New competitive games are always a joy to speculate over. In the past few years, we have seen an influx of new games that try to capitalize on the growing popularity of esports and the culture that surrounds it. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. We’ve seen success stories such as 2016’s Overwatch. On the other hand, however, we’ve seen games fail to find a large audience, making them fail to acquire recognition as an esport (ARMS serves as an example of this, which you can read here).
Enter Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, Square Enix’s foray into the realm of esports. Released back in January of this year, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT serves as a soft reboot of the Dissidia Final Fantasy spin-off series. NT is the first game in the series where Square Enix has clearly been trying to make the game seem appealing to the esports audience. Now that the game has been out for roughly two months, now is a good time to assess the esport capability of the game. Will Dissidia Final Fantasy NT become the next esport success story, or it will it join a growing number of games trying too hard to cash in on the growing esports phenomenon? Let’s talk about it.
The Appeal of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT
For those unfamiliar with the spin-off series, Dissidia is to Final Fantasy as Super Smash Bros. is to Nintendo. The main hook of the Dissidia games is seeing characters from various Final Fantasy titles, and seeing them battle it out with one another. It’s a concept that naturally brings excitement with it. Super Smash Bros., one of the most dedicated esports communities out there, is a franchise that is so recognizable because of its many characters from many different franchises. This use of characters from various different games is something that excites people and attracts them to playing and watching a certain game.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The game features either one or two characters from each mainline Final Fantasy title, plus characters from a few spin-off titles. Not only is there a variety in characters from different games, but there’s also a sizable variety in character classes: Vanguard, Assassin, Marksman and Specialist.
Each of these classes bring with them special characteristics and playstyles. Vanguard characters prioritize strength and close-quarters combat. Assassin characters prioritize speed and combos. Marksman characters prioritize long-range combat. And lastly, Specialist characters are unique, wild card-esque characters that can diversify a team’s potential strategy.
In fact, strategy is perhaps NT’s most defining characteristic. The game is built around 3v3 matches, building up damage with Bravery attacks, and then permanently inflicting that damage with HP attacks. Strategy comes into play with not only choosing which character to play as, but also thinking about a team of three’s combination of classes and how they can benefit one another. In addition, players also have to think about which EX Skills to equip going into a match.
There’s certainly depth with NT’s combat. Whether watching or playing, it’s clear to see that there’s a lot of skill and thought that has to go into playing the game well. However, there are some noticeable issues with NT’s gameplay that makes imagining its future as an esport difficult to do.
The vices of Dissidia Final fantasy nt
Square Enix has hosted a number of tournaments to promote the game’s competitive edge. However, this also highlights some of the main difficulties that NT will face when trying to become known as an esport. Firstly, there is a noticeable, nearly MMO-level of visual busyness on screen during any battle. Games such as Street Fighter V, Super Smash Bros. Melee and Wii U, and even Overwatch are enjoyable to watch for so many people partly due to the ease of understanding what is going on, even when things get hectic. The same can not be said for NT.
There’ simply a lot to keep track of when both playing and watching NT. One has to pay attention to Bravery damage, how much damage an HP attack will deal, how much an HP attack will heal the user, Summons, EX Skills, in addition to any technical combos. There’s a lot to look at. So much, in fact, that it becomes overwhelming to view. Moreover, there’s so much that one has to pay attention to during a match, that it’s difficult for viewers to gauge high-quality techniques from lower-quality ones.
Let’s say that a viewer can get used to the visual clutter of NT, though, and they can coherently understand everything that’s going on in a match at once – they still have to witness the large amount of cat-and-mouse that’s in NT. In Square Enix-hosted tournaments for NT, there are examples of many players running away from other players for safety. This results in frequent instances where nothing of excitement is going on in a match. The length of these instances is exacerbated when matches are in one of the game’s larger stages. Even NT’s smallest stages are quite sizable, making the frequent defensive play of NT difficult to watch.
A Future Up in the Air
Can Dissidia Final Fantasy NT be an esport? It certainly can, but it’s an uphill battle for the crossover fighter. So many fighting games that are esports are relatively easy to follow, and have matches that are quick and exciting to watch. NT takes a different approach to its style of combat, strategy, and pacing. The visually busy NT may be overwhelming for many viewers, but that doesn’t necessarily make the game not viable to become an esport.
Team Ninja, the developers of NT, patched a much-needed Spectator Mode into the game in February, making viewing matches a lot more enjoyable and smooth than they were pre-patch. In addition, NT is to receive additional characters via DLC, with the first of these characters being Vayne from Final Fantasy XII. It’s certainly possible that Team Ninja could continue to support the game’s competitive viability by patching in new content and features that may make the game more appealing to the hardcore esports fan-base. However, as is, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, due to its busy interface, and ability to overwhelm viewers, has to fight hard if it wants to become known as an esport. The question of if it will or not, however, that remains to be seen.
What do you think? Do you feel that Dissidia Final Fantasy NT can become an esport, or is this effort from Square Enix not enough? As always, join the conversation and let us know!
Featured image courtesy of Shoryuken.
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