Perhaps the truest Final Fantasy game in the series since IX, Type 0 seemed like it’d never see the light of day in the West. The very fact that it got the green light for a HD release is beyond belief, as Hajime Tabata himself (Director) has said before. Nevertheless, all of the hardships in the world will not prevent me from pointing out the flaws in what is otherwise almost that Final Fantasy game you’ve wanted since the glory years of Playstation One.
Look and Feel
The atmosphere shifts around in Final Fantasy Type 0. It mixes in the light and dark of all there is in the world. The time at war is bloody, but your time in the Akademia is generally light-hearted. It helps to keep the game balanced as the main narrative could become a little too heavy were it not for the time spent with your classmates back at school. They compliment each other perfectly. Let it be said though, Type 0 does not shy away from the violent realism of war, despite the fantasy setting. The opening of the game will show you that.
As for the look, it’s a mixed bag. When you consider that this was adapted from a PSP entry, sometimes you’d never be able to tell. At others, it’s painfully obvious. Main characters get the good treatment, and most character you’d directly interact with have been given that HD bump up, but a fair few environments – such as a certain secret laboratory in the Crystarium – are very much a PSP Crisis-Core-esque backdrop. It’s a shame that not everything was improved, but it’s understandable and it’s not getting in the way of the game. The character movements, attack animations and interactions with each other are all great to watch and feel pleasant to partake in, so the minor things in the background rarely catch my eye.
If I had any kind of issue, it’d be the lip-sync. I’m the terrible man that likes his English dubbing. In-game, it’s very obvious that it’s designed to be played in Japanese with subtitles. I imagine there are legitimate time and budgetary reasons as to why they didn’t or couldn’t adapt the animations for the English dub, but it can be a bit jarring when the sentence is over and their mouths are still moving. You might think it’s nitpicking, but in a narrative-focused game, feeling connected to the characters is important, and good localisation is a vital component in that regard.
Speaking of the English dubbing, honestly, it’s not great in Type 0. Funnily enough, a lot of the side-characters and enemies have better dubbing than the main characters. Some standouts in your team, like Eight, have decent voice acting, but those more integral to the over-arching story leave much to be desired. I couldn’t say if it’s an acting or directing issue, but it’s a common issue with Square Enix. Having said that, the option does exist to have the Japanese audio with the English subtitles, and I’d recommend you try them both out to see if you’re as picky as I am.
The musical score, however, is pure excellence in my opinion. The main theme “We Have Come” is as epic as any could possibly want, perfectly accompanying the opening scene’s narrative. There are signature cues for all moments, from comical to deep, and the Akademia’s music as you explore the main hall is the embodiment of nostalgia for Final Fantasy fans. Truly, what seemed lost in more recent franchise iterations had been hiding in Type 0 all this time.
To summarise, the localisation may have been a bit lackluster, but choosing the Japanese audio fixes that and the rest of the game – bar some characters and background – look amazing for a reconstructed PSP game.
Story and Characters
The game takes place in a time of war, where the Militesi Empire attacks the Dominion of Rubrum for ownership of their Vermillion Bird Crystal. In an act of desperation, Class Zero are dispatched to the front lines in other to repel the invaders, given their unique ability to use magic even around the Militesi’s Crystal Jammer technology, which would ordinarily render the crystal’s magical enhancements useless.
The theme is darker than previous entries in the series. There’s a great deal of blood, crumbling cities and lives lost without explanation other than “we’re at war”. To speak any more of the plot would lead to spoilers, so I’ll merely say that it’s a great story-line, but you’ll have to voluntarily read a fair bit to understand it all. Whilst the basic narrative is given to you as you progress through the main story missions, not all of it is explained, and you need to do a fair amount of talking to the people in Akademia as well as out in the world if you wish to piece it all together.
The main characters, fourteen of which are playable in battle, all have their own personalities. The friendships and tensions that arise between them are the heart and soul of the game, but they’re not as expansive as I’d like them to have been. It’s good that they left me wanting more from them, but I wish a bit more time had been taken to explore the unique quirks of each class-mate and identify with them a bit more. Whilst they’re all unique, most of what they do relates to them as a unit rather than as individuals, understandable as it is.
I will say that it could have done with a more fleshed out antagonist, and a certain element halfway in to the plot could also have done with more exposition. In fact, the game’s biggest problem truly is a lack of explanation without reading a few paragraphs. The narrative written down should really have been in the game itself as part of the plot. Nonetheless, it still tells a touching tale for the most part.
Type 0’s game-play is surprisingly fluid and at times restricting. It breaks down in to two segments: Mission Day and the time between. After the first few missions, you’ll be given free time to have conversations, explore the returning World Map outside of Rubrum and take on more difficult side quests as you progress. Once that time is used up, on whatever you decided to use it on, you must undertake the the next mission and advance the story.
