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REVIEW: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

March 16th, 2015 by Sharjeel Hanif

type-0

After a nearly forty hour play through of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, I find it telling that my first instinct is to jump right into new game plus. The fact that it can successfully combine all the elements of a Final Fantasy title – a world map, airships, summons, and magic – with an action-based battle system where every move can mean life or death, makes me confident in the series’ future.

Follow the jump and read Final Fantasy Network’s review to find out why!

– – –

Meet Class Zero

And boy does that battle system hold up – thanks primarily to the introduction of fourteen playable characters that make up a group of cadets known as Class Zero. While from a story perspective there’s not much there beyond the typical anime stereotypes (in fact, some may argue such a large cast is actually a hindrance, as nearly none of Class Zero gets the proper screen time to truly understand their backstory, motivations, or role in the world), the gamble of such an exhaustive cast more than makes up for it in the gameplay department.

Each character wields their own weapon and has their own skill trees and upgrade progression, and most importantly truly feel like they play differently. I would go as far to say that switching characters might make you feel like you are playing a completely different game.

It’s because of this that there is truly something for everyone and within a few hours you will find yourself latching on to your favorite one (or two, or three…) cadets. I for example preferred to use the quick and acrobatic fist using Eight to mow down weaker foes. When entering a dungeon or a new area where I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, I would opt for the more balanced dual rapier wielding Machina (Awakening has become a favorite ability of mine – once you unlock it, you’ll know). In situations where it made more sense to fight from a far, I instantly switched to the peppy and confident Cater, whose Magicite-powered pistol provided quite a bit of variety in offensive and defensive abilities all while shooting at safe distance.

Within the scope of each character there is a lot of flexibility as well – upon gaining ability points from leveling up, players can choose from different battle attributes and character exclusive skills to upgrade and further unlock. The choice has to be made which of these skills and more general magic abilities will be mapped to the four primary buttons on the controller to be used in battle.

You may find that different abilities work in certain situations for your preferred characters, or that a single set of skills and combination of characters will take you through the entire game. What I’ve taken away from this is that your Machina could end up rather different when compared to my Machina. All of this variety makes for an exciting battle system.

And all these options come in handy – even on the easiest difficulty setting I quickly found myself losing character after character to the bullets and magic whizzing through the air. This is after taking part in numerous side quests and missions (which we will get into soon) and feeling confident in furthering my game progress. It then makes sense that even with a 3 player party, Type-0 allows the player to switch out a dead character with your other eleven in reserve.

Even if your reserve units are likely under-levelled, this is a much appreciated and necessary evil, particularly during some of the more challenging boss fights and optional areas.

A Mature Final Fantasy?

“Bullets and cadets?” you might say, “that doesn’t sound like Final Fantasy”. Let’s break it down – Final Fantasy Type-0 takes place in the world of Orience where a group of four kingdoms – Rubrum, Concordia, Lorica, and the Militesi Empire – find themselves at war. Each of these nations has its own Crystal, which plays an important role in society, such as being a source of magic. The Crystals also behave as gods or heads of state in some sense, controlling the flow of events by marking individuals as l’Cie to carry out tasks for them. 

Class Zero represent the highest ranking students at the Peristylium in Rubrum, an academy much in the same vein as the Gardens in Final Fantasy VIII. Balance between the Crystals, and consequently the nations, plays an important role in the fate of Orience, and so once nations begin to contest their claim on others, the entire world is jeopardized. The story starts right in the middle of this conflict and never really lets up – it can prove to be somewhat confusing in the first few hours, and possibly through an entire play through.

Yes, there’s been a lot of talk about Type-0 breaking new ground for the series in “maturity” – the ESRB seems to agree, assigning the game a first in the series M rating. While Type-0 is at its core a story of war, a few bloody Chocobos does not make a mature Final Fantasy game.

Let’s look at just one other title for example, Final Fantasy VII. This game explores concepts such as: genocide, resources and the environment, adoption, memory loss, and even sex slavery – and it’s all done more tastefully than anything in Type-0, and this is despite VII’s more camp scenes. Type-0 is a story about four warring kingdoms yes, but this is never explored in-depth.

While the cadets fight for the side of Rubrum and against the empire, I never felt a strong sense of motivation as to why Rubrum were the “good” guys and the empire was so evil – in fact, there are just as many ancillary characters in Rubrum that I had negative opinions of.

And yes, I cringed at the immediate mention of l’Cie and fal’Cie.

Type-0 does a better job of not jamming these concepts down your throat like its fellow Fabula Nova Crystallis brethren. Still, the entire model of the god-like fal’Cie having a role in any story truly diminishes the importance of the decisions made by the characters and major players in this world – relegating it all to fate or the will of these beings.

I will be happy if this mythos is cast aside in future installments. Still, concepts unique to Type-0’s story fall rather flat as well, particularly how the game world handles the concept of death, which lessens the impact of some of the bigger moments on the battlefield, but I’ll leave that for the fan base to decide.

