies who used to be confined to crummy pixels and low quality sprites fully come alive on the PSP’s screen is also a treat. Watching the particle effects from every strike is stunning, as characters fly through the large creative arenas while engaged in combat.

Although this title sports the name Final Fantasy, Dissidia 012’s game play blends its familiar RPG elements in with a fighting system unique to any game out there. Characters have hit points which govern how much life they have, and bravery points. Bravery attacks are strikes that add to your own bravery and subtract from your opponent’s. HP attacks use the bravery you’ve built up to actually hurt your opponent. Are you the kind of player that builds up a large amount of bravery to knock out your enemy in one clean blow, or do you prefer to break them down piece by piece with a bunch of HP attacks throughout the match? With this concept, coming up with intricate strategies to take out your opponents ensure that fighting never gets boring, as the vast majority of your time will be spent playing will be in the battlefield anyway. Assists are an interesting addition to the battle system with Dissidia 012, and they’re similar to Marvel vs. Capcom’s assists. By dealing damage you build up a meter that allows you to call them out, either to bail you out from a beating or to set up a combo of your own. It would have been nice to see teams of characters fighting at once, but having guests momentarily jump in to pepper a few strikes before disappearing was nice.

While the core game play of Dissidia 012 is the same as its predecessor, this game really shines in the additions Square-Enix has made to the existing system. To break up the monotony of wandering a grid between battles, there is an actual world map to traverse. It’s nice to have the feeling that you’re actually exploring an expansive world to reach a new locale, rather than wondering how one scene takes place aboard the cart of a rushing train, and the next one occurs on the moon. Another noteworthy addition is the party system, where you can form teams of five of your favorite characters during the adventure. If you’re in the middle of a long dungeon and you get tired of playing as one character or if they die in battle, you can swap in another one on the fly. For those looking for even more juice to squeeze from this fruit of a game, there’s even an option to alter the rules of the game itself, or to create quests where they control every possible variable. Once you’re done, you can share your unique quests over the internet. The levels of customization are essentially endless. Unfortunately, enjoying a lot of this content (like dressing your characters up in alternate costumes, playing different battle themes, etc) is only available outside of story mode, which will be where the bulk of your time is spent.

It should be no surprise that you’ll definitely get your money’s worth with Dissidia 012. The main storyline runs at about 20 hours, and upon completion, you unlock the entire story mode from the first game, with updates to reflect the changes Dissidia 012 brings. With over 30 characters to build up to level 100 and various forms of customization like more costumes, new attacks and items to collect, hundreds of hours will go by in a flash. While the PSP may be on its last legs before being replaced by its successor, you can sit by comfortably waiting for the next wave with Dissidia 012.

Rating: 4/5

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Need for Speed Hot Pursuit: Reviewed!

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is finished, and the review can be reached here. I decided to complete it first so I can include it in the following article which will appear really soon. You’ll see!

I hope you all enjoy it, and any questions, comments and feedback would be appreciated. Thanks again!

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep First Impressions

Getting my hands on Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep was no easy task. Without getting too descriptive, I’ll just say that it was a stroke of luck, and a bit of ingenuity, because if one variable were to be off, I wouldn’t have this gem of a game to play and write about right now! I’ll be clear with you all; Birth By Sleep is one of the very best RPG’s for the PSP this year, hands down. Not many games have been able to make me come to this conclusion in under 4 hours, so this is a very worthy precedent.

Birth By Sleep follows Square Enix’s pattern of delaying the inevitable; releasing Kingdom Hearts 3. Although they’re not moving the story “forward,” this is the game alluded to in the secret video if you completed all everything in Kingdom Hearts 2. Remember those three mysterious armored people fighting? As ambiguous as that preview video was, players finally get some answers to what it all means here. Since this game is a prequel to the entire series, it tells the story of three Keyblade users before Sora comes along – Terra, Ventus and Aqua. I’m still getting to know each character, but a past Game Informer article established pretty spot on comparisons with Star Wars Episode I-III characters. Terra is a lot like Anakin Skywalker, Aqua mirrors Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Ven is like Ahsoka Tano (if you watched the Clone Wars cartoon… I didn’t).

Terra, Ven and Aqua have their own storyline, and you choose one to play to completion. I found it interesting that although you’ll be effectively visiting each world three times, each character experiences a portion of it. For example, Terra visits the Castle of Dreams (Cinderella’s world) and watches as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother transforms her, glass slippers and all. He then escorts her to the royal ball, fighting Unversed (this game’s iteration of Heartless) along the way. After she dances with the Prince, she runs away as the clock strikes 12, just like the story. While Terra’s about to leave, Aqua appears to take over. Since I’m playing as Terra at the moment, I would be off towards the next world, while people playing as Aqua would be present for the next events in Cinderella. Eventually, Aqua will finish her portion, and Ven will come to finish it up. Each world and the events within them play out just like their respective Disney movies, and the player exists within it without ruining the original story. I think this is really well done. For the Disney fans that are also gamers, Kingdom Hearts’ very faithful usage of the Disney license is a treat.

