Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT – The “NT” stands for “No Thanks.”

The Dissidia spinoff series was a surprise hit on the PlayStation Portable. Who knew that a fighting game based on Final Fantasy would be a hit (kupo) or that it took so long to make one. The interesting fighting mechanics made it unique enough that players needed to think strategically during each fight. While both games on the PSP had enough features and content packed onto the UMD (kupo), players dreamed of what a home console version of the game could do. The dream of playing with friends either locally or over the internet on the big screen with a HD look was real. It would be seven years before Square would make this dream come true, and leave it to Square to make it an uneasy night’s sleep (kupo).

Prologue – From the cabinet to your couch

I will start with some background (kupo). Dissidia NT was originally an arcade game before converted into a console game. The game focuses on three vs. three battles with an emphasis on teamwork. You and your team work to knockout three opponents, one each or one unlucky person three times, to win the game. You do so by utilizing bravery and HP attacks. You use bravery attack to reduce an opponents bravery points to zero while growing yours. This is important, as HP attacks deal damage equivalent to your bravery points. An opponent is considered KO’ed when you reduce their HP to zero. You can grow your bravery points high enough to deal a one hit KO, or spam HP attack to dwindle an opponent’s HP down.

And that is the premise of the arcade game (kupo). The console version had to add a little more substance in order to justify the $60 price tag at launch. The console version still focuses on three v. three battles, but the developers added a story mode (kupo) and offline gauntlet battles for single player content. On top of that, the console version includes customization items that can be obtain in the form of drops, treasure (loot boxes), or buying items with in game currency or mom’s credit card (yeah it is one of those situations). And that is it (kupo). At the time, the content did not match the price tag, but you should always value a game from what you get out of it. Right?

Photo credit to Around Akiba
These controls look easier to understand

Starting somewhere…

Sadly, I did not get a whole lot out of this game. I will start with what I liked since that is the easiest (kupo).

The game looks gorgeous! Seeing some of your favorite Final Fantasy characters like this in HD for the first time is a treat. The amount of detail that you get from the characters and environment is something that Square has been really good at doing as of late. When characters get hurt, you see the damage to their armor and dirt all over them. Not a thing you would notice during gameplay, but it is good to see which of your teammates got beat up the most and who was hanging out on the sidelines (kupo). Each character feels unique and has moves represented by their move set in-game (like you would expect). Each character is grouped into different roles this time around to add some team composition strategy to the game. You have Vanguards who are heavy hitters, Assassins who move quickly, Marksmen who fight from a range, and Specialist who do their own thing. This type of variety can ensure an easy victory as long as your group works together (I will get back to this point later kupo).

Another interesting addition in this game are summon battles. You are able to go up against the six summons that you can use in battle and it turns the game into a new challenging beast. Summon battles play out different from regular battles as all you have to do is reduce the summon’s HP to zero once. This can be challenging depending on which characters you select. The problem is that you can only fight them offline and have to rely on the AI characters to help you out (which for me they hardly did kupo). The summons can also be very aggressive with them spamming their HP attacks and never letting up. The good thing is that you only lose if you are the one that gets knocked out three times (if CPUs counted then they would be almost impossible kupo).

There’s something there somewhere

And that is all the good things that I can say about this game. There are a few things that make the game fall short (kupo). If the developers changed up some of the options and controls, then the game would be more enjoyable.

Let’s start with the story mode (kupo). The story mode is short and felt uninspired. The story is not interesting at all and fells their to just give some backstory of why everyone is fighting. Unlike in previous Dissidia titles, their is no grid base board that you move on in order to obtain treasure or fight enemies (kupo). Instead, you have to collect memories to unlock story scenes. How do you obtain memory? You get them from (per last update) the offline gauntlet battles that you either have to win or get a good enough of a score. On top of that, it is not guarantee that you will get memory from doing the fights. Like all other items in the game, memory is randomly added to your spoils at the end of the gauntlet run (kupo). So if you want to get through the story content, you have to do the gauntlet battles over and over again until the game decides to give you memory to continue. This felt like a chore when all you wanted to do was to get through the short story to say that you finished the game (kupo).

