Final Fantasy Type-0 HD PS4 Review
From announcement to Japanese launch, from doubt to denied, the English release of Final Fantasy Type-0 has been constantly shrouded in uncertainty, especially after the death of the PSP in the Western world. It seemed that Square Enix would never release Final Fantasy Type-0 in English, which sounds like such a bizarre thing when the title felt like a big release for the Final Fantasy series, similar to Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, although you could argue that title had the following of Final Fantasy VII behind it. In any case, Square Enix made the right decision to finally bring the game over for PS4 and Xbox One through a HD release. So after waiting nearly four years for the game, I can honestly say I’m glad it made it over, as this is a very different Final Fantasy than what we have currently had over the past few years.
Back when the title was first announced under the title of Final Fantasy Agito XIII the game was part of this grand scope of Final Fantasy stories set within the Fabula Nova Crystallis. The game was stripped from its Final Fantasy XIII link when the mobile version was canned and the story didn’t have much to link them together apart from using some familiar names, such as the l’Cie and other mythos from Lightning’s trilogy.
Type-0 is set in the world of Orience, a land that is split into four nations, each one controlling one of the four Crystals that offers the states their unique trait in the world. The world has been peaceful until we are presented at the start of the game with Cid Aulstyne leading his Milites force against the rest of the nations. The opening scenes introduced the player to the darker atmosphere – It’s about death, war and slaughter – then the game’s cast is shown. This story focuses on a special class, named Class Zero, a group of 14 students at the Vermillion Peristylium located in the Dominion of Rubrum, who have been trained in the use of special magic and weaponry skills to make them the best of the school.
It’s fair to say that the story doesn’t get exciting until about half way through the game, as the first few chapters are focused on military exploits of the 14, with the class tasked to turn the tide of the war, but the issue is that the story feels disjointed and difficult to follow, as the mission based progression means that between each story mission you are plodding through chatter and side quests to turn the hours closer to the start of the next mission. You can move time forward so you can begin the mission straight away, but the problem with this is that each mission comes with a recommended level and if you haven’t been training, then you’re going to run into some difficulty. Also, it’s one of the few games that introduces all of the party members from the get go, which is a great thing to have, as you can pick your favourites or experiment with the huge cast. The problem behind this is that none of them really have huge character development, instead, I ended up knowing them by their weapon and visual appeal rather than personality.
While the story might be hard to follow, one thing that has a clear focus is the combat system. Type-0 features an entertaining and very fast real-time combat system that reminds me of a blend between Crisis Core and The 3rd Birthday, which amusingly were directed by the same person who brought us Type-0, Hajime Tabata. Enemies appear in the environments, so the combat system is always accessible to the player, unless on the world map, then random battles are used, where the camera zooms into the location and the fight then acts out as normal. A party consists of three members, which are allowed to move anywhere within the confines of the environment. You only ever take control of one character, but you can switch to the other two with a press of the left or right d-pad. The other two characters are controlled by AI, and for the most part they do a satisfactory job of staying alive and giving you support, especially on the healing side.
Importantly is that each one of the 14 characters have their uses in a fight, because when one character is downed, you can replace them with a reserve character from the remaining 11. This can keep on going until all characters have perished and the game is over. This might seem like you have a lot of lives to play with, but battles can be challenging and it can be shocking how fast one of the students gets taken down. I mentioned that I identified characters by their weapons, well this is because each of the 14 play uniquely. Ace uses magical cards to throw at people, similar to Gambit from X-Men, King uses a pair of pistols to pop a cap in their ass, Seven seems inspired by Ivy from SoulCalibur, as the white haired lady uses a whipblade to slash out stinging whips, while Trey uses a bow to shoot arrows from far away. It’s not just their attacks that differ, even dodging – highly useful and should be mastered by ever player – is different, with Ace having a teleport, some others rolling and the katana wielding Jack, who moves slowly, can parry and deal huge damage with his sharp blade. The variety is fantastic and each fit well with the fast combat. No doubt you will find a few students who play the way you like your characters to.
