Final Fantasy Type-0 HD Review

By Darryl Kaye on March 16, 2015

The struggle to get Final Fantasy Type-0 localised was a long and arduous one. Here is a game that released back in 2011 on the PlayStation Portable and was heralded by Japanese reviewers and importers alike as a true Final Fantasy experience. Square Enix's decision not to localise it therefore seemed baffling. Years later and campaigners had all but given up hope of seeing this game ever arrive in their local game stores, until Square Enix announced at E3 2014 that it would be answering their calls "“ Type-0 was being localised. Not only that, but it would be releasing on the PS4 and Xbox One as Final Fantasy Type-0 HD with a significant graphical overhaul. It all sounded great on paper, but times have changed and since that announcement, fans have been anticipating just how Type-0 holds up in today's gaming landscape. After all, it's not often you have a handheld game ported to home consoles in the next generation.

One element unaffected by the transition is the game's story. It's a bold, brazen tale that isn't afraid to focus on the more literal realities of war. This is very apparent from the game's initial cutscene. Not only does it help to set the scene of a war between the different states within Orience, it also shows the impact of such actions on a personable level. We see the lengths individuals are willing to go to in order to save what they hold dear and of course, we are introduced to Class Zero.

Arriving in a blaze of glory, Class Zero are very much Rubrum's trump card when it comes to military conflict. And during Militesi's invasion of Rubrum, they help to turn the tide of the battle in Rubrum's favour. However, not everyone within Rubrum is their biggest fan. Many are sceptical about their abilities - during the invasion they were able to use magic when nobody else was - and the resulting status they are given. This in itself helps to provide depth, not only to Class Zero, but also the wider narrative.

As individuals, the members of Class Zero have very different mannerisms. There are twelve core members, with Rem and Machina joining at the start of the game to make it fourteen, and there is a very clear dynamic present throughout. During their down time they bicker and get on each other's nerves, but when it's time for a mission they are all there for each other without question. It helps to make them more believable and even though the cast is quite large from the get go, this isn't to the detriment of character development. There are more than enough opportunities throughout the game's campaign to understand each of their motivations and during missions they are given their chance in the spotlight. The addition of Rem and Machina also mixes things up, as they are required to integrated with an already close knit group.

What's impressive, is that this is all possible due to a fundamental plot point - people in Orience cannot remember the dead. They can remember details, such as the person existing, but they cannot remember their face or their interactions with them. The idea being that it helps people to move forward, instead of dwelling on the past. Such a choice limits the focus on backstory for the characters, forcing the emphasis to be placed on their current actions instead. It also means the backstory that is present has much more significance from an emotional perspective. As a result, you become engaged with their struggles and frustrations and it's pleasing to see this bold choice pay off.

Alongside an expansive playable cast is also a pretty expansive list of supporting characters. NPCs are littered throughout the world and each help to add a layer of substance to the overall experience. These range from the various Moogles in Akademeia that help convey the attitudes of their respective classes, through to characters such as Atola, who helps provide historical context to l'Cie crystals you find on your travels. Even just talking to non-named NPCs can sometimes provide you with a small piece of text that can enrich the setting a little bit more.

If you have played through the Final Fantasy XIII, you will also have a bit more context as Final Fantasy Type-0 is part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis franchise. This is welcome, if only because you will get to see the raw power of a l'Cie. However, it doesn't feel like a necessary addition. For the purposes of the story these links are quite minimal and if the game didn't have these shared connections or used the same terminology, very little would have changed about the experience.

The game also adopts an approach of requiring multiple playthroughs to gain full understanding of everything that unfolds. It's something that was implemented to great effect in Nier, a game released by Square Enix last generation, but it doesn't have the same kind of success in Type-0. The net result is the same, but while your first playthrough will still feel like a worthwhile experience, it also has gaps that need filling. In some ways, it presents more questions than answers.

Delivery of the story happens in two very distinct phases. You have the main missions within a chapter where you will get full-on FMVs and more intense interactions and you have downtime between the missions where you can wander around Akademeia and the world map. During the later part is where you get to experience some of the nuances that help show that at its core, this is a game developed for the PlayStation Portable.

