(http://finalfantasytype0.com/) Rated T by ESRB Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, an action-RPG released last month for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles, exists as a stark departure from what Final Fantasy fans have come to expect from the series only in regards to the gameplay. Fans can still expect to find series tropes such as moogles and chocobos, a brilliant soundtrack, and a somewhat overzealous storyline, but this entry trades in the crusty turn-based combat of games past for sleeker, fast-paced combat that relies as much on reflexes as it does careful strategy. The player takes control of Class Zero, a squad of fourteen students whose country is being attacked by an aggressive neighboring Empire, and must employ each of their unique talents through the mission-based story of Type-0 to uncover the mystery of the war’s genesis. At some point in the development timeline of the Final Fantasy XIII saga, Hajime Tabata deemed it appropriate to separate himself from the project in order to direct a new entry for the series on Sony’s PSP system. This game, ¬Type-0, was initially a Japan-only release in 2011, however fans of the series clamoring for its localization and four years later those wishes have been fulfilled. This fresh start for the series exists as a precursor to Final Fantasy XV, a title Tabata took over directing in 2013. While this isn’t pertinent to the review, the information should signify the turbulent timeline of Type-0’s release and the seemingly new direction Square Enix is taking with the Final Fantasy for future titles.
In the opening scenes, the player witnesses the death of a cadet and his chocobo die at the hands of the invading Empire, embellishing Type-0’s tone from the beginning. Whereas previous Final Fantasy titles ease the player into the story over the course of a few hours, Type-0 throws the player into the middle of the war making it difficult initially to keep track of the innumerable names, people, countries, and other proper nouns the developer is so fond of using. After the initial barrage of negativity, the story takes a step back to allow the player to take it all in. The hub of the game world is very reminiscent of Final Fantasy VIII’s Garden, where players can go take classes to boost stats, investigate lore, buy, sell, and equip items, and raise chocobos for transport around the game’s vast over world. Despite its portable roots, Type-0 is massive in scope and updated with significant graphical improvements that let the titles hold its own among new-gen titles. It’s not going to knock your socks off with intricate graphical effects or molecule-sharp textures, but there are worse looking games on PS4 and Xbox One.
While Type-0 ‘s graphics are passable for a modern title, the soundtrack is simply astounding. I found myself humming the tunes long after I’d finished playing, and the chocobo theme will fortunately never get old. I did find the voice acting to be subpar, even grating at times, but I understand what Square was shooting for when selecting the actors.
As I mentioned in the intro, Final Fantasy Type-0 marks the series’ first entry as a purely action-RPG, forgoing the turn based combat fans have grown accustomed to for over two decades in favor of snappier, often hectic, gameplay. Each of the 14 cadets has a unique skillset including weapons, special abilities, and magic that the player must learn to juggle throughout the game’s missions. This isn’t a game of favorites, where the player picks their three or four favorite characters to use for the duration of their game, rather, Type-0 requires the player to utilize all 14 characters with its frequent difficulty spikes. This can lead to a bit of a grind between missions, as earning enough experience to level up 14 characters takes a bit of time, but this mechanic encourages the player to switch up their play style to suit certain situations and view the action in a holistic sense rather than focusing on specific characters or moves. However, by the end of the game you will have your favorite cadets, and an experience unique to your play through due to the multitude of options available to the player throughout the story.
Due to the nature of the PSP’s limitations, the game is structured via missions that are meant to be played in short bursts, and between these missions, Type-0 allows the player a set amount of downtime to perform activities such as travelling the world, raise chocobos, sit in on some classes, and a variety of side-quests. Each action takes time away from the game’s counter, but I never felt like I didn’t have enough time to do the activities I wanted to, and spent the majority of it exploring the game world. While this is not inherently bad design, the structure makes the experience often feel jarring, and over the course of my time with the game, I never felt like I got into a rhythm. Overall, the gameplay is uniquely satisfying, encouraging the player to think outside the box and utilize all of the available options for each scenario. I never felt like I was fighting against the controls or overwhelmed with the combat, a trap many action games fall into when they try to do too much.
Though Type-0 marks a clear departure for the series, the game holds onto the series’ uniqueness that has made the games so memorable for nearly 30 years while implementing interesting systems and gameplay that will keep the player engaged for the duration of the player’s time with the title. It’s not perfect, but I appreciate the outside the box thinking the developers had when crafting this unique title. Any Final Fantasy or Japanese-RPG fan that is on the fence in regards to Type-0, for whatever reason, shouldn’t hesitate to give this title a chance, as it most certainly will not disappoint.
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