Mushroom Soup For The Pixelated Soul
For this category, I’ll be offering my input over upcoming titles that have caught my interest. These postings can range from short posts citing my curiosity or concern over an upcoming game, or a large and concise post where I express my excitement over a new addition to a long running series I’ve been following for as long as I’ve been playing games.
Today’s post is the latter, focusing on the upcoming PSP fighting game, Dissidia: Final Fantasy.
As stated in the About corner, I’m a huge fan of Final Fantasy, and it goes without saying that I along with many fans often wondered what a crossover fighting game would be like. After all, games like Super Smash Bros and Marvel vs Capcom have proved that crossovers can be both profitable and entertaining, and Square briefly tinkered with the concept by including FFVII’s characters in Ehrgeiz: God Bless The Ring; It didn’t quite reach the level of 3D fighting that Tekken or Soul Calibur accomplished, but it was still a pretty fun game in its own right, plus there was a certain amount of satisfaction having one FFVII character wail on the other. Doubly awesome that Tifa was the equivalent of Akuma in that game, delivering cheap, unblockable punishment to everyone else.
It’s unfortunate that Youtube lacks a clip with a Cloud vs Tifa battle, but you get the idea.
Anyway, in what was likely thanks to the success of Kingdom Hearts, Square Enix have finally seen the potential of crossing over its characters, and has decided to release Dissidia, a 3D fighting game with RPG elements thrown in, starring the main heroes from Final Fantasies I through X, along with their opposing villains. The story involves two Gods, Chaos and Cosmos, summoning the characters together and have them wage war on each other in the name of their transporter; The good guys work together with Cosmos, the bad guys with Chaos. The concept of two god-like beings bringing together heroes and villains to fight on their behalf has been a cliche plot device since the days of Marvel’s Secret Wars, but hey, whatever works.
So now we’ve got the crossover we’ve always wanted, with a lengthy story mode that has Squall engaging Sephiroth, Tidus and Zidane performing a combination attack (like something out of Chrono Trigger’s Dual Techs), and classic favorites like Terra and Kefka finally rendered in 3D. It’s a shameless attempt to rake in more cash from fanboys and fanfiction writers.
It’s also going to kick ass, and I for one can’t wait for it. The game has already gotten a huge buzz in Japan (players in TGS had to wait hours just to demo it for a few minutes), and those who have gotten to play it describe it as a very fun combination of Kingdom Hearts and Soul Calibur, with some Powerstone thrown in. Two fighters engage in a 3D plain using both weapons and magic, along with QTE events for extra visual flare as well as extra damage. There’s also summoning (featuring more classic creatures like the Four Fiends from FFIV and Chupon and Othros from FFVI), EX Modes (where the characters transform into familiar looking forms, most notably scaled down versions of the villains’ final boss forms), and even a World Map where you can level up and upgrade your equipment.
But enough about the mechanics; This game is all about the crossing over of our favorite heroes and villains. Here’s my take on the characters revealed so far (the final roster isn’t set in stone, but rumors say there’s only one more character to be unveiled). As mentioned before, Dissidia has taken the main hero and villain from each numbered Final Fantasy and given them their own roles in the story. The characters have also been redesigned by Tetsuya “Belts and Zippers” Nomura, but surprisingly, their designs are more faithful to Yoshitaka Amano’s original concept art, including characters originally created by Nomura.
Listed in chronological order, the characters are:
Warrior of Light: This guy holds the distinction of being Final Fantasy’s very first hero. It’s just too bad you never actually got to equip the cool armor with the horns; His design was kept mostly as boxart, and later on as part of the redesigned logo. He also got a brief stint during the FMV intro made for Final Fantasy Origins, in which he demonstrates his awesomeness by singlehandedly fighting a dragon while withstanding its flames, long before Sephiroth’s iconic walk through fire. Maybe that’s why the two have a conflict in the first trailer.
Anyway, WoL is one of the characters I’m most looking forward to seeing in action. He was never officially in the actual game (the four heroes are nameless placeholders for players to customize to their liking), so it’ll be interesting how Dissidia portrays him. I’m hoping he’ll come across as a Captain America type, an oldschool hero admired by his successors over his simpleminded yet unshakable sense of justice.
