A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a competitive online fighting game with constant and fast-paced (but bloodless) combat. Characters attack each other using swords and a variety of magical attacks, plus godlike creatures that can be summoned into the fray. Flashes of light and grunts of pain accompany successful hits. While many playable characters display admirable qualities of loyalty and friendship, others seem interested only in self-gain. All of the characters, good and bad, clearly enjoy fighting and tend to judge others by their combat ability. Some female characters wear revealing garb impractical for fighting, with one appearing almost naked, save for some strategically placed dark coloration on her skin. Note, too, that this is a complex and challenging game with a steep learning curve that may lead to frustration in players interested in instant gratification.
What's it about?
DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY NT provides players with a wealth of familiar characters spanning just about every Final Fantasy game dating all the way back to 1987 and pits them in battle against each other on maps inspired by those same games. Its short story mode provides some explanation as to why these heroes and villains from different times and worlds would find themselves thrown together, but the bulk of the experience is focused on one-off competitive battles. Most players will begin by working through a series of tutorials that teach them the basics of a very complex combat system that involves teams of three characters working together. You can hone your skills in single-player battles against AI opponents, either in a series of six progressively difficult matches in the Gauntlet mode or in individual battles. Once you feel ready to take on human opponents, you can jump into online competition, which is where most players will spend the bulk of their time. Along the way, players will earn a nearly endless stream of unlockable content, including emblems, music, and looks for their favorite characters.
Is it any good?
Some games in long-running series serve as entry points for new players, while others are meant to cater almost exclusively to core fans; this is unquestionably a case of the latter. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT's primary appeal is that it gives us a chance to see and play as characters we spent dozens of hours getting to know in previous games. The story is threadbare, to say the least, but just seeing old favorites like Cloud, Terra, and Squall in action once more is enough to warm any longtime Final Fantasy fan's heart. And it's a good thing, too, since the game's complexity and difficulty are both extreme enough to be off-putting. The familiar characters serve as something to grab onto -- a reason to keep playing -- until you come to understand and appreciate the many intricacies of the combat system, which is quite unlike that of a traditional fighting game.
If you do manage to keep playing long enough to grasp how everything works, you'll likely start having a pretty good time. The game's unusual three-on-three fights seem wildly chaotic at first, but gradually transform into strategic ballets in which various classes of characters seek out others vulnerable to their strengths, then proceed to weaken them with bravery attacks before landing killing blows with HP assaults -- all while keeping an eye out for randomly appearing summoning crystals that, when destroyed, give your team the power to call down some truly powerful assaults from godlike creatures. But getting good enough to experience the satisfaction of success takes time. Each character requires hours of practice to master, and even then the realities of online competitive play provide no guarantees of victory (which is to say there are some really, really good players out there). Ultimately, your enjoyment of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is likely to correspond directly to whether you're a series superfan who also happens to love a good competitive online challenge. If you sit outside this little sphere, you'll want to keep looking for your next game.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. How do you know when it's time to take a break when you're playing a game that's not broken into levels or chapters but rather brief, minutes-long battles?
Talk about the representation of women in games. The female characters in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT are undeniably strong in combat, but what do you think of how some of them are clothed and how they talk?
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