Technical issues aside, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is one of the best entries that the series has seen in years.
The Final Fantasy series has always been along the lines of a PG-13 fantasy, with loads of melodrama and action but little to no blood to be found at all. Seeing as the series has been sinking over the last several years, a new direction was taken in the form of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, the first game in the series to get an M rating for sometimes brutal depictions of blood and gore. This of course was originally only released in Japan on the PSP, but thankfully it has now been remastered for current generation consoles. Is this a bold new step that the series desperately needed? Lets find out.
Type-0 HD is set in a war-torn land called Orience, which is divided into four nations referred to as Crystal States. Each nation has crystals of power that act as their national emblems, which all have unique characteristics like controlling magic or dragons. Due to their being these crystals of power, there is a necessity for each nation to have an academy to research and protect their nation’s crystal. This game focuses on a class of students called Class Zero, which consists of students who are the cream of the crop. They were called in to fend off invading forces from taking over their crystal and then fighting back in this war of nations.
Seeing as you are following the exploits of an entire class of students, the game will allow you to take control of 14 different characters in and out of battle. Each of these characters bring with them a variety of different skillsets and mechanics, making the game’s fast-paced combat always feel fresh and exciting. Your classmates wield things like cards, guns, swords, spears and more while also having a variety of magic attacks to cast when the going gets tough. You will control one character at a time while two other AI-operated characters help you out like the Kingdom Hearts series, though the game lets you swap out for one pf the other 11 characters with just a push of a button. Certain characters will be better in certain situations, so it’s always necessary to utilize all of your classmates to ensure they level up and are always ready to battle.
The presentation of gameplay is much more action-focused than in previous games in the series, as the game is actually split up into a series of missions that you are graded on depending on how well you do. While some of these missions can take up to an hour to complete, everything is always moving quickly and is packed with action. The game speeds up these battles even more by introducing what are called killsights, which allow you to instantly kill or severely damage an enemy when your lock-on ring lights up. To give these missions even more of an arcade-like feel, you will constantly be given the option to take on a challenge that will grant you more points if you succeed or result in your immediate death if you fail. You can even sacrifice one of your classmates to summon an insanely powerful Eidolon like Ifrit or Shiva, who can deal massive amounts of damage that is always a blast to dish out.
To keep the game’s war theme front and center you will occasionally take part in RTS-like battles, meaning that you will be commanding groups of troops as they protect their own base and try to take out the enemy’s base. While it’s definitely basic in terms of what a typical RTS game will offer, I felt it worked well with the game’s theme and was a nice change of pace compared to the standard action-heavy gameplay. It also helps that these segments are relatively short and end with your character invading the enemy base to take out the enemy commander in the game’s standard gameplay. However, if you still find that you’re not a fan of these segments the game allows you to skip them entirely, so it’s a win-win situation.
While Type-0 HD is a much more streamlined experience compared to what has come before in the series, it still has all of the hallmarks that you would expect from a Final Fantasy game. Your school acts as the game’s central hub; which contains things like a chocobo farm, a lounge, item shops and more that are all filled with students that you can speak with. There’s even an open-world map for you to explore that contains new towns to check out and hidden areas that contain worthwhile rewards at the end of them.
The catch, though, is that each of your actions outside of main missions take up a set amount of time for completing them. It’s not like in Majora’s Mask where the clock is always ticking, but certain activities will take away a certain amount from your time once you have completed them. Once you are out of time you are forced to continue on with the story until the next gap of free time becomes available for side stuff. I actually really liked this time restriction, as it allowed me enough time to get a good amount of side quests done while also ensuring that the plot kept moving along, as well.
What really kept me interested in the game’s narrative wasn’t really the story itself (it’s pretty standard war stuff) but the game’s characters. It isn’t easy to juggle a cast that contains 14 characters, but this one manages to give them each just enough screen time for you to care about them. Seeing as this game is set in the middle of a huge war the characters have to deal with some pretty intense stuff, which leads to a lot of emotional situations that make you relate to them and care for them even more. It also helps that the voice acting and dialogue is mostly really solid, though there are a couple of characters with terrible voice acting and dialogue that made me want to slap them whenever they came on screen. Still, 12 out of 14 isn’t a bad record!
Unfortunately, it’s the technical side of things where this game really comes up short and brings things down a notch or two. Seeing as this was originally a PSP game that released in 2011 that is being updated for home consoles in 2015 there are a lot of issues that are much more apparent now. Many of the game’s levels and towns have a very similar look and feel to them, with some areas having really low textures. While the character models of Class Zero have all received a graphical overhaul most of the side characters did not receive the same treatment. In scenes where both types of characters are together it just looks plain silly. I also can’t let a relatively minor but no less obnoxious motion blur effect that is present in the game off the hook, as moving the camera around even a little bit makes it look like you’re moving around in a tornado.
I was also expecting a bit more maturity in both the story and characters with the M-rating that the game got. While the game kicks off with a jaw-dropping scene containing someone slowly dying and begging for life, there are also many light-hearted and goofy things throughout the game that kind of clashes with that theme. The aforementioned couple of annoying characters in Class Zero add to this, but there are also those incredibly-annoying Kupos chiming in constantly with that ear-grating voice, and side characters that are so over-the-top and unrealistic that jarringly take you out of the doom and gloom scenario that is set by the game’s incredible intro. I wouldn’t expect the series to drop these lighter elements entirely, but toning down a few of them would have been welcomed.
Even though everything moves at a much quicker pace, this game still has plenty of content for you to sink your teeth into. While the main story can be completed in around 25 hours there are plenty of side quests and missions to complete on different difficulties to keep you coming back for more. There’s also extensive amounts of lore that you will gradually unlock as the game progresses, which sheds some interesting light on the characters, the world and more. It’s not as long-winded as a typical game in the series, but I actually liked that as I’m the kind of person that would prefer a shorter game with higher-quality gameplay than a longer game with lower-quality gameplay.
While Final Fantasy Type-0 HD has its issues it’s still one of the better games in the Final Fantasy series to come around in a while. The game’s slightly-grittier tone mixed with the more action-oriented gameplay is a nice change of pace and offers plenty of new mechanics that work well within this franchise. However, the overall story and tone is inconsistent and the technical issues are too frequent to completely ignore. Even so, despite its shortcomings, Final Fantasy Type- 0 HD is definitely a game that fans of the series should check out, and it just might even bring on some new fans who are looking for a more easily-digestible experience.