Class Zero as well lacked any interesting characterization as to why they are these ruthless killers, and are instead relegated to character tropes and personality quirks that mainly come out of anime stereotypes. None of the four kingdoms are really explored in depth – the war is only there insofar as to support the excellent gameplay and keep things moving. Type-0 is one of the few Final Fantasy titles where I found myself feeling disengaged from the story.

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Life in Orience

Consequently, while the story really feels like an afterthought it helps to frame and drive the excellent gameplay mechanics that will occupy most of your time in the world of Type-0. As a cadet in Peristilyum, your time is broken up into chunks of days spent on campus, with missions in between that advance the story. Missions usually involve defending or expanding territory for Rubrum, which will further open up the world map and give the player access to new towns, dungeons, and side quests.

When not on a mission, the game truly opens up player choice. On campus, players can take on requests from different students and faculty which range from simple fetch quests, to exploring completely new areas – the rewards for these quests vary. In addition, many optional scenes with both the primary cast and additional characters can be triggered during these free days. These scenes help to flesh out the setting, characters, and lore that I really appreciated – the amount of scenes that can be missed if not sought out is truly overwhelming.

The character also has the ability to breed Chocobos, purchase gear, as well as engage in training or special Expert Missions while on campus. In addition, you can opt to leave the campus to explore the different towns and dungeons and carry out the previously mentioned requests. Each of these actions takes up a certain amount of in game time. The game provides a counter for how many days are left until your next mission – players have the option of skipping ahead to the next mission, but it’s recommended you use your free days wisely lest you be under-levelled or under-geared.

Beyond the standard missions, optional scenarios, more akin to a top down strategy game exist where Class Zero is tasked with conquering different territories. While clearly secondary to the battle driven main game, these side missions provide a refreshing change of pace.

All of this content may seem overwhelming at first, but as more and more requests with recommended level requirements far beyond what the story requires open up, one quickly realizes that Type-0 is a game meant to be played on multiple playthroughs.

In new game plus, all gil, items, abilities, and levels carry over much to my delight, considering the high level required to challenge some of the toughest beasts in the optional end game content (I’m talking Behemoths, Iron Giants …and a few other surprising Final Fantasy series staples). Beyond further leveling up your team, subsequent playthroughs allow for revisiting any side content and watching the optional scenes that may have been missed or ignored the first go-around.

A Respectable Effort

For all of the excitement I was having saving (or is it conquering?) the world of Orience as a member of Class Zero, it’s difficult to deny that many of the mechanics feel dated and seemed to indirectly hinder my enjoyment of the game.

To give a simple example, in the lobby of the Peristylium, there’s a transporter that lets the player travel to different locations on campus, such as the Chocobo Ranch and a student hang out spot known as the Refresh Room. Once teleporting to one of these locations, the player has to teleport back to the lobby in order to teleport to another – this is a small annoyance but easily addressed.

Even more unfortunate is the way Type-0 handles the request system. You can only accept one request at a time, so it becomes difficult to manage and remember all that needs to be completed before the conclusion of a particular chapter in the game. It’s common you’ll come across a request in a town that you’ve liberated out in the world, but can no longer accept because you already have a request to finish from an NPC at the Academy. Since leaving the Academy causes in-game time to deplete, you are forced to make a judgement call based on little information – risking the amount of time remaining until Mission Day.

It is even more jarring since there’s no telling what a request will net you – you can spend a significant amount of time only to receive a hi-potion, or do something relatively low risk and receive a critical piece of equipment. This could have easily been fixed with the addition of a log that stored all the in game requests with the amount of time left to complete.

Some elements could have been thrown out entirely – while Chocobo breeding exists, there appears to be no value in discovering the handful of different breeds available. Because chocobos are downgraded to essentially an item – that is, every time the player chooses to ride their yellow companion on the world map they get a certain amount of time to travel until their mount is “consumed” – breeding serves no functional purpose other than to create more “consumable” chocobos, an unfortunate mechanic reinforced by the game’s trophies, which encourage you to breed an unremarkable 100 of the critters.

The effort put into upgrading the visuals are really appreciated – there were many moments where I couldn’t help but use the PS4’s built in screen shot function to capture my cadets truly owning it on the battlefield – but the results are inconsistent. Many of the towns in Orience feel like cardboard cut outs with copy-paste buildings, muddied textures, and no distinguishing features. This takes quite a bit of ambiance out of the world and there were many instances where I could not differentiate one locale from another.

The addition of a second analog stick on modern hardware helps alleviate the camera issues the original title had, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the awful motion blur effect implemented in this remaster when turning the camera– an effect which actually gave me a headache the first time I booted up the game.