I figured since Birth By Sleep was on a handheld system, the controls would be difficult, and I would have to be practicing some extreme hand-yoga to fight, but all of the movements and actions are positioned well for the PSP’s control scheme. Combat is fast paced, and fun to watch play out.

Birth By Sleep will be the first game I’ll be working on since Final Fantasy XIII, so I’m really excited to get back into the swing of playing games to review again. It’s been quite a long time between April and September, but nothing has come around till now to get my interest. If you have a PSP, like RPG’s, and Disney, what are you doing with yourself? Get out there and get this game!

Updates, and a Rant

Hey readers! With summer and my new job in full swing, my days are booked solid more than I had expected. These slow, hot days are definitely tolerable with my job and my summer classes, but my game time has been severely impacted. I haven’t purchased any new games since Super Street Fighter IV, and for me, it’s only fun to play with friends. To make matters worse, the 50 inch TV that my Xbox 360 and Wii are connected to is out of commission for a few weeks, so I’m limited to my PS3 and PSP. Since it’s difficult to secure some uninterrupted time with the TV when my mother and father always contest over it, I’ve kept things a lot simpler by carrying along my PSP to play for short amounts of time in-between activities and such.

Recently, I went on with finally getting acquainted with the Star Ocean series. I’m about 25 hours into Second Evolution (the PSP remake of The Second Story for you old timers out there) and I have to say, a JRPG like this is an acquired taste. The proper frame of mind required to enjoy a Star Ocean title requires  some understanding of who made it. Anyone who knows Tri-Ace (the team behind Valkyrie Profile, Resonance of Fate, Infinite Undiscovery, to name a few) is aware that their games don’t have the greatest “mass-appeal” like many other recent RPG’s that have been receiving numerous accolades. In short, they’re quirky. They’re off the beaten path and unabashedly make it obvious that the player isn’t going to get the average run of the mill JRPG experience. I’ve completely missed out on each Star Ocean that came to America , which is pretty surprising given that I consider myself an RPG aficionado. I’ve played through the Valkyrie Profile series and loved every minute of it, so I had some idea of what I would be getting into. In a world of Final Fantasy, Mass Effect and Persona, games like Star Ocean go underappreciated; Lots of people like to trash the fact that Star Ocean lacks a compelling story, and to some extent, they are correct. It IS a JRPG. Many aspects of the storylines and characters are borrowed from other JRPG’s, Anime and Manga. There aren’t going to have mind blowing plot twists, or characters with depth on the level of a Western RPG. Although largely unoriginal, I believe Star Ocean can be put into the “comfort food” category just like how the Dragon Quest series is. Fans know what they’re in for with a Tri-Ace title, while many other gamers just gawk about what it doesn’t have or what it’s not doing right, how it fails to stack up against the competition.

It confuses me, really. RPG’s nowadays get stumped for having an incomprehensible story due to “long winded, pompous cutscenes.” Final Fantasy XIII’s storyline isn’t as bad as a lot of people are putting it down to be, seriously. I for one enjoyed what FF XIII had to offer. On the other hand, something like Star Ocean 4 gets panned for regurgitating the same story elements over and over again, when the obvious focus is the battle system. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think all the unrest in the RPG community lies more in the fact that a lot of us just don’t know what exactly we want, rather than our games having bad narratives.

The high point of Star Ocean is the battle system. It’s fast paced and intense, yet still easy for a newcomer to pick up on. My only gripe thus far is that most enemies can be taken out by just mashing the attack button, with a few special attacks thrown in to make it flashy. At a glance, it may not be super complex, battles are still very satisfying. I used to watch Youtube videos of SO3’s end-game boss fights a few years back and just could never understand how enemies could take so much damage and keep fighting on. It seemed as if they had millions and millions of Hit Points. With every party member and boss unleashing their most powerful moves dealing damage in the tens of thousands back and forth to each other, I just sat in awe.  I couldn’t comprehend how exactly how it worked, and never did for years to come until I actually played it. Emerging victorious from a particularly tough boss fight is rewarding in its own right, and since Second Evolution is on a handheld, having exciting gameplay in the palm of my hand is definitely a bonus.

I like the change of pace that Star Ocean offers, and since I’ve been playing it often like I played Dissidia Final Fantasy before it, I’m well invested in this franchise and I haven’t even finished it yet, and will hopefully pick up the newer game on PS3 sometime soon.

Although I’ve found some solace in playing Star Ocean, My white board full of story ideas to write about has been getting bigger, with at least a one new idea popping up in my head randomly each day. However, when it comes to sitting down to putting my fingers to the keyboard, I always seem to stop abruptly. I get distracted, suddenly move to do something else, and never come back to home base, so to speak. I’ve been dealing with a really bad case of writers block and I’m having some trouble busting it. I know work has taken up a lot of the time I would usually put towards writing and all, but how much of this is really just fatigue? If this is just the summer state of mind, I could live with that, since I know what the problem is. Even so, not blogging as much as I used to feels like there’s a void that isn’t going to be filling with more gaming. Writing comes first, and as of late, it’s not even taking a back seat. It got left on the curb. How do you guys deal with Writers Block? Do you have any suggestions? Let me know!