Final Fantasy Dissidia 012 Duodecim

Dissidia_Duodecim_012_Final_FantasyDate Completed : February 22nd, 2015

Holy Stupid Name Batman! Square-Enix has released some games with truly stupid names in the past but the Final Fantasy series has mostly managed reasonably titled games (Unless you count the face that with over 52 games in the series the word ‘Final’ clearly does not apply).  When the original Dissidia game came out I naturally wondered what orifice they pulled the name from, but eventually I shrugged it off and got to playing the game. ‘Final Fantasy : Dissidia 012 Duodecim’ makes it really hard to shrug off the name.  If someone asked me what I was playing I usually responded ‘Final Fantasy Fighting Game’. If I did happen to try and tell someone ( such as my wife ) the full title of the game I was horribly mocked for playing it, as if the title of the game was my fault.

Having dropped over 100 hours into the previous Final Fantasy Dissidia I was looking forward to starting the sequel but a few things kept me from getting started. First – I didn’t want to play another game on my PSP.  I was able to resolve this issue by throwing more money at Square Enix and buying a digital copy of the game for my PS Vita during a Final Fantasy sale on the Playstation store.  Second – 100 hours is a long ass time to play a game.  What finally convinced me to start Duodecim was the discovery that there is an import feature.  The import process was a simple 380 step process that involved multiple virtual machines, memory card readers and a bit of hacking skill but in the end I did get it to work and I was able to import all of my maxed-out characters.

I didn’t realize it until after I was quite a way in to the game but the game is a super set of the original Dissidia. It includes the original game as well as a lengthy prequel.  The game isn’t 100% identical but if you can skip the original Dissidia you won’t be missing anything story wise.  The story follows the eternal conflict between Chaos and Cosmos (Discord and Harmony) and attempts to tie all of the Final Fantasy titles together into a cohesive whole.  It does this by confusing the hell out of you to the point that your brain decides to stop trying to process the story and accepts everything as perfectly sensible.

If I had to choose one word to describe this game it would be POINTS. There are Brave Points (BP), Hit Points (HP), Ability Points (AP), Experience Points (Exp), Kupo Points (KP) and Player Points (PP). While not technically a ‘point’ value, there is also an in game currency called ‘Gil’ which can be used to purchase various types of gear. If you think that sounds a tad bit over-complicated then you and I are in agreement. I couldn’t help but feel that some gleeful accountant with an over fascination of spreadsheets designed the game.

Battles are all one-on-one and your goal is to reduce your opponents HP to 0. You have two types of attacks – Brave attacks and HP attacks. Brave attacks reduce your opponents’ brave points and adds them to yours. HP attacks take your current brave points and inflict equivalent damage to your opponents HP. The normal flow of battle involves attempting to inflict ‘break’ status on your opponent by reducing their Brave points below zero. This awards you a huge bonus of brave points and in many cases means you can win the battle with a single HP attack afterwards.

There are several AI engines of varying difficulty, the most frustrating of which either blocks dodges or reflects every single attack you make.  In once such battle I fired over 30 homing shots at my opponent and every single one missed. I’ve been in battles where my foe was backed into a corner and I blasted them with a huge attack and it missed even though they visually appeared to have no way to dodge. How do you win these battles?  It’s helps to be several dozen levels above your opponent, but if all else fails you can always resort to luck.  Eventually the AI will screw up and you’ll hit it.

Running around the map.

Running around the Over World

 

Cut-scenes were irritatingly frequent and account for a large percentage of my play time through this game. Since I was maxed out on levels, for the first 2/3rds of the game I could get 1-hit kills on all the enemies so the game consisted mostly of cut-scenes and loading screens for me. Conversations between characters tended to be repetitive and waaaaaaaaaay too long. There is a skip feature, which I recommend to any new players. Go ahead and skip – the story doesn’t make sense anyway.

Every button on the PSP (or the PS Vita in my case) is used and then some while playing this game. Many skills such as dodging, summoning and calling an assist character require you to hold a shoulder button while pressing another button. I often found my hand temporarily locked into a ‘claw of doom’ position after playing Duodecim. The controls are impossible to use comfortably. I don’t think the designers put much thought into what sort of controller players would have.