Akademeia itself is a chore to navigate around. There are numerous locations to visit, but they are each very small and there is no quick way to get from one to another. You will either have to walk or use teleportation to access the few locations that aren't accessible on foot. When you do arrive, you may be able to interact with NPCs to help get a bit of character development, but there's nothing to indicate whether these interactions will be possible before you get there. It seems like a missed opportunity. You have a mini-map that only ever highlights a main objective and it would have saved a lot of time had the developers highlighted areas of interest. It might seem like a small gripe, but having to navigate through to every single location during every bit of down time starts to grate after a while. It shouldn't be that tedious to try and improve your experience with the story.

It's during this phase that you will also be introduced to the concept of "time". Performing actions, such as talking to NPCs who further the story or attending class with Kurasame or Moglin each take up 2 hours. Leaving Akademeia to explore the world takes up 6 hours and undertaking an Expert Trial takes up 12 hours. You will end up with situations where you don't have enough time to do what you want and others where you have so much time that you end up wondering if you're missing out on something.

The questing system also feels very dated. You can only accept one quest at a time and you aren't told what the reward will be beforehand. It means that you could end up leaving Akademeia at the expense of 6 hours and fulfilling a quest that nets you a measly hi-potion. Because the system is also so rigid, progress on one quest gets forgotten if you accept another before you hand it in. It's a design choice that feels counterproductive and again just forces you to waste not just in-game time, but literal time too.

One aspect that has aged well is the actual combat. To compliment their unique personalities, each member of Class Zero is geared towards a different style of play and this helps to make the game feel more accessible as an action-orientated RPG. You have characters such as Cater, King and Trey who are better at long range and they are contrasted by characters such as Cinque, Jack and Eight who are more about being up close and personal. Then there are others, such as Deuce, who fills the bard role and Rem, who mixes fast-paced melee with a strong focus towards magic.

For each role, you have a few different options depending on your preference for the individual characters and this is important given how the game imposes party structures for missions. The vast majority of the time you are asked to select an active party of three, with you controlling one member and the AI taking over the other two. The remaining characters get placed as reserves, but should one of your active members fall in battle and you don't wish to use an item to revive them, reserve members can be called in to fill their place. It's a neat little system that is only held back by the stipulation that someone must die before you are able to switch characters out. Checkpoints are often plentiful throughout missions, allowing you to do just that, but you can sometimes come unstuck if you need a certain type of character in order to progress.

Aside from their base melee attack, each character is further developed by a full-on skill tree system. Skills are unlocked by spending AP that's gained when levelling up and there's a good degree of choice here for how you want characters to grow. When going into battle you are then able to choose up to two of these skills and can combine them with either Fire, Ice or Lightning magic. Unlike skills, magic can be shared across characters and is also categorised based on the type of magic and effective range, however, the magic system is the weakest part of the combat experience. Unlike melee attacks and skills, MP feels very finite and certain characters have limited pools. It means that unless you're using a character like Rem, you have to be quite conscientious when it comes to how you use spells.

Combat itself feels very rewarding. It offers a good balance between skill and required levelling and a primary component of this is the kill sight and break sight system. Each enemy has a specific move set and at certain moments they are vulnerable to attacks. During this moment, you are able to either kill them instantly or do a significant amount of damage that is unrelated to your level in comparison to theirs. If you are confident enough and can evade taking any damage, you can get pretty far in the game based on skill alone. But if you're struggling, there's always the option to grind up some levels to make things a little easier.

Along the same lines, combat can also be made more or less difficult depending on your usage of special orders or sp support. Special orders give you the chance to take on a challenge with some kind of temporary enhancement coming as the reward. However, should you fail there's the chance that you will suffer instant death. SP support is a new addition for this version of the game and replaces how you gained SPP in the PSP version. It allows you to gain assistance from members of staff who worked on Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, including Hajime Tabata and Tetsuya Nomura, but at the expense of one of your own party members (meaning you will receive less EXP). Should they die, it will also count as a casualty, but if they do well they will earn you SPP which can be exchanged for some neat items back at Akademeia.

