Final Fantasy Type 0 HD Review

Developer: Square-Enix
Publisher: Square-Enix

Though Final Fantasy was once synonymous with high quality, many newcomers and longtime fans alike aren’t fond of the Fabula Nova Crystallis direction the series has taken since the release of Final Fantasy 13. Despite this lack of interest in the western markets, Square-Enix continued to publish and develop 13’s sequels, perhaps hoping they would find an audience.

With that said, it seems as though Square-Enix lost some of its faith in their franchise as they decided against localizing the original version of Final Fantasy Type-0 overseas. Granted, the game originally launched in Japan towards the tail end of the now defunct Sony PSP’s lifecycle. One can’t really blame the company’s decision, by this point Sony’s handheld console had lost momentum and software sales were declining fast, due to equal parts rampant piracy and loss of consumer interest.

Indeed it seemed as though this would be yet another JRPG us westerners would never get our hands on but luckily, that wasn’t the case. Square-Enix decided it would be in their best interest to launch a remaster of Final Fantasy Type 0 for the newly released PS4 and Xbox One with a PC port soon after. Now, with the ‘HD’ moniker added, we would receive what an even better way to play this game.

My expectations for this game were high, in fact, it was a prime motivator behind my purchase of a PS4. So you can only imagine my dismay when the first few hours of gameplay gave me one of the worst first impressions I have ever received in any high-pedigree series. The plot starts out excessively and needlessly confusing, filling the player with information overflow giving you no time to digest any of it. Names, terms, dates and events are thrown around so often, almost all of them new and foreign to anyone not familiarized with Final Fantasy 13.

Even if you have played that game, chances you will still be completely lost. This happens because for some unknown reason, the creators thought it was a good idea to withhold often vital information while still having every character discuss it as though you already knew all the events being discussed.

This confusing design decision will permeate your entire playthrough, though in fairness, this flaw is minimized as the game progresses. Even so, expect to hear terms like l’cie, agito and phantoma with little to no explanation as to what any of it is until you’re past the point of caring.

The issue isn’t that the main storyline is bad (though it’s not particularly good either), it’s the way the designers chose to present it. You often take a role in major battles between the Militesi Empire and the Dominion of Rubrum, yet before each major event you’re given a narration of what happened AFTER the fighting is over. The first couple of times this happened I thought it the game skipped over the battle, only to then throw me into the skirmish with full knowledge of what the outcome would be.

Reading this you might think the story has no redeeming value at all, but surprisingly that’s not true at all. Yes, the main plot is a waste, but the side-stories are actually quite captivating. In the world of Final Fantasy Type 0 HD, whenever someone dies, everyone he or she knew will immediately forget all memories they ever had of the deceased, as if the person never existed in the first place.

At first I wasn’t particularly drawn to this plot-point, but the more I spoke with random NPCs and heard their stories, the more gripping and heart-wrenching it became. In this war, people aren’t afraid of dying so much as they are afraid of being forgotten and forgetting their loved ones.

You’ll meet people who don’t remember having parents, brothers or being married. In the later chapters you come across a person at the military academy who states he never had many friends and was always something of a loner, when the reality is, all his friends were dead and he didn’t remember then. A female soldier who is nearing her death was terrified of the thought that her loved one wouldn’t even know she existed. This completely changes how we view death or why you would become a soldier.

Even when interrogating enemy bosses, you’ll hear them lament all the men they’ve lost whose faces they can’t remember. In one particular boss fight, he explains his motivations and why he chooses to fight until death, how he wishes to honor those he can’t remember, the conversation was pretty gut-wrenching and obviously moves your party, but when he finally succumbs to his wounds, everyone forgets the dialog ever took place, but the player doesn’t.

It’s a brilliant narrative element that is sadly never taken fully advantage of. The main storyline chooses not to dwell on this, being relegated instead to regular NPCs and side-stories that are earned when taking optional missions. These assignments also come with strong “war is hell” set pieces. Initially your nation is fighting a losing war and you witness the death and devastation that comes with it, but towards the end of the game, when the tables are turned you soon learn your side is hardly any better. Towns are captured and its denizens treated like 2nd class citizens right in front of you. Once again, the game chooses to ignore this, you will see innocent civilians and children be mistreated, denied food and be thrown out of their homes and all characters choose to ignore this.

It’s honestly baffling how there are so many great elements in the overall story but instead of being shown to players, they will have to dig for it only to see these moments ignored.
Final Fantasy Type 0 HD may be a spin-off, but it sees the return of many of the series’ staples. For one thing, random encounters are back and leaving a town or city takes you to an overworld similar to the ones found in the series’ PS1 outings.

Combat however is in real-time and it’s actually one of the game’s strongest points. Simply put, the fighting mechanics found here are addicting and surprisingly well developed. You have a total of 14 playable characters though your party is limited to 3, but each and every one of them has their own unique fighting style. Ranged characters all play differently from one another and melee fighters feature exclusive play styles.

You only control one character a time but you can quickly switch between party members by tapping the arrow buttons on the D-pad. This is an option you’ll likely use frequently as your AI teammates are generally not very useful save for the occasional healing spell.

As characters level up, they attain points which can be spent towards purchasing or upgrading battle skills and these will shape your main offensive tactics as the magic in this game is underpowered to the point of being nearly useless. Offensive spells generally come in two varieties; fast and so weak there’s no point in using it, or somewhat powerful but so slow you might as well ignore them.

Killing foes grants you a chance of acquiring phantoma, these come in several varieties depending on your enemy’s level, monster type and how it died. Phantoma can then be spent towards upgrading magic, but even when fully upgraded, offensive spells are not worth the hassle. Luckily, healing and defensive magic is far more useful, and upgrading them is highly recommended.

