Final Fantasy Dissidia (012) Duodecim (PSP)

Duodecim is the sequel to Square’s fan-service fighting title for the PSP Dissidia Final Fantasy. Again, we’re brought back to the endless battlefields of the war between Cosmos and Chaos, Harmony and Discord, Good and Evil. The original Dissidia took place during what is known as the Thirteenth conflict between Harmony and Discord, while Duodecim, as its name implies, takes place during the Twelfth conflict.

It’s a fighting game… with a story?

Yep, that’s right, unlike most fighting games, there is actually a story here, and it’s not THAT bad.

Let’s start with the bad points of the story. The basic premise is pretty cliché – and endless war between deities representing chaos and order(harmony and discord). The writing is quite bad(as bad as the first), very shallow and somewhat dry. And the motivations of certain characters seem almost silly – especially when placed against the character’s depth in the FF game they came from.

However, despite all of that, the story definitely has a charming element and really gives a chance to get to know some of the characters you know and love from a different perspective. I found Kain, Laguna, and Yuna to be particularly intriguing among the Duodecim cast, while Vaan was just plain annoying. The new roles played by Terra, Cloud, Jecht, and Tidus gave a layer of explanation to their characters and positioning in the thirteenth battle, and the unique ending to the twelth battle definitely gave a new perspective on the events.

Also added are the Battle Reports – brief story segments or battle chains that let you see things that are happening outside of the events of the main story. Some examples include an explanation of what happened to change Terra, Jecht, Tidus, and Cloud between the Twelfth Cycle and the Thirteenth Cycle.

And finally, the story mode now has an overworld. You go around the overworld, shopping from moogles, talking to your other party members, treasure hunting, and engaging in optional repeatable dungeons while going from one dungeon to another. The overworld looks gorgeous, but overall doesn’t add a ton to the gameplay. A minor, but still nice addon.

While the story is nothing to write home about, it definitely is one of the best stories I’ve seen in a fighting game(I know, I know – not saying much), and it has it’s merits for fans of the game and of the final fantasy series in general.

Square + PSP = gorgeous

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but this game, like most of Square’s PSP releases, has absolutely stunning graphics and near-universally stellar audio. The graphics are gorgeous, one of the best looking psp games ever(thought not quite up to the par with 3rd Birthday). The character models are polished, look very suitable, and the alternate costumes look awesome(mostly – Lightning’s 2nd alternate was a little corny). I was particularly blown away by Kain’s EX-mode costume. The graphics are slightly cleaner than in the original DFF and the game has no framerate or slowdown issues I noticed during my playthrough.

All of the DFF voice actors return, and they got the original VA for Yuna, Tifa, Vaan and Lightning, and for those who had Aerith as an assist character – I’m pretty sure they used the Crisis Core VA for her. As with before, Shantotto’s VA is SINGULARLY annoying, and the narrator got on my nerves as well. Aside from those two, the voice acting was all quite good. Kain, particularly, sounded just like I would’ve imagined him sounding.

Also, the music of the game is incredible, featuring remastered and remixed versions of classic FF themes, including all of those present in the first and some new ones, such as the ever-awesome ffiv Theme of Love and ffix You’re Not Alone.

But is it more than just a pretty face?

Indeed it is! The combat is more fluid, smoother, and more fast paced than the original DFF without losing any of DFF’s charm. The new characters, with only one exception, all play really well and very uniquely. The modifications made to the existing characters help to balance them out, rounding out some of their glaring weaknesses and toning down some of the balance issues from the first(For example, Exdeath is no longer slower than molasses in January, and Terra has an effective long-range ground HP attack chaining from one of her brave attacks).

In addition, there’re a few new additions to the game. The EX-revenge allows you to consume your ex gauge to stop an opponents attack and slow down time long enough for 2-3 brave attacks or 1 hp attack during which your opponent can’t react or move. Some of the new attributes and traits make a huge difference in gameplay as well; but far and away the biggest change is the Assist system. As you land brave or HP attacks, your Assist gauge will fill up, and when it has 1 bar full you can unleash an assist brave attack and when it has 2 bars full you can unleash an assist HP attack. The Assist attacks allow you to briefly summon an AI controlled character to unleash some form of attack on your opponent, based off of whether you did an hp or a brave attack. Also, if your assist character lands certain types of attacks, you can chain from that, instantly teleporting behind your opponent to allow you to continue the chain. Additionally, assist characters ignore the ‘wall rush immunity’ characters get, allowing you to ocntinue chains past a wall rush if you can connect with an assist attack while the person is still stunned. The last portion of the Assist system is the EX Break, which can be unleashed by connecting with an assist while a person is in ex mode.

Not fixed, however, are the line of sight and camera problems encountered near corners or walls, which can still cost you a game simply due to the inability to really see what is happening.

Most of the game modes return, in addition to a new one entitled the ‘Labyrinth’ – a pseudo-dungeon crawler style game mode where you start with no equipment, accessories, or summons and have to build your way up from there. Unfortunately, in Labyrinth mode, any treasures you get are lost at the end except a selection of craftables that can be kept if you reach a goal. An even bigger disappointment about Labyrinth mode, your calendar bonuses don’t effect fights in the Labyrinth. But my biggest disappointment of all was the removal of just about my favourite game mode – the Duel Colosseum. The Duel Colosseum was a fun way to level characters, hunt for treasure, and build up a good number of PP/gil quickly. It’s loss is sorely felt and has severely soured my overall opinion of the title.

All of this for just ninety nine, ninety nine, ninety niiiine….

Not really… it’s more like 39.99, but Duodecim has a huge amount of value in it, with potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay. It allows you to import a ton of stuff from the first game, including all of your levels and your pp unlocks. In addition, it also has a fully remastered version of the first game using the new overworld mechanics and storytelling style. The new labyrinth mode also has a ton of gameplay time you can invest if you’re interested. It also has endless multiplayer battle potential. In addition, the ability to save replays and export them to proper video files allows us to share our accomplishments and comic failures with our friends or even the general public. And last but not least, it has a game-builder feature. You can build scenarios and share them with others, adding a whole new layer of value to this already value-rich title.

Overall

Final Fantasy Dissidia (012) Duodecim is a huge title with a ton of value. It is a fluid fighter with a passable story, great graphics and audio, and a ton of stuff to do. And while the duel colosseum’s absence is a big negative, it doesn’t really counter the fan service awesomeness seen within Dissidia Duodecim. If you have any interest in a dynamic fighter for your psp, or for getting to revisit most of your favourite ff characters in a new, fully voiced light – then this should be in your collection. And the inclusion of the entire first game’s story makes it so you don’t even need to start with the first game and move here, you can just start here.

Pros

  1. Exciting and dynamic combat enhanced by new combat mechanics and pacing improvements over the first game.
  2. Exceptionnal graphic and audio quality, including most of the voice acting.
  3. New game mode as well as a ton of things to collect promise a lot of replayability.
  4. Multiplayer functionality contains a lot of options, both for playing with others and for sharing content with others. 
  5. Contains the entire story mode from the first Dissidia.
  6. Significant balance improvements making the game feel a lot less lopsided.
  7. Story better than most fighting game stories.
  8. Incredible soundtrack of remixed Final Fantasy themes.

Cons

  1. Some of the characters, including the narrator, are quite frustrating to listen to
  2. Camera angle issues plague certain parts of certain maps.
  3. Story, while good for a fighting game, is still very cliché and some characters have less than ideal portrayals.
  4. Writing is not up to Square Enix’s usual standards, and is really no better than the first Dissidia.
  5. Loss of “Duel Colosseum” really hurts replayability and overall fun of the game.

Review written by: Sean

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