Just like its wonderful predecessor, Duodecim is an exciting 3D fighter that does little to surpass its revered prequel
+ Combat is still fast, strategic and exciting
+ The new characters are fantastic
+ Heaps of constant rewards
+ Visuals and music are outstanding throughout
- Recycles the majority of the original, adding too little improvements and that it is selling almost as a full-priced game
- Story still fails to take advantage of the Final Fantasy series
- Camera in confined areas is terrible
The first time you'll play Duodecim after playing the original, you are likely to be shocked by how similar it is to the original great fighter. As a full-fledged sequel, Duodecim would have been an epic fail. But unexpectedly, Duodecim is a prequel and remake of the original Dissidia. And because of that and the fact that it hasn't been very long, the number of changes done to the game are too few and along with another unrealized storyline that mashes the Final Fantasy series are the mistakes of this successor that successfully leaves a stellar combat system with a few new great characters.
In an eternal war between the gods Cosmos and Chaos, each have summoned heroes and villains from the Final Fantasy series to aid them in the endless struggle. Cosmos entrusts her warriors to find a crystal that would help them change the tide of the war. This so-called prequel follows the six new characters: Lightning (FFXIII), Vaan (FFXII), Yuna (FFX), Tifa (FFVII), Laguna (FFVIII) and Kain (FFIX). The story this time around switches from character to character, unlike the original which had you choose the character and follow their story. Like its predecessor, Duodecim's story is a complete disappointment, being completely disjoined and uninteresting. The story doesn't tell us how these six different heroes met, what their link to other heroes and antagonists is and instead shows unexciting conversation that border on sense of friendship and complaining about the situation. Enemies called Manikins make their appearance once again as common enemies, being complete replicas of the original and 'haunt' you through your adventure. For a change, an open-world has been added allowing you to move freely out of battle and roam around the little world. While unnecessary and shallow, this segment gives you the chance to take extra dungeons to level up.
The best element that Duodecim takes is the overall combat system. If you're familiar with the original, Duodecim builds up on that with minor improvements. The combat system of the original Dissidia is renowned for being original, strategic, anti-button mashing and one of the best on the PSP. Battles take place in large areas, one against one where players perform bravery attacks (with the circle button) and take bravery points from their opponent, and that number reflects on the HP attack (with the square button) which is the one that deals the damage. Stealing all bravery points enters in a 'break' phase which boasts the attacker's bravery points allowing more damage in the HP attack. Such a progress seems tedious and complicated but this is one of the finest combat systems in any fighting game. Battles can last a matter of seconds, or a long while. That included, the minor addition is the use of Assists. Assists consist of you summoning an ally character to attack the enemy after consecutive bravery attacks. These Assists intrude in the delicate balance of battle but if used appropriate can be a chance for a turn-about.
Duodecim has added six new characters to its already stellar roster and they introduce new combat styles. Final Fantasy XIII's Lightning is fast and capable of changing jobs in battle from Commando, Ravager to Medic. Yuna can effectively use her summons for short and long-ranged attacks; Tifa uses her fists, and Laguna use firearms for mid and long-ranged attacks. These new characters not only fit, they are as good as the original characters which are all here and all play essentially the same. That said, the game still has the same issues as before. Close-quarters and very tight locations make combat impossible and the two characters being on different planes make moving while locked-on needlessly difficult. The most fun stages are those stages with a completely flat surface; others that feature otherwise can be quite irritating.
While Duodecim fails to capitalize on a new story (which is unusual by Square Enix) and remains with minor problems, the game constantly gives you heaps of rewards. Being a fighter and an RPG, the game awards EXP in battle for each HP attack you give. The story is the place that gives out most EXP, but there is a serious amount of replay value in fighting against the AI, adjusting their level and difficulty. Story aside; Dissidia has around at least 100 hours of gameplay to offer, including the new addition of team battles instead of only one-on-one and returning to menu or rematch afterwards. This makes Dissidia last more than any 3D Fighter, even unlocks new bravery and HP attacks to use for each character. A big gap in level between the two fighters can lead to tedium and extremely long and difficult battles, and each fighter has less than a handful of moves on Level 1.
The visuals of the original Dissidia were some of the best on the PSP and at this point Duodecim takes that as well. The battle locations, character design and movements, and the menus look stunning while the open-world looks a bit bland, and the expressionless and lip-synching-less characters in the after-victory is bothersome. This game is almost indistinguishable from the original when pitting two characters from the original in a stage from the original; the similarly is at that extreme. There are some rare, terrific looking CG that will make you beg for more, because the game uses that Kingdom Hearts' graphic style but the in-graphic engine for cutscenes is pretty good. The Final Fantasy soundtrack is simply terrific but the voice acting is quite average. As the music sets the atmosphere, uninteresting dialogue and voice acting dominate cutscene and kill the momentum for scene that is supposed to be 'emotional'.
Fans of the original may be disappointed by how little has been added to this full price purchase, but there is probably enough for them to own and spend a few hundred hours of gameplay. Despite how little it adds, Duodecim is an unquestionably entertaining 3D fighter that is whole-heartily recommendable to newcomers over its much esteemed predecessor. It might as well be what the original Dissidia should have been.
Graphics = 8.6
Not that I hate it, but the visuals are copy/paste from the original; no exceptions. It is still a really pretty game nonetheless. The open-world is a bit bland.
Soundtrack = 8.0
World-class soundtrack and barely average voice acting. Mostly recycled from the original. Some boring dialogue here and there.
Presentation = 8.1
There is a minor steep learning curve to the gameplay that rewards. Menu presentation, loadings, production values = impressive stuff. Camera is a huge pain in the neck in close-quarters or when characters are standing on different heights.
Gameplay = 8.5
One of the best combat systems around that gives a ton of rewards. Great new additions to the roster. Plays exactly like the original Dissidia, plus the Assists. Team battles are another new addition.
Story = 7.3
There is still about a hundred hours' worth of playing for the most dedicated players. Story is still a major letdown, unable to redeem itself for the unfulfilling story of the original. I am sure there are better fan made story that surpass this, it's a letdown to this point. Skipping to different characters in the story is a good idea though.
Fun = 8.3
Like the original, I sometimes love it and sometimes I hate it. The AI ranges from total pushover to downright annoying, despite being numerous ways to adjust their behavior. It is still as enjoyable as the original, with the addition of some tweaks, though still has the heart of the original. When it's fun, Duodecim is incredible. The fact that it is sold as a full-priced game may not be worth for veterans of the original.
OVERALL = 77 / 100
Just like its wonderful predecessor, Duodecim is a beautiful and exciting 3D fighter that does little to surpass its revered prequel