I will totally admit I've had some jealous emotions towards Japanese arcades. This is mostly due to the exclusivity of the newest entry of Dissida Final Fantasy since it first launched back in 2015. Finally, after several years, the PlayStation 4 is getting a port with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. Naturally, since everything gets open betas now, Square Enix wants to give the game a bit of a test run. So does this new entry to the fighting series impress, or does it need more work?
At the current time, there are 13 playable characters in the beta. If you're looking to try one of the newest Dissidia characters, both Final Fantasy XIV's Y'shtola and Final Fantasy Tactics' Ramza Beoulve are available to play. There's some fan favorites like Cloud and Squall, some more entertaining choices like Bartz and Onion Knight, and also Final Fantasy II's Emperor is here if you... wanted to play as him for some reason? I guess they had a villain quota to fulfill, but I'd rather they picked literally anyone else. Personally, I stuck with Lightning as she's probably my favorite of the bunch (I'm a Final Fantasy XIII fan, what can I say?) but there's a good chance there will be at least a couple people you want to play as here. I later found out the characters are on a rotation schedule which seems like a strange way to do it, and it mostly left me wondering why they couldn't just have all the characters go at once.
At the start, you'll be asked to pick a summon. You'll have to choose one of seven blank crystals and hope you get someone you like. I personally got Odin, who let me dash more often and have a faster movement speed. Following that you can hop into a lengthy and meaty tutorial that does a pretty good job explaining all of the game's elements to you. By the time I was done with it I felt like I had a great grasp of the game's mechanics.
The basics are quite simple. Each character has a bravery meter that they can increase by performing bravery attacks. While bravery attacks don't deal damage, they do lower other character's bravery meter and often send them flying. You also have HP attacks, which deal damage based on how many bravery points you have. The more bravery, the more damage the HP attack deals. Your goal is to amass as much bravery as possible before hitting an enemy with a well-timed HP attack.
Of course, there are all sorts of other systems available. EX abilities are one of the new features, with each character getting a unique one to call their own. For example, Lightning can unleash a flurry of attacks, Ramza can power up his attacks to deal more damage and hit from a longer range, while Cecil can switch between his paladin and dark knight forms. In addition to this you can also equip two common EX abilities, letting you customize your character's spells slightly. Most of the common EXs fall in the realm of debuffing enemies or buffing your party, meaning they're useful for teamwork-related stuff.
Yes, party and teamwork. Unlike the older Dissidia Final Fantasy games, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is not a 1v1 game. Instead, you'll be participating in 3v3 battles. At first, I was worried that this would make the game way too hectic, but the large arenas meant it was rare that things turned into a mess of colorful magic. That said, I was confused as to why it's not possible to partake in 1v1 matches. It's either 3v3 or bust. There's also a second game mode where your goal is to defend a crystal while destroying the enemy crystal, but as far as I could tell I could only play this mode offline. I'm not entirely sure I was bothered by that though, as I found the mode to be kind of annoying compared to just a straight up fight.
Once the fighting got going I was having a blast. Stringing together attacks to launch opponents across the field was exciting, and managing to unleash an HP attack at the absolute perfect time was always a thrill. I felt like I was constantly discovering new mechanics the more I played, like how to sidestep enemy attacks or use dashes to shorten the wait time between attacks. On the other hand, this was sometimes more of a hassle than it should be. The wait time between matches was huge, often requiring a full minute before the game found my next match. Some matches also lagged to the point of total unplayability, but at least that was a rare occurrence.
Oh, there's also some story mode content available to see here. I can't really say much about it though, as all the game has right now is four totally unrelated and unconnected cutscenes. Is seeing Noctis, Lightning, and Warrior of Light meet each other neat? Yeah, but nothing really happens. Kefka breaks the fourth wall in one of the cutscenes, so that's a thing. It kind of vaguely sets up who'll be paling around with who though, so that's something, but this is going to have to wait until the full game before I can say more.
I think there's a ton of potential in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, but there needs to be some work on the game. At the current time, all I really could do was play 3v3 matches online or play 3v3 matches offline. The fighting feels fun and rewarding, but maybe a bit on the simple side. The long wait times and occasional lag make the game a chore more than it should. I can see people really enjoying this game, and I may just be one of them. It's just going to require working through some annoyances.
I did unlock the ability for Lightning to say "meow-meow, choco-chow" though, so there's that.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT was played on PlayStation 4 using a freely downloaded open beta. The game launches on January 30th, 2018.