Having completed the main story mode of Dissidia 012, I have OPINIONS (opinions!) about the six new non-secret characters.
I can’t wrap my head around multiple-stance characters in fighting games, which is especially troublesome here, since I can barely wrap my head around Dissidia as it is. Lightning’s gimmick is that she can paradigm shift between her Commando, Ravager and Medic roles, just as in FF13. Commando and Ravager essentially just give her access to two separate movesets; Commando primarily being physical attacks, Ravager primarily being magical attacks. The Medic role gives her a Cure spell that replenishes Bravery, although its main function is to provide an opening for your opponent to jump in and rock your face. So don’t ever use it, I guess.
The best way I can think to play Lightning is to figure out whether you like the Commando or Ravager role better, and then just stay there. She gets the same HP Attacks and EX Mode either way, so it’s not as though strategic use of both roles is the key to winning. To switch roles you have to hold L then press R. The issue with that is the L button is your lock-on toggle, which means you lose your lock-on every time you paradigm shift. You must also shift cyclically through your three roles, meaning you can go from Commando directly to Ravager, but not vice-versa.
I think a better solution would have just been to map the various paradigm shifts to Bravery attacks. The functionality Light would lose in any given role should be offset by the ease at which she can shift into another one, similar to how transformation characters in Smash Bros. “lose” a special move in order to gain an alternate form.
The bottom line is, Lightning is an exceptionally advanced character. She’s the “main” character of the game, so you’ll be playing her going through the tutorials and story prologues whether you like it or not. This is bad whether you’re new to Dissidia or, like me, an experienced player who hasn’t touched the game in a while. Street Fighter novices don’t start with 360 characters, after all.
I’m a button masher through and through, so I like it when fighting games give me a character with a few easily-recognizable attacks I can spam over and over. In Dissidia this means I like a character who has good Bravery and HP attacks at any range. From that angle I have no complaints at all about Yuna.
Yuna’s gimmick is the ability to summon Aeons to launch attacks in her stead. Just like in FF10, each Aeon has access to several attacks. For example, Valefor can launch a long-range wind attack, but also serves as a decent mid-range aerial melee (with option to chase!). Ifrit is close-range melee, put pulls double-duty as a mid-range HP Attack.
Having big, flashy monsters pop out of your character also neatly solves another problem I often have with fighting games. I’m bad at fast-paced action games, so when I’m using a character whose special attacks are all very similar to each other I tend to lose track of what I’m doing. Take Cloud and Squall, for example; their specials are “sword attack”, “other sword attack”, “somewhat-upwardly-angled sword attack” and “another sword attack”. With that many swords stretched across that many buttons, those two characters become very difficult for me to play. Yuna, on the other hand? I know Ifrit is one command and Valefor is another. And I know if Ifrit pops out, I’ve successfully landed my attack, and can safely follow up.
I’m absolutely amazed at how poor Yuna’s voice actress is. I mean, it was definitely noticeable in FF10, a game notorious for its poor voice acting, where Yuna was definitely the worst of the cast. Square has learned a lot about honing their craft in the past ten years, though, with games like Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy IV DS. Listening to Yuna converse with Lightning, Vaan and Kain was notably painful.
Finally, my original knee-jerk re: Yuna was that they had used the wrong Yuna. I was actually pulling for her FF10-2 incarnation, adding a second gunner character alongside Laguna. Or, failing that, a dressphere-based character (who, I suppose, I would have disliked for the same reasons I dislike Lightning). Having actually played her, though, I think they took the character in the right direction. Aeons ftw.
I have never particularly cared for Laguna. I didn’t like his story segments in FF8, which felt really tacked-on and unnecessary. I didn’t like that he came packing a machinegun to a game filled with characters who use swords and whips. His battle music is the most overrated song in the entire series. And I’ve always found his Ben Stiller-esque personality to be far, far more irritating than the Squall angst-train.
So, continuing the trend of Bartz and Firion from the original Dissidia (and Yuna from 012), I was only partly surprised to find that Laguna was so much fun to play I kind of didn’t want to play anyone else. His attacks are so delightfully over the top, and the goofy swagger which wasn’t befitting of an RPG hero feels right at home in an ensemble fighting game. The first time I nailed his EX Burst and he cried, “Greatest! Attack! Ever!” my heart sang.
The problem I’m having with Laguna, though, is that he’s only effective at a very particular range. His various guns and explosives won’t connect in melee range, but aren’t particularly long-range either. Oftentimes I will close in on the bad guy until I think, “Okay, I’m definitely close enough to machinegun now!”, only to miss completely and leave myself open for a counterattack. That said, his machinegun has a pretty unique property in that he can move around while firing it. You could have hours of fun with that alone.