When in battle enemies will often lower their guard in preparation for their next attack. When this happens your lock-on reticle changes and provides an audio cue informing the player you can perform killstrikes which deliver massive damage and briefly stuns your target.

Summons are named Eidolons and unlike past titles, they can only be summoned when undertaking a mission. Calling forth one of these giants is immensely useful but has the side-effect of killing the character who beckoned the mythical creature.

It’s true offensive magic is highly disappointing, but every other combat mechanic clicks in perfectly. Characters may only equip a total of four combat skills at once, requiring players to carefully balance each member’s strengths and weaknesses.

Although the Playstation 4 features vastly superior processing and graphical capabilities to its PSP counterparts, it seems as though this port takes little advantage of it. Graphically, Final Fantasy Type 0 HD is highly inconsistent. Character models range from nextgen to something out of a Playstation 2… sometimes in the same scene. Backgrounds and graphical effects are a mishmash of state of the art and extremely outdated. To say the visual’s erratic nature is disconcerting would be putting it mildly.

The PSP’s limitations also hamper the story. It’s no secret on the handheld system’s bottlenecks was its long load times, because of this, the original version would often interrupt conversations to load the next segment. This creates a conversation that fades in and out constantly with angles drastically changing for no reason and characters appearing out of nowhere with limited animation added. Alas, none of these problems were corrected for the Playstation 4 remaster, so expect oddly paced debates.

As the campaign picks up, you soon come to terms that there is a limited in-game time to explore the world, take on quests and engage in assignments. This constraint does not flow in real-time, rather, a few hours are deducted every time you set foot outside the military academy, engage in certain conversations or undertake missions. Though the idea is interesting and in theory, promoted replay sessions, in practice there is hardly any incentive to do so.

What little story segments you miss due to not speaking to the correct person can easily be viewed on YouTube and are not worth the investment of a second playthrough. Moreover, you have no way of knowing which conversations yield worthwhile rewards or plot elements until you have already taken them and spent valuable hours. At least the issue is somewhat mitigated during a second playthrough as Final Fantasy Type 0 HD will remember who you spoke to and will charge no hours for performing the same actions.

Final Fantasy Type 0 HD is an interesting game, it seems for each gameplay or narrative element masterfully crafted there is another one where the developers completely fumbled it. The main plotline is drawn out, chaotic and frankly uninteresting, however, the side story manages to add an interesting spin to the classic “war is hell” trope. The notion that all memories of a person are forever gone upon their death may seem insipid at first, but soon becomes terrifying.

Its combat is addicting and fairly deep with 14 playable characters all of which handle differently from one another. Sadly unbalanced magic system mars what is an otherwise well thought out fighting structure. The game expects you to replay through its storyline at least once, but it really does not give enough incentive or rewards to justify it. The final experience may be a rollercoaster of both quality and questionable game design, but Final Fantasy Type 0 HD feels fresh, unique and is one of the better entries the series has produced in recent years.

- Fast paced, surprisingly deep combat
- 14 playable characters with unique gameplay styles
- Side missions and NPCs offer a well told, poignant "war is hell" of loss and regret

- Main plotline is chaotic and incoherent
- Too many plot elements are intentionally hidden, demanding a second playthrough
- Graphically inconsistent ranging from top of the line to extremely outdated
- PSP's limitations hamper the story and dialog, with conversations being paused abruptly

Final Grade: B+

Video Packaging Review:

Text Packaging Review:

To my knowledge there are four editions of Final Fantasy Type 0 HD, the regular version, the Frame Edition (which looks hideous in my opinion), the Limited Edition Steelbook, and the Collector's Edition, obviously this is the latter. The packaging is absolutely stunning due to its sheer size, it reminds me of those old big box PC games from the 90s but sleeker, in fact, I store it with my PC collection. I've placed a regular PS4 game next to this Collector's Edition for scale, which should give you an idea of just how massive it is.

Removing the outer slip case, we're prompted with a box adorned with Tetsuya Nomura's art style. Inside, you'll find an art book, steelbook, a Final Fantasy Type 0 manga and five tarot style cards. I love the feel of the art book, it seems like it was made to mimic a notebook used in the academy, inside you'll find character bios, concept art,  and character designs.

Although I've been slowly getting back into anime, I haven't quite made the leap to manga yet, so it's been a while since I've read any. For that reason I don't feel I'm particularly qualified to judge this booklet. It re-tells the tale of how two of the game's main characters joined class zero, but we already see this happen in the actual game. I enjoyed the art to be sure, but I have to admit I was bored halfway through the book, I suppose manga just isn't for me, but it's still a nice addition and I like Square-Enix went to the trouble of marking my copy as a 'first print', it's likely meaningless, but it's a nice attention to detail.

The Tarot cards are made to mimic Ace's weapon of choice in the game, they are long, sleek and attractive to the eye. Each card features a different Eidolon (summon) and it makes me wish it came with a full deck of these.

Finally we have of course the steelbook. Once again, Tetsuya Nomura's angular design just leaps off the case and is quite eye-catching to say the least. Inside you'll find both the game and soundtrack CD. It also comes with an ad for the PS4 remaster of Final Fantasy X | X-2, a code to download the upocming Final Fantasy 15 demo, a Square-Enix registration card and a warranty card.

Overall I'm happy with this Collector's Edition, it comes packed with feelies and generally feels high quality. Some may scoff at the fact there is no figurine included but I generally find those take up too much space and drive up the cost more than they are worth.

Packaging Grade: A

No comments:

Post a Comment