When I began PSP month, I made mention of how this little system had kept me sane during a particularly bad time in California. Santa Clarita, to be specific. This would been back in 2012, and I was visiting some relatives, shortly before they succumbed to the ravages of age. This was not a vacation, obviously, and a number of other things had happened that I will spare you the details of drove a permanent wedge between myself and the rest of what little family I had left. It was stressful, it was a nightmare at times, and worst of all, it was boring.
If you’ve never been to Santa Clarita, there is fucking nothing to do there. At least nothing to do outside of developing a tolerance for needle drugs. And if you are from/currently live there, I am so fucking sorry that your city sucks. The highlights of my trip were being taken an hour out to Ventura Pier, where I then proceeded to freeze my ass off in the ridiculously high speed winds there that day, and then going back to Santa Clarita, to a Taco Bell with only two people on staff during lunch hour, and the burritos I ordered had somehow become two soft tacos that had nothing but lettuce in them. The phone reception was terrible, so I couldn’t exactly use the internet; back when I was still rocking the Blackberry. Really, the only two things I could do was either wait until the evening for the Lakers games to come on, or play my PSP.
I only had the time and the packing room to bring a few games with me. One of those games was the one that this post is about: Dissidia 012 Duodecim Final Fantasy. I had just purchased a copy of the game a day before my flight, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to play before then, so this was a must to bring. On retrospect, I’m not entirely sure why I got the game. I had spent a lot of time, probably too much, on the first Dissidia, and didn’t care much for it. Dissidia 1 was something I got because I needed something new to play on my break at work (this was back when modding a PSP was an extremely complicated process of needing a certain model system, specific games, and having to do shit with the battery. Not like the very idiot proof “put some shit on a memory stick and press X” that I would use later on.), and because the concept of a Final Fantasy fighting game is a good one. While I did not like Dissidia, I still got the sequel, because it had more characters; literally the “she has a new hat” justification for me buying something.
Something that needs to be made clear: like the first game, Dissidia 012 is fucking terrible. A truly wretched, unplayable, bewildering experience. This is not something you play because you want to have a good time. This is something you play because you are a dumb, horny idiot that wants to look at Kuja’s package while listening to a nice remix of FF6’s “The Decisive Battle.”
No, I was not enjoying myself in any traditional sense during my time in Santa Clarita and Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy. No internet. No good TV. Not a whole lot of privacy. Nothing to do in a go-nowhere place with no transportation. I spent nearly a month hunched over this little silver gadget, ogling femboys with launch-era PS2 amounts of polygons, trying to solve the bizarre moon logic that the game itself runs on. This was my entertainment.
Actually trying to figure out how this game works is a struggle all its own. It’s like a designer passed out while watching Advent Children, had a fucked up dream, then made a game about it. Final Fantasy characters floating around, trying to land slow moving attacks that have zero impact, until one of them finally hits the other. You have to do Bravery Attacks, which are slow and do no damage, in order to do some actual damage with your HP Attacks, which are even slower. Every fight is two of your favorite Final Fantasy characters hitting the air, and if the other character gets in the way of that air, it’s their own fault.
pictured: a typical dissidia match
The thing about Dissidia is that, unlike literally every other fighting game ever made, you have to unlock your move set via leveling up. Moves, and also basic innate abilities. It’s like having to earn a Hadouken in Street Fighter, or the double jump in Guilty Gear. It sucks. Dissidia gives you a lot of numbers and meters and systems and all types of shit to complicate the concept of a 1-on-1 fighting game, but then you stop and wonder about all the stuff that’s missing. Combos? Normals? Spacing? Nothing.
There’s a story mode, too. A story mode that I have never finished. I can only take a bunch of people standing around with phoned-in voice lines talking about bull shit that doesn’t make any sense for so long. I was starved for entertainment during my time in California, but even I had my limits.
Dissidia sucks. Full stop. It looks great, and sounds great, but then there’s nothing else beyond that. In any other circumstance, I would tell you to stay far away from it. But having played it in the situation that I did, I can’t. Dissidia is this weird fever dream of game that doesn’t make any sense, plays like shit, where the appeal ends after staring at Kuja’s junk for a week, and yet, it’s worth playing. The PSP was home to some great games. It was also home to a lot of bizarre stuff you couldn’t really find anywhere else. Dissidia is this fascinating thing that no AAA company would ever release today; the third game on PS4 was much more reigned in. It’s full of bad, half-baked ideas that don’t come together, the actual fighting part feels terrible to play, and often times seems like every negative stereotype of 2000-2010s Japanese games in one package, and I love it. 10/10.
The last two days of my stay, I went to a mall and got myself a copy of Ys: The Oath in Felghana. Much better game. So long and good riddance, Santa Clarita.