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Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: March 17, 2015 (US), March 20, 2015 (EU)


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PS4 Review - 'Final Fantasy Type-0 HD'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 16, 2015 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

Originally released in Japan (2011) for the PSP only, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD brings the world of Orience to next-gen consoles, allowing for a new type of FINAL FANTASY experience, featuring a gritty worldview and an action-packed battle system.

Buy Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

Final Fantasy Type-0 is one of the few Final Fantasy titles that didn't get an English release. It came out at the tail end of the PSP's life cycle, and perhaps that is why it never saw a translation. For a long time, it seemed that it would remain an import-only title. In the meantime, it's developed a reputation as a lost classic. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD finally gives players the chance to try the game, and as an added bonus, it's bundled with a demo for the upcoming Final Fantasy XV.

Final Fantasy Type-0 follows the story of Class Zero. They belong to the Dominion of Rubrum, which is embroiled in a fight against the invading Militesi Empire. Class Zero, a group of cadets in training, rise to prominence when they repel an invasion. The Class must prove itself and save Rubrum from being crushed by its enemies.

Despite the name, Type-0 HD is a spin-off of Final Fantasy XIII and exists in a similar but slightly different world. Things in the mythology are present in various forms, but don't expect to see Lightning and friends running around. Type-0 explains even less at the start than FF XIII does. You're bombarded with an overwhelming variety of phrases and concepts. Much of the plot is explained through datalogs, as in Final Fantasy XIII, and you're expected to infer some things from context. The game also requires multiple playthroughs for plot reasons, so seeing your way through once isn't enough.

The core story has interesting elements that are held back by an unnecessarily convoluted plot and weak characters. The Class Zero protagonists have the barest of personalities. The recent recruits, Machina and Rem, do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to character development. More of the plot rests on the shoulders of the various NPCs and villains who drive the story. Your enjoyment of the plot depends on how engrossed you get into the world setting. It's a war story, so the politics are more important than the people, and the characters aren't dynamic enough to carry the story on their own. It's noticeably more violent than most other Final Fantasy games. It's no God of War, but it's a definite change from the franchise's sanitized violence.

The combat system has a lot in common with Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core and The Third Birthday. It's real-time action based on dodging and striking at the right moment. You have a party of three active characters and can swap between them at any time. If a character goes down, they're down for the rest of the mission or until you find a healing point, but you can instantly replace them with other members of Class Zero. You attack and dodge normally, and offensive abilities come in two flavors: special abilities that drain your ability gauge and magic spells that require MP. Special abilities can be anything from special attacks to party buffs.

Magic spells have the traditional FF elements such as fire, ice, lightning, etc., but they also have types, including bomb, rifle, rocket launcher and shotgun. Magic spells can be charged into more damaging spells, and even higher-level spells are available. There are also protective spells. Magic is absurdly powerful, but even low-level spells take a ton of MP to cast, so you must use magic without draining yourself. At higher levels, you learn to cancel magic.

Your party can also perform special team-up Trinity Attacks that drain the ability gauge but are very strong. You also can sacrifice one of your party members to summon an Eidolon, the traditional FF monster to fight on your side. As in most recent Final Fantasy titles, Eidolons are playable characters in their own right. They remain summoned for a short period of time and can cause huge amounts of damage. They're limited in use when compared to the regular Class Zero characters, though.

Type-0 gives you a few options when it comes to killing enemies. A regular killed enemy leaves a corpse on the ground. The corpses vanish after a while, but before they do, they can be harvested for Phantoma. Harvesting an enemy earns you items, restores some of your MP, and gives you Phantoma to upgrade magic spells. Certain areas contain enemy leaders who are stronger than regular foes. Killing a leader causes nearby enemies to flee. Stop an enemy from fleeing, and you can get rare items when they give up. It's an interesting balancing act since killing and capturing enemies are both valid tactics. Leaders don't appear in every fight, so more often than not, you'll be harvesting Phantoma from foes.

Perhaps the coolest aspect is that each member of Class Zero is distinct. They are roughly designed to match the different Final Fantasy job classes: bard, dragoon, gambler, monk, samurai, and so on. Every character has his or her own play style. For example, Jack the samurai is the slowest member of the team. He has almost no mobility with his katana drawn, but he can quickly dart forward while dodging, and his single-slash attack hits like a super-fast truck. Ace the gambler has different card skills that let him draw power boosts to upgrade his attacks. My favorite is King the gunner, who needs to reload every 12 shots but can learn special dodge moves that basically turn him into an "Equilibrium" character.

