It would have been easy to half-ass Dissidia. Slap some characters together, give them a couple of special moves, put in a lot of old music, and call it a day. Instead, Square Enix created a unique fighting system, crafted an immense (if ludicrous) story, and put real thought into the characters. Dissidia is a love letter to the fans who have been playing Final Fantasy games for almost twenty-five years now, and as such Square Enix has packed it to the brim with fanservice.
After the jump, more in-jokes than you can shake a moogle at
Each character controls differently, making the switch from Cloud to Kefka much more dramatic than going from Ryu to Dhalsim. For many of the characters, the manner in which they’re controlled calls out to their original game. Lightning shifts between Commando, Ravager, and Medic, her opening Paradigms in Final Fantasy XIII. Vaan’s attacks are all different weapons, since every character in XII could wield every weapon. Bartz’s attacks are mimicked mashups of the other character’s attacks, since the secret class in Final Fantasy V was Mime.
I didn’t mention yesterday how EX Mode works. EX Mode is a character-specific powered-up form that you can activate during battle if you fill up a particular gauge. Every single EX Mode plays into that character’s original game. For Cloud and Squall, they equip their most powerful swords, the Ultima Weapon and Lion Heart, respectively. Terra morphs into her Esper form from Final Fantasy VI. Zidane and Kuja enter their Trance forms from Final Fantasy IX. Bartz, from Final Fantasy V, masters all of his Job Classes and even gets the three little stars above his head. Emperor Mateus, Kefka, and Jecht all take on their appearances as final bosses.
If I hit with an HP attack while in EX Mode, I can go into an EX Burst, which is basically a super-powered Limit Break. These use the same mechanics as the original game, if possible. For Squall’s Renzokuken, you have to press the right trigger at the right time to get critical hits, just like in Final Fantasy VIII. Tidus has to stop a cursor in the middle of a bar to land his. Vaan and Gabranth use Final Fantasy XII’s Quickening system, cycling through abilities to find the next one. Tifa has seven slots to line up, as in Final Fantasy VII. The Onion Knight actually has an NES-style command menu, and his most powerful ability (Holy as a Sage or Shuriken as a Ninja) must be selected quickly.
Each character has between three and four attires, and none of these are simple palette swaps. Squall has four; his in-game appearance with the half jacket, his SeeD dress uniform, an appearance modeled after the original Yoshitaka Amano art, and a fourth bonus costume of his appearance in the Kingdom Hearts line of video games. Terra has a costume based off her original Amano artwook and one from her Super Nintendo sprite, with a red dress and bright green hair. Cloud and Tifa have their costumes from the Advent Children movie. Zidane dons his Pluto Knight disguise. Tidus loses his shirt for some reason.
The stages call back to specific games as well, from Ultimecia’s Castle from Final Fantasy VIII, full of spinning gears and broken bridges, to the top of the Sky Fortress Bahamut from XII, with dangerous winds befitting a mobile fortress of that size. My favorite arena in the game is Dream’s End from Final Fantasy X, a lava-filled ruined blitzball stadium with a giant sword embedded in the center platform.
Dissidia’s soundtrack is also full of references, with as many newly remixed tracks as unchanged originals. It’s used intelligently as well; during the story mode, Yuna’s battle with Emperor Mateus references her opposition of Seymour, the primary antagonist of Final Fantasy X. When they finally cross swords (or staffs, I suppose), “Fight With Seymour” is the music chosen.
If the character has been voiced in a previous Final Fantasy game, movie, or Kingdom Hearts appearance, they return here, whether that’s for better (Doug Erholtz, Bobby Edner as Vaan, George Newbern as Sephiroth) or worse (Hedy Burress’s work as Yuna is still questionable). The only character who doesn’t get his original voice actor is Judge Gabranth, who is instead voiced by Keith Ferguson, who played Basch in Final Fantasy XII. If you’ve finished Final Fantasy XII, you’ll spot the casting as yet another reference. If you haven’t, I’d rather not spoil it. There is also Keith David. I might have already said this.
Moogles send you mail each day from MogNet, a la Final Fantasy IX. When performing an HP attack, the attack name appears at the top of the screen in the same text box and font used in that character’s game. The summonstones include fan favorites like Ultros the unruly octopus from VI and Zalera the Death Seraph from XII. The tutorials are presented by multiple characters who didn’t make the cut for the game, each one in character and dropping references to their original titles. In between battles a tiny 8-bit chocobo pops in to wark at me whenever I have a bonus XP chance coming up. When Tifa activates her EX Burst, she rebounds off the wall as in Advent Children. Vaan constantly asks how old Ultimecia is. Zidane and Kuja both have choice words for Garland, referencing the latter’s role in Final Fantasy IX. Kefka actually hums the Victory Fanfare when he wins.
The amount of fanservice crammed into Dissidia Final Fantasy is absolutely mind-boggling.
Mind-boggling, I tell you.
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.