If you’re anything like me, you’ve been waiting three long years for its western debut, since the exclusive release of Final Fantasy Type-0 in Japan back in October 2011. The wait is finally over! Following the original release on the PSP, it has been in the hands of Hexadrive, who have refined and polished the title ahead of the first release outside of Japan, in the form of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD.
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series (along with Final Fantasy XIII saga and the upcoming Final Fantasy XV title) where divine entities and crystals representing the origin of magic are common themes. Type-0 HD has always been referred to as one of the darker Final Fantasy titles and it lives up to its reputation.
The story of Type-0 HD takes place in the world of Orience, which is divided into four nations, each blessed with crystals that grant them unique powers. The Dominion of Rubrum holds the Vermilion Bird Crystal, granting the power of magic. The Milites Empire holds the White Tiger Crystal, containing the power of weapons. The Kingdom of Concordia holds the Azure Dragon Crystal, containing the power of dragons. The Lorican Alliance holds the Black Tortoise Crystal, containing the power of the shield.
The four nations coexisted peacefully until the Imperial Marshal of the Milites Empire broke the peace treaty and staged an invasion using advanced military technology developed with the power of the 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.
You progress through the story by receiving and completing missions given to you by the Academy. After completing your missions, you return to the Academy where you have a set number of in-game hours until your next mission. You can spend your free time talking to the other students to obtain items, taking lectures in your classroom to gain experience points, going on side missions, or if you’re itching to fight, skipping straight to the next mission.
Combat is where Type-0 HD really shines and it’s a big step up from what was offered in the Final Fantasy XIII saga. The combat system in Type-0 HD shifts away from the traditional Active Time Battle (ATB) system and feels more like combat in an action-RPG. Some of the major differences from traditional Final Fantasy combat includes free move of your character around the combat area, perform actions in real-time, and the ability to dodge enemy attacks. For Final Fantasy fans, this is very similar to the combat mechanics of Crisis Core, but it’s a lot more fluid.
What truly sets the combat of Type-0 HD apart from other Final Fantasy games is the huge playable roster, with fourteen characters at your disposal. Each has their own unique weapon and playstyle to match. Choosing from a deck of cards, flute, bow, magic gun, mace, scythe, whip, martial arts, spear, katana, sword, dual-wielding pistols, rapiers or daggers, you can mix and match your party to ready for any battle.
In combat 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. Magic abilities can also be charged up during combat to dish out more damage – the longer the spell is charged, the stronger the attack. There is a solid variety in the types of magic each character can use, from different elements to attack patterns, each with a different strategical use.
Coupled with the lock-on system for combat is the Kill Sight and Break Sight mechanic. The Kill Sight mechanic allows you to instantly kill an enemy if an attack is landed while a red target is displayed. Similarly, the Break Sight mechanic allows you to deal massive damage while a yellow target is displayed.
A Final Fantasy game wouldn’t be complete without the ability to summon powerful creatures to devastate the enemy. In Type-0 HD these come in the form of Eidolons, which come equipped with their own set of abilities to help you overcome the toughest battles.
The real-time combat mixed with the free-movement of your characters creates a fast-paced spectacle. Perfectly timed strikes can cancel enemy attacks and a Kill Sight execution can quickly give yourself the upper hand. However, the combat on harder difficulties can be a challenge, requiring you to carefully position yourself to dodge enemy attacks. The variety in character weapons and abilities keeps the combat from feeling stale, and encourages experimenting with different combinations. Overall, the combat in Type-0 HD is the most enjoyable Final Fantasy combat system to date.
Defeated enemies leave behind essence of magic known as Phantoma which can be absorbed by your character to instantly restore some of your Magic Points. The Phantoma you collect through your battles can also be spent at the Altocrystarium to upgrade your magic abilities. Elemental based spells require the corresponding coloured Phantoma (Fire Magic can only be upgraded with Red Phantoma) and can be upgraded in power, speed, Magic Point cost, cast time, and spell range.
As you level up your characters and Eidolons, they will gain Ability Points that you can spend in the Promotion System to level up your abilities and unlock more powerful abilities to use in combat. Certain abilities and upgrades have minimum requirements that have to be met, so if you’re the type to optimize your character, do your research! Unfortunately only characters that participate in combat will receive experience points, so if you want to keep rotating through your roster for each new mission so they level evenly. Each of the fourteen characters has their own particular set of abilities and must be levelled individually.
While Type-0 HD is mostly identical to the original, there were a few changes made for the HD release. Out of the box, Type-0 HD comes with the option to have Japanese audio instead of the English audio. The multiplayer mode from the original has been removed; however all the abilities and items have been integrated into the normal gameplay. An additional difficulty level has been added which if selected, makes the gameplay a bit easier compared to the original, as many people claimed the original was too difficult.
Outside of your story missions, there are many other things you can do within Type-0 HD. The Mission List lets you replay completed missions on your choice of difficulty, allowing you to level up other characters, try to beat your previous score, or unlock greater rewards on the hardest difficulties. For all the lore masters out there, Type-0 HD has a simple yet rare take on lore archives. Instead of accessing world information through your normal in-game menu, the Crystarium is a library within your Academy which you can visit to learn about the world of Orience. While this doesn’t add anything new to the mix, it’s definitely a nice touch. If you can’t get enough of the fluffy Chocobos, you can spend your time breeding your own that you can ride around the world map. Or if hunting down alternate character costumes is more your thing, they can be unlocked as you play through the game.
Personally, the best part about Final Fantasy games is the music and Type-0 HD is no exception. Each piece of music is a perfect fit for each scene and sets the tone for the story. Every track has been recomposed by Takeharu Ishimoto, the composer for the original release. The HD release will feature a new battle theme, a full English version of the alternate ending track and a newly composed song: “Utakata”.
With Final Fantasy Type-0 HD being the first Final Fantasy title to be released on the new generation of consoles, it has large shoes to fill. While there are some issues like disparity between texture qualities scattered throughout the game, I personally believe that Type-0 HD has the potential to be the title that restores some faith in the Final Fantasy saga. The combat system is responsive, dynamic and will challenge even the mightiest of Final Fantasy veterans. The story tosses away the overused notion of the “power of friendship” and focuses on the devastations of war through the eyes of students whom carry the fate of the nation on their shoulders. While it may be a HD release of a PSP title, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is shaping up to be a true return to form.
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is due to be released on March 17th in Australia/North America, March 19th in Japan and March 20th in Europe for Xbox One and Playstation 4.