The outset is Chaos importing a dream team of Final Fantasy antagonists to put the cap in Cosmos' reign. Naturally, with the only choice being to rip-off Chaos' idea, Cosmos replicates Chaos' act by instating a host of protagonists from previous Final Fantasy titles. Cue fanboy wet dreams and score settling times.
As ostentatious as the plot may be, the cut-scenes are so pretty you'll eventually cop on to what's going on within the game, even if you're unaware of previous Final Fantasy games at all. In fact, those who have yet to delve into the franchise might find Dissidia a good place to whet the appetite.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy has a lengthy single-player campaign that could take anywhere upwards of 20 hours to complete. Adhoc multiplayer is also provided to round out the package.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy's main gameplay is built around 3D arena fighting. Akin to a classic title such as PowerStone, players can traverse large arena environments in one-on-one brawling situations. These encounters are initiated by a hexagonal stage that the player must traverse in order to complete levels. When battles are initiated, you're thrown into the arena and challenged with taking down the opponent at the other end. Bravery points can be earned and stolen from opponents by initiating bravery attacks. These are paramount to succeeding because, while bravery does nothing to damage the opponent, it improves the strength of main attacks. This system, while simple in context, makes Dissidia's fighting system deeply engaging. Many battles start with cautious sparring, building into all out brutal showcases of the PSPs graphical prowess. Sure the repetitive nature of the fighting does get tedious after laboured sessions, but put it down for five minutes and the game will be urging you back.
We'd happily describe Dissidia: Final Fantasy at the pinnacle of rewarding players. Every second you spend in Dissidia is rewarded. Whether it's the day your playing (which the game accurately tracks and rewards you based on your playing habits), whether it's the number of battles you've won, whether it's the amount of attacks you've used, whether it's the consecutive days you've played the game. Everything unlocks more. And that's paramount to the experience, because while the "grinding" nature of the game's RPG elements can become tiresome, you know rewards are around the corner. That keeps the game addictive from start to finish and beyond.
As expected from a Final Fantasy game, Dissidia looks absolutely breath-taking. The animation of the characters to the over-the-top combo rewards are beautifully realised on the PSP, bringing the whole game to life. The art direction is typically neat, a real treat for fans of the series and very pretty for those newcomers. The menus could have been streamlined for the more casual player, but there's enough help on hand to make the game accessible.
Dissidia's music score is a subtle mix of ambient orchestral and piano melodies, brought to life through excellent production and beautifully loving composition. You'll want to play with headphones in such is the beauty of Dissidia's musical score. Sadly, the voice acting lets the audio side down, feeling forced and contrived.
While we'd certainly bill Dissidia: Final Fantasy as a fighting game, there are heavy RPG elements that will bemuse those not familiar with the genre. The game provides plenty of friendly advice for those players, but there's still a large learning curve for those unaware of the terms XP and how to handle item management. Perseverance will be rewarded, mind.
Despite an effective lock-on mechanism, Dissidia's loose free-will camera mechanism can make some battle situations frustrating, particularly in close quarters where the view can be obscured and the game simply frustrating to play. It's likely a fault of the PSP's hardware design more than anything, but it makes it no less frustrating whatever the culprit.
Despite pitching itself as the wet-dream of Final Fantasy fans, Dissidia's storyline does little to really motivate the average player. Voice acting is awful and the plot is contrived and cliche. It will probably please the most ardent of fans, but even they'll come away thinking it could have been more.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy is a mix of fan treatment and compelling gameplay, but above all, it's about as addictive and rewarding as PSP titles come.