Remember Ehrgeiz? I do. It's been a long, long time since Square Enix decided to take their Final Fantasy characters and throw them into an arena, but with this August's release of Dissidia: Final Fantasy, it's happening again. But whereas Ehrgeiz was a mix of characters from Final Fantasy VII (some of which may as well have been straight-up Tekken rip-offs) mixed with boring newcomers, Dissidia: Final Fantasy pulls the best good, bad, and unknown from old Final Fantasy games.
If you've ever wondered what Super Smash Bros. would be feel like in an open, 3D playing field, Dissidia: Final Fantasy has what you're looking for. Though the Dissidia: Final Fantasy team told me Nintendo's popular fighter wasn't an influence on their game -- though they do admit to being fans -- it only takes a round with Dissidia: Final Fantasy to feel the similarities, even if it wasn't intentional. Dissidia: Final Fantasy is fast, flashy, and highly encourages button-mashing.
It does share something in common with Super Smash Bros., however -- if you aren't familiar with the Final Fantasy series from start to finish, there's an issue. If you haven't played a Final Fantasy game before Final Fantasy VII, there's several characters in Dissidia: Final Fantasy that may fly over your head. Square Enix has pulled heroes and villains from almost every major sequel in the series.
Personally, I started playing Final Fantasy with Final Fantasy III (also known as Final Fantasy VI in Japan), which allowed me to recognized Kefka -- but anyone from a previous game is a complete mystery to me. When asked whether this could prove an issue for a game largely built on fan nostalgia, the creators told me it's being looked at as an opportunity for Final Fantasy newcomers to become knowledgeable about previous Final Fantasy heroes and villains -- and maybe play their games, too.
Beyond the characters, however, Square Enix told me that changes have been made to Dissidia: Final Fantasy to accommodate American gamers. The RPG elements powering Dissidia: Final Fantasy were implemented to appease Japanese consumers, while additional, action-oriented modes have been added to give American gamers more to do, whom Square Enix views as looking for more action.
One such American gamer is, well, me. Not knowing many of the earlier Final Fantasy characters, I immediately gravitated toward Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII. Several rounds later, full of mashing on butons and wondering what might happen, Dissidia: Final Fantasy left me with a mouth full of fan service. I wasn't quite sure what actually happened during my 10 minutes with Dissidia: Final Fantasy, but the game tossing up "cross slash" on the screen during a special move evoked a certain gasp from me -- and I guess that's the whole point.
Hardcore Final Fantasy gamers, ones who can recall the good guys and bad guys from day one, are going to enjoy Dissidia: Final Fantasy the most. For the rest of us, it's shaping up to be a solid button-mash with some memorable characters.