Garland: Facing off against WoL is Final Fantasy’s very first villain, the rogue knight who eventually transformed into the dark demon Chaos (who I don’t think has any connection to the Chaos in this game, just as how he has no connection to the Garland from Final Fantasy IX). Despite holding the honor of spouting the very first Final Fantasy meme, Garland’s redesign is very impressive, looking like a beefed up variation of FFXII’s Judges. His weapon looks real cool too, a sword that can take on multiple forms including a whip, lance, and hammer (for knocking his enemies down, of course). And even though he was the first FF villain, Garland wasn’t completely one-sided in his evil endevours, and was always hinted as being a noble person who was overtaken by greed and power. It’s not much, but at least it gives him some development beyond being a generic evil being who wants to take over the world for no reason other than he is evil (much like the other villains on this list).
Firion: I wonder how many of these classic characters will go unrecognized by current FF fans who started on VII and above. Firion was the first hero to have an actual personality and story, though neither was exactly groundbreaking at the time. It’s unclear how they’ll distinct him from the rest of the Dissidia cast. Honestly, would anyone really be upset if he wasn’t included? Many fans, as well as big name publications like EGM regard FFII as the worst of the series, due to its simple story and gameplay revision that proved more frustrating than unique (you have to actually sit back and take damage to raise your defense, and get blasted with magic to raise your magic defense. It’s a hinderance for players that like to, you know, win battles without dying).
The Emperor: Star Wars really ruined it for us, didn’t it? The Emperor here would be one of the generic villains I mentioned in Garland’s post. If you require further info on this guy, the FFII novel referred to him as “Emperor Mateus” (a name that Square actually inserted into future titles, most notably FFXII). Despite the bland profile, he does have a pretty creepy design, the sort of villain who looks like he would enslave the heroines in an FF party and then force them to bear his children (and if they ended up stupid, he’d just have their heads cut off and start over. If you don’t get the reference, go read this book). A womanizer in the bad guy side does sound interesting, and since the good guys already have their own skirt chaser, might as well make Mateus here official. Just be sure to let him know that Kuja’s a guy.
Onion Knight: The Onion Knight job has always had a following of fans, which explains whyit’s always referenced in future FF games, but doesn’t explain why it isn’t a job in FFXI. I’m also unsure why they didn’t just use Luneth from FFIII DS as the official envoy for Dissidia, although he is included as an alternate outfit for this guy. Anyway, I’m not sure what his personality will be like or how he’ll even play (I’ve yet to unlock the job in FFIII DS), but I am sure lots of fans will continue to adore him. Also he’s tinier than the other characters. Isn’t that just cute? Actually no, because there’s someone even shorter then him….
Cloud of Darkness: What’s with these villains and their lack of actual names? Again, I haven’t finished FFIII yet, so I’m not sure what her story is. All I know is that she’s some really evil being that seeks to bring all things into nothingness. Also, she’s even more scantily clad than FFX’s Yunalesca. She was seen conversing with Kefka in the above trailer, and it was recently revealed that there would be in-fighting among the bad guys, considering that one side wants to just rule the world, while the other wants to vaporize everything into nonexistance. Since Kefka falls into the latter camp, it’s only natural he would ally with CoD here. Could love bloom, even on the battlefield? If not, I’m sure some fanfiction writers will hook these two up.
Cecil Harvey: Cecil always held a special place in my heart, being the first RPG hero to start off as a villain, albeit an unwilling one. That conflict of duality is reflective on his Dissidia appearance, as he can freely switch between his Paladin and Dark Knight forms. I still feel a bit uneasy about his Paladin form using a lance instead of a sword, but I suppose some distinction must be made with the two jobs. Also it might serve as a Kain reference just so he won’t take up the space of a more deserving extra FFIV character.