She wouldn’t have been my choice for an FF7 co-star, but I guess Dissidia was in dire need of a brawler-type character, so I’ll settle. Interestingly, this is a problem that could have solved itself; swap Laguna and Tifa out for Zell and Barrett. Who isn’t happy with that?
One of the easy ways to clean out manikins is to dash towards them and start hammering your Bravery attacks. This doesn’t work with characters who must be played at a certain range (such as Laguna or Terra), but it works wonderfully with Tifa. As long as she’s on the ground, she can pretty much just hammer the circle button until she’s ready to win. Nice and brainless, just how I like it.
Her aerial moves are a little trickier, in that they get a lot of vertical distance without moving much horizontally. So she’s great for dropping or rising to meet her opponent. Unfortunately, Dissidia‘s attack commands change depending on whether you’re aiming towards or away your opponent. Those directions are relative and liable to change a lot, and are especially finnicky when the fighters are stacked one on top of the other. As a result, I dove a lot when I tried to rise, and rose a lot when I tried to dive.
Tifa’s slot machine EX Burst is just as satisfying as it was in FF7, although you don’t have infinite time to carefully line up Yeah!s anymore.
I had read that, in the original Dissidia, some of Cecil’s attacks and animations were altered slightly to incorporate aspects of Kain into his design. Now that we have Kain for real, that seems kind of pointless. Not that I ever used Cecil much. (See reservations about transformation characters, above.)
I don’t like Kain very much. His spear attacks seem to have a weird range and angle to them, so if you’re in melee range andt try to stab a dude Kain will gracefully and enthusiastically thrust his spear into the air directly over his opponent’s head. His aerials are all based around lunching and diving (and therefore have the same issues as Tifa’s), and his single long-range wind attack might as well be a sneeze for all the good it does you.
My biggest problem playing as Kain is trying to land his HP attacks. His primary option is Jump, where you hold the button down in order to alter your horizontal distance. However, there’s no visual indicator of how far you’ll go for a given length of charge, so you’re forced into a lot of situations where you’ll over- or under-shoot for no good reason. The attack does try to aim itself, but the tracking is not very fine. Once Kain starts to come down, his horizontal position is locked in, which means the opponent can dodge out of the way simply by rolling a lot.
He has an aerial version of Jump, which drops directly down and is actually one of the faster HP attacks I’ve seen. If 012 were more consistent in letting you see what’s underneath you, this would be a great attack. As it is, I don’t think I’ve ever landed it.
Vaan. Is. Awesome.
Before I talk about Vaan, I have to talk about Firion. Remember Firion? He was the guy from the shittiest FF game ever, who more than any other hero is absolutely defined by his Dissidia appearance. What they decided to do was play off of Firion’s ability to use any weapon; the guy actually wanders around Dissidia with an arsenal strapped to his back, and all of his attacks utilize some aspect of that arsenal. He goes from axe to greatsword to longbow and back without missing a beat.
You’ll note this moveset hits a lot of the right notes with me: diverse at a variety of ranges, visually distinct attacks, very easy to remember. You have a “sword” button and a “bow” button — it’s hard to screw up. Firion’s crowning achievement, though, is having one of the few HP attacks in the game that is fast and long range: Straightarrow.
My goodness, I plowed through most of the back half of Dissidia‘s story mode just with Straightarrow.
What Vaan does is brings all that same weapon-y goodness to the table. Except, he does it better. Instead of a bow he gets a crossbow, which works similarly to Laguna’s machinegun except it’s longer-range and leads to a chase. He also gets both a ground and midair version, for maximum crossbow effectiveness. There aren’t a lot of spots in the 012 story Vaan can’t win with a simple crossbow/chase sequence.
Each of Vaan’s weapons have special properties depending on whether he’s using the same weapon as the previous attack, or he’s had to switch them out. Thus the player is encouraged to use a wide variety of attacks to make sure he’s always switching weapons. The switch property for crossbow, for example, is a huge flurry of arrows. The switch property for sword-and-shield is a blocking maneuver. If the initial crossbow/chase doesn’t finish the opponent off, I just drop to the ground, wait for them to attack, use sword-and-shield to counter, then switch back to crossbow and start the whole thing over again.
None of Vaan’s HP attacks measure up to the majesty of Straightarrow, but he gets the next best thing: mid-range attacks that cover a wide area. This really rounds out his moveset and lets him take advantage of the best of both worlds. He’s got the same kind of killer HP attacks as caster characters like Kuja and Terra without suffering from their melee deficiencies. And he’s got powerful, deep melee abilities without having to worry about closing in to land the final hit, like Cloud and Squall.
Once I was given the option, I put Vaan at the head of my party and never looked back. It’s very likely he’ll be the second character I actually get to L100 (the other having been Bartz).