There are few franchises in video gaming quite like Final Fantasy. After three decades, the series has spawned more iconic characters and cities than most other franchises could hope to achieve in twice as long. The appeal, therefore, of a game like Dissidia Final Fantasy NT should be self-explanatory: take a bunch of instantly recognisable heroes and villains and throw them all together into a fighting game so the fans can act out the battles they've been imagining for years. The original Dissidia games on PSP were popular, but now the series has arrived on home console, taking the one-on-one battles of previous games and upping the ante by making each fight a three versus three rumble. The idea is golden. The execution, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired.
The main attacks you'll be utilising in battle are Bravery Attacks and HP Attacks. A Bravery Attack reduces your opponent's bravery meter and adds to your bravery meter, and an HP attack reduces your opponent's health points. The higher your bravery in comparison to the bravery of your opponent, the more damage you'll do, and so the idea is that you'll use bravery attacks to get yourself into an advantageous position, and then obliterate your enemy with HP Attacks. Whittle your opponent's HP down to zero and they die and respawn, and once you score three deaths against the opposition you win the fight. Occasionally, a crystal known as a Summon Core appears on the battlefield, and if you attack it you'll build up your team's summon meter. Once it fills you can summon a magical beast to buff your allies or decimate your foes.
It all seems needlessly complex, and if you're feeling trepadatious about entering battle without fully understanding the concepts in play, the tutorials on offer will likely not help one iota. There are a bunch of tutorials you can complete that explain the various movements and attacks you can employ in a fight, but they're fairly bare-bones, and there's no move list in the game to fully explain what the different special moves do and how to use them. Seriously, we googled it to make sure because we were so gobsmacked that there's no move list in a fighting game in 2018. There isn't, and so if you want tips on how to play, you're better off pulling up a guide on your smartphone than relying on anything in-game to help you.
The meat and potatoes of the game is the online multiplayer, in which you and two friends/random people you're teamed up with compete against another team of three via the magic of the Internet. The battles are frantic, fast-paced, and occasionally thrilling, but they're besieged with issues that hamper the experience at practically every turn. Since this is a three-on-three fighting game, you'll need to lock on to the enemy you want to attack, but cycling through them using L2 and R2 is a chore, and rarely as responsive as it should be. Blocking is mapped to L1, but it doesn't appear to work all of the time which is a frequent source of frustration, and the camera has a tendency to find itself in the worst positions imaginable at all of the most inconvenient times. The HUD is inundated with health bars, bravery meters, summon gauges, and numbers flying around every time someone lands a hit. It's all a little bit overwhelming, and we couldn't help but wish it was just a tad simpler.
Lobby waiting times for online play are outrageous, and according to our stop watches we spent as much time waiting as playing the game. That's annoying, but couple it with the fact that you'll constantly wind up in fights that are crippled with lag and you'll likely begin to wonder whether there's any point sitting around waiting to get into battle at all.
Given the catastrophic nature of some of the issues that afflict online play, one might be tempted to play offline, but there's precious little here for single players. The story mode feels incredibly half-baked, with cutscenes unlocked via a node-based system, and scant narrative justification for all of the fisticuffs, but long-time fans of the franchise will likely get a kick out of seeing characters from different games teaming up. There are also offline battles, which are exactly the same as the online battles, except A.I. bots fill in for human friends and foes.
The roster is fairly robust, with each Final Fantasy game up to X getting at least two characters into the line-up, and the post-X games each getting a single combatant. While any long-time fan of the franchise will likely bemoan one or two of the inclusions here - come on, Vaan makes the cut over Balthier? - it's hard to feel too aggrieved with the selection of heroes and villains on offer.
One character that definitely shouldn't be in the game is Tutorial Moogle, who pops up on screen far too often to state the obvious and say "Kupo!" a lot. He never shuts up, and he only has about twelve different lines of dialogue so it gets really old, really quickly. He offers insipid advice like "Use your special attacks, kupo!" over and over again, in menus, in battles, in your nightmares when you've turned off the game, so frequently, and so annoyingly, that even PETA would probably be okay with it if someone clubbed him to death.
Final Fantasy fans will likely be enamoured with the array of classic locales to battle in, re-imagined songs from previous games, and the impressive roster of fighters on offer here, but it's all downhill after that. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a disappointing fighting game that crumples under the weight of poor design choices and crippling technical issues, leaving little reason to recommend it to anyone other than fervent supporters of the brand.