Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
When Final Fantasy Type-0 came and went in Japan without the mention of a Western release date, I despaired at ever seeing the game release internationally. Why would it? The PSP was a dead platform in the West in 2011, more a haven for pirates than a home for gamers looking to buy new game releases. Like so many games before it, Type-0 seemed destined to languish as an obscure curiosity kept alive by fan translations and rumors rather than talk of an actual release.
But never, as it turns out, is a long time and the gaming community has a long memory. And if there’s one thing gamers (and publishers) love these days, it’s HD re-releases. So perhaps we should not have been surprised when Final Fantasy Type-0 got announced for the PS4 and Xbox One, and perhaps we should have been less surprised that it would ship with a demo of Final Fantasy XV. The only thing better than one playable game that was previously vaporware, after all, is two.
"The first thing you do in the game is watch a young messenger and his chocobo die slowly and painfully, screaming and crying. It’s an intense and intimate moment, and one that sets the stage for the things to come.
Still, the question remained: what kind of Final Fantasy would Type-0 be? If you hang around a few Final Fantasy fans long enough, you’ll her them throw out the phrase “The games after [insert name of Final Fantasy game here] don’t feel like Final Fantasy anymore.” I’ve never really known what to make of that, because every Final Fantasy feels unique, and yet distinctly like it could be nothing other than a Final Fantasy game. But, for some people, the question stands: does it feel like Final Fantasy?
Well, that depends on what you mean. The game’s opening is grim. The Militesi Empire has broken a longstanding peace treaty and invaded the three other Crystal States of the world of Orience. The countries are so named because each is home to a large crystal that allows its citizens to use magic. The Empire, however, has developed a Crystal Jammer, which halts the use of magic. This means the invasion of Rubrum, a nation whose military prowess is based almost exclusively on the use of magic, is going exceedingly well.
Type-0 doesn’t pull punches when depicting the horrors of war. The first thing you do in the game is watch a young messenger and his chocobo die slowly and painfully, screaming and crying. It’s an intense and intimate moment, and one that sets the stage for the things to come. Type-0 is the kind of game where things get worse before they get better, and they pretty much never get better. That doesn’t mean that this Final Fantasy is devoid of humor or lighter moments, but it is a dark game.
"Sure, it’s a massive game with all of the tropes and history that you’d expect of a Final Fantasy title, but it’s also a serious meditation on death and dying, and the nature of morality in warfare.
That darkness is perhaps the most surprising thing about Type-0. Sure, it’s a massive game with all of the tropes and history that you’d expect of a Final Fantasy title, but it’s also a serious meditation on death and dying, and the nature of morality in warfare. The game handles these themes with a fairly large amount of grace much of the time, but what’s more interesting is just how much they affect the game world, the characters, the story, and even the game systems.
You see, the people in Orience have lost the ability to remember the dead. When someone dies, rather from battle, sickness, or old age, everyone who knew them loses their memories of that person, be it a friend, sibling, parent or lover. The only thing that remains are gravestones and written records indicating that those people have been lost. This is all courtesy of the crystals, allegedly to help people move on from tragedy, but it has a large impact on the story, and the gameplay, too (we’ll get to that in a minute).
The story puts you in the boots of Class Zero, a group of young military cadets who are capable of using magic without the aid of the Crystal. Class Zero’s fourteen members (yes, you read that right) are Rubrum’s last, best hope against the Empire, and as such, are at the forefront of all military engagements.
"The most intriguing element is the presence of “breaksights” and “killsights,” which allow you to either deal massive damage to an enemy or kill them outright, provided that you hit them with an attack during a certain window, often when they are recovering from an attack of their own.
Each member of Class Zero is different. King, for instance, packs a pair of handgun that make up for their lack of power with speed. Jack is slow, but wields an absurdly powerful katana, Trey wields a longbow that can be charged to increase its power, Deuce is a support character with powerful magic and a flute that can inspire her allies in battle, and Sice wields both power and speed through her scythe. My favorite was Seven, who rocks a whipblade that will be very similar to any fan of SoulCalibur’s Ivy.
You’ll spend most of your time in Type-0 carrying out missions from Akademia, Rubrum’s military academy. You can take as few or as many members of Class Zero as you’d like on a mission, but only three will be fighting in your core party at once. You’ll only control one at any given time, but you can switch between them at will.
Combat is in real time, and is a fast-paced, intense affair that requires knowledge of both your characters and the enemy. The most intriguing element is the presence of “breaksights” and “killsights,” which allow you to either deal massive damage to an enemy or kill them outright, provided that you hit them with an attack during a certain window, often when they are recovering from an attack of their own. It’s a great system, and the sheer variety of enemies on display means that you’ll have to build a balanced team and switch between your party members rather frequently if you want to stay on top of the gameplay situations Type-0 throws at you.
"You don’t just hear talk about the high cost of summoning Eidolons; you see it. The act of doing so kills one of your party members.
