I know a lot of the talk right now is centered around the Final Fantasy XV demo, but let’s not forget about another very important title: Final Fantasy Type-0. Originally released to Japanese PSP’s in 2011, the game was slated for a western release (with localization reportedly almost completed), but ended up getting shelved most likely due to fading interest in the platform. The fact that it shipped on two UMD’s, something no western title had done at that point, probably didn’t help matters. Still, it was a shocker that any entry into Square Enix’s flagship franchise would get stuck in unlocalized limbo, especially one that had garnered favorable reviews from Japanese press and fans alike.
The demand for the game in the west gained attention from Square Enix, who finally announced the game was coming albeit in the most undesirable way possible. After a blunder that stated Final Fantasy Type-0 HD would be released on the Vita (and just days after the completion of the fan translation of the PSP version), they later corrected themselves and instead indicated it would be exclusive to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Although the circumstances were less than ideal, I was excited that the game would be coming at all and made sure I was equipped with the hardware needed to play it. I’m happy to say that the preparation was worth it.
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD takes place in the land of Orience, a world with four kingdoms, each with its own crystal. One of these kingdoms, Milites, decides things would be better off under one rule and launches an attack on the neighboring Rubrum. Before the situation gets too hairy, the elite squadron Class Zero is deployed and manages to push back Milites forces. The game then chronicles the exploits of Class Zero in the style of an old war documentary as they become the central force driving the campaign against enemy invaders.
Compared to most entries in the Final Fantasy universe, the tale being woven here is very dark (hence the M rating). The first time you see a young soldier and his chocobo gunned down in a rain of blood and bullets, it pretty much sets the pace for the rest of the experience. Sadly, the opportunity to tell a worthwhile tale is squandered in the same way that it was for Final Fantasy XIII: an over reliance on terminology and mythos that you have to read in a separate compendium in order to gain a complete understanding. Terms like l’Cie and C’ieth return, but with very different meanings than FFXIII. On top of that, the cast of playable characters is so vast (fourteen in total), that there is not nearly enough time to apply any sort of meaningful characterization to any of them. Sure, you get glimpses of their personalities through optional scenes. But much like their names, they’re just as fleshed out as cards in a deck.
Two characters, Machina and Rem, are inducted into Class Zero following the opening mission and are given an important sub-plot. Unfortunately, the former is a whiny prick and the latter is only notable for having red eyes and coughing a lot. What’s probably the most upsetting of all is that the overall story is actually pretty good with flashes of brilliance here and there, but whether it be from poor localization or editing misstep, you are never presented with the information needed to understand what’s happening without additional research. I was utterly confused for the majority of the game, and the leap into the final chapter came seemingly without warning, leading me to believe I had missed a cutscene somewhere. And don’t get me started on that ending. I had to have someone who played through the game multiple times and read all of the compendium entries to explain to me what went down and even then there were still pieces missing. When the number one topic in the forum about your game is “What the hell is even happening?” you know you’re doing something wrong.
And speaking of localization, there is an awful lot of protagonists that require an English voice actor. Sadly, they range from decent at best to cringe-worthy at their worst, yo. Steve Blum does really good as the antagonist, Cid Aulstyne, but a character like Ace who is on the cover of the game has some really awkward delivery. Fortunately, the Japanese audio is there for those that need it. Also saving the day in the audio department is the superb soundtrack. The vocal themes are beautiful, some of the remixed tracks from older games are well done, and even the new tracks are pretty damn good. The collector’s edition is worth it alone just for the music CD that comes with it.
Visually, Type-0 has gotten a similar treatment to Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. The main characters have gotten a makeover more befitting of the updated hardware, whereas NPC’s and other non-essential models are left practically untouched from the PSP version. It’s a bit of eyesore in places, especially when environments and textures don’t look much better either. At least the game runs really well and there isn’t much for loading times
Unlike its turn-based brethren, Final Fantasy Type-0 is a more action oriented RPG. When you begin a mission, you can select up to three characters to bring into battle, each one with a unique weapon type and play style that can be cycled at will. Regardless of who is chosen, they will get a standard attack, the ability to block or dodge, and a couple abilities or magic spells. Items like potions and phoenix downs are at your disposal, though only one can be hotkeyed for instant use at a given moment and time does not stop when you access your menu to use another. One thing I found to be problematic is that your main attack shares a button with your ability to harvest phantoma from fallen enemies (a substance needed for upgrading magic). So depending on who is currently targeted, your character will either attack or start the absorption process, though since it’s being harvested from all fallen enemies at once, it would made more sense to dedicate a button to this so as not to make yourself vulnerable. But I digress.
