Final Fantasy Type-0 HD PC Review
In many ways, the HD console re-release of Final Fantasy: Type-0 was meant to represent the start of Square Enix’s attempts to bring the Final Fantasy brand back in the good graces of longtime fans and potential newcomers alike; after an entire console generation of divisive releases and spin-offs, including the no-show of Final Fantasy Versus XIII (now re-branded as Final Fantasy XV for a new generation) and the abysmal launch of the subscription-based MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV (later re-structured as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a costly endeavor that surprisingly paid off in both profits and praise), the once-cherished RPG franchise had hit its lowest point since the box office bomb of their CG movie The Spirits Within.
It’s undeniable that things are starting to look up for Square Enix, with the recent reveal of the highly-requested and now highly-anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake, the latest expansion for Final Fantasy XIV (Heavensward) and the upcoming releases of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III, but they still have a long way to go in winning back the spurned hearts of their fans. Type-0, which originated as a PSP game that seemed to never release outside of Japan, was eventually re-released on the PS4 and Xbox One as part of Square’s current goal of re-introducing the FF brand for the new generation, which was compounded further with the inclusion of a playable Final Fantasy XV demo. Now that Type-0 HD has been released on Steam, Square’s reach has now extended to the PC crowd.
Like with most Final Fantasy titles, the story of Type-0 takes place in a self-contained setting, though one that borrows the mythos of Fabula Nova Crystalis, which was first featured in Final Fantasy XIII. While the games do not sure an actual continuity with each other, they do share similar concepts and themes, mainly revolving around a group of individuals chosen by the gods in order to do their bidding, often fated to perform arbitrary feats where their ultimate reward is death (either through battle or by becoming crystals…the latter option is what most people shoot for). Type-0 features its own unique take on the concept, set upon the backdrop of a World War II-inspired setting that features famous FF concepts and creatures repurposed as tools of war. Such familiar examples include Chocobos in armor, magic spells forged as weapons (including firearms and even atomic bombs), and Summons as kamikaze devices (where summoning often requires the sacrifice of the one performing the summoning). At the center of all this chaos is Class Zero, a group of young teens bred for war and gifted with extraordinary abilities. While Type-0’s media largely has cadet Ace as the main face of the game, the story does not center on a single main character, often bouncing between friends and foes alike in order to flesh out its country-spanning plot.
Story concepts and themes aren’t the only things Type-0 shares with Final Fantasy XIII, but also its confusing, often unclear narrative; like FFXIII, Type-0 hits the ground running, throwing names and terms every minute without taking much time to explain what any of it means to the player. The in-game database only sheds partial light at the context of Type-0’s world, made even more confusing by sequences that are hidden from the first playthrough, encouraging players to play the entire campaign twice for both the story and higher level quests. The lack of a fully developed protagonist only adds to the overall disconnect of the narrative.
But what Type-0 lacks in fleshed-out backstories, it makes up for with fanservice-fueled sequences of gorgeous, often gruesome warfare. This is easily the darkest entry in the franchise yet, with child soldiers being mercilessly gunned down, townspeople struggling to rebuild their homes and feed their families, and a constant looming threat that death awaits everyone at any time. There are a few trademark moments of lightheartedness, but they are farer and fewer than they’ve ever been. Instead, the most memorable moments are watching Bahamut annihilate an entire sky-filled army, or a bloody Chocobo dutifully defending its master with its last breath. Tragedy is a constant theme in Type-0, which is bound to resonate with players even if the characters fail to do so.
The gameplay deviates the most from the Final Fantasy norm; while previous games have dabbled with the concept of real-time Action RPG mechanics, Type-0 takes it to the next level by having teams of three engage enemies in mission-based areas using action commands that do not suffer cooldowns or other time-based restrictions: players can unleash their standard attacks as much as they like, which also include combo attacks as well as dodge rolling, making skill a more important factor than methodical strategy, which seems to be where the franchise is going if FFXV is any indication. Magic is still an important function that uses up MP like usual, as is summoning Eidolons (though the price involves giving up the life of the teammate who summons it, putting them out of commission for the duration of the mission).
Right from the start, the game gives you twelve playable characters, which soon hits fourteen total. Up to three characters can be summoned on the field, with the ability to freely switch between the three at any time. Should a teammate fall in battle, however, they are immediately replaced with someone from the reserves. Those fourteen character slots will be sorely needed, as enemies hit brutally hard in this game, often taking out cadets with a single attack. This makes dodging attacks more crucial than anything else, as well as mastering the Killsight mechanic; each enemy has a colored reticule that appears following certain attacks, and hitting that colored mark the moment it appears will either deal heavy damage (when colored yellow) or instant death (when colored red). The notion of mastering enemy patterns and narrowly avoiding death brings Type-0 closer to Dark Souls and Monster Hunter than it does Final Fantasy, but it also leads to some of the most thrilling gameplay associated with the series in a long time. The amount of character customization, including a plethora of abilities and skills that each character can learn throughout the course of the game, also satisfies that RPG itch in building up the ideal tools of war.
While it is certainly appreciated that Square Enix decided to localize Type-0 on platforms more commonly available to people, it’s a shame that they couldn’t have put more effort into the visual presentation. While the game certainly benefits from a console facelift, it has very notable cracks that remind us of its handheld origins; many areas of the game contain low polygon textures, while many non-crucial characters also suffer from blocky faces and animations when compared to those who received a proper visual upgrade. The PC version offers little improvements with the visuals, and in fact has proven taxing for many systems. On the upside, the vomit-inducing motion blur that plagued the original release (eventually patched) can now be removed entirely, offering a much more bearable experience. Also exclusive to this version is a photo mode as well as a fast-forward button for speeding up gameplay. Both are welcome additions, but oddly enough they cannot be accessed via controller without resorting to a third party application like Xpadder. The game itself also takes an annoying cue from Final Fantasy XIII on PC, and can only be exited out with the ESC key.
It’s unfortunate that Square Enix did not put enough time and polish toward the visual side of Type-0, which was their chosen title to kickstart the Final Fantasy series on the latest gaming platforms. Look past its unpolished visuals and confusing story, however, and you may yet discover (or rediscover) a unique experience that rekindles an old flame with the long-cherished franchise.