Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
- Street Date:
- March 17th, 2015
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- March 16th, 2015
- Game Release Year:
- Square Enix
- Square Enix 1st Production Department
PS4 disc version reviewed. Review is light on spoilers. The 'Final Fantasy XV' -Episode Duscae- demo content is not a factor in this review, and is covered here.
Just prior to the launch of the PlayStation Vita in 2011, Square Enix released 'Final Fantasy Type-0' on the PSP. This Japan-only game has been lurking for years, with rumors and fan requests hoping for a western debut at every turn. Finally, in 2014, Square Enix announced that the game had been be prettied up and localized for a Western release, but not on the Vita or PS3. Instead, 'Final Fantasy Type-0 HD' would go straight to the current hot platforms, the PS4 and Xbox One.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Let me welcome you to the world of 'Final Fantasy Type-0 HD.' As a crimson cloaked cadet, a member of the elite Class Zero, I have certain responsibilities, with which comes a certain code that is both hard to define, and hard to escape. Leading a party of three cadets, I encounter our nation's new enemy, the Imperial Army. Instead of attacking the imperial troopers one by one, I rush past to what is obviously their leader. I dodge past his shoulder canon, and I wait a fraction of a second. As the enemy leader readies his weapon, I have a chance at a KillStrike. With my giant ornate scythe in hand, I dash forward, and in one stroke, finish the leader. Seeing this, the other enemy soldiers half-heartedly turn to run, but though they have been party to a series of merciless acts against our beloved Dominion of Rubrum, their own honor comes to bear on the situation right there on the battlefield, and each one stops, disarmed with hands up, waiting.
Before attending to the surrendering soldiers, I go to absorb the fallen enemy's essence, which should restore some MP and yield some variant of the mystical Phantoma. Unfortunately, the command to harvest is identical to the command to melee attack with my scythe, and I viciously attack the empty air above the body. I sigh, wait a moment, and with the same command, perform the harvest ritual.
From there I walk over to the closest surrendering enemy. In accepting his surrender, all I need do is accept whatever ration, or other item he might give me, and his war will be over. Again, misfortune arises. I have to be very close to the prisoner when I press "X," or else, as does happen, I will perform a Dark Nebula attack. The prisoner doesn't react, he's still as a statue, and yet I know, he must be wondering why I keep attacking when I should be calm.
This is 'Final Fantasy Type-0 HD.' It's a great big world, but it's a world that was built for the PSP. Much like 'Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD,' or 'Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc,' that PSP DNA affects the visuals (more on that later), audio, controls, presentation, etc. in a way that is inescapable. There are plenty of enhancements, but the PSP legacy is always there on some level.
For me, this is neither surprising nor regrettable. If 'Type-0' had been developed for the PS3 or PS4, the entire scope of the game would have been changed. And before this review gets completely derailed by trying to explain how one would reasonably go about porting a 3D PSP game to the PS4, suffice to say that being compared favorably to 'Peace Walker' puts 'Type-0' in the upper echelon of PSP games in spite of the camera and control issues.
Back to the game, the world of 'Type-O' is a war-torn meat grinder, wherein a magic user can lose their powers with a flick of switch, and then, while trying to escape their carnage with their beloved Chocobo, be gunned down so violently, that man and beast become one great big meaty stain in the middle of the road.
Yet, as entire cities are vaporized, there's still room for the smaller things. The students cast spells that let them spy on the private, changing-room moments of their instructor. Monstrous things that blur the line between machine and man cry "this sucks!" as they are killed for the third time.
'Type-0' has a story, complete with crystals, magics, nations, airships, teenagers, etc., but it's all colored by the same grimness found in works like 'The Sky Crawlers.' (Similar themes, not story.) By bringing in notes of 'Slaughterhouse-Five,' the game is able to mostly balance the global conflict with how it affects the 14 members of Class Zero.
The large number of playable characters is more impactful for gameplay as opposed to story. Each character has their weapon type, with some as varied as a Flute that guides a Navi like creature into attacking while others let their bearer perform a Final Fantasy "Jump." Combat is real-time, with an Ability Gauge acting like stamina along with HP, MP and consumable items.
Combat is about using the basic melee and the dodge early and often, with special attacks, offensive spells, and defensive magic peppered in at interval. Harvesting is important, and though it leaves the character open to attack, the moment of harvest produces a powerful area attack. This is before getting into trinity attacks (all three party members attack as one) and eidolons, which temporarily trade cadets for summons who are directly controlled by the player. (Camera hijinks ensue when playing as an eidolon, but it's more than playable.)
