The original Dissidia: Final Fantasy is arguably the closest thing to the perfect fanservice game, given that not many series boast such a large amount of entries with different casts of characters. While the service was great though, the actual gameplay mechanics were far from refined, and what could have also been a top-notch game didn’t quite reach its full potential. Enter Dissidia Duodecim, a sequel of sorts which expands upon the game’s core elements and fixes some of the issues most prevalent with its precursor, though it also introduces some new issues that might put people off.
As with any expansion to a fighting game series, Duodecim has the standard fare of new characters, new stages, new gameplay mechanics, and in some rare cases, new story. Among these new mechanics comes the ability to assign an assist character, turning battles into a pseudo-tag-team affair where you can call upon your partner for offense or defense. In addition, party battles (which are fought in a tournament or a round-robin style) and world map have been added, further exploring the series’ RPG roots. The barebones “dungeons” from DFF have been reworked into gateways you enter while wandering around the world map, which no longer force any restrictions on you and can be tackled at your own pace. Do you want to beat the minimum amount of enemies and move on, or maximize EXP, items, money and points by chaining every enemy? Both options are available to cater to different mindsets.
The story mode for Duodecim takes place before the first game’s, highlighting the events that set the groundwork for Dissidia’s final battle. In a nice surprise, Square Enix actually re-did the story mode from the first game with Duodecim’s new mechanics and gameplay features, making it easy to see how the stories intersect and improving the previous game’s lackluster dungeons. On the downside, the new world map feels barren at times, as there’s nothing to do in it besides enter gateways and fight off random generic enemies. There’s hardly any exploration either, as most character stories involve going in a straight line on the world map until you hit the next gateway. It’s a nice touch and a step above the restrictive dungeon design in DFF, but it’s something that still needs work done to make it interesting.
There were key issues with the game’s main feature, fighting, that kept DFF from reaching its potential. While the game never punished players for engaging in aerial combat, it did nothing to encourage players to stick to the ground either. Since there were only 2 or 3 characters that excelled at ground combat, fights in DFF would devolve to permanently dodging in the air, dashing and just plain never touching the ground during the whole match. This has been reworked in Duodecim, as characters fall much faster, jumps aren’t refreshed after performing an air dodge, and most moves have been re-worked to discourage sticking to the air 100% of the time. The new characters nicely fill in the niche of play styles that hadn’t been implemented, such as the firearm antics of Laguna, summoning creatures ala Yuna or up-close brawling like Tifa and Prishe. All in all, the base gameplay has received enough fine-tuning to make it much more enjoyable, whether you just plan on beating up AI or duking it out locally with friends.
The presentation for Duodecim is also a step above its precursor’s, though given how harshly DFF was judged when it came to this, anything can only be an improvement. Characters are much more animated during cut scenes, the game’s lighting effects are much better done (given how every character in the first game looked like they were covered in a shiny aura), and the track list has at least doubled in size from DFF. Nearly every character has a song for wandering through the world map and exploring the gateways, all composed of either well-done remixes of classic tunes or straight rips of the originals. Add to this the extra alternate costumes for every character, all based on either original artwork or alternate clothing from each character’s game of origin, and you’ve got a game that further delivers on what was already one of best fanservice games created.
Dissidia Duodecim is not for the casual fighting game player. This is a game custom-tailored for the long-time fans of the series, those who already know who the entire cast is and their motivations for why they fight. It’s not a perfect fighting game, but you can tell that it has received a lot of polish and care from its developers. For $30, its well worth quite a few hours of entertainment, though without being knowledgeable with the source material, it’s easy to become tangled in the complex web of character relationships and struggles.