Final Fantasy: Type-0 HD Review

Released in Japan in 2011, Final Fantasy Type-0 was a PSP exclusive that embraced some of the overarching mythos from the Final Fantasy XIII universe, inserted it new world with a dark, gritty approach to storytelling and gave it a gameplay system that marked a huge departure from what Final Fantasy is known for. Fast-forward four years and Square-Enix have served up a HD remaster of the title on current-gen systems. The question is: has it survived the transition from handheld favourably? And is it worth your hard earned coin? There’s only one way to find out – read on!

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD has a complex storyline, so much so that it employs a narrator to explain what is happening in the larger scheme of things between chapters.  In brief, the world of Orience is split up into four nation states, each with its own crystal of power that grants its residents special abilities and cultural influences.  When the Mlitesi Empire attacks the Republic of Rubrum, Class Zero, a group of gifted youths with special anti-magic abilities are brought in to help turn back the invaders… And that’s where we come in.

Fans of the series expecting a traditional Final Fantasy experience with Type-0 are in for a bit of a shock. The game forgoes the traditional turn-based/ATB system the series is known for, instead replacing it with a more fast paced action-oriented style similar to that seen in a Kingdom Hearts or one of Namco-Bandai’s ‘Tales of’ games. Essentially, the game feels like a squad based action game in which players have the ability to control three characters whilst dodging enemy strikes, repositioning and then launching attacks using any of four abilities mapped to the controllers face buttons.

Players take on the role of Class Zero, which is made up of 14 playable characters, each having their own distinct move set and abilities. Whilst there are a lot to choose from, they all fall into several broad categories such as ranged attack, support roles and close-quarters tanking but their differing skills and the weapons that they utilise make handling each character feel unique from one another.

The combat system can be a little overwhelming at first, especially for rusted on turn-based JRPG fans, but once it clicks proves quite entertaining. In addition to entering battle and mashing away with melee attacks, the game also works in some of the other standard Final Fantasy fare including magic and summoning eidolons (at the cost of a party member) to help turn the tide of battle. Although on the surface it looks relatively basic, it’s actually quite deep. There are multiple upgrades on offer for each character’s skills and harvesting various forms of ‘phantoma’, a resource absorbed from fallen enemies, can determine which can be levelled faster than others. The game also rewards players for dodging and out-manoeuvring enemies by flashing up critical hits and instant-kill indicators that can be exploited to deal massive damage.

The characters can be quite delicate in Type-0 and will fall in battle often. Fortunately though players can switch in a new member of Class Zero when one falls and keep on playing and this will continue to happen right up until all fourteen are defeated in which case, you’ll need to load a save and go again. As this is the case it is important to not only experiment with and master each character’s abilities as you will inevitably get to play as all of them at various stages, but players must also ensure that they spread out their play time between characters in order to keep levelling across the group on an even footing. Unfortunately, there only a few limited ways to do this and that ultimately means replaying missions, grinding and more grinding.

Between the various missions, players are holed up in Akademia, a school which acts as a hub from which players are able to purchase new items from shops and visit the armoury to buy and equip new gear for each character. Similarly to Persona 4, players are also given a free time on mission days to spend as they see fit. Any actions undertaken will consume blocks of time and when the free time is elapsed, the next story mission will begin.

During free time, players can leave the school to train in the over-world map, attend classes to boost attributes, spend time breeding chocobos at the school’s own chocobo ranch, undertake side-missions and explore the school with the various playable characters in order to find and trigger inter-personal story events with other NPCs. There is a lot to do, but due to the bite-sized chunks of gameplay and fairly lacklustre dialogue, with the exception of grinding out in the open plains, most of these undertakings feel almost superfluous and really do not add much to the character development or the campaign.

Final Fantasy Type-0’s visual presentation is in one word: inconsistent. In up-scaling the game from the PSP it is obvious to even a casual observer that some elements of the game’s visuals have been prioritised over others. Whilst the cut-scenes look fantastic, the more frequented environments have seen a nice facelift and most of the character’s faces and models look quite nice, there are also an abundance of low resolution, muddy textures on some of the less story-centric NPCs and throughout the repetitious dungeon environments and world map. The audio side of things follows suit, with some very sketchy voice acting running the show whilst a great musical score and a decent blend of new and old Final Fantasy music plays in the background.

The biggest issue with Final Fantasy: Type-0 is that it cannot disguise the fact that it has been designed with handheld, on the go gameplay in mind. Each of the games missions is broken down into a series of almost identical rooms separated by loading screens and as the game encourages grinding to level your characters, it really does not take long for that repetitious feeling to set in. The visuals are truly a mixed bag and the side-missions and events undertaken at Akademia all feel detached from the main story and somewhat inconsequential. My biggest gripe however is with the ridiculously sensitive camera controls which make trying to look in a specific location normally quite difficult and downright frustrating during combat.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a pretty good action JRPG and an excellent handheld game. Whilst it may not provide the traditional Final Fantasy experience to those looking for it, the game does offer a fun combat system, interesting tweaks to the series’ established formula and a half-decent story. It is therefore unfortunate that the game is hamstrung by its handheld origins that doesn’t quite translate to console gameplay and its wildly inconsistent presentation. Whilst the HD remaster has failed to meet the game’s true potential, I have no doubt that a sequel with console development in mind would be amazing.

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