The UMD is dead, long live the UMD:
Alright I admit that the reason I picked up my model of PSP was because a particular sci-fi black-clad barbecued bad ass was on the outside of it. Not the best reason to buy a system but, since I was planning on buying one anyways, it helped me choose. At first, when I heard about the new model coming out without the UMD, I wondered if I had made a mistake. Then I started playing games that utilized the UMD and I wondered if everyone else had made a mistake. I began to hear about UMD player plug-ins you could buy for the UMDless PSPs and I knew at least a few had come to the same realization I had: Just because something new comes along doesn’t mean that it is better and/or the old one is obsolete. So, while so many were beginning to sit about and look to the future for the next system to come out, some game makers such as Square Enix put the UMD to some good by bringing out beautiful and rich games on the little drive that many had forgot. The result is games like Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy, [The 3rd Birthday], Ogre Tactics: Let Us Cling Together and Lord of Arcana which all have rich environments, excellent battle systems and amazing cinematics and have me hoping for more gifts of gaming like these before the UMD is truly abandoned.
From a map of the old Final Fantasy games’ style maps to the nostalgically recognizable music compositions this game succeeds at capturing the feel of a Final Fantasy game while allowing non-turn based combats in three dimensional space. So unlike the days where some of the game’s heroes and villains came from the characters jump high in the air sideways, ride light rails and do their famous specialty moves all in three story buildings or rooms with pillars to fight one and through. The cutscenes feel like the old games, the personalities were well recreated but the game play is so fluid that it pulls you in really well.
The graphics are terrific and the sounds are crisp and enjoyable. The cut scenes are exceptionally well rendered and yet the fight scenes also maintain the graphic quality. The game gives you the option to load part of it onto the PSPs hard drive to reduce the loading time but the loading times aren’t that bad, they were actually good enough that I didn’t find a need to load it onto the hard drive, it is nice to have the option though. So the graphics are great and don’t have to be compromised for game speed or loading times. The music really takes your senses back through the Final Fantasy games of the past while coming up with a crisp and clear sound of its own.
Game play is designed to be accessible to any kind of Final Fantasy fan. For those who enjoyed the fighting but didn’t care much about the storyline (or if you have a friendly wager on who you think is a tougher hero or villain) there is Battle mode where you can just choose to fight and adjust levels of difficulty and can unlock arenas and characters to fight each other without worrying about story wise why they would be fighting. Then there is Story Mode with replayable chapters which are designed to give a nice story explaining how the characters came to be in this situation while allowing players to grind up characters, unlock more options and individualized which skills you find most effective. There are lots of options to be unlocked through play and so many game play choices that it is easily possible for two different people to play it and have entirely different experiences. The actual battle dynamics work well and are easy to learn and the camera angle follows extremely well.
Since the game has multiplayer, multiple playable characters and multiple game modes $29.99 isn’t bad for a game that you can not only play over and over but take where ever you want without having to lug a console around with you.
I think this is one more example by Square Enix of how the UMD may be considered a format of the past but it is an excellent platform for the here and now and, hopefully, the near future. Keep making them and I will keep playing them and loving every minute of it.
*DISCLOSURE: A copy of this game was sent to us for the purpose of this review.