The sour note of gameplay in Type-0 HD comes in the form of the real-time strategy element. As it's a war game, it's kind of understandable that they would want to add this in and does have some relevance in terms of the story. But what's there is very simple. You will often have a handful of cities that are sending out waves of troops and you need to change the flow so that your waves of troops outnumber their waves of troops. This is primarily done by taking over small bases, but invading larger cities can also help sway things. As an important character, you can also fight against these waves if you want, but your role is more geared towards fighting other important characters in a watered down version of the normal combat. It doesn't sound all that enthralling and it's not. The game even gives you the option to skip these sections.

As mentioned, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a port of a PSP game to next-generation systems. One of the main places this shows is with the graphics. However, it's worth noting that there has been a significant improvement in this department. The main cast has all had a complete makeover and some important NPCs have also received similar treatment. Backgrounds and enemies have also been spruced up and there's a new lighting model on display.

The situation isn't quite as glamorous for lesser named NPCs such as the Cadetmaster. They are clearly identifiable due to their deficiencies compared to the main cast and non-named NPCs end up having face renders that are kind of shameful by comparison. Environments, especially in Akademeia, also feel quite dead. Many of the NPCs are static and those that aren't have very limited ranges of movement. It ruins the illusion somewhat, but at least the Moogles help to bring some character to proceedings.

Voice acting has its ups and downs. There are some great performances from the likes of Orion Acaba (Nine), Kristen Klabunde (Cater) and Mike Vaughn (King), but it's plagued by strange translations and even inconsistencies with name pronunciation. It's jarring how many different ways characters end up saying Kurasame. As the cast was working under the direction of Robert Buchholz, who has worked on previous titles such as Crisis Core: Final Fantasy, Dissidia: Final Fantasy and even Kingdom Hearts II, it's difficult to understand how this happened.

Takeharu Ishimoto's original soundtrack has also been spruced up in a few select areas, but the original source material still sounds remarkably polished. As with Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, there is a good blend between paying homage to classic Final Fantasy tracks, such as the Chocobo Theme and the Prelude, and original works that are created in Ishimoto's distinct style. Bump of Chicken's involvement is also welcome, with Zero an apt theme throughout.

Poor camera transition deserves a special mention on its own. At best you will feel the implementation is passable, but at worst you will end up feeling nauseous. This is most prevalent in Akademeia, where space is quite enclosed and the camera moves super quick. It's exacerbated by the lack of any sensitivity options.

Outside of the main story, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD has numerous things to keep you occupied. You have the aforementioned quests and hunting for l'Cie crystals. There are also expert trials. These offer you a chance to test yourself at either the real-time strategy mini-game or story-style missions, but in a more challenging setting. You can also take part in some chocobo breeding, but there's very little substance to this endeavor. In Type-0 HD, chocobos act as consumables, so no matter how good the chocobos you breed, they will always run away, never to return. You might as well just capture chocobos on the world map and be done with it.

New game plus is also a big part of the experience and you are encouraged to play through the game again. Not only will this allow you to take in more of the story, but you will also be able to do some of the quests that may have previously been out of reach. It adds a welcome extension to a game that will take around 30-35 hours to complete on officer (normal) difficulty. If you want more of a challenge, there are even two difficulties above that. These add significant additional levels to all enemies, so unless you're beefed up, it won't be for the faint of heart.

Final Thoughts

Final Fantasy Type-0 has arrived and the hyped has very much been warranted. If you want an experience that features a rich cast, compelling story and engaging gameplay, then this is the game for you. However, don't be fooled by its roots. Despite appearing on powerful consoles and sporting some updated graphics, this is still very much a game that saw an original release four years ago on the PSP. As a result, there are some clear technical issues and some of the mechanics don't shine through. Still, there's no hiding the fact that Final Fantasy Type-0 HD goes a long way to fixing some of the recent miss-steps suffered by the franchise and if Square Enix know what's good for them, they will understand that this represents a step in the right direction.

Dynamic cast that's fully fleshed out.
Gameplay rewards skilled players.
Ishimoto's soundtrack.
The camera is horrible outside of combat.
Real-time strategy sections are a dud.
It's still a PSP game at heart.
blog comments powered by Disqus