The full history of Final Fantasy outfits is on display in Duodecimo.  Characters from the more recent games retain their original their original appearance (such as Tidus’s one long pant leg and Kuja’s thong / vest / skirt combo) but characters from the more classic titles have been ‘upgraded’ to 3D models.  While I am going to refrain from an extended critique of the fashion choices in this game, I find it interesting to observe that the more evil a woman is in Final Fantasy, the more of her knockers you are likely to see (Which is the opposite of what I believed for most of my adolescence).

Mog

My roommate in college used to say the same thing.

Dissidia is clearly fan service for people like myself who are long time fans of the series and enjoy the mash-ups of characters. The game mechanics are unique and fun, although somewhat flawed. Overall I enjoyed the game, but I really hope they re-think some of the mechanics if they’re going to continue creating Dissidia games (And all signs point to yes).

Pros

  • Unique Fighting game.
  • Includes characters from Final Fantasy I – XIII.

Cons

  • Flawed mechanics.
  • Long, repetitive cut-scenes.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: PSP / PS Vita
Genre: Fighting / RPG
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Eulogy for a PSP

The year was 2005.  Nintendo had recently released the Nintendo DS and I thought they were insane.  “Two screens?  They’ve gone bonkers!“.  When Sony announced the PSP it appeared to me as the answer to Nintendo’s insanity.  A high powered console that used high capacity mini-discs that could store entire movies on them seemed like a dream to a fan of portable gaming.  I decided to go all in.  I ordered GameStop’s most expensive PSP bundle.  It came with the console, 4 launch titles (Need for Speed : Underground Rivals, Untold Legends : Brotherhood of the Blade, Deerstalkers Chronicle : The Chaos Tower and Metal Gear Acid) and multiple accessories including a carrying case and a car charger.

People who saw my PSP to were immediately in awe of it.  Colleagues were interested in the movie playback capabilities for traveling with kids  (Portable DVD players were still popular then).  Friends were interested in the games and the awesome graphics.  I even knew a guy who bought one after seeing it could function as a MP3 player.  It seemed that the PSP was destined for greatness.

Appearances can be deceiving though.  All of the launch titles turned out to be utter crap and I quickly traded them all in.  Very few movies were getting UMD ports, and often the UMD versions cost more than DVD copies.  Out of stubbornness I purchased Jet Li’s ‘Unchained’ for 25$ just to get some use out of my PSP (awful movie, don’t’ get it).  My memory card was far too small to be a useful MP3 player and iPods ended up ruling over that market anyway.

The deficiencies in the PSP’s design also became apparent.  The power slider is possibly one of the most absurd interface elements of all time.   It’s positioned under your right hand and is extremely easy to hit accidentally.  Sliding down engages the button lock which prevents any buttons on the console from working ( not very useful during gameplay) and sliding up either suspends the console or turns it off, depending how long you hold it.  There is no visual indication between off and suspended so you have to hope you got the right one.  If you didn’t, WOE TO YOU.  The battery dies after a few hours in suspend mode so you’ll need to find your charger.  In fact, the battery dies all the time.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to reset the clock on my PSP due to complete battery drainage.  Sony released an extended life battery upgrade that I briefly considered buying, but I decided it would be cheaper to keep the PSP plugged in.

The PSP had brief, but memorable periods of usefulness.  During an extended illness my future wife had missed the latest episode of LOST, so after buying a ridiculously expensive memory card upgrade I was able to bring the movie to her apartment.  Shortly after she agreed to marry me.

Thanks to the hacker community, my PSP also briefly functioned as a portable Nintendo hand held.  In fact, I bought a copy of Grand Theft Auto that I never intended to play because of a vulnerability that would allow me to launch a NES emulator.  I was able to play Mega Man while flying to Hawaii on my Honeymoon, all on my hacked PSP.

After a few years with my PSP it represented the single biggest case of buyers regret I had ever had.  I’d spent untold hundreds of dollars on overpriced games, movies and accessories and had gotten very little use out of the console.  Other competing consoles were taking up the majority of my time and my sad little PSP sat on a shelf, forgotten and unloved.  Upgraded versions of the PSP were released but they didn’t tempt me at all.  I wasn’t going to be tricked again.

Then something happened.  Final Fantasy celebrated it’s 20th Anniversary.  Square-Enix re-released upgraded versions of several old Final Fantasy games for including Final Fantasy I & II Anniversary Editions, and Final Fantasy Tactics.  Being the good Final Fantasy fan that I am ( my wife often jokes that I am the only reason Square-Enix is still in business), I naturally bought all three of these titles.  My PSP found new purpose as a place to re-play old Final Fantasy games.  The PSP went with me on a month long trip to Europe where I played through Final Fantasy Tactics for the second time.