Onto gameplay (kupo). The controls for this game are confusing at times and requires you to remember what different buttons, directional inputs, and positioning do. Until you become proficient with a character a practice constantly, you will get the inputs confused (kupo). One attack can be completely different if you are standing on the ground or in the air. That makes understanding which move to do at the time crucial as you will be easily punished if you mess it up.

On top of remembering which button does what, you also have to deal with the user interface and HUD. There is so much going on on one screen for a 3D fighting game (kupo). Your screen will be taken up by everything on the HUD. You have you and your opponent’s lives on the upper left hand screen with the timer. On the upper right hand side, you have a mini map of the field, but it is useless in this game. On the bottom of each side, you have your teammate’s HP and Bravery point and your opponent’s info as well. Your Bravery and HP is located at the bottom along with your EX skills. You also have at the very bottom the chat which don’t even bother (kupo). On in the middle of the screen you have all the action. You will see blue lines to show who you are targeted to and red lines to see who is targeting you. When you target someone, their information (bravery, HP, and name) appear above them. On top of that, you get text boxes when you use an EX Skill or use an HP attack (kupo). When special abilities or particle effect happen, it blinds the screen and makes it difficult to keep up with what is going on (kupo).

AND THIS! YES YOU MOG (kupo)! He will just not shut up during the entire match! Mog is your commentator of what is going on, but there are already so many sounds going on that he just adds to the annoyance. AND THERE IS NO WAY TO MAKE HIM STOP UNLESS YOU MUTE YOUR TV!!! There is already so many things that you have to keep track of and Mog does not help at all. If there was an option to customize your HUD or turn commentary off, then at least you could take your time to learn the game proper, but there is so much going on that you feel rushed at some points.

Summons also add to the annoyance of one screen clutter. During the match, a crystal will appear that you need to break in order to build up your summon gauge. When you summon, a cutscene plays out that stops you from doing what you are doing, breaking concentration of what you we focused on doing. Summons also alter the field with their attacks. Their effects affect the entire screen and if you have to avoid them it becomes a nightmare of trying to evade it and your opponents. There is a lot of spectacular effects going on, but it becomes bothersome in a fighting game versus an RPG.

Conclusion – I have a migraine

I will say that my time with Dissidia NT wasn’t all just frustration. I discovered that I am really good with Y’shtola and I unlocked her online achievement. Speaking of achievements, if you plan on platinum this game, you will have to become a master at the game. Each character (minus DLC characters) has an achievement attached to them to obtain three A++ rankings online. Doesn’t sound too hard, but if you are unfamiliar with a character or playing with random people online, it can take some time to achieve this. Throw in the fact when you play with random people, the game will not put you in a balance team all the time, and you will have to work with your teammates to work it out.

As a fan of Final Fantasy and the Dissidia series, I can tell a lot of love went into the development of this game. Some ideas from the original games were kept and refined, but some additions and lack of offline content really makes it hard to pick up and play for a while. If you are interested in trying the game, Square did release last year a free edition that allows you to play online and carry your stats over to the full game. I highly recommend giving the free version a try first before buying the full version, unless you find it on sale. For what it is worth, Dissidia NT is not a bad game. It has a lot of elements that hold it back from being a fun enjoyable game.

Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT

Developer:
Team Ninja

Publisher:
Square Enix

Genre:
Fighting

Systems:
PS4

Difficulty:
Varies (Depending on personal skill level)

What I liked:
+ Nostalgia fan service
+ Detailed graphics

What I Disliked:
– Confusing controls
– lack of content outside online battles
– short story mode
– Different game from the originals
– MOG FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS PLEASE JUST BE QUIET KUPO!!!!!!

Personal Rating: C-

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel – Where Has This Series Been?

