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Dissidia 012[duodecim] Final Fantasy preview

Have you ever wondered what Super Smash Bros would be like if it was made by Square Enix? It's a hybrid that should have failed – who wants to play a game with SSB-style fighting mechanics meshed in an unholy matrimony with the intricacies, ridiculous length, and convoluted storylines of a Final Fantasy series? The answer: Apparently everyone. Dissidia and its soon to be released prequel, Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy, are games ignorantly dubbed as "fighting games." But it's not that simple.

In Dissidia, nothing is "that simple." Square Enix has taken large strides to make 012 (pronounced Duodecim, by the way) even more complicated than its predecessor, which (surprise, surprise) works to its advantage. In 012, the brand-new world map is as linear as a traditional FF game's, but it lets you access shops, converse with allies, and activate portals in a dynamic way. Completionists will have a heyday here; accessing a portal means you have to fight some brutal battles and in later sections there are plenty of non-critical portals to access.

Inside these portals, the game takes a dramatic shift in gameplay; suddenly your open world movement becomes restricted to an isometric battlefield (think FF Tactics). There are a handful of enemies that you can choose to fight one by one, chain into one long fight for extra experience, or skip and fight the boss for the inevitable treasure at the end. Inside each individual fight, you're placed into a free roaming arena where you can run around at breakneck speeds, scale huge walls, and kick the living crap out of famous FF characters. Oh, and you can grind rails of light. We know, we know. It's confusing.

So besides the world map, what else new in Dissidia 012? Well, quite a bit, as it turns out. There are more levels, more characters, more moves, more everything. And face it, if you were interested in this game already, you're probably willing to devote the time and money just to play as Lightning. Our time within the game didn't reveal every new character, but we can tell you there's a heaping handful, including fan-favorites like Yuna and Gilgamesh. All the originals return with three costumes and new moves.

Speaking of which, every character has basically three moves. Their quickest move is called a Bravery attack; it leeches your enemy's attack power and turns it into your attack power, so slam 'em enough with Bravery attack and they'll walk around the stage as harmless as a baby on stilts. Next up is your normal attack, which is a bit slower than your Bravery attack. Its strength varies wildly depending on your level, equipped weapon, and of course, how much ass you've already kicked with that Bravery attack. And then there are the specials, which have been drastically changed. EX Mode is back (you collect glowing orbs called EX cores from around the arena, which allow you to perform a ridiculously huge attack). Then there's the new "Assist" mode which allows you to call a preset ally to help attack your enemy or defend you.

This new addition adds more balance than you might think. When you use your Assist, your EX Gauge is emptied and when you use your EX Burst, your Assist gauge is emptied. You can either double up with two powerful attack moves or choose a defensive assist to help you when you are (inevitably) in dire need. Assists aren't infallible however, and characters can perform Assist Breaks by whooping on an enemy's assist character. If you use an Assist during an enemy's EX Mode, you'll perform an EX Break, and if you try to activate EX Mode while being attacked, it'll slow down time and allow for a serious beating to ensue. In other words, it adds an entirely new rock, paper, scissors mechanic to a game that already had one in place (Bravery attack, Attack, EX Mode), essentially doubling the complexity of Dissidia.

Dissidia's never shied away from complexities (just look at the name). Duodecim includes the original Dissidia with improvements including the new world maps. To beat both, producer Tetsuya Nomura said Duodecim will offer around 60 hours of gameplay, but any true fan will already know there are literally hundreds of hours to be spent in both storylines.

Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy hits North American shelves March 22, so look for our full review then.

Feb 28, 2011