Red

Red XIII served as my wallpaper for many years.

Gradually more games came out for the PSP including Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core,   Final Fantasy IV : Complete and the most unusual fighting game ever – Final Fantasy Dissidia.  Several classic PS1 titles were also made available and I was able to re-play Final Fantasy IX.

I’ve played a handful of forgettable non-final Fantasy titles such as Daxter and Lumines but Final Fantasy is what finally helped me to get over the regret of purchasing the system.

Now, 8 years after launch my PSP is finally leaving service.  I’ve gone through three DS consoles and two 3DS consoles in the same amount of time, but my original PSP has stayed in service until today.  Now it is finally time to say goodbye.

Farewell Playstation Portable.  May eBay carry you off to greener pastures.

Kingdom Hearts : Birth by Sleep

Box ArtDate Completed: July 10th, 2013

The last Kingdom Hearts game I played was Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (which is my worst rated game ever) and I despised the experience so much that it took two years before I was ready to play a Kingdom Hearts game again.  I probably would have stayed away even longer except Kingdom Hearts : Birth By Sleep is the last PSP game that I have left to play.  Now that I’ve finished it I can retire my PSP.

I was prepared to hate this game from the very beginning.  My only goal was to finish the game as fast as possible and I didn’t want to put up with any of the tutorials, spend time leveling up my characters or learning how to use the melding system to create more powerful skills.  HowLongToBeat.com indicated that the game could take up to 66 hours to complete and I was not looking forward to sinking that much time into a game.  Since I hadn’t spent the time to play the game properly I was constantly too weak to win any battles.  I would have to replay boss battles dozens of times and I ended up wasting hours and that game probably took me longer than it would have otherwise because of it.

The game follows the exploits of three different main characters as they travel through various Disney themed worlds in search of the source of monsters called ‘The Unversed’ (Not to be confused with the Heartless or Nobodies).  Each character’s storyline must be played separately and after all three story lines are completed a final chapter becomes available.  This means you have to beat the game four separate times and watch four different endings before you’re done with the game.  Hardly a recipe for a speed run.

Each character visits the same worlds but they experience different parts of the story.  For example in Cinderella’s world one character helps the mice gather the materials to craft her ball gown, another character serves as a bodyguard to get her to the ball and the third character helps the Grand Duke locate Cinderella after the ball.  After completing each world you forge a ‘D-Link’ with a character which allows you to call on them to assist you in combat.  I took a certain pleasure calling Cinderella into battle with me.

Kingdom-Hearts-Birth-By-Sleep-kingdom-hearts-33930960-476-267

Cinderella, Warrior Princess

KH:BBS plays almost identically to the Kingdom Hearts games on the PS2.  You lock on to enemies using the L+R buttons and use the remaining buttons to whack at your foes with your unlikely weapon (a giant key).  The button combinations can be very uncomfortable to press due mostly to the size of the PSP, and the lack of a second analog stick.  I often cramped my hand after an extended game play session.

Abilities can be melded together to create more powerful abilities.  During a melding operation you can attach an extra component that will also grant you a new passive ability, such as more hit points or a faster attack speed.  The melding system is very involved so I recommend consulting an online FAQ for finding the best melds.  You have a limited number of ability slots so choosing powerful abilities is very important.

The overarching story is a prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series and it attempts to tie up many of the loose ends in the other games.  Unfortunately none of it makes a great deal of sense and only ended up confusing me more.  I’ve often wondered if it’s a translation issue, and that the game makes complete sense in its original Japanese, or if the game represents the mad ravings of a lunatic.  Either way, it’s a compelling sort of nonsense that is at least entertaining, if not entirely understandable.

There are tons of extras thrown in such as a networked arena mode, various mini games and collectables.  I didn’t find any of these to be particularly compelling, although some of them do yield up prizes and are worth at least a look.

By the time I got to the end of the game it had won me over.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m a little sad to see it go.

Pros

  • Three main characters with three different story lines.
  • Complex melding system.
  • Lots of extra content.

