Dissidia 012: death by numbers

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Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy is the sequel to Dissidia Final Fantasy. That might be a little hard to figure out at first glance, because generally, a 1 is not followed by a 012. The title refers to something that makes (some) sense in the story, but it’s yet another entry in a long line of confusing Square Enix game names. It’s also not the last time you’ll be forced to make sense of numbers in this excellent fighting game.

After the jump, why two life bars are better than one

There are a lot of numbers on that screen, but it’s not as intimidating as you think; in fact, it’s a very well-realized and creative battle system.

In Dissidia, you have two types of attacks: Brave attacks and HP attacks. Brave attacks are any attacks done with the Circle button. Brave attacks deal damage to the opponent’s Brave, while adding to your own. The number above your life bar is your Brave. Tifa’s Brave is 1570, Tidus’s is 925. If Tifa deals 100 damage in Brave attacks, she’ll then have 1670 and Tidus will have 825.

HP attacks are done with the Square button. When you connect with an HP attack, the enemy takes HP damage (that little green bar) equal to your Brave, like Kain is doing to Prishe in the above screenshot. When you run out of HP, you lose and the match is over.

Sound pretty simple, right? It is, but it comes with risks. Whenever you land an HP attack, your Brave goes down to 0 for a little while, and slowly goes back up to your base amount. Getting reduced to 0 HP kills you, but what about getting reduced to 0 Brave?

Tifa just clobbered Tidus down to negative Brave, meaning he is now in Bravery Break status. What that means is that his Bravery isn’t going to go up for a while. Even if he hits a big combo, that number’s staying down. The more serious issue, though, is that Tifa just got Stage Bravery. See that number between the health bars? That’s bonus Brave acquired whenever someone gets Broken. If Tifa lands an HP attack now, she’s going to deal a lot more HP damage.

The timing of an HP attack is important. If you wait until you’re going to deal thousands of damage, you’re going to be vulnerable for a much longer time, since the higher damage you deal with that HP attack, the longer it takes your Brave to regenerate. If you’re fighting an opponent who manages to get 8000 Brave, you’re not going to wear that down fast enough to make a difference. But needling them with constant low-damage HP attacks means you’re chipping away at the health bar that really matters.

It can sound confusing. In Street Fighter IV, imagine if Ryu could only do damage with his Hadoken, Shoryuken, and the Hurricane Kick, but every regular strike he landed made those special moves do more damage, and made his opponent’s special moves do less damage. But every time he hit one of those special moves, his opponent would get a massive power boost if he could land a shot.

The Brave/HP dynamic in Dissidia makes for some exciting matches, and that’s before we cover equipment, summons, special rulesets, map effects, assist characters, and limit breaks. It’s easy to handle if you just remember that the key to the game is to take away the other guy’s numbers and use them to kill him.

Kind of like full-contact math class, I guess.

Up next: It’s not Final Fantasy if there’s not a nonsensical story

Matt Bowyer lives in Kansas City with his wife and two ferocious guard cats. He plays entirely too many videogames, especially when he should be working on his novel.

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