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The Final Say

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a thoughtful experiment on what a Final Fantasy can be. Square Enix and Hexadrive have done an impressive job bringing what was a 2011 portable game to the Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

However, the title’s PSP roots are still apparent, both on the presentation and gameplay front. If you have specific expectations about what a current generation Final Fantasy should be, I would be much more comfortable recommending the always online but single player-friendly Final Fantasy XIV – or perhaps the Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae demo if you preordered Type-0 will be enough to whet your appetite.

In the meantime, Type-0 represents where a modern, action oriented Final Fantasy could go, and it’s a future I’m personally very excited for.

Presentation, Visuals, Sound:
███████ 7/10
Story, World, Characterization:
█████ 5/10
Mechanics, Entertainment, Replay Value:
█████████ 9/10

Personal Score:
███████ 7/10

(Now scroll back up and read the review!)

Have a question about Final Fantasy Type-0 HD? Agree or disagree with my assessment of the game? Comment below and we’ll be sure to respond!

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD will release on March 17th (North America), March 19th (Japan), and March 20th (Europe) for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Details on a Collector’s Edition can be found here.

Disclaimer: A copy of the standard edition of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD was provided to Final Fantasy Network by Square Enix at no expense for reviewing purposes. The initial playthrough was completed on Cadet, the easiest difficulty mode. Current play time, including new game plus, stands at 40 hours, 43 minutes.

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  • Marz

    Sorry to hear you didn’t like the story. Although many other people seem to love the story so I can’t tell if it’s actually good or not. Guess I’ll have to judge for myself.

  • Sharjeel Hanif

    Hello Marz – yes I would definitely make a determination on your own after you play the game – let me know what you think when you get the chance! For me, the game never did a very good job providing motivation and background for why many of the characters do what they do. That plays a large part in what I enjoy about a story.

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  • Daniel Masterson

    Wow great review. I am sure ill disagree with you on some things but its great to see you put the time in and write a thoughtful review that really reflects your opinion but giving the game its due! I am looking forward to playing this so much, its waiting for me at home.

  • Jeels

    Hello Marz – yes I would definitely make a determination on your own after you play the game – let me know what you think when you get the chance! For me, the game never did a very good job providing motivation and background for why many of the characters do what they do. That plays a large part in what I enjoy about a story.

  • Jeels

    Hey Daniel – thanks for the input. I am really happy we are finally getting to play Type 0 after so many years! Let me know what you think of the game.

  • Nathan Ratsavanah

    I feel like the story elements were possibly criticised harshly due to It’s connection to the XIII Saga/Fabula Nova Crystalis but all in all ’twas a good review.
    p.s. FF15; I believe, will be using the FNC lore, so let’s hope that it’s not a bad stigma.

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  • Jeels

    That’s a fair point Nathan – thankfully it’s already been confirmed that even if it a part of Fabula Nova Crystallis, FFXV will not have l’Cie and fal’Cie.

  • Daniel Masterson

    Well I started with the FF XV demo and was super impressed with it and it just makes the wait for the final game even worse! but I can power through. As for my thoughts on Type-0, I have only played it about 4 hours but already I am hooked and cant wait to get home to start playing it again. I like the setting, the battle system and the characters. I cant comment on the story just yet but I am digging it.

  • Radox Redux

    A fansite reviewing a game of the series that it is a fansiteof ? I scoffed with disdain, but read it anyway, as I was curious about Type-0’s oddities. What I found is a more professional and well put together review than most ‘professional’ games journalism websites can manage to scrape together. Kudos to whoever wrote this. I’m not sure the gameplay front will make up for the lack of compelling story/characters/setting, but it seems worth a try (and yeah, FFXV).

  • Tony Garsow

    Thanks for bringing this up Radox Redux, I’ll let Sharjeel know your thoughts!

    While we are a fansite managed by enthusiastic Final Fantasy fans, we feel that when we write editorial pieces (like reviews or otherwise), we need to be honest with our audience – especially when it comes to our personal impressions.

    On every we preview or review that we have had access to via Square Enix, we’ve made sure to write a disclosure in the closing to let our readers know what’s up.

    Even though we aren’t (and really shouldn’t) be considered a journalistic entity, I’ve tried to strive for similar goals in transparency — because, well, why not? I’d want to know the same thing if I was reading something similar myself.

    While it may seem like a fansite might be better suited to the role of a praise-filled echo chamber, I (and a few fansite editors in the community) feel that creating spaces where people can freely share positive or negative opinons about the games is healthy with proper supervision via moderation and otherwise.

    Why? Well, it’s a bit of a selfish thing:

    Final Fantasy has come to know generations of fans with many different opinions and tastes — and I’ve felt that when I read well-written opinions about what someone likes or dislikes about the series, it adds to my understanding — and perhaps appreciation of various elements within. I gain something out of it.

    That may not be everyone’s perogative (and it doesn’t have to be), but I feel that this approach also allows us to treat our audience (including their opinions and ideas) with respect.

    Thanks again for your comment and giving me an opportunity to talk about this!
    -Tony

  • Jeels

    Yes, that demo sure is something…good to hear you are enjoying things!

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