Cons

  • Takes a significant time investment to learn how to play.
  • Uncomfortable button mashing.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  35 hours
System: PSP
Genre: Action

Final Fantasy IV Complete

Date Completed : 12/25/2012

Final Fantasy IV Complete Box

I’m not sure how many times Final Fantasy IV (FF4) has been released but it’s got to be getting up into the double digits.  FF4 : The Complete Collection contains the original game as well as extended content that was added in subsequent releases.  It also contains a new ‘mission’ called ‘FF4 : Interlude’ as well as ‘FF4 : The After Years’ (FF4:TAY) which was originally episodic content that was released for Japanese cell phones.  I’ll review each of these three games separately.

-Final Fantasy IV-

This game has been released more times than most would have believed possible.  If you haven’t played it by now you’re probably not the kind of person who plays RPG’s anyway.  The version included in FF4:TCC contains graphical upgrades as well as extra post-game dungeons (Which I skipped since I’d already played through them in the Gameboy Advance release).  The game play experience will be familiar for anyone who played the original.

-Interlude-

What a snooze fest.  This game takes place between FF4 and FF4:TAY and it revisits the most boring dungeons from FF4 for no reason other than to waste an hour or so of your time and then ends.  All your experience points and equipment will be lost when you start FF4:TAY so there is no point to excessive leveling.  There is no exploration, very little character development ( most of which will be revisited as flashbacks later anyway ) and ultimately this is a completely forgettable experience.

-The After Years-

‘The After Years’ (FF4:TAY) is broken into several episodes that focus on specific characters.  Each episode is about 2 hours long, although I found that by using the automatic battle button this time would pass by much more quickly.  After all of the episodes have been defeated a final episode becomes available that lets you import all of your save data and choose your team.  New characters have been added with a complete cast of 22 playable characters available to select from.

The game plays pretty much identically to FF4 and FF4:I except for the addition of banding.  Characters now have the ability to band together to create devastating attacks.  To create a band you select a character and a skill to band together with another character and skill.  Most bands are between two characters but some can use up to five.  Valid bands produce awesome attacks (some of which can break the 9999 damage limit) but invalid bands no nothing.  You can waste a lot of time trying out different character/skill combinations OR you can use this handy list.

The episodes visit locations both old and new.  Most of the enemies and weapons will be familiar from the previous game and the world as a whole is largely unchanged.

What I was hoping for most from FF4:TAY was for some of the plot lines to be tied up.  Unfortunately with a few exceptions the world is completely unchanged.  15 years has passed and Edward is still pining away after Anna.  Edge is still cocky and single and Cecil and Rosa only seem to have managed to reproduce once.  In fact, I learned from this game that it is only possible for any couple to have EXACTLY ONE child.  In 15 years that’s all anyone managed.  A bit of a spoiler warning : the ending doesn’t resolve anything either.  Overall I was disappointed by the story.

The overarching story – the return of the second moon and the impending end of the world got more ridiculous and nonsensical as it went on.  I won’t spoil it here but anyone interested can read the whole plot on the Final Fantasy Wiki.

Just one big complaint about FF:TAY – surprise and back attacks seemed awfully frequent.  I would frequently be attacked from behind 3-4 times in a row.  I’m not sure if this is on purpose or not but I did not like it!

I’m glad I played the game once but I won’t be playing through game again.  I’m actually pretty burned out on RPGs as a genre now and I’m looking forward to some more action oriented gaming.

Pros

  • Features all FF4 content ever released in one convenient package.

Cons

  • Random encounter rate seemed unusually high.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  FF4 – 16 hours, FF4:I – 2 hours, FF4:TAY – 40 hours
System: Sony PSP
Genre: RPG

The 3rd Birthday

Date Completed: 10/5/2012

The science behind how an evil Kidney transplanted into an Opera singer can cause human beings to spontaneously combust was so far beyond plausible that even as a long time Final Fantasy fan I had a little trouble buying into it.  For that reason I was never a huge fan of the Parasite Eve series when it was fresh on the market.  Even so it was welcome news when I heard that Parasite Eve was being brought back after a 10 year hiatus.

I’m not sure why they felt they needed the name change but ‘The 3rd Birthday’ is ‘Parasite Eve 3’.  Once again you play the role of Aya Brea and you are on a mission to save the world from funky looking mutants. Once again implausible science and twisted plot lines are combined but this time a little time travel is thrown in to get things good and mixed up.  It’s been 10 years since the last Parasite Eve and while I remembered the names of the main characters (Eve and Aya) I had forgotten pretty much everything else.  I didn’t understand anything that was going on and I didn’t understand the history of the characters.  I’m not sure if the game would have made more sense if I could have remembered all the details or not.  I am going to say probably not.

