Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a game I’ve been meaning to get around to for a long time. I finally finished it a few weeks back on stream. I’ve been too busy with my spring anime reviews to get to this review for a while, but it’s time now!
Enter the world of Orience, a world protected by four mystical Crystals. The people of this world have gathered around these crystals, forming their civilizations around them and being shaped by the gifts they provide. For example Lorica, the Crystal-State of the Black Tortoise Crystal, is a nation whose military specializes in defensive tactics and their people are large and durable. The four Crystal-States have existed as long as recorded memory… until the Militesi Empire, utilizing their White Tiger Crystal, attempted a large war against both Lorica and Rubrum.
Our protagonists, known as Class Zero, are specially trained, and presumably genetically altered, soldiers under Rubrum’s flag. During this initial assault, Class Zero is called into action to save Rubrum’s Vermillion Bird Crystal… and that is where the story begins.
Sorry for the long-winded start, but this is a long-winded game. Probably my biggest problem with this game is that it has just about the worst story delivery I’ve ever seen. Watching this game’s cutscenes and cinematics resembles nothing so much as a war documentary right up to the dry, monotone narrator and awkwardly explained, verbose terminology. It really removes the impact out of these scenes, and makes them feel distant and emotionally vacant.
That isn’t to say it is the only flaw though, as the characters are so dry they didn’t even bother to come up with names for most of them. The majority of the characters – the bulk of Class Zero – are named after a deck of cards (Ace, Deuce, King, Seven, etc.). These characters, with one or two exceptions, are so underdeveloped that it isn’t even fair to call them parodies. The most well-developed characters are Queen, Seven, and Rem – one of the few characters not named after a card – but even they are not particularly stellar characters overall.
The sad part is that the story of this game is actually quite interesting. With better delivery and a stronger cast, it could have been an absolutely stellar story. The political war makes for a great backdrop and the world itself has a few really fascinating story elements.
Most notably and most poorly handled is the fact that the crystals erase everyone’s memories of those who pass away. Yep, in this world nobody remembers those who have passed away, with the exception of those chosen to be the crystal’s empowered servants – known as L’Cie – who are not erased from peoples’ memories. This concept is incredibly intriguing… and it is hard to really picture the ramifications that would have.
Would we really ever be able to learn from the past? Would we simply not let ourselves get attached to others because we know we’d never remember them… or would it lead to deeper relationships since we’d be free of the fear of loss? There are so many interesting directions this could have gone, with characters interesting enough to really explore the effects on. Sadly, we lack those, and while we get a few scenes that scratch the surface of it, nothing ever really delves into it. And that is truly unfortunate; as I could’ve easily gotten lost in a story that really delved into that thought… it is just too juicy of an idea. Alas, it was not meant to be…
While the story falls short, the gameplay delivers. Despite each character being so devoid of personality that it is hard to tell them apart in talking, their combat styles are so dramatically different that you’ll probably end up referring to most of the characters by their weapon. From Seven’s dynamic whipblade to Queen’s rapier and Rem’s daggers… you’ll never get tired of the combat, because each character will force you to adapt and explore different mechanics.
And you’d best learn to use at least a half-dozen of these characters, because you’ll be forced to use them as you do the missions. Over the course of a mission, if a character dies they’re dead until the end of the mission, which encourages you to not place all your eggs in one basket. Sadly, while phoenix downs exist, they don’t really do anything since they can only be used on AI controlled allies who died, and only if they haven’t yet been automatically removed from the battlefield. This leaves you with a brief ~10 second window to use them, and only if it wasn’t the active character that died. A problem, but not the biggest issue in the end.
While each combat style is unique, a few of the key traits carry over. The most important of these is the concept of Breaksight and Killsight. As you fight enemies, they’ll expose weaknesses to you; if you attack at the right moment, you’ll do massive damage to them and may even straight up kill them. Learning these timings is the key to success in this game’s combat, and understanding the tells each enemy has is immensely satisfying. The system builds a strategic approach to a more action oriented JRPG that allows you to enjoy both the thrill of high-paced gameplay and the satisfaction of tactically outplaying an opponent.
The other gameplay element I’d like to touch on are the overworld missions which offer you a pared-down rts style experience. You control various key points and, using troops that automatically spawn from those points, you have to take over enemy territory. You get to choose which type of troops will be used and support them with your playable characters. It is fairly simple, and mostly a stat check, but is amusing and offers a nice change of pace within the game.
The other thing worth noting is the game’s atmosphere. It really does feel very nostalgic for fans of the series, drawing on key elements in interesting ways to pull the experience together. The open world is reminiscent of classic Final Fantasy games, while story elements evoke more recent games like 12 and 13. The soundtrack draws inspiration from the entire series, with many similar tracks to past favourites, and some even just straight up returning – like Final Fantasy 5’s Clash on the Big Bridge which plays during one of Type-0’s boss fights.
The graphics are not anything special, but as this is a remade PSP game, that is to be expected. What is more unfortunate is that the game’s moogles are nothing like the adorable moogles of previous entries – they’re practically abominations. Also, chocobos, which are a series staple and are typically sort of given a place of almost reverence, are treated as disposable vehicles during the game’s overworld missions. Having to watch chocobos die over and over again was almost too tragic for words, but was sadly a necessity. Fortunately, at the chocobo ranch, you can see baby chocobos run around… this is one of the most adorable sights a game has ever offered me.
Final Fantasy Type-0 is a solid game. Sure, it has some character issues and the story is a bit underexplored, but the gameplay makes up for that. But where it really shines is as a nostalgic thank you to the Final Fantasy faithful. With its nostalgic touches and cohesive execution, it will delight long-time fans and possibly help to bring some wayward fans back into the flock in preparation for upcoming titles.