Beacon of Hope

The wait is almost over for Final Fantasy fans, as recently Square Enix has started releasing high definition remasters of previous Final Fantasy titles. The latest of which is Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, a remaster of the original PSP title released in 2011. As the original title was exclusively released in Japan, this will be the first time that many fans will get to experience one of the darkest titles in the series.

As with any Final Fantasy game, there is a lot that can be talked about. After about 26 hours of gameplay, I’ll be taking a look at what I think are the core aspects of Type-0 and hopefully answer the question many fans are asking – will Type-0 HD be the saviour that the Final Fantasy saga needs?

Welcome to Orience, a world which is divided into four nations that are blessed with crystals that grant them unique powers. The four nations co-existed peacefully until the Imperial Marshal of the Milites Empire broke the peace treaty and staged an invasion using advanced military technology developed with their White Tiger Crystal. The Milites Empire has set its sights on the Dominion of Rubrum, with the fate of the nation relying on a small group of skilled students from Rubrum’s elite academy, known as Class Zero.

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Type-0 HD definitely lives up to its reputation for having one of the darkest storylines in Final Fantasy with its tales of war and death, all experienced through the eyes of students. Character development has always been a hallmark of Final Fantasy games and unfortunately, this is one area that Type-0 HD falls short. As individuals, Class Zero fulfill the standard Japanese classroom student tropes. You have Queen – the well-mannered Class President, Jack – the class clown, and so on. Because of these stereotypes, most of the characters won’t hold your attention, let alone leave a lasting impression. Unlike previous Final Fantasy titles, I found it very hard to become attached to any individual character for their own personality. However, due to their synergy, Class Zero as a whole has quite a dynamic personality which develops along with the story.

“Some of the major differences from traditional Final Fantasy combat is the ability to freely move your character around the combat area, perform actions in real-time, and the ability to dodge enemy abilities.”

The combat system in Type-0 HD shifts away from the traditional Activate Time Battle (ATB) system of other Final Fantasy titles and feels more like combat out of an action-RPG. Some of the major differences from traditional Final Fantasy combat is the ability to freely move your character around the combat area, perform actions in real-time, and the ability to dodge enemy abilities. Each character has four different abilities that are assigned to the face buttons of the controller. These abilities can be a mix of basic attacks with your weapon, offensive magic to attack enemies, and utility magic to heal or strengthen your character.

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At first glance, Type-0 HD’s combat system seems quite simple – more-or-less like a slimmed down Spectacle Fighter. The more you play, the more you learn how dynamic and challenging it can be. The ability to rush in, dish out a number of attacks and dodge away from counter-attacks feels fluid and extremely satisfying, and if you manage to land a critical hit through Kill Sight and Break Sight, you can feel the force of the blow through both the animations and sounds. The ability to form a team with 14 different combat specialists at your disposal gives you a lot more versatility in dealing with different situations and it keeps things fresh. Want to get up in their face and beat them down? Go with Cinque’s Mace or Eight’s hand-to-hand combat. Enemies too far to reach? Switch to using Trey’s Bow or Ace’s Combat Cards.

When you add in the mix of magic abilities, not only do you open up more choices in combat, but you also add in the potential for counter-play. While basic weapon attacks deal very little damage to mechanical enemies, a single Lightning based attack can be devastating. Unlike other Final Fantasy games, there aren’t specific characters who are more attuned to using magic. By splitting the resource needed to cast magic abilities (Magic Points) and a characters’ special ability (Ability Gauge), it makes the variety of magical spells feel complementary to a character’s innate fighting ability and not like an entirely separate build path.

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You also have the ability to summon powerful Eidolons at the cost of sacrificing your current party leader. Eidolons replace your current party and have their own set of abilities. Unfortunately, controlling these things isn’t as satisfying as playing as Class Zero, and while they are definitely useful, I felt they jarred the momentum of the battle. However, there are only a few fights where you must use them so this doesn’t detract much from the overall gameplay.

