Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Game Review - Dissidia 012: “Duodecim” Final Fantasy

Format: (PSP)

September 2009 saw the release of a surprising title on the Playstation Portable. Dissidia: Final Fantasy was a breath of fresh air for the hand-held, bringing an exciting fighting game mashed together with role-play elements. It was more than a simple fan service as it stuffed many of Square and Square Enix’s most famous protagonists and villains into one fierce battle, rather it became it’s own franchise. Dissidia 012: “Duodecim” Final Fantasy brings this winning formula back for another helping and while at first glance it may seem like nothing has changed, the introduction of great new characters to the roster, some tweaks to single player and multiplayer and plenty more features, make this an enhancement well worth checking out.

Naturally taking so many characters out of different realms and putting them together in one game is no easy task, so the story surrounding Duodecim is of great importance. Unfortunately this is no Kingdom Hearts where characters seamlessly blend into one interconnecting piece of genius, this is a simple good-guys versus the baddies scenario. This story plays out in a new Overworld where players instead of only navigating on grids, you are now given the opportunity to traverse varied lands full of people to talk to, items to unlock and rewards to find.

The rather simplistic story isn’t entirely a bad thing as it does allow some fantastic encounters between famous characters that you would of course not find anywhere else. So while Duodecim is certainly lacking in depth, it more than makes up for with content. This game is all about giving to the player. Each character has their own story path to follow; completing their paths unlocks other paths and characters. Completing the game unlocks another game mode and allows you to pick characters to do prior missions; there’s just so much to do and the game rewards you for the time put in.

This idea of rewarding may sound incredible familiar to those who have played the predecessor and it is indeed one of the best things about the Dissidia series. You will find that each character has so many unlockables in the forms of moves, combos, costumes, weapons and loads of other cool stuff that it’s almost impossible to stop until you’ve collected it all. It certainly helps that all of this stuff is attainable and you don’t have to do anything too ridiculous to get the best gear, but it is the speed in which you unlock stuff; Duodecim has the perfect play / reward curve in any role-play game.

It may come as a surprise that such emphasis is placed on the role-play elements of a game that seems predominately about combat, but that’s how good it is. Fortunately Duodecim’s addictive hording is complimented perfectly with a thrilling and intense combat system. One on one battles are the port of call here and you wage battle by using Bravery attacks that steal Bravery points from your opponent, or HP attacks, which do damage. The more Bravery points you steal, the stronger your HP attacks become. So Duodecim becomes a complex and strategic fighter where players have to pick the right moment to deliver the big finishing moves. These finishing moves, known as EX Burst Attacks, are dazzling cinematic explosions of combat, which end in button pressing segments that deal plenty of grueling damage. Another new addition to Duodecim is the ability to call in an ally to attack or block using your Assist mode. You will find other little enhancements along your journey that all help make this sequel that much more thrilling than the last installment.

Duodecim makes sure to appeal to fans across the entire Final Fantasy spectrum with not only its broad range of characters, but also the fantastic settings in which battles take place. Plenty of memorable locations are transformed into platform like stages that allow your chosen character to run and fly around as you attempt to eliminate each other. The large environments all look good and your characters move along them eloquently, making effective use of the space.

Once you’ve done the initial run through of Duodecism and realize the ridiculous amount of post-game content there is available, you will undoubtedly jump into the new available Labyrinth mode. This game type is all about acquiring random equipment, enemies, allies and so forth from a deck of playing cards. After that, the game is like survival, as you try and get as far as possible without dying. This mode gets rid of the needless dialogue and drivel from the story mode and concentrates on pure action, while at the same time forcing your hand with other characters that you may not be so confident with, but will soon learn that Duodecim’s roster is balanced and well thought out.

Duodecim continues to impress with its great multiplayer options. You and up to 9 of your buddies can get together and compete in tournaments. The lack of online play is hugely frustrating, but the local play does run very smoothly, allowing for some great battles to be waged between friends. The ability to fight your friends’ ghost characters is also a welcome feature to get stuck in with. Duodecim even has a creation mode where you can create your own story-like missions with its own dialogue, forcing your friends on a brand new fan-made adventure.

From a technical perspective Duodecim is a winner. The graphics across the board are gorgeous for a hand-held. Character models, level design, cut-scenes and even the menus are beautiful. The audio is hit and miss; an incredible orchestral score and great remixes of classic Final Fantasy tunes are an absolute joy to hear, but the dialogue and voice acting is poor and cringe-worthy at times. The controls are smooth and for the most part, aside from the awkward camera angle, the game plays well, most noticeably it deserves praise for the efficient local connectivity it provides.

Ultimately Dissidia 012: “Duodecim” Final Fantasy is a terrific brawler/role-play hybrid. It is absolutely bursting with content and long-lasting appeal. With beautiful and memorable characters, some of the best graphics on a hand-held to date, epic game-play and lots of stuff to do after completing the story mode, and while the lack of an online multiplayer is frustrating, you can’t really ask for a better-rounded package than Duodecim.

Technical presentation – 8.0

Graphics – 8.5

Game-play – 8.0

Replay value – 9.0

Final score – 8.5 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor.
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