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Review: Our First Look at Dissidia Final Fantasy NT

August 30th, 2017 by Raptorchan

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The closed beta for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has been happening since August 25th, and a few of us (including myself and fellow writer Peter) were fortunate enough to take part in the event and experience the game before it hits store shelves. This review is more or less a general outlook on the game, as well as our own personal impressions.

Before we delve into this it’s important to keep in mind that this is the first closed beta for Dissidia NT; there are a lot of features unavailable, which can be easily seen on the menu screen and allows you to do three major things: Matchmaking, Practice and Tutorial.

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The tutorial is a video that we found extremely informative. I attempted to ignore it to try the game out first and found myself a little overwhelmed while randomly smashing buttons, thus not getting anywhere. The tutorial helped clear any questions I had, and revealed other mechanics I would have otherwise not noticed until I did them by accident.

Peter had mixed opinions on the tutorial however. Even though we both thought the tutorial was informative, he had a better time understanding the game through actual play.

“The tutorial is helpful but rather disappointing as it isn’t very hands on. I feel like through actually playing is when you fully understand the mechanics and gameplay.”

It’s likely the tutorial will become playable when the game goes live, or at least allow players to go into a tutorial mode from the menu. It might keep its arcade roots and play the tutorial video when left at the menu screen for too long.

Practice mode is as the name suggests; it’s a mode that allows players to try out characters and practice with them before heading into online play. Most of my time was spent in this mode. I was permitted to choose from any main Final Fantasy hero all the way up to Final Fantasy XIV. Villains, side characters and character from spin-off titles were not available to play.

Each individual hero is separated into one of four categories: Vanguard, Assassin, Marksman and Specialist. These categories are key when choosing a character, as it’s more or less decided on the character’s weight and abilities. For example, the Vanguard is the heavyweight, which means they can take a lot of damage, swing slower, and may have a rougher time facing against an Assassin, who swings and moves much quicker.

The Specialist class is currently only unique to Vaan, Bartz and Onion Knight in the closed beta. While I wasn’t able to feel a big difference between them and the other “job” categories, it was somewhat clear that they at least had unique abilities. For instance, Bartz can master a job class upon constant use, which enhances his attacks or attributes.

Gameplay-wise, it felt roughly the same as the previous Dissidia games for the PlayStation Portable. You lower your enemy’s Bravery, or “shields”, in order to do more damage to their health directly, knocking them unconscious for a short time. Three KO’s against the enemy team secures a victory, or if time runs out and you managed to deal most of KO’s.

The controls were a bit of a challenge to get used to and can be confusing since the PS4 controller has more buttons than the PSP. But after a short few battles we had grasped enough to be able to string together fantastically animated combo attacks.

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One of the biggest changes from the previous Dissidia games is the addition of Party members, who are two other people that fight with you in battle. This adds a certain strategic element to the game, as team members can group up to aid each other in a pinch, such as peeling attention off a spellcaster.

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When in practice mode, your party members are randomly generated NPCs that fought against random computer AI enemies. Hopefully this changes in the future, so players can have the option to choose their party to figure out what combination works best, or at the very least, choose their enemies to practice fighting against certain characters.

The HUD layout was changed to fit the new playstyle of Dissidia NT; instead of keeping up with your own health and the health of your opponent, you now have to keep up with six healthbars in total. I found that I paid very little attention to the new HUD layout unless it was to glance at my own health. Peter, however, found the new HUD system to be effective yet overwhelming due to trying to keep up with so much information on the screen. He eventually adjusted to the new system. He also noticed little changes like aerial dodging becoming side steps while guarding is now unlimited until it’s broken. These little changes helped round out the 3v3 battles and overall benefited the game.

Another big change is how the Summons work. In this iteration, you choose your Summon before the start of a match, rather than equipping them for certain characters beforehand like in the original Dissidia games. When the battle begins, both teams must fill a Summoning Gauge. To do this, players need only attack the opposite team or locate and destroy a Summon Core; which spawns randomly on the map. When the gauge is filled, all three team members focus to summon their chosen creature, who then takes over the map and attacks the enemy team regardless of where they are. Summons not only do some damage to Bravery, but they also supply ability enhancers to their summoners. They’re also really pretty to watch. (And a little terrifying!)

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Graphics-wise, the game is incredibly beautiful. The graphics have been vastly improved since it’s been moved to the PS4. Character models were very detailed and expressive, and it was fantastic to watch your character gradually gain battle damage as the fight progressed.

The stages were also beautifully redesigned and were quite big in scale, certainly large enough to fly around in. Though we weren’t permitted to choose which stage we could play on as it was randomized, there is no doubt that there is a map for every Final Fantasy title; such as XII’s Rabanastre or II’s Pandemonium.

We also tried out Matchmaking, which is online play. The matchmaking was a little slow to find people to play against, and it wasn’t clear if that was because there weren’t a lot of people playing the closed beta or because the mechanics in which teams are formed were a little laggy. It wasn’t that terrible as the queue may go on for around thirty minutes the longest, and generally it just took roughly a few minutes or a less. Peter mentions the longest wait he had was roughly five minutes, which isn’t too bad but unexpected.

