Not quite a fighting game, and not quite a role-playing game; Dissidia both suffers and benefits from this identity crisis. On the upside, there are visually distinct characters, beautiful settings, as well as fast and tense conflict featuring awe-inspiring attacks. On the downside, there is an overly convoluted storyline, painstakingly-slow character advancement and severe balance issues.
Dissidia features what I believe is the most counter-intuitive progression system ever seen in a fighting game. I'd call it grinding, but I don't believe that adequately portrays how often you have to repeat actions, missions and chapters in order to remain competitive against the painfully-cheap AI opponents. For each "light," character in Dissidia, there is an individual storyline; after each character's tale is complete, you unlock a story where all their fates intertwine: Shade Impulse; Shade Impulse also has several chapters that feature characters of exponentially greater strength than the hero you leveled up in the original, individual character-focused chapters. When fighting through an individual character's quest, you encounter opponents of varying strength. You can opt out of the more difficult fights, but that makes character progression a far more sluggish affair. The difficult fights involve characters that are about 10 to (in the case of Shade Impulse) 30 levels higher than your current fighter; UNLESS you repeat an individual character's quest add nauseum, and eventually even the strongest opponent pales in comparison to your hero. This takes a great deal of time, and after a while the process should not even vaguely be reminiscent of fun. I can't understand why I still play it.
Ever since Final Fantasy X I've been allergic to grinding, even when this RPG element has been adopted by other genres. The classic example of this is Borderlands; a visually-appealing, loot-heavy, First-Person Shooter. The Dutch of 10 years ago would have eaten up Gearbox's ravenously popular shooter/role-playing hybrid. Modern Dutch could barely roam Pandora for half an hour before the tedium set in.With Dissidia though it is different. I can spam the Shield of Light from Helensvale to Loganlea, and still smile when I land the final blow on a flighty opponent. I can read mail from Moogles (kupo!), and not shudder at the cheesy dialogue found in the story chapters. I can cop losing out to Jecht's multi-hit bravery attacks, or Kefka's ridiculously effective Havoc Wing without switching off the PSP in a fit of rage.
I've narrowed my appreciation of this game down to two factors:
- It is one of the best looking games on the PSP, and it adequately emulates the quasi-Dragonball action seen in the nonsensical CGI feature, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The frame rate rarely dips, and the character models are meticulously detailed. Some of the attacks that you unlock after hours of play are a real visual feast too. The vast, destructible environments effectively showcase the spectacular action. You can run or smash your opponents through walls, ceilings and thick stone columns; this my friends, is awesome.
- The risk/reward fight system. Initially it lacks depth, but once you unlock some more abilities (including both attacks and support actions such as Air Dash and Controlled Recovery), the tension and visual flare of these battles intensifies severely.
It doesn't hurt that the game features characters from some of my favourite titles. That being said however, the memorable cast is diffused almost entirely by some wooden voice acting, and a laughable script. Tidus is the primary stain on the narrative, but Cloud and Squall try hard to out-ham him with their tough (but I'm actually really scared) bullshit. I should skip it all, but I can't look away from this cheese theatre.
With one week of higher duties left, I'm hoping to finish Dissidia (with the Warrior of Light at least). What's your favourite way to pass time on the commute? What are you playing this weekend?