There are many Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG) franchises that I have come to love over the years. Series like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Shin Megami Tensei, and Tales Of have become mine and others’ favorite series over the years. There are other JRPGs that have a following, but are not as big that gets the majority excited. That was me one winter night when I happened to stumble upon the collector’s edition of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (it had a cool looking box). I had heard of The Legend of Heroes series before when I bought Trails in the Sky on Steam (I have yet to touch it), but I knew nothing of the series. So one day I decided to give Trails of Cold Steel a try and I instantly got hooked.

Prologue – Getting off the Train

Trails of Cold Steel is part of a trilogy of games in the Kiseki series. Each title in the series is divided into different parts that tell the complete story in that arc. Trails in the Sky had three games, the Crossbell series had two games, and Cold Steel has four. Taking place in the Erebonia Empire on the Zemuria Continent, we follow the story of our silent but sometimes not silent protagonist, Rean Schwarzer. The story opens up with a flash forward to an attack at a fortress which serves as the games tutorial. From here the basics of combat are shown off, which is a good thing since your next encounter does not happen for a while after this. After the flash forward, we see Rean arriving in a town called Trista; home of the military school he will be attending, Thors Military Academy.

We are then introduced to his classmates who make up their class known as Class VII. Each classmate specializes in a different weapon and skills. We have Alisa who specializes with the bow and love interests. Elliot who is good boy musician and uses an orbal staff. Laura with her mighty greatsword and mightier damage output. Jusis who I could not figure out how to make work well but has a sword. Machias who deals damage with his shotgun and heal people with as well. Fie who wields dagger pistols and is the grandmother of your high school coach who said could outrun everyone. Emma who is seriously a **** come on, and Gauis, the one everyone sadly forgets. You get other characters later in the story, but I will not reveal because spoilers.

Collector’s Edition that came with game and pin. Sadly no artbook.

Polish until it shines!

Where this game shines is in its combat. While each character has their own stats that fit their needs, you can mix and match some of the spells and abilities they can perform. This is due to the Master Quartz system that can change up a character’s spells, stats, and abilities. Each master quartz has its own attributes and can change its buff and benefits as it levels up. Even better, these quartz can be switched between characters to make anyone fit a certain need. There are obviously stats and abilities you want to give certain characters, but I like the aspect of changing characters to meet your playstyle. Along with the Master Quartz, you have standard quartz that give individual spells, abilities, and stat boost that can be attached to anyone. The standard quartz are what makes the customization more interesting as you can play off the Master Quartz to give characters devastating abilities. For once in a game, it felt like if you kept up what quartz are equipped to each character, challenges become easier to tackle.

Other great things about the combat are combat links. Combat links are extremely helpful in all fights and can make them go by super quick. Each character has a support level with each other, and it determines how the bonds between them are. Bonds can go as high as level 5 and each level opens passive abilities that can be performed with those two linked together. Most characters will have the ability to perform a follow-up or finishing blow attack, while some will automatically heal the person they are linked with if they get hurt. Some abilities cannot be triggered unless you exploit enemy weaknesses. There are four main weapon types: slash, bash, pierce, and thrust. Each enemy has a greater weakness to one or more of each weapon type. If you manage to unbalance them, your link partner will be able to perform a follow-up attack. Each follow-up attack will earn you one bravery point that can be stored to perform a rush attack (3 bravery points) or a burst attack (5 bravery points). This gives players a reward for exploiting enemy weaknesses.

Outside of combat, the characters and world are well written and rewards players for talking to everyone and exploring everything. This can make the run of the game feel longer than most, but everyone is interesting and you get to see how people change from the beginning of the school year up to halfway through the year. It is also important to talk to everyone so that you don’t miss out on events that affect your overall performance rating at the end of each chapter. Within the main cast of characters and important side characters, you get a journal to fill out information about each that open up their lives a bit more so that you can understand them a bit more. This part of the game feels like a Persona game where you are trying to grow strong bonds between all of your social link confidants. Interacting with your classmates this way nets more experience for their social link versus enemy encounters.

