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As a bonus content feature exclusive to the North American, European, and Australian localized releases of the first Dissidia Final Fantasy, and later implemented into the Universal Tuning international re-release in Japan, and subsequently implemented into Dissidia 012, the Arcade Mode is a gameplay mode that converts the game into a typical free-flowing action-based arcade-style fighting game.
Designed for "pick-up-and-play" game players who prefer to get into the action immediately, this new gameplay mode removes all RPG gameplay elements and aspects, and all of the characters' abilities are stripped down to the basics to evenly balance the playing field; characters cannot level up in this gameplay mode, and customization is limited only to switching between normal and alternate costumes (if alternate costumes are available).
All 20 main characters in the game, including the villains, are playable at start in Arcade Mode (they must still be unlocked for access in all other gameplay modes), although the two extra secret characters, Shantotto and Gabranth, must still be unlocked before they can be used in Arcade Mode.
The Arcade Mode consists of three sub-modes: Normal, Hard, and Time Attack. Beating any version of the Arcade Mode will reward the player with PP and special items that can be used at the shops in other gameplay modes; since characters cannot level up or be customized (other than switching between costumes), the player cannot earn AP, EXP, or Gil, although any accomplishments achieved in battle are still recorded and archived. Only the Normal Mode is available from the beginning; Hard Mode and Time Attack Mode must be unlocked in the PP Catalog; Hard Mode is available for purchase at start, but the Time Attack Mode can only be unlocked after clearing Shade Impulse Chapter 4.
- Normal Mode utilizes Level 10 characters, and puts the player up against a sequence of battles against five randomly-selected CPU-controlled opponents (three heroes and two villains). Once completed, it rewards the player with 300 PP and a Chocobo Cologne. Summons and accessories are not equipped.
- Hard Mode utilizes level 50 characters, and puts the player up against a sequence of eight randomly-selected CPU-controlled opponents (alternating between heroes and villains, starting with a hero). Once completed, it rewards the player with 400 PP as well as a Wind Stone, Water Stone, and Lifestone. The opponents' difficulty level is significantly tougher in this mode. As with the previous mode, Summons and accessories are not equipped.
- Time Attack Mode utilizes level 100 characters, and puts the player up against a sequence of ten preset CPU-controlled opponents (ending with Chaos), and adds a time trial clock and other features to make the gameplay more complex than the previous two sub-modes. An example of a preset sequence would be Sephiroth, Exdeath, Cloud, Tidus, Terra, Jecht, Ultimecia, Cloud of Darkness, Zidane, and finally Chaos, although this may vary to substitute other characters. The player is given a choice on which set of opponents they want to face; the choices are presented randomly at the beginning of the course. Each opponent has a specific setup, which affects the way the opponents act in battle, granting them special abilities that allow for unique battle situations (such as Sephiroth's Iai Strike build or Exdeath's "Last Chance" build), and unlike Normal and Hard modes, summons can be used in battle. Each character (player character and opponent) is equipped with their Level 100 accessories and a predetermined summonstone, and the player can only use his or her summonstone three times throughout the course of the Time Attack. As with all other battles against Chaos, the player must beat Chaos three times in a row in order to defeat him and end the Time Attack.
- 500 PP is rewarded regardless of how fast the player finishes, but the item rewards for this mode vary depending on how long the player takes to complete the mode. The best reward comes from completing this mode in under fifteen minutes, awarding the player with ten Wind Stones, Water Stones, Lifestones, and Megalixirs each. The next best reward is awarded for a total playtime between 15 and 20 minutes, giving five Chocobo Colognes, Elixirs, Hi-Elixirs, and Megalixirs each. If the player takes over twenty minutes, they will only be rewarded with ten Transmogridust.
Note that there is no penalty for losing a battle in either Normal Mode or Hard Mode, but losing a battle in Time Attack Mode will force the player to continue at the time that they lost if they choose to retry, which can downgrade the item rewards received at the end of the gameplay course. Nonetheless, in all cases, players can retry as often as they like should they lose a battle. Every match begins with a full HP gauge and an empty EX gauge.
The Arcade Mode returns in a modified form in Dissidia 012. As with the original Dissidia, all 26 main characters, including newcomer heroes, returning heroes, and returning villains, are playable at start, but Shantotto, Gabranth, Prishe, Gilgamesh and Feral Chaos must still be unlocked before they can be used in Arcade Mode.
The Arcade Mode in this game consists of three sub-modes: Quick, Normal, and Time Attack. Quick battle selects everything randomly for the player, including the player's chosen character. Normal and Time Attack sub-modes now have options for fighting with either custom or preset characters, and adjustable difficulty levels. When fighting with custom characters, the player's chosen character can be customized, but cannot level up.
Preset characters come in three tiers: level 20, level 50, and level 100, and difficulty levels also come in three tiers: easy, medium, and hard. Beating any version of Arcade Mode will still reward the player with special items, but will no longer reward PP. Instead, players will now earn AP, as well as Gil, with each battle, but still cannot earn EXP, because characters cannot level up.
- Quick Mode puts the player up against a series of three randomly-selected CPU opponents with a randomly-chosen player character, with completely random settings.
- Normal Mode puts the player up against a series of five randomly-selected CPU opponents (consisting of three heroes and two villains), all of which are the same level as the player. With the custom option, the player can customize the chosen character's costume, attacks, and accessories, as well as their chosen summonstone and Assistant, as well as the Assistant's costume. With the preset option, only the costume choices of the main player character and the predetermined Assistant can be customized; all other settings are locked.
- Time Attack Mode puts the player up against a sequence of ten preset CPU-controlled opponents. As with the Normal Mode, with the custom option, the player can customize the chosen character's costume, attacks, and accessories, as well as their chosen summonstone and Assistant, as well as the Assistant's costume. With the preset option, only the costume choices of the main player character and the predetermined Assistant can be customized; all other settings are locked.
Arcade mode rewards:
- Quick Mode - Chocobo Wing, Diamond Studs
- Normal Mode:
- Time Attack Mode (Easy - Iron Course):
- Time Attack Mode (Medium - Mythril Course):
- Time Attack Mode (Hard - Crystal Course):