Unfortunately, the balance is a little off for some characters. Every character is viable and usable, but ranged characters are strong and can easily kill vulnerable characters with a single shot. This can be frustrating if you're asked to use a character you don't like, especially since they're often underleveled. The game tries to reward you for swapping between characters often, but it's just more fun to use the characters you like.

Combat is pretty easy, with a few caveats. It's not too difficult for an enemy to get in a few lucky hits and drain a character's health. Level advantages are large, and gaining a few levels can change how durable your characters are. The game offers you a lot of chances to take on high-powered foes. Even in regular random encounters, you can occasionally chain together fights that allow you to fight the same enemy at a higher level, often multiple times in a row. Even enemies in the starting area can be upgraded to double their starting level. It's great for grinding XP, if you're not careful and overextend yourself, you can lose a lot of progress. The game offers an easier new-to-the-game Novice mode in addition to the two harder difficulty modes.

Type-0 contains a bit of traditional elements that missing from the other FF titles, such as an overworld or a town hub. Special war battles take place in the overworld and challenge players to an almost MOBA-style battle where they must interfere with swarms of enemies as they try to take towns or battle enemy airships. There are also hidden caves to explore, towns to find, and chocobo to breed and ride. However, the world map is pretty linear and overly large. Traveling between locations, especially early in the game before you have reliable methods of fast travel, feels slow and tedious. It's nice to have it back, but it would be better if it were more compact.

There are plenty of other things to do in Type-0. Between missions, you're given a certain amount of free time that you can spend on side missions, attending lectures, talking to characters, taking on special challenges, and countless other things. Most of the cities consist of a handful of NPCs and some shops, but it's nice to have the option. The campus has various bits of content to explore, though almost all of it takes up precious hours. Leaving town takes six hours, but once you've done so, you'll have plenty of time to explore. If you're fond of exploring and talking to people, Type-0 provides plenty to do.

Type-0 began life as a PSP game, and it really shows. There are a lot of game mechanics and design elements that make sense for a handheld game but feel awkward in a console title:  frequent loading screens between areas, poor draw distance, and unusual UI design. They only have a minor impact on the game, but it's disappointing since it wasn't better thought out. The multiplayer feature is extremely trimmed down and uses AI characters. However, the game still has real-time menus designed with multiplayer in mind. It's also weirdly balanced since you can summon AI partners at will, and some of the missions suffer due to that. It's reminiscent of the changes made to Birth By Sleep in the Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Collection, but the balance is a little worse here.

This is most prevalent in the graphics. Type-0 is a weak HD remaster. Several of the core character models received a significant visual update, but almost everything around them looks barely improved from the PSP version. Many secondary character models look terrible. Perhaps far worse are the environmental textures, which are often blurry messes. It's easy to see how they could've worked on a PSP handheld, but when it's blown up to full size on your TV screen, it looks ugly. The huge inconsistency makes it stand out even more when remastered models interact with PSP ones. Birth By Sleep had similar problems, but the simpler art style and design worked heavily in its favor. Especially for a $60 solo release, Type-0 just looks poor. Even acknowledging that it began as a PSP title doesn't change that. The voice acting is a mixed bag. Some of the actors do their jobs well, but others are awkward and stilted. The Japanese voice acting is available for those who want it, and it feels more consistent than the English acting.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a hard game to judge. As a PSP title, it's impressive and contains a bunch of content that clearly pushed the tiny system to its limits. However, released four years later as a full-priced $60 console title, it's lacking. It's still a solid game, but it demands that you remember its roots and overlook some of its foibles. A lackluster HD remastering doesn't make that any easier. The poor visuals and low-quality visual upgrade make this feel like a low-effort port. Despite that, it's a fun game with a fast-paced and exciting combat system and a boatload of things to do, although it's held back by a weak plot and some awkward design decisions. Despite the game's many rough edges, Final Fantasy fans will find much to like here, and it's a solid game for anyone who wants an action-RPG for the PS4.

Score: 7.5/10

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