After defeating an enemy, you can absorb their essence of magic known as Phantoma. Collecting this energy can be spent at the Altocrystarium to upgrade particular traits of your magic abilities. While I was interested in the concept of collecting a resource that can be used to upgrade your abilities, it was an awkward experience. You can only absorb the Phantoma for a short period of time after defeating an enemy, and if you’re in the middle of combat, you’ll have to make a conscious decision about whether you’ll ignore the Phantoma and defeat the remaining enemies or take the risk of enemy fire and take the time to absorb the Phantoma. Not only does this break your momentum in combat, but in confined spaces it was extremely unlikely that I could do it successfully without taking heavy damage in the process. However, by choosing to ignore the Phantoma and proceed with slaying the enemies, you’re indirectly punished by being deprived of these resources.

“The game looks and feels polished, particularly the character models and dialogue cut-scenes, however its PSP origins are very evident in the low texture quality of some combat areas, which contrast heavily with the new character models.”

I had high expectations for how a Final Fantasy HD remaster would look and I’m glad that Type-0 HD didn’t disappoint. The game looks and feels polished, particularly the character models and dialogue cut-scenes, however its PSP origins are very evident in the low texture quality of some combat areas, which contrast heavily with the new character models. You will quickly notice that in most cut-scenes, the Class Zero character textures are of much higher quality than other characters, even if they are in the same scene. While they may not look awful, I found the constant shifts from low to high quality textures to be quite distracting.

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When I think of JRPGs, the first thing that comes to mind is the grind. Slaving away, grinding for just enough experience to defeat the next boss, rinse and repeat. Thankfully, Type-0 HD’s combat is fluid enough that base character stats aren’t the determining factor in winning a battle, removing the need to grind. Like most RPGs, only characters that participate in combat will receive experience. Ultimately, if you want to keep your whole roster equal in levels, you are forced to rotate through each character on different missions. As each character levels up, they will gain Ability Points that can be spent to level up or unlock new abilities. While managing the growth of 14 different characters may seem tedious, each of the characters unlock their new abilities at different levels from each other, so each time you’ll only be working with one or two characters at a time.

Type-0 HD is full of gameplay features that I could ramble on about for days, but there are two main aspects I want to look at. The first is the Support Personnel feature – an option that enables you to enlist the help of random NPC characters during missions. These characters will randomly join and leave your party during a mission, however they replace one of your active members in the process. Accepting Support Personnel during a mission allows you to gain Support Personnel Points (SPP) which can be used to purchase better weapons for your characters. However, losing your key party members can be disastrous during a mission. Support Personnel cannot be controlled, leaving you with only your active character to get the job done. This may not seem like a big deal, but imagine being stuck with a melee character when you need a ranged attack to take down a ranged enemy – you’d be completely out of luck.

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The second feature is the ability to replay past missions. While there isn’t the need to grind for experience, if you want to give your characters a boost to make your life easier, you have the ability to replay through past missions. Through this menu, you can go through the same mission to gain extra experience, items and Gil, and if you’re up for a challenge, you can increase the difficulty level as well. This was the best solution I could find to overcome the problem of not being able to maximize Phantoma collection during combat. So if you’re struggling to collect enough Phantoma during main missions to level up your magical abilities, this is definitely one way to achieve that. Similarly, this is probably the best place to utilize the Support Personnel feature. While it’s a risk accepting Support Personnel on your first play through of a mission, once you know what you’re up against you can determine whether or not you should take the risk.

Final Fantasy has consistently graced us with some of the best music from video games and Type-0 HD stays true to this. Little needs to be said about the music – Takeharu Ishimoto’s orchestral and rock themed compositions are something that need to be experienced for yourself. In short, the score is absolutely fantastic.

With Final Fantasy Type-0 HD being the long awaited title by fans outside of Japan, as well as the first Final Fantasy release on the new generation of consoles, it had a lot of expectations to live up to. The HD remastering seems incomplete in some places, but the focus on the new approach to Final Fantasy combat is more than enough to draw your attention away from the flaws. While some of the core mechanics don’t synergise well on the first playthrough, they are able to complement each other on multiple playthroughs. Each different aspect of Type-0 HD comes together to make it one of the best Final Fantasy titles of the past decade.

Developer: Square Enix 1st Production Department
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One

A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD Review
Responsive and dynamic combatMature, grim storylineChallenging for all skill levelsAmazing soundtrack
Can only be enjoyed to the fullest by replaying contentOccasional disparity in graphics qualityIndividual characters don’t leave a lasting impression
90%Overall Score