Real dialogue from a real game

All things that shine cast a shadow

While I enjoyed everything that Trails of Cold Steel offered, there were some things that bothered me a little bit. Each area that you visit for the monthly field study can only be accessed at that time. If you fail to find anything that you may need or buy anything from the shops, you will be unable to get those items again. While combat is enjoyable and can go by pretty fast, the exposition can go on forever and will confuse you if you are not paying attention. It wasn’t until the endgame when I was finally able to put the pieces together and remember why everyone hated each other to begin with. I also had a problem with Rean deciding when he wanted to have a voice or not. I am unsure if the developers wanted Rean to have a voice or not, but he does during important cutscenes. It is also very weird when everyone is talking and then you just get text box sounds from him.

I mentioned earlier that the game rewards you for talking to people and exploring. If you are trying to go for the highest school rating, A0, then you need to explore and talk to every single person to make sure that you are not overlooking something. What makes it kinda frustrating is that there are no indications that you need to go to this area and talk to this person unless you are paying attention to what people are saying. I felt like I missed out on a lot of side stories on my first playthrough, but as the name suggest you can completely ignore them it you are not going for the high rank.

Conclusion

All in all, I encourage JRPG fans to give this series a try. I tried to avoid any character development or story plots because they are best if you experience them for yourself. If you enjoy a good story with amazing gameplay, I can not highly recommend this game enough. As for which version to play that is up to your preference. The PS3 version has a cross save feature with the Vita version, so you are able to play on handheld or console. The PS4 and PC version have turbo mode where getting through the game goes by much faster; handy if you are on New Game+. Depending on which version you finish will give you a bonus when you play the second game. Trust me, you will want to play the second game after this. If you are not a fan of long conversations, or if you are looking for more exploration and action, then this may not be a title that you will enjoy as much.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

Developer:
Falcom

Publisher:
XSEED Games

Genre:
JRPG

Systems:
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
PlayStation Vita
PC

Difficulty:
Varies (Easy to Nightmare)

What I Liked:
+ Battle System
+ Customization Options
+ Interesting Characters
+ Developed World
+ Great Story (so many twists!)

What I Disliked:
– Dialogue can get too long
– Hidden Objectives
– Inconsistent voice acting
– Having to immediately play the second game to get all my answers!

Personal Rating:


Advent Gaming Calendar 2019 Day 24: Dragon Quest (any one of them)

There is something special about Dragon Quest’s opening. All of them share the same classic opening theme that makes them instantly recognizable. Most of the openings just have a title screen, but sometimes you can not help but to just pause and hum along with it. For something so simple it feels grandiose and you know to expect a remarkable journey to follow. Out of all eleven mainline games, there are two in particular that I really enjoy.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Credit to Playstation’s YouTube Channel

The recent entry to the mainline games, Dragon Quest XI has a lot of impressive elements going for it. Along with the new HD look, the opening had to match the beauty of the world. What better way to do that then feature a recording of the main theme performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. The last time the orchestra recorded the opening was for the eight game in the series. Since then, I believe that this is the best version of it yet since you get a full orchestral sound instead of a horn feature (coming from someone who enjoys powerful brass sounds). The orchestra complements the visuals soundly and adds that extra layer of depth to the movie.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

Credit to IntroVault’s YouTube Channel

What this intro lacks in a live orchestra soundtrack, it makes up for what it shows. Nine’s intro was the first time that showed more than just a title logo. It showed off what the game is about; questing, fighting monsters, and sharing your stories with companions. It felt like for the first time, Square Enix wanted to introduce the series to newcomers and show them what the series was all about. Though the DS was underpowered at the time, it was a smart move to bring this series to this platform since everyone has a DS at the time. I see a lot of recognition for this game even though it was not on a home console and I believe this opening was a great way to greet new players into an astonishing game.

Tune in tomorrow for our last day, Day 25!

DanamesX