Dodging and attacking will get you through a lot of the game, but added depth comes in the form of “sights,” a red or yellow reticule that appears on the enemy to display that if they are hit during this window, then they will either be instantly killed or take huge amounts of damage. It’s the game’s take on critical hits/countering, and hitting these helps take down enemies with large health bars. Every character comes equipped with two special moves and a defensive move. Special moves can be magic or an ability exclusive to that character, while a defensive move is often something that heals or alters a state, such as casting protect to add extra defence. Lastly, the triangle and circle button has an option to be used for a special move or to summon an Eidolon. This has to be equipped before starting a mission, so the player has to decide which one is useful for the current situation. The special move makes all party members in battle perform the move at the cost of an orange bar that charges up during fights, while the Eidolon summon sacrifices the summoning student to replace them with the likes of Shiva or Ifrit, where the player now controls the Eidolon and its destructive power. Above everything in the game, Type-0‘s superb high octane combat mechanics keep the player constantly active and its diverse character play is the main reasons to pick up the game.
The reliance on the 14 characters means that you also have to manage which skills to unlock once they level up and gain Agito Points. Some skills are the same across all characters, such as gaining the ability to dodge constantly without a break, to more character exclusive moves, such as Seven’s elemental infused whipping, but to unlock these for everyone means lots of grinding to keep the characters in line or face them getting KO’d in a couple of hits. It’s a shame the developers didn’t put in a way to keep the character levels balanced, because as great the combat is, you still want to have a fair chance in a fight rather than having someone who deals so little damage and has the smallest chance of surviving – sorry flute girl Deuce for leaving you at the end and dying all the time, I just didn’t like your play style. Eidolons can also us Agito Points to get stronger and have access to more moves, while all dead enemies in battle should be absorbed to take their coloured Phantoma, which is used to improve various magic spells for all users.
If the worst happens and you find yourself short on heroes, then there are mechanics in place that mean you can abort the mission, which will return you back to the academy with all the experience gained so far in that mission, meaning it wasn’t for waste, but you do lose any items and Phantoma acquired. Even so, it’s a good way to allow you to keep attempting the mission until successful, since failing isn’t as bad as a game over and having to reload a save point with all experience lost until that point. Speaking of the academy, you will spend a lot of time here, as downtime between each story mission translates into having plenty of time to speak to people to find out some backstory with characters or the world’s history, take on their side quests or challenging expert trials that require higher level characters than when you gain access to them, breed chocobos to use on the world map or listen to the moogle in class to gain a boost in stats or experience for all 14 team members. There is a decent amount of tasks to accomplish from the academy and various townsfolk in the cities that litter the world map, but a lot of them are fetch quests or kill challenges that aren’t new in the genre.
Evidence is splashed all over Type-0 HD that shows it has come from Sony’s PSP. While the developers have updated the 14 main character models, environmental textures and have improved the lightning, there are still some ugly low resolution textures to see, especially on some of the models during in-engine cutscenes. Still, it looks better than the PSP version, due to the anti-aliasing used to smooth all the models, but that is spoilt during the movement of the camera when some crazy, distracting motion blur is used for… well I don’t know. I’m guessing it’s in to cover up some of the PSP inheritance in this version, but that is deeper than a simple graphical effect, as the world map is barren and towns are often rehashed assets, again, limitations of a handheld system than anything, but the motion blur does nothing but make it worse. It doesn’t help the already awkward camera that loves to fight you for positions. It’s like it teases you by letting you pick a spot, then opens its smirk with a “tough, you are not having this view” as it repositions itself behind you.
Like I said at the beginning of this review – I’m glad that Final Fantasy Type-0 HD made it here as it’s a very different Final Fantasy game than what people are probably expecting from the series. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD has an engaging and well-designed battle system that is plenty of fun to participate in for over the 30 hours it lasts for, while also managing to encompass the 14 heroes and give them identity through their specialised weapons and unique move sets. Design choices made by the limited hardware this title originates from hinder the overall game, stopping it short of greatness, but this is still one Final Fantasy that RPG fans should find time for, as joining in education with Class Zero is a jolly experience.