Final Fantasy Type-0 HD: They Have Arrived

Let’s be honest, what we’ve played of Final Fantasy’s Fabula Nova Crystallis series hasn’t been great. So far, it consists of a polarising mainline Final Fantasy title, a poor sequel to that game, and some gratuitous Lightning fan service. So, it’s actually a relief to see something different (ie something that doesn’t have ‘XIII’ in the title) in this “new tale of the crystal”, even if it has taken three anda half years to reach our shores.

Final Fantasy Type-0 has transcended its PSP origins and has made a new high-definition home on the PS4 and Xbox One, courtesy of developers, HexaDrive, who previously worked on remasters of Okami for PS3 and The Wind Waker for the WiiU. A lot of Type-0’s original praise was focussed on its core systems, approach to combat and presentation, and that praise somewhat translates to the HD version, albeit diluted.

From the off, it is clear that Type-0 HD is a glorified PSP game and, to be fair, no attempt has been made to hide that fact. Environments are small, cutscenes are sparse, and the game has a handheld-friendly mission-based approach to its story. Textures and models have been updated and are up to scratch with the last generation, but the PS4 and Xbox One aren’t exactly going to strain when handling this. It’s pretty baffling, then, that we’ve heard no murmurs of a PS3, 360 or even PS Vita release, because they can all likely bear the brunt of this lightweight title. Don’t let this put you off, though, because if you are willing to see past this, you will be rewarded with a gem of a Final Fantasy title.
The game spins a tale of war, where a nation that can only be described as evil ‘just because’ invades its neighbours using unprecedented and brutal methods. Class Zero, a band of elite cadets (and your playable characters) has been charged with the liberation of its home country. This then leads to covert missions that will affect the outcome of the war. This is rather a basic concept for a game that bears the Final Fantasy moniker, as anyone who’s played any of them will know. However, credit where it is due, Type-0 HD approaches its story in a well-executed dark tone. In one of the opening scenes a stoic, likeable character and his Chocobo gets gunned down and is left crying out for his mother while he slowly bleeds out next to his feathered steed as they perish together. This is the darkest Final Fantasy title we have seen, and that is by far not the worst thing that happens.

Type-0 HD’s obvious strength is in its combat system. The game’s combat plays out like a much more fluent Kingdom Hearts. You control one of three party members (although you are able to switch between them), who can move freely in the battle area whilst firing off attacks, abilities, or performing dodge-rolls and short-range teleports. Enemies have unique attack patterns, and, if you are observant enough, you can trigger a ‘killsight’ (read: instakill) when an enemy is exposed after they miss an attack. The combat, then, opens up an element of kiting, and mixing of abilities and attacks to achieve the best results; it’s extremely fluent.

Supporting this combat system is Type-0’s cast of 15 playable characters. We’d forgive you for thinking that due to such a large number, some of these characters will be duffs, forever consigned to the forgotten part of your party list where the cobwebs grow. This is not the case. Each character feels different and there is so much variety that you will find someone who suits your style. Do you like the sound of the aforementioned kiting, and exploiting of weaknesses? Ace is your guy. How about Lancers and Dragoons, they’re the badasses, right? Pick Nine. What if you only exclusively play Ivy from SoulCalibur and hate everyone else? Well now you also play as Seven. The variance is staggering and it’s a feat to achieve this on a current-gen level, let alone on a PSP back in 2011.

With such a large cast comes an inevitable amount of micromanagement. Each character has their own level and ability tree, not to mention their own weapon and armour slots. Managing an entire roster can bring out the inner schoolteacher in you: obviously you have your favourites, but you have to toil away to bring everyone up to scratch, even the ones you hate we’re looking at you, Machina. A lot of the time you will find your downtime in between the game’s missions grinding levels and ability points by triggering random battles in the Overworld to even out everyone’s level. That’s right: the Overworld. That system which we haven’t seen since FFIX has finally made a welcome return. Not only has it returned, but it has been made better with the added inclusion of monsters you can encounter on the field alongside the classic random battles that we are familiar with.

But Type-0 HD’s excellent gameplay and systems are somewhat marred by some, quite frankly, antiquated problems. The game has a temperamental and ‘jolty’ camera which leads, to some frustrating moments where you either can’t see where you are going or who you are targeting. There is also no way to tweak your ally’s AI meaning they will run blindly into battle. This is particularly problematic in sequences where you are supposed to run from powerful foes and you see your team Leeroy Jenkins themselves to death.

If you are willing to look past its issues, then Type-0 is definitely worth your time, and it is far better than some of the other games in the Crystallis series. If we had to choose any Final Fantasy game that acts as the harbinger for the messiah that is Final Fantasy XV, then it would be this one, purely thanks to its markedly similar and stellar combat system.

Similar to the Persona series, the game gives you a set amount of downtime in between story missions which you can spend as you like. Your allotted time can range from mere hours to days, and each activity consumes a set amount time. You can take part in lectures to enhance earn a roster-wide experience boost. You can also take to the game’s Overworld and explore towns or caverns and complete tasks supplied by the various denizens of the world. If you can’t be bothered with all that, you can simply report to the war room and speak with an officer to fast-forward time.

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