In online play, the other two-party members that were controlled by NPCs in practice mode become actual players when online! This was extremely exciting news for us, as we had been quietly hoping (for Peter especially) that Dissidia NT would allow friends to play the game together, be it against each other or cooperatively. And now with this knowledge, we can’t wait to see what kind of matches are played with all six slots filled in by friends. It’s certainly bringing back some Smash Brothers nostalgia for a few of us! Sadly, the closed beta randomized the teams, so none of us could play together. We’re hoping that this will change when the game goes live and allows for friends to play on the same team and against each other.

In the beta, there was no voice or text chat, which Peter mentions to be a little disappointing. Instead, players communicated via auto-messages that are voiced fully by the character you or your teammates are playing. This is not only very useful, as you can use these auto-messages while in combat, but extremely fun and cute! Listening to Lightning say hello to Cecil and Vaan, who then responded back, was an utter delight and we’re very excited to hear how they portray the villains in the live game.

Peter found the English voice-overs to be a bit disappointing though from certain characters (ex. Vaan and Zidane) not sounding as good as the original voiceovers from Dissidia and Duodecim. It was understandable however due to it being beta and that they’re possibly still in the process of recording for the game.

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My first match online was a disaster, at least in the technology sense. The frame rate for the game dropped significantly and I got hit with such terrible lag that, for a majority of the fight, I could only watch as my character was thrown around like a ragdoll in slow motion, unresponsive to any and all commands. I couldn’t see or do anything for nearly the entire fight, the game was completely unplayable to the point it could be frustrating. I am not usually one to complain about framerates dropping so long as the game can continue to be played, but it was like trying to play a high-graphic Final Fantasy game using Internet Explorer on a computer still running Windows 98. Peter’s first online match was different. He had a much smoother experience in his first two matches, but then suffered the same net-play problems as I had; frustrating him as it ultimately ruined the gameplay due to stuttering or stopping period during play. He was even kicked out of a match due to an error (which he can’t figure out) and sent back to the home page of his PS4.

In the long run though, online play still functioned. My second match went well as I had no frame or lag problem, and was completely smooth from start to finish, so this issue is completely random. Luckily, Peter had gotten a message after being kicked from his match that the data had been sent to Square Enix, which hopefully gets fixed by the development team before the game’s release.

Another issue Peter wanted to point out was the game’s overall balance. As he’s an avid fighting game fan, he complained that some characters had the advantage over others, and you can use their exploits against others (ex. Y’shtola’s Holy). He also found the fact that the inability to dash through smaller spell projectiles like in the original Dissidia games to be unfair in some sorts.

One of the things I liked about the original Dissidia games were how balanced each character was and how that affected battles, it is essential to every fighting game. Dissidia NT is not the most balanced fighter though. A lot of people can take advantage of small exploits like spamming HP attacks easily or being unable to dash through small projectiles. I hope this problem can be fixed in the future.”

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One final thing Peter wanted to mention is the soundtrack. He loved the new techno-remixes of older Final Fantasy music and felt it fitted each battle situation well. Let the Battles Begin from Final Fantasy VII and Battle with Seymour from Final Fantasy X are his favorite remixes from the demo.

We also reached out to some of our Discord users who also got a beta key. Here’s what they had to say:

“The beta for Dissidia NT is extremely fun! Being beta, there were a few minor problems such as lag and being stuck on the group-matchmaking screen. As a fan of the original Dissida series, I really enjoyed the multiplayer team battles as it introduced good communication along with teamwork, and I’m looking forward for the full game to come out!” ~TheNightmareXIII

“Dissidia still remains a bit similar to the PSP version but I can see a few changes, I don’t remember much from the previous games since I played them years ago but as soon as I played the beta it was really familiar, I picked up all the characters and tried them individually to get a feel of how they play and everyone shares easy controls, distinct moveset, and the game itself adapts and gives everyone movesets that only works for them from their representing Final Fantasy games.
My favorite to play is Bartz because I’m a fan of the character and because he can use different jobs and master them as he fights for additional buffs. Something that’s only unique to him which I liked.
Though i’d like to see if they would update the game and balance it more just so it can be more fair with people and I’d like to see a competitive scene for the game if possible in the future.” ~Zeldamn

Overall, we personally enjoyed playing Dissidia NT. We had been looking forward to the game when it was announced for Japanese arcades in 2015, and we’re very excited to play the game when it launches worldwide in 2018. The full version of the game promises a storyline mode, which Peter and I are looking forward to the most, and our fingers are crossed that online play will include the ability to play with friends, voice and text chat.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT’s Open Beta is available from August 25 (PDT) to September 3 (PDT). The full game will be released on January 30, 2018.

(This review was a collaboration between myself, RaptorChan, and fellow contributor Peter, who assisted in writing, editing and providing in-game screenshots.)

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