When a character has fallen, they can be swapped out for a reserve, which seems like it would make things easy with such a massive party. Considering that characters only level when in use, the greater likelihood is that you’ll have a handful of powerful party members and an entire roster of weaklings, forcing you to abort when your A team drops. That, or use them for fodder for the summonable Eidolons that sacrifice characters to be brought into the field. Totally worth it to be able to parade around as Odin or Bahamut though.
Your team will likely drop plenty on their own, however. Mindlessly button mashing away usually leads to death as you’ll often be swarmed by enemies and some of them hit pretty hard. In that regard, the dodge button is your friend, as is being able to assess the most important targets. For example, taking out the lead commander during a fight will cause all of your other enemies to surrender, allowing you to frisk them for free items. Plus, only certain characters have ranged attacks and healing abilities, so it’s in your best interest to keep a balanced party at all times (even if the AI doesn’t always make the best decisions with them). There are multiple difficulty levels though, the easiest of which didn’t exist in the PSP version, so with enough persistence even the least experienced player can eventually make it through the game.
In addition to the standard missions, there are also real-time strategy missions that require you to assist your army in capturing checkpoints throughout the region. These aren’t the most in-depth as far as strategy goes though, mostly forcing you to resort to downing enemy troops that flood out of the gates long enough for backup to arrive. The city takeovers that occur which are structured more like standard missions are far more interesting.
When you’re not on missions, you’ll spend your days at the academy. This academy is home to a number of facilities, including a chocobo ranch for breeding transportation, an armory for equipping new weapons and armor, and training grounds for building up your party. NPC’s scattered about offer side quests and optional scenes that flesh out the story and unlock new items, and each one you participate in advances time. After a certain number of hours have passed, you’re forced into the next mission, meaning there is not enough time to do everything in one playthrough. The main missions can change too during new game+, giving ample reason to return to Orience a second time even after you’ve completed the game.
The academy isn’t the only place where characters can be improved. Simply by accessing any save point in the world, you can apply stat boosting items to your characters, improve their abilities, and enhance their magic with phantomas gained from fallen foes. Despite the amount of techniques that can be learned by your party, I was disappointed at how limited I was as far as the number I could bring into battle. I mean, sure, Nine can learn to do things other than a Dragoon Jump, but why should I bother?
Those who have experienced the original Japanese release will a secret ending they can look forward to unlocking. Save for that though, there isn’t too much new outside of the aesthetics. In fact, content was actually cut from this version in the form of the multiplayer mode. This is incredibly unfortunate, as being on a console opens up the potential pool of players to try this out with. As much as I’d love to see this added in post-launch DLC, I don’t see this happening without a price tag attached to it (which would be in poor taste). Out of everything, this is the most shameful omission of all.
Both consoles had a collector’s edition that was sold for a limited time, and I’m happy to say it’s one of the better ones that Square Enix has put out in recent years. I’m a huge fan of steelbook cases, so to have one present with some fantastic artwork is a nice touch. Having cards that look like the ones Ace uses are thematically fitting, as is an art book that on the outside looks like official academy documentation. Having heard the music during my playthrough of the game, the soundtrack is an excellent bonus too, and while I still haven’t read the manga yet, I’m hoping it fills in some of the gaps left by the game. All in all, it’s a worthwhile set if you can get your hands on it.
Despite my complaints, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a blast to play. The wide range of characters allows room for experimentation and almost guarantees a play style that is a fit for everybody. The main missions are well paced, and there’s plenty of optional areas to explore outside of the main game. And let’s not forget the rocking soundtrack that accompanies all of the combat. It may not be a return to the turn-based form that fans were probably looking for (like Bravely Default was), but it’s a fun title all the same, and one that I hope paves the way for a better-looking one down the road with better story-telling capability.
Short Attention Span Summary
After being stuck in localization limbo for four years, this PSP classic has finally made its way west in the form of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. The story is a mess and the visuals are a little hard on the eyes when compared to other titles on the PS4. But the addictive combat more than makes up for these shortcomings, especially with the variety of characters you can control. References to older titles in the FF franchise are thrown out constantly (Clash on Big Bridge, anyone?) but it’s more than capable of standing on its own legs. Type-0 may be overshadowed by the FFXV demo that is included with it as far as what anybody is talking about, but don’t let unreleased game hype blind you from what’s already here: a fantastic Final Fantasy game on eight generation consoles.