As you’d expect, the game’s focus on life and death plays a key role here, too. If a member of Class Zero falls in combat, they’re gone for the rest of the mission, barring the use of rare and expensive items like phoenix downs, and you’ll need to bring in another member from your reserves to replace them. Lose all of them, and it’s game over. Unlike other cadets, however, members of Class Zero can be revived after missions by the mysterious Dr. Al-Rashia, who Class Zero collectively refers to as “Mother.”
It’s a welcome addition, and one that answers the age old question of, “Why don’t they just use a phoenix down?” that inevitably arises when a character dies in a Final Fantasy game. This level of detail carries over to every aspect of Type-0, which, as part of the “Fabula Nova Chrystallis” series, shares a great deal of its lore with the Final Fantasy XIII games, though these elements are much better realized here.
You don’t just hear talk about the high cost of summoning Eidolons; you see it. The act of doing so kills one of your party members. Terms like fal’Cie and l’Cie have more meaning here, too. Fal’Cie are more mysterious, and the l’Cie are frighteningly powerful, capable of leveling cities. In fact, pretty much every game system enters into the story in some way, from the act of collecting life force (another ability unique to Class Zero), known as Phantoma, to the fact that you’re not free to enter zones under the control of the enemy whenever you want, to the idea that death is actually kind of a big deal. And believe you me, Type-0 is a game with a lot of systems.
"You’ll see this most in the time between missions, which is your time to spend how you choose. You can talk to the other inhabitants of Akademia, and learn more of the game’s backstory, or go out and accomplish side quests on the world map or in other cities.
You’ll see this most in the time between missions, which is your time to spend how you choose. You can talk to the other inhabitants of Akademia, and learn more of the game’s backstory, or go out and accomplish side quests on the world map or in other cities. You can even breed chocobos, which are more of an expendable resource than anything else this time around. There are even optional RTS missions to complete, where you’ll manage troops and fight for control of entire regions on the map. All of this (save the RTS missions) takes away from the limited time that you have until your next mission, so you’ll have to choose what you want to do wisely.
All of these interlocking systems, while well implemented individually, do point to Type-0’s biggest flaw: its nature as a portable game that’s been ported to consoles. The box may say “Final Fantasy Type-0 HD,” but it’s obvious that this game began life on the PSP. Yes, Square Enix has upgraded the resolution and the textures and swapped the models for Class Zero and the more important party members with their updated cutscene models. That said, this is still a game with a lot of flat, blurry textures and a number of character models that look laughably outdated when compared to their updated counterparts, and one that runs at 30 frames per second to boot.
Still, these issues are easy to overlook because of Type-0’s excellent art design. The larger issue comes in the form of gameplay limitations. The game’s small areas, no matter how well disguised, were clearly built to conform to the limitations of a handheld, and the abundance of loading screens, while brief, only accentuates that fact. No, what’s worse is the leveling system. Each character only levels up when used in actual combat, and with fourteen characters competing for three slots, you can see how this might cause problems. What’s worse is that, if you focus on gaining SPP, a type of currency acquired by allowing random fighters from other classes to join your party, they’ll take the place of your other party members, meaning only the character you control will gain experience.
"Even with those problems, however, Type-0 HD remains an engaging and fun ride throughout, thanks largely to its strong cast, story, and gameplay, and it’s a minor miracle we’re seeing it at all.
The nature of death in this game means you’ll want all of your characters to be around the same strength, lest you find yourself in control of a bunch of underleveled third-stringers after the rest of Class Zero has been wiped out. This can be mitigated by the ability to replay missions for experience, engage in “secret training” while the console is off, and the availability of a New Game + mode, which is the only way to see all of the story content as much of it will be too high level for your team on the first go around. That said, you’re still going to have to do a lot of busywork to see everything Type-0 has to offer, and the game never escapes the feeling of something that was meant to be played in many bite-sized chunks over, say, a commute, as a result.
Even with those problems, however, Type-0 HD remains an engaging and fun ride throughout, thanks largely to its strong cast, story, and gameplay, and it’s a minor miracle we’re seeing it at all. Best of all, it represents an exciting new direction for the series that manages to marry respect for Final Fantasy’s history with a willingness to push new boundaries without compromising what it means to “feel like a Final Fantasy game,” no matter what that means to you. War may be hell, but Type-0 is anything but.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Excellent combat system. Engaging story manages to explore mature themes. Good characters with a wide variety of different playstyles. A smart marriage of story and game systems make for a very cohesive experience. Some of the visual updates look really good. Exciting soundtrack. New Game + adds a lot of new content, and a lot of replayability.
This used to be a PSP game, and it shows. Lots of loading. Some of the game systems still feel like they were designed around a handheld. You have to level every one of your fourteen characters individually. There’s a lot of busywork to do if you want to see everything. Lots of game systems to learn.
: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD marries a strong story with compelling themes and a great cast with some excellent game systems, resulting in one of the most cohesive and best games in the series in recent memory. There’s still some evidence of the game’s portable origins, but Type-0 remains a strong and engaging game even with these problems. Fans of the Final Fantasy series owe it to themselves to check it out.