Fantastical RPG, now with added fisticuffs
While it may seem like game over for the PSP in the face of Nintendos renewed grip on the portable market and as the iPhone goldrush yields an ever-expanding library of imaginative titles perfectly suited to the palm of your hand Square Enixs Dissidia: Final Fantasy shows theres still plenty of life in Sonys beleaguered handheld.
An ingenious blend of traditional role-playing and one-on-one fighting, Dissidia allows fanboys to test a huge variety of Final Fantasy what if? combinations by pitting heroes and villains from all 10 thoroughbred FFs against each other in battle, the army of familiar faces including Ultimecia, Squall, Bartz, Cloud and dozens of other RPG superstars.
The scrapping itself is a deep and considered affair; a world away from the conventional button combinations and controller pummelling of Street Fighter and Tekken, Dissidias combat is based on skilfully balancing attacks that erode your opponents Bravery and Hit Points, all the time collecting light particles to fill your EX Gauge and unleash devastating attacks that can destroy your rival in one tumultuous strike. And while all these gauges and points may sound fiddly and confusing, it doesnt take long to grips with the intuitive battle mechanics and choosing the perfect moment to strike, in the end making for a more rewarding experience than simply remembering what buttons to press if you need to spawn a fireball.
Elsewhere, Dissidia does a wonderful job of making the fisticuffs compelling by allowing players to evolve their chosen fighter with new attacks, weapons and armour, while the titanic range of unlockable content, eye-popping graphics and rich multiplayer modes will keep players coming back until theyve earned all the rewards the game has to offer. Sadly, the poor character backstories and shoddy voice acting will be a disappointment to anyone enticed by the Final Fantasy tag and in the end cost this FF spin-off an elusive fifth star but on a console starved of quality software, Dissidia is an ambitious and beautifully crafted package that just keeps on giving.