Each of the 14 playable characters has a different main weapon, can be trained up to level 99 and unlock a myriad of special abilities unique to that character. For instance, Ace wields a deck of cards, from which you can shoot a laser beam that cuts through enemies and can be upgraded. Eight, on the other hand, is a hand-to-hand combat expert and has a variety of martial arts skills to smash enemies in to the ground. They all feel different from each other which is both good and bad. It’s good to have that variety, but it inevitably means that some characters will simply be more useful. It does mean that there’s a character to suit everybody’s play-style, however, so that’s a massive plus. I do believe there are also 5 characters outside of Class 0 available to recruit, but I’ve yet to do so myself. Basically, you’ve got a lot of friends.
The combat is that of an action RPG. You take the entire class out in to the field, but are in control of one and supported by two more. If any character dies, you can call in from your reserves (the whole class) and you can switch between the three active characters mid-battle. The most interesting mechanic is the “Killsight” and “Breaksight” moves that every character has access to. When locked on to an enemy, their marker will change to a red icon for “Killsight”, meaning if you strike at that time, you’ll kill the enemy in one shot. “Breaksight” is reserved for stronger/heavily armoured opponents that cannot be killed in one shot, but can be interrupted and left open to damage if your attack is timed correctly. With each character moving and attacking at different speeds and ranges, these mechanics stay fresh because they’re approached differently depending on your chosen character.
There are three combination attacks – akin to Limit Breaks – you can choose between before you venture out to battle or in to the world. The first is the actual Triad Maneuver, wherein your three characters will attack together, the more interesting Eidolon, which allows you to summon at the cost of the lead character’s life, and then there is the “Vermillion Bird” technique. My preferred choice is the Eidolon, as the summons can be trained up just like your main characters and learn new techniques, and through clever tactics, you can prevent the loss of the lead character – such as casting “Reraise” before launching the attack.
The training options are varied. There is a dedicated training arena which allows for easy Killsight chances and experience farming but at possibly the slowest rate. The “Secret Training” wherein you leave your currently controlled character with the NPC, turn off your system, and when you return you’ve gained a load of experience just for being away. Great for those without the time to grind. You can find various advantageous spots (Northern Cavern, Bethnel Cave) if you can handle the enemies, or from the title screen, you can redo Missions. Probably the most productive form of training, redoing missions allows for a chance at a higher grade, is the best way to gil and experience grind and allows you to accept SP support to gain even more SP points for yourself. There are many options for you to choose from, but then, there are many characters in your class, and at best, you can only level 3 of them at a time, providing they can all survive.
The camera can be a nuisance at times, sometimes being too rigid, at other times being too swift, and the inability to switch your characters in the field despite the fact that they’re all with you is quite an oversight. You can only switch character compositions and armaments when at the red save crystals, and it seems unnecessary to burden you in such a way. You have to venture back to town or allow your current team to wipe in order to switch in from the reserves. Even then, if you didn’t bring the correct spells or techniques that’ll make your fights easier, you’ll again have to backpack it to the nearest town, even though they know all of these techniques? It’s a baffling design choice.
When you’re not fighting, you’ll be exploring the world, capturing and breeding Chocobos and undertaking side-quests. The problem with the side-quests is that you can only carry one at a time. Does your character not have a notebook and/or memory? Really? Is the new joke “How many kids does it take to do a side-quest? 14!”? This is ridiculous. It really did bother me a great deal. The return of the great World Map sullied by being told “No, you can’t do it for both of us. Now choose who you love more!” when it comes to your extra time. In all seriousness though, I can’t imagine a good excuse for not being able to undertake more than one side-quest task at a time. Especially when a lot of them require you to go outside of Akademia, using up 6 precious hours of your time until the next mission (you get 12 hours a day).
When on missions, you’ll also get the option to receive support from AI-controlled characters that pop in, usually named after the various developers of the game. It’s an interesting and more importantly useful system called SP, and it grants you points for using it, which unlocks several secret pieces of equipment that can enhance your characters, such as double exp-earning weapons. You are also graded on missions, and it’s based on time to completion, absorption of souls (Phantoma) from dead enemies and casualties suffered in your class. Achieving the highest “S” rank grants you a reward.
Speaking of the Phantoma, you use the various colour-based phantoma to upgrade your magic skills back at the Akademia (or anywhere that the save points are placed). You can upgrade the power, range, lower the MP cost etc. There’s a lot to do, as you can see, and even in all that I’ve written, I’m bound to have missed something. I guess that’s what New Game + is for! Featuring alternate missions at higher levels through the main story, offering you a choice between the standard approach or to undertake a complete different task , really makes the second run feel fresh. Even if you wanted to do follow the plot as originally intended, you have 4 difficulty levels to choose from: Cadet, Officer, Agito and Finis. Finis raising the base level of everything by 50 levels! It’s insane.
This reconstructed PSP game has more content than most PS4 games as it stands. It wears its classic Final Fantasy inspiration on its sleeve with the return of the world map and eidolons, but invigorates where the series has always needed to – in the realm of combat. Hajime Tabata seems to be the most in-tune with what fans of the series want, and with a better English localisation and an updated information delivery system – like that of the audio tapes in Bioshock – his future endeavours could return Final Fantasy to its former, highly-regarded state. Type 0 is the first step in a return to glory, and it’s a grand step indeed.
Game: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
Review Format: Playstation 4