In recent years, Square Enix has gained an unfortunate reputation of being a publisher that doesn’t care about its fans – especially those of us in the West. Their massive tease and troll in December of last year regarding a re-release of Final Fantasy VII seemed to cement that opinion in many minds. But if there is any evidence that Square Enix still cares, it would be Final Fantasy Type-0 HD.
The collector’s edition of Type-0 includes a note from director Hajime Tabata, stating that the game “only exists because you, the fans, made your voices heard.” Apparently, Square Enix heard (and hopefully still hears) our cries, and now we finally have the first current-gen exclusive Final Fantasy title.
The aforementioned collector’s edition is a must-have for die-hard Final Fantasy fans. It includes representations of everything that the iconic series has come to be known for throughout its long history: an 80-page art book, a 200-page manga, and a selection of songs from the soundtrack hand-picked by composer Takeharu Ishimoto. It also comes with a gorgeous golden steelbook, replicas of main protagonist Ace’s battle cards, and, of course, a download code for the Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae demo.
From Type-0’s opening moments, it is clear that this is not your typical, bubbly Final Fantasy affair. Set in the war-torn nation of Orience, the opening sequences are a brutal, blood-filled tale that show that nothing – human, nature, or beast – is immune from the tragedy of war. It’s clear why this is the first Final Fantasy title to receive a Mature rating. It is a great change of pace for the series, which often shies away from some heavier dramatic elements in favour of a “we can save everyone from everything bad” attitude.
Type-0 tells the story of Class Zero, a group of fourteen combat students who are thrust into war. The story is gritty and emotional, though perhaps not as deep and memorable as other entries in the Final Fantasy series. The tale of Class Zero remains a bit stagnant until about ten to fifteen hours into the game, unless you play like me and get easily distracted. At that point, the plot changes from a simple war story to a beautiful narrative about love, loss, sacrifice, death, and honour. And, of course, what would a Final Fantasy game be without a deep time-travel element and an impending apocalypse?
Type-0 is part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis (FNC) Final Fantasy mythology established by FFXIII. What this means is that if you don’t know what I mean when I say l’Cie, Focus, Pulse, or Cie’th, you will probably want to play FFXIII and the rest of the games in the FNC series before embarking on Type-0’s journey. It proceeds with the assumption that you are familiar with the FNC mythos and offers no explanation regarding details revealed in previous games.
There is a huge cast of characters available to you to take into combat, train, and level up. There are fourteen party members, of which any three are available for inclusion in your battle party at any given time. The personalities of each of the characters, mostly all named after face cards (Ace, Jack, Queen, and so on), are as varied as the weapons they use. From scholars and jocks to nerds and goths, Type-0 has it all.
Leveling each character up is quite a challenge, although it is a lot of fun. And trust me, you’ll want to make sure to level everybody up. Each fighter utilizes a different combat style, and your choice of characters in each mission can make or break you. I typically leveled up my characters with the following technique: Ace and Rem were my staple fighters, and I would take a different, lower-level character with me on each outing. I ended up having to repeat some missions several times in order to get the necessary EXP for each character, but my system worked well for me.
Once the gameplay really got going at about an hour in, I was absolutely thrilled to discover that two classic Final Fantasy elements are included in Type-0 that have been missing from the series for quite some time; the first of which is random encounter battles. The series ditched the random encounter after Final Fantasy X, and, love them or hate them, they make their triumphant return in Type-0. I, for one, love them, and was excited to see their inclusion in the game. But if you don’t care for them, fear not, because not all battles are random, and there are ways to avoid the ones that are – although you’ll do so at the expense of valuable experience.
Type-0 also features a sprawling world map. This method of travel was abandoned fifteen years ago after Final Fantasy IX, and I am so glad to be able to experience it again. As soon as I got on the world map, I spent over three hours running in circles in a constant grind. Oh, how I missed that map!
The combat style is extremely addictive (hence my three-hour initial grind-fest) and while it’s easy to learn, it is extremely complex and difficult to master, as any good battle system should be. Gone are the days of turn-based battles, replaced by a battle system more akin to the ones found in Final Fantasy: Crisis Core and also Lightning Returns. Each of the four main buttons have specific battle commands and abilities attached to them, and you use those abilities while running around the battlefield. As mentioned previously, you can have up to three party members in the field, but control just one at a time – although you can freely switch between which one you want to control. I ended up doing a lot of dodging rather than head-on attacking, because blundering headstrong into a battle with no thought for defense is a sure way to get your party wiped out.
The game doesn’t give you a lot of time to learn the ropes before thrusting you into intense battles with strong and speedy bosses. Even the run of the mill enemies on Class Zero’s missions can pose a significant threat if you’re not careful. The dodge button is your best friend, and you should be using it whenever you aren’t attacking or healing. The bosses, especially the ones near the end of the game, the l’Cie, or those with Magitek armour, are basically impenetrable except for a few brief windows of opportunity. You must study your opponents carefully (while dodging), and be ready to strike at a moment’s notice. This style of combat, which is quite different to past Final Fantasy titles, can get extremely irritating at times, but the conclusion of a hard-fought battle is worth the struggle.
There are also plenty of real-time strategy elements and mini-games throughout Type-0. The RTS portions usually have you commanding an army of soldiers attempting to take over a neighboring city while defending your own. I didn’t particularly enjoy the RTS mini-games, because I felt that they bogged the game down and slowed the pace to a crawl. But real-time strategy games are not a style of gameplay that I am intimately familiar with, and so I ended up skipping most of those missions. But for those who typically do enjoy real-time strategy games, these sections should be a treat.
Since this is the first time that Type-0 is being released outside of Japan, it is easy to forget that it is, in fact, an HD remake of a PSP game. Therefore, visually, the game doesn’t look quite as nice as we would expect a current-gen game to look. Some characters’ faces often appear washed out, and background characters occasionally look almost as if they were left unaltered from their PSP forms. But for the most part, the main characters look fairly good, the backdrops look fantastic, and the cutscenes are as crisp as you could want them to be. If I had to visually compare it to a recent Final Fantasy title, I’d say it looks similar to the HD remaster of Final Fantasy X for PS3.
Unfortunately, like Final Fantasy X, Type-0 suffers from some bad overdub and lip-sync issues. They aren’t as blatantly obvious as in FFX, but there is no shortage of lips moving with no sound coming out. But, for the most part, the overdubbing isn’t bad enough to distract from the cutscenes.
In terms of spin-off or non-numbered Final Fantasy titles, Type-0 is at the top of its class. It brings back many aspects of previous Final Fantasy titles and incorporates them into the story. Classic plot devices like l’Cie from Final Fantasy XIII are back, as well as Magitek, the four crystals, eidolons, and chocobos. And, of course, Type-0 features an amazing soundtrack. The music is a unique blend of classical, opera, and hard rock, and perfectly suits the harsh story and gameplay.
If you’re a fan of the Final Fantasy series, you won’t want to miss out on Type-0. Although the story can be confusing, especially if you’re not familiar with the mythos of recent titles, its complexity only adds to its beauty. It is a perfect blend of the old and the new, and if this is the direction that the Final Fantasy series is headed in, I couldn’t be more excited.
A good blend of old and new Final Fantasy
It's a bit confusing and long-winded, but Final Fantasy Type-0 is a must-have for fans of the series