Golbez: The biggest Darth Vader ripoff since Darth Vader makes up Cecil’s opponent, unsurprisingly. But is he acting independant of his master Zeromus? If he was, then he shouldn’t be working for the bad guys. I do hope at least that we get an alternate outfit that shows him unmasked…
Bartz: I’ve always criticized FFV for being the black sheep of the series, due to its extremely simple story and characters; Bartz here is just a wanderer who decided, heck, why not save the world? Not like he’s got anything else to do. My current playthrough of the GBA version, which features a far improved translation (which is an understatement, considering how awful the PS1 translation was) is slowly helping me to understand the real point of FFV, but I’ll probably save that for another article. That still doesn’t change Bartz’ generic role, but it’s been said his portion of Dissidia’s story mode would be unique from the other heroes. I hope it plays out like the GBA translation, in which the localizers were fully aware of FFV’s lighthearted story and decided to have fun with the dialogue. In any event, Bartz seems to be using the Mimic job for Dissidia, as he has the ability to copy and combine the abilities of other characters; Examples show him wielding both Cloud and Squall’s swords simultaneously. That’s pretty impressive, but I’ll bet most people would have preferred Gilgamesh…
Ex-Death: And here we have Ex-Death, just about the silliest FF villain ever. His name is even cheesier than the two bozos above him, and he looks like a candy-coated ripoff of Golbez, and his great villainous plan involves him becoming a giant tree. Yeah. We really wanted Gilgamesh, you know…
Terra Branford: Final Fantasy VI was the first FF game I ever played (called FFIII at the time of the SNES), so I can’t help but be biased towards it. Even so, it’s still one of the best games in the series, and one of the best RPGs ever. I’m overjoyed in seeing both Terra and Kefka getting the 3D treatment, although I vastly prefer green haired Terra (which is indeed an alternate look for her). I’m also very pleased how they’ve handled her animation; She doesn’t flip around like Tifa, but instead dodges attacks gracefully while keeping a very soft demeanor. Her Esper form is also a natural fit for an EX Mode, though it’s a bit more beastly then before in the arms and legs.
Kefka Palazzo: One of the most celebrated videogame villains, Kefka was not only a funny character that would engage in a bevy of exagerrated expressions, but also took childish delight in his passion for killing every living thing he could find. Also, he was one of the few RPG villains to actually succeed in conquering the world (and nearly destroying it), although he didn’t get to keep that God-like power for very long. Rejoice fans, Kefka is in the game, and from the trailers shown it looks like he’ll be bringing on further amusement and anarchy. The Kefka/Joker comparisions have been discussed over the years, but the similiarities are even more noticable now that Kefka’s been designed with a larger, ear to ear smile that’s very reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s Joker. I hope the NA localization plays into this obvious inspiration and throws in a “Why So Serious” line somehwere. His interaction with the other villains appears to be similar to the relationship of The Joker and his fellow DC bad guys; Most of the villains will write him off as an annoying clown, but they’ll also sleep with one eye open, knowing that he could go apeshit at any time. Still not sure why he has pointed ears now, though.
Cloud Strife: It’s a bit sad that I can no longer be excited when Cloud makes a guest appearance in a non-FFVII game; it used to be a big deal in the days of Final Fantasy Tactics and Kingdom Hearts, but these days it’s practically expected that he’ll turn up in a big name Square game. To add insult to injury, Cloud was one of the last characters announced for Dissidia, as if Square really thought anyone would be surprised by his inclusion, especially when Sephiroth was one of the first characters shown. Anyway, here he is yet again, spending more time chasing Sephiroth than the sweet girl waiting for him back home. Also, he’s even skinnier looking than usual; said girl could probably beat him at arm wrestling (and break his arm at the process). At least his Advent Children incarnation gave him a bit more muscle mass, but on the upside, that outfit is available as well.
Sephiroth: Here we go again. This is what, the fifth time these two have engaged in battle? Sephiroth sure does love giving Cloud despair, huh? Joking aside, I haven’t grown tired of these two hating on each other, but I’m more interested in their interactions with the other characters. I admitted feeling a fanboy rush in watching Sephiroth and Golbez sizing each other up, or Squall taking a shot at FF’s most popular villain; Sorry Kefka fans, I think the Seph fans have you beat, but the good news is you can finally have them fight each other. The bad news is that more players may prefer using Sephiroth, since Kefka has been mentioned to be a bit of a complex fighter to use, relying on long distance magic attacks and Voldo-like animations to confuse opponents. Players might brush off long range mages like Terra and Kefka in favor of melee masters like Cloud and Sephiroth; Think of it as Ryu and Ken getting preference over Dhalsim and Zangief (I still don’t get that guy). Oh, and in a rather neat design change, Sephiroth’s famous One Wing is now permanently attatched to his body, bunched under his black cloak instead of just vanishing and appearing out of thin air.
