"Dissidia Final Fantasy NT could very well mark Square Enix's entry into the world of eSports."
Hard to believe it's been eight whole years since Dissidia Final Fantasy, the dream fighter seemingly birthed by the collective schoolyard fantasy of every RPG-inclined kid who grew up in the 1990s, originally launched on the PSP. I poured easily over a hundred hours into the game and its awkwardly-titled sequel, tuning my favorite characters (Prishe, represent) to limit-breaking perfection. "What I wouldn't give to have this on the big screen," I mused. Nearly a decade later, my dream is finally coming true.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is based on the Japanese arcade version that released in 2015. As such, it uses a modified system that pits two teams of three fighters against each other. This turns Dissidia into a team-centric brawler where cooperation and coordination are pushed to the forefront. It's flashier than ever, too, sporting brilliant particle effects that fill the screen as combatants clash in iconic locales like Final Fantasy XIV's Porta Decumana and Final Fantasy XII's City of Rabanastre.
New to NT is the inclusion of classic Final Fantasy summons. These serve as powerful tide-turners for one lucky team to utilize in the heat of battle. Partway through a match, a "Summon Core" will appear somewhere in the area. Think of it like a Smash Ball from Nintendo's ubiquitous brawler; the first player to break it open gains the ability to call forth a powerful being like Ifrit, Shiva, or Odin. These familiar faces unleash devastating attacks that raze the battlefield, and each functions differently.
All participants get to vote on which summon will appear in a match, if any, adding an interesting wrinkle to pre-battle preparations: Is Exdeath too slow for a match where Alexander might appear? Can the Emperor use his traps to pin a foe in Ifrit's Hellfire? I'll need more time with the game to determine just how much of an impact summons will have on the meta, but I appreciate their inclusion from a theoretical perspective.
If there's one major area of concern, it's that NT's user interface is entirely too busy. Between HP and BP gauges, a party tracker, a map, and a litany of other meters layered over the game's bombastic visuals, it's extremely difficult to know where to look at any given moment. I understand that NT needs to provide the right tools for players to analyze their movements in order for it be a truly competitive fighter, but as it stands, it's something of a visual mess. Even after taking a step back and observing from the sidelines, I found it difficult to track the action. I've heard talk that Square Enix is taking feedback on the UI in particular, so here's hoping it's streamlined prior to release. And with Noctis from Final Fantasy XV joining the fray, NT promises to bring the playable roster up to speed, if nothing else.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT could very well mark Square Enix's entry into the world of eSports, and it's a strong contender in the fighting game arena besides. At present, it toes the line of being overly complex for complexity's sake, but there's still time for tuning before it launches in 2018. In the meantime, I might just fire up Duodecim for one last hurrah.