Rolling with three party members can seem at odds with that full list of fourteen, especially since only the party members in combat get experience from battle. (Experience raises player levels, earned ability points open up new abilities, and Phantoma is used for improving spells.) While it's tempting to focus on just on three cadets and let the rest whither, those other Elite Zero cadets may be called upon at any time. The game has a wicked habit of taking a party member's full life (say with a boss' opening attack), and when that happens, it's time to call up a reserve. And yes, a hopeless battle can exhaust the entire roster.
There are battles aplenty to be had. Random battles on the world map often kick off an escalating kind of rematch offering. (Same monsters, but higher level.) There are battles in the fun training area, sidequest dungeons, expert trials, and of course, the main missions, which can all be replayed at length.
Speaking of the world map, it is the locale for the special strategy type battle, which sees enemy armies trading strongholds with the player running around issuing commands to each stronghold, invading enemy's cities and camps, and harassing (offense only) enemy troops. It's also the hunting grounds for Chocobo breeding stalk, and one of the areas where special tasks can be completed.
The world map pleases old-school fans like myself, and it helps that the game lets you warp home at any time.
There's even more to the game than what I've already outlined. Missions offer not one but two special systems to keep things cracking. There are Special Orders that pop up in every main mission area. These will make a gambler out of the player for sure as they offer an enticing immediate buff and an even more valuable post mission reward against the life of the party leader. The SOs are both fun and a great way to add challenge; however, since the environments are PSP sized, and the SOs are cancelled at each area transition, it can be hard to say, survive for 3:00 minutes when that means standing around an empty environment (and adding to total mission completion time).
The other optional system, SPP, is similarly attractive as it yields a special currency for a good vendor, and similarly flawed. It's replaces the PSP's ad-hoc multiplayer with AIs, many of whom have very interesting names, but displace the other two party members in a distracting, uncontrollable manner. (I played with both systems on, though at times I decline several successive Special Orders.)
One more word on difficulty. Square Enix has added a new, easier difficulty level for this release, and it fluctuates more than I would like. Sudden difficulty spikes can be crazy. There is a fail and learn design at work there, which is fine. What I love about it though, is that outside of missions, the difficulty level for everything, including missions, can be changed, so that that initial new game decision is not at all permanent.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Once a PSP game… No really, it's wise for players to brace themselves for the worst. CGI cutscenes are nice enough for what they are, and overall, the characters wouldn't look out of place on a PS3, but the environments are boxy and muddled, still require frequent, albeit brief, loading screens. Areas like robot factories seem redeeming when compared with the town streets, but the disconnect between the characters and environments is staggering. 'Peace Walker' and 'Skyward Sword' did better with simpler textures than 'Type-O' does in many areas.
While I'm happy to play 'Type-0 HD' on the PS4, it looks like it was produced with the Vita in mind.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Like the visuals, the sound design appears to be from the school of PSP to Vita, with not much happening surround wise. The soundtrack has the 'Final Fantasy' well to drawn off of. (Leveling up, brings immediate gratification via audio.) English voice acting is serviceable to fine in many places, but the sidequests hurt. I'm not sure that the Japanese voice acting is all that better, but I loved being able to switch over once I tired of the English. This can be done from the title screen and does not require a new game.
Did I mention that combat is addictive? Leveling all the characters is addictive? The main game and the side content are addictive, lengthy, and full of rabbit holes that suck away hours, and yet still do not make me sad the way that crafting does in 'Dragon Age: Inquisition.' There's also multiple playthroughs to be had, even for less hardcore players.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
This is the Day One edition, which means it includes a code for the 'Final Fantasy XV' -Episode Duscae- demo, which I've covered here. I do consider it a big bonus, and the most obvious reason to release this bundle on the PS4 or Xbox One.
Forget JRPGs, 'Final Fantasy' games alone are enough to form hard lines between various fans. 'Type-0' plays like it's meant to be enjoyed in bite sizes and in marathon sessions, and the story is so much more palatable and enjoyable than what one might expect from the past 15 years. For better and for worse, 'Final Fantasy Type-0 HD' is a hit PSP game reborn. It's been made available for a worldwide audience, and should that audience see past the lingering limitations of the PSP, 'Final Fantasy Type-0 HD' will be held up as a new standard bearer for JRPG gameplay and story.
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