Final Fantasy Type-0: We have arrived

Our feeble language doesn’t have a word capable of succinctly describing Type-0. It is at once incredible and terrible, for extremely different reasons. On the one hand, the mere fact that this a PSP game running on PS4 and looking passable is a technical triumph as with the portable Kingdom Hearts games featured in both HD collections, a huge amount of effort has gone into disguising the handheld heritage. But the fake moustache was always going to slip eventually, and when it does, you can’t help but sit back and realise that Type-0 is probably the worst-looking game on PS4 so far. It’s to be expected, of course the game originally released almost four years ago for a last-gen handheld, making it incredible that it even looks as good as it does. See what we mean? There’s no one word for it, so it’s somewhat fortunate that we get to use loads, because we’re going to bloody need them.

The handheld origins of Type-0 are evident not only from its comparatively basic visuals but also from its structure. Sorties are somewhat brief and modular affairs, battlefields broken down into bite-size chunks in a manner that could clearly and easily have been done away with in the leap to PS4. There is a world map of sorts, but it’s kind of a jigsaw puzzle of an overworld and one that isn’t made any easier to navigate by the in-game maps if you don’t remember where one region ends and another begins, it can be tough to get your bearings here. Still, at least there are side-quests to remind you of what goes where, even if most are way beyond your means duringa regular playthrough. Save first (you have no idea how important this part is the old-school save system is a far cry from the forgiving checkpoints of XIII) and give them a go if you are feeling particularly brave it could just work out in your favour.
Battle maps take the form of enclosed corridors and arenas, not unlike the regions found in Monster Hunter and its countless portable clones. It’s here that the action-centric combat takes place, and the fast-paced nature of the real-time battles means that those used to methodical menu-driven monster mashing might feel a little out of their depth at first. While combat is certainly tight, the fact that all 14 playable characters handle completely differently and some are far more beginner-friendly than others is a mixed blessing it’s fun to experiment with each in battle, but there’s absolutely no indication of which are easier to use than others. In fact, ‘main character’ (if you can call him that) Ace is actually one of the trickier characters to use well, as his main ability revolves around drawing cards from his deck (he uses playing cards as weapons, the crazy fool) and reacting to the random special moves this throws up. Each class member is characterised by their weapon of choice, which cannot be changed. But with such a wide cast and interesting range of weapons on display, you can pretty much build your three-character team based on the gear you enjoy using spells change in effectiveness based on who is using them but that side of things is far more versatile.

Mastering the universal mechanics such as the dodge roll and chargeable magic attacks is a must, as is developing an understanding of how the new critical hit system works. Randomly hitting for more damage wouldn’t make a great deal of sense in what is basically an action game, so it’s been reworked to revolve around timing and placement instead. Before, during or after certain attacks, enemies will be marked and landing a hit during that brief window will trigger a Killsight attack that will straight-up murder most smaller enemies and can make a nice dent in bosses too. Slower characters will have trouble responding to this in time to exploit the weakness, meaning you instead need to learn where the windows occur in attack patterns and pre-empt them. It’s a neat and satisfying system and when you get it down and clear a battlefield in seconds, you’ll feel like a freaking boss. Just don’t get too cocky stupidly high level enemies roam the overworld and will mess you up in seconds, but these are easy enough to spot as regular enemies appear through random encounters. If you can see the monster before the fight starts, you don’t have a chance, basically. Run the hell away.

Should you fall in battle, though, at least you have a queue of other students waiting to leap from the reserves line and into the action. This process is a little on the fiddly side as with other aspects of button mapping, you can tell this was originally designed for a controller with fewer buttons than the DualShock 4 has. The fact that bosses and other powerful enemies can often make short work of even your most powerful characters makes equally levelling your entire crew pretty crucial to success. You can get away with having a few stragglers tag along at lower levels (not all missions allow you to bring the entire roster, after all) but you’ll be kicking yourself if your last hope is ten rungs below the recommended level. You can abort missions that seem destined to fail, mind, and you will keep any experience accrued knowing when to pull the plug is especially important considering that the
alternative involves an enforced one way trip to the title screen.
Between missions, you’re free to roam the Akademia campus and overworld, but you only have a limited amount of time to spend socialising and grinding before you’re called back into service. This creates a Persona-lite time management meta-game chatting to highlighted characters takes two hours while leaving the school costs six, no matter how long you’re actually out for. As such, it makes sense to take full advantage of any time spent in the field, as you can easily gain a few levels dealing with enemies and doing various tasks for NPCs inany friendly towns and cities rather than using up half a day just to run a quick errand. This system actually presents some pretty interesting dilemmas one section in particular limits free time so much that it makes you choose between fraternising solely with your team, speaking exclusively to the locals to understand more about how your class (and nation) is perceived or splitting your time between both and not getting the full picture on either side. While nowhere near as developed as Persona’s Social Link system, it’s certainly an interesting way of giving players the choice of doing, seeing and learning about the things they’re most interested in.

On a narrative level, the tale of warring states starts small but quickly escalates to the predictable world-in-jeopardy fare, although it is fairly well handled. It’s also way darker in tone than any other Final Fantasy to date it is a fitting appetiser for XV in that respect and allows certain scenes to shock and surprise far more than they might in a different game, purely because they are largely without precedent within Final Fantasy canon.

Classmate development is slow and steady, with a lot of the emphasis placed on Class Zero newcomers Rem and Machina you can tell they’re outsiders because their names don’t fit with the playing card theme like everyone else’s. It’s quite refreshing that there isn’t one lead hero being followed around by a bunch of other adventurers, and you can sort of shift the emphasis of the story (to a minor degree, at least even the illusion of freedom here is welcome, though) based on who you chat with and when.

If you can put aside that it doesn’t look like a PS4 game and often feels dangerously like the handheld game we all know it once was, Type-0 is really quite good. It’s a more successful evolution of the series’ combat into the action field than any of the XIII saga games were in many ways and although it doesn’t really look or feel like a typical Final Fantasy games, the lore, familiar elements and general quality do enough to ensure that it doesn’t feel too out of place within the series. It’s obvious that we’re late to the party with this several elements have been iterated and improved upon by more recent games since the original 2011 release but it never feels truly dated, just not quite up to the standards of the genre’s very best. Its handheld origins haunt it throughout, though you’re likely to get to absorbed by the interesting story and world and the surprisingly tight action combat to care too
much about that after the first few hours.

Whether you pick this up to finally sample a lost game inthe biggest RPG series going, or you only get it because it comes free with a really expensive FFXV demo, we wager you'll be pleasantly surprised. This is not Final Fantasy as you know it, but that’s certainly not a bad thing.

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