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Getting To Grips With The Characterful Chaos Of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT

I don't know what the hell is going on – A Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Preview

I had literally no idea what to expect going in to play Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, having paid little attention to the previous games in this spin-off series and having only a passing interest in the main Final Fantasy series. What I found is baffling, disorientating, and yet absorbingly brilliant in its own way.

Having appeared in arcades in 2015 and now set for release on PlayStation 4 in January, it throws off the limitations of the PSP games and transforms into a frantic three vs. three battler, featuring many of the most iconic characters from the Final Fantasy series, including the likes of Cloud, Y’Shtola and Lightning. There’s a degree of common ground with Overwatch in how they’ve been shuffled into archetypes. There’s powerful Vanguards, more agile Assassins, long-ranged Marksman, and the more unique and individual Specialists.

With teams of three, it’s best to find a good mixture of these archetypes, with Marksmen being great against Vanguards from a distance, and so on. Have a well rounded team that knows how to have each other’s back, and you should be onto a winner. At least, that’s the theory. The practice is unashamedly chaotic.

Just getting around the arena and keeping track of the enemy is a struggle, not helped by the messy UI from the arcade version that is due to be replaced or refined between now and release. You can run and jump around, with your camera locked to any of your three opponents, but getting around quickly is all about the long dash move which lets you fly around the map at speed for a good ten seconds at a time until your stamina runs out. Only being able to lock to one enemy though means that you can easily be chasing someone around for half a minute and then get sucker punched by an enemy that manages to cut you off with a ranged attack. The UI tries to let you know when you’ve been locked onto, but it’s so messy and unclear in the heat of the action.

Getting used to the movement is one challenge, but the actual combat is a whole other kettle of fish. You have two main types of attack, a Brave attack which saps Bravery from your enemies and adds to your own meter. Eventually you want to try and pump it up enough that you can then turn all of that Bravery into an actual damaging attack, with the aim of knocking someone out and take away one of the other team’s lives. There’s an almost Super Smash Bros. vibe to it, as the damage ebbs and flows, but players can stay in the fight and recover despite having taking a ton of damage.

The key to being good at the game is learning the different characters and how to make use of their attacks and skills. Even within a particular archetype there’s plenty of variation, and flipping from Cloud, having just got used to play as him, to try out Sephiroth left me feeling completely cut off from the fight once again, while I struggled to maintain a distance when battling with a Marksman character like Ace. On top of that, there’s multiple battle sets to play with that add a further twist to each character.

If you’re tackling the game in multiplayer you have some basic communication tools mapped to your D-pad which allows you some form of collaboration if you’re not partied up. It’s definitely not something to be underestimated in a game like this, and it’s a nice inclusion for those who don’t have lots of gaming companions.

While there’s two types of attack, pushing a direction while attacking or being in midair changes what your character does, turning a basic flurry of a sword into a diving attack, for example. Gradually building through this are a handful of abilities – one HP attack and two EX skills – which could teleport you right into the heart of the action, pull off a powerful attack, boost your team mates, and so on. Timing can be everything with all of this, especially with close ranged Vanguard characters.

Rounding things out is the ability to summon one of the gods or giant creatures of the many Final Fantasy worlds to come and roam the battle, boosting your team and hunting down your enemies. Summons are achieved by filling the summon gauge, with breakable summon cores appearing around the arena which you have to smash in order to gain enough power. Once filled you need to hold the touchpad, stopping whatever you’re doing while you try to bring these deities into the fight.

Even after nearly two hours of playing the game, gradually going through all of the systems and trying to learn how things work, I still feel like I’ve only got a tentative grasp of how to play the game, let alone be actively good at it. Typifying this, I remember breaking an enemy player’s Bravery enough that I could kill them with a damaging attack, only for them to turn tail and flee as I chased them Benny Hill style around the arena, until one of my team mates died and we lost the match by a single elimination.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT might be almost completely incomprehensible to start with, but I definitely felt like I was getting the hang of it. Dig deep into how it works, and there’s plenty for fans of Final Fantasy and madcap online brawlers to get to grips with.

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