Game Play was quite a bit different than I expected.  Instead of the RPG style combat of the previous games this is a straight forward action game.  Most of the game play involves running around and shooting at monsters.  The interesting part is that Aya has the new ability to ‘dive’ into different creatures.  She’s never physically present on the battlefield.  Her spirit form dives into (Possesses) someone else on the battlefield while her physical body is back in a lab somewhere.  This is where time travel comes in – her spirit form can travel around in time, so she can go back and change the outcome of events.  Aya can also dive into weakened enemies which does huge amounts of damage.  Diving can also be used as a means of transportation.  If you are on the ground and you want to be on top of a building dive into another soldier and you’re there instantly.  The diving mechanic was my favorite part of the game play.

Preparing to dive into a weakened enemy.

There are frequently other soldiers on the battle field and Aya can ‘dive’ into them to escape being mauled to death by one of the monsters in the game.  Early on there is a giant invincible monster chasing Aya and she has to dive into different soldiers to escape death, leaving the previous soldier to be helplessly ripped apart by a stampeding twisted.  You really feel like a huge hero.

The game itself is OK but the presentation is sleazy.  As Aya takes damage her clothes are literally blasted away.  By the end of the first level she was wearing nothing but the tattered remains of what had been a black tank top and distressed jeans.  I was surprised to find that between levels my clothing didn’t repair itself.  It took my awhile to find the secret button to repair Aya’s clothing.  Maybe they didn’t think the target audience would want to use that feature.  There are several other outfits of dubious utility that Aya can switch into ( see the Parasite Eve Wiki ) but most of those are locked until after beating the game so I wasn’t able to use them.  One is the ‘Business Suit’ which makes you wonder – what sort business do they think Aya is in?  There is also a hidden shower scene that I never encountered in normal game play.  Morbid curiosity led me to look it up on YouTube.  Luckily it’s a little hard to find 3rd Birthday videos that aren’t the shower scene on YouTube.

Aya in her battlefield attire.

The game is really short.  Only 6 levels with about an hour of content each.  I read on GameFaqs that after leveling up the game can be defeated in under an hour.  The PSP controls felt especially clumsy after having most recently played Uncharted on the Vita.  It was fun enough for a single play through but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re really into CG boobs.

Pros

  • Fun combat system.

Cons

  • Controls are limited by PSP hardware.
  • Short missions.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  ~6 hours
System: PSP
Genre: Action / RPG

Final Fantasy IX

Unlike most some contemporary Final Fantasy games where the hero is a macho fighter type with a giant sword and even bigger hair, in this game the hero is some sort of thieving monkey man.  Hot in pursuit of our hero is a bumbling but lovable fighter who eventually joins the team but never really manages to get taken seriously.  With a handful of other characters along for the ride including (but not limited to) a hungry marshmallow with a giant tongue, a dragon (literally) knight and an anti-social assassin with a permanent crick in his neck this title aims to tell a traditional story (Save the world!) with a very untraditional cast.

The first thing you’ll notice about this game is that the story is pretty coherent for a Final Fantasy title.  When my wife asked me what was going on I was actually able to tell her (That’s not something I’m usually able to do with Final Fantasy games).  Towards the end of the game it starts heading towards the deep end but it never straps on cement shoes and drowns itself the way that some of the more recent titles have.
What I enjoyed most about this game was the zany characters, the excellent soundtrack and the return to traditional RPG gameplay and story.  Most notably is that all of the standard equipment types are back.  Characters can equip an item and several different types of armor.  Skills are learned when you equip an item that grants your character specific abilities.  The game also features the return of many Final Fantasy staples including moogles, chocobos, mini-games and optional super-bosses.  The return to the successful Final Fantasy formula from days of yore has made this one of my favorite Final Fantasy games of all time.
Unfortunately there are issues with this game.  Specifically, load times are terrible and inexcusable for a game that was released this late in the original PlayStation’s life cycle.  I thought that the digital only version might be faster than the disc version but I was disappointed to find that it is not.  When a battle starts you might as well go take a restroom break and grab a cup of coffee – it’s going to be awhile.
Pros
* Traditional RPG Gameplay
* Enjoyable Characters
* Great Soundtrack


Cons
* Load Times


Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length: 40+ hours
System: PSP (Playstation Network)
Genre: RPG