Squall Leonhart: Another popular character whose appearance is neither a big shock nor completely embraced by fans; I on the other hand aren’t afraid to admit that I love Squal in addition to Cloud; he’s an antisocial, blunt jerk, but he’s also one of the most reliable main characters of an FF game, never going into an emotional imbalance like Cloud or dragging the team down with his issues (of which he largely keeps to himself). He’ll likely keep the same cool-headed attitude in Dissidia, but it’ll be interesting how he ranks up to Cloud; I always considered him an overall better soldier than Cloud, since the latter’s abilities were inherited while the former had to train to get strong. Too bad Advent Children went and propelled Cloud to DBZ levels of power….
Ultimecia: The true villain of FFVIII only got a few minutes of screentime and dialog before the final battle, so it’ll be interesting to see how she’ll be portrayed in Dissidia. Ultimecia holds my personal record for longest FF battle ever, taking me over two hours to fight off her multiple forms and barely hanging on when I reached her final form. Too be fair, I was part of the clique that didn’t play FFVIII correctly, focusing more on strenghtening my G.F. summons and spamming Squall and Zell’s limit breaks ad nasuem. I just hope Dissidia will also play on the age old fan debate of Ultimecia possibly being a future incarnation of Rinoa. It would be pretty gnarly to reveal such a huge twist years after the original game.
Zidane Tribal: It may be saying something about my shift in tastes where I’m more excited about Zidane’s inclusion than I am with Squall or Cloud. As Zack proved in Crisis Core, upbeat protagonists can end up more likeable than depressed heroes with emotional issues. Zidane is one such fun-loving character, creating inspiration for the rest of his party members no matter how bad the odds got (and the one time he does fall into an emotional pit, his friends quickly return the favor). His flirtatous nature toward women make the lack of more female inclusions in Dissidia all the more painful. Sure, his interactions with Terra, Ultimecia, and Cloud of Darkness will likely amuse, but I’m sure he’s as upset about the sausage fest of the main cast as I am. It should be noted that his Japanese voice had played Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist; I’m hoping his english equivalent will play Zidane in the dub.
Kuja: Aside from being ridiculed for his disturbingly feminine appearance, Kuja has also been regarded by fans as “Kefka Lite”; Since the real deal is in this game, Kuja’s inclusion feels a bit unnecessary. Sure, he makes a great nemesis for Zidane, but beyond that he isn’t very interesting. Okay fine, he also has a pretty cool theme song.
Tidus: Despite my earlier claim that the fun loving characters are becoming more popular, Tidus has always been accused of being a bit too silly for FF fans. One particular scene gets spoofed quite a bit for its cringe-worthiness; I on the other hand happen to like Tidus for his goofiness, and I also seem to be the only one aware that the laughing scene was supposed to be cringe worthy. In any event, I’m glad they made his outfit a little bit cooler.
Jecht: Now wait a second here. Jecht wasn’t actually a villain in FFX, so why’s he with the bad guys? Well according to Square, they wanted Tidus’ opponent to be someone that would affect him emotionally, and Seymor was really more like Yuna’s villain. So rather than replace Tidus with Yuna, they added Jecht instead, bringing the father and son conflict between the two into a more violent light. This is also one of the smartest decisions Square has made in a long while; Seeing Jecht parade around in a drunken stupor while being saddled with the other “crybaby” villains is going to be spectacular to witness.
Shantotto: And finally, we have the first and so far only Extra Character for Dissidia, Professor Shantotto from Final Fantasy XI. Shantotto is a neutral addition to Dissidia (thus, she probably won’t be paired off against an FFXI villain), initially one of the good guys but seemingly uncaring about the conflict at hand. This is reflective of her FFXI persona, in which her arrogant, haughty behavior has many Vana’diel residents quake in fear. Nevertheless, the Tarutaru Black Mage is hugely popular with fans, so she was chosen out of a list of other potential FFXI candidates. Sadly, that includes Prishe, who I consider to be a far superior character.
But the truth is there are plenty of characters that I would have preferred to see make an appearance in Dissidia. In my next post, I’ll mention who those characters should be, and also list some characters I hope not to see in Dissidia. Stay tuned.
*All images taken from the Chaotic Cosmos blog. For up to date info on all things Dissidia, give it a visit.
*Shantotto artwork courtesy of GoldandBlue of NeoGAF.