Still kind of my type.
Near the end of my nearly forty hours playing Final Fantasy Type-0, I couldn’t quite figure out why I was still enjoying myself. The story is trite, the gameplay antiquated, and the lack of great visuals incredibly disappointing. And yet, it still feels like a true Final Fantasy game. I credit a lot to the audio, like the familiar “clink!” accompanying every menu scroll and the soundtrack that swells with emotion. As a game, Final Fantasy Type-0 might not be recommendable for anyone who hasn’t already fallen in love with the series, but if you have already, wow, that score can really get under you skin.
Before I get caught up waxing poetic about my favorite FF scores (FF7, please!), here’s a quick info dump: Final Fantasy Type-0 makes its U.S. debut this week on PS4 and Xbox One, but the game was originally released as a PSP title in Japan in 2011. The graphics have been bumped up to support 1080p HD.
My initial impression after about ten hours was that the game should have been a Vita title since blowing up these graphics on an HDTV can be a murky mess. I still believe this in regards to the visuals with these final impressions, though I'm leaning more towards this being a solid choice for a console too.
Throughout a seemingly never-ending journey that allows players to control up to 14 characters as they traverse the world of Orience, small details won me over. Though I would have liked every chunk of dialogue voiced, I looked forward to these moments between the main missions. Like previous Final Fantasy titles, there are an endless amount of NPCs to chat with. Okay, not “chat” per say, more like you get to hear them complain about their woes.
As with any adventure, talking to everyone you meet titters between being fun or tedious. I credit director Hajime Tabata and his team to the fact that I was invested in the game a good chunk of the time. Then again, every area you want to explore prompts more load times, which can be sleep-inducing. I’m not a programmer, but I imagine if FFTO was made from the ground up for the PS4, exploring would have been much more seamless.
Taking me out of the world further are the awfully wonky camera controls. The way the right stick pans to move the camera has that herky-jerky motion that could be slightly tolerable on a portable, but it's downright dizzying on a current-gen console.
The gameplay is most like FFVII: Crisis Core, meaning it’s an action-RPG combining the strategy and options of a traditional JRPG with plenty of ADD-inspired button mashing. You start off controlling the card wielding-blondie Ace, but by hitting the right directional button you can switch characters. In the first chapter you’ve got the standard all-around player (Ace), the medic (Queen), and the slower, melee one (Nine). As mentioned earlier you’ll eventually be able to control 14 characters, whose personalities range from a standard-emo Tidus clone like Ace, to why-did-they-even-bother ones like the lazily named Seven. A good tip is to just remember your teammates by their weapons. Go magicite pistols!
After a brief opening tutorial gets you acquainted with the fighting mechanics, the three students you’ve been playing return to their studies at Vermillion Peristylium, a magical academy, or “akademeia” as it’s officially spelled. This section reminded me of the school in FFVIII. Things slow to a crawl, and players are allowed to explore the campus at their own pace which is great after being subjected to two hours of mindless battles. The school is by far one of the best aspects of Type-0, which thankfully acts as the hub throughout the game. (However, there’s only so many times I can hear the villainous Quin-mi drone on and on about the magically enhanced l‘Cies.)
Yet even here, the datedness rears its blurry non HD-looking head. Keep in mind that I’m talking about low textures here, not the art direction which, as expected, is superb. I’m sure the storyboard or whatever pictures are included in the collector’s editions look stellar.
The group of 14 comprise Class Zero, a group of students from an elite military academy. In the opening crawl we learn that in the year 842, war came to the four Crystal nations after the Militesi Empire (with those two words in their name, is anyone surprised they’re power-hungry aggressors?) became hostile and invaded the peaceful Dominion of Rubrum, where the students are from of course. Once the peace treaty is broken by the Militesi Empire, led by the ice-cool Cid, it’s up to the remaining three nations to fight back using the power of the legendary crystals against the mighty tech of the Empire. Yep, the time-tested formula of magic versus tech is once again at the center of a Final Fantasy tale.
One big plus on this recent outing is that the story is actually straightforward. I’m not saying there aren’t twists, but for Final Fantasy the plot is easy to follow: think Divergent or any other YA book with a young group of students who needs to rally against a fascist regime.
Speaking of magic, summoning is still incredibly fun. Having an Ifrit lay waste on a rival’s hit points still satisfies nearly 20 years after I first did it in Final Fantasy VII. As usual, you can only use a summon for a limited amount of time. This kind of battle mechanic is what keeps me engaged. No, Type-0 hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but fun is fun. Also, the ease at which you level up is reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts. Always a good thing.
That’s how this game won me over. The pick-up-and-play aspect is great, which is one of the few positives gained from its PSP roots. And the leveling just works. As I said before, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is definitely for fans only. One last warning, though: The main game is worth finishing if you can get past the punishingly hard boss battles that plague the last ten hours.