Those who avoided Final Fantasy games for a long time because of the XIII series now have a great reason to come back. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a much needed return of many of the fun and engaging aspects of the series which have been absent for far too long. The original release, at first named Agito XIII, was on the PSP and was never released outside of Japan. The HD release on PlayStation 4 provides everything from the original and not only adds updated visuals, but a few extra surprises and nods to classic Final Fantasy titles.
The story of Final Fantasy Type-0 takes place in the region of Rubrum and follows a class of military cadets dubbed Class Zero. What differentiates Type-0 from other Final Fantasy titles is how dark the story is willing to go when following Class Zero and the outcome of the world of Orience. For the first time, we see a real grim, twisted, and gory perspective of war in a Final Fantasy title. The sight of a War Chocobo staying alongside its owner as they die together is an image that is unfamiliar, yet fresh for the series. The narrative that plays out covers a wide range, including warring countries, the emotional weight of battle, and time paradoxes that sometimes can get a bit convoluted. Yet the end result is a story and world that is vastly more interesting to follow than the last few Final Fantasy titles.
The gameplay of Type-0 is definitely a change from the series’ classic turn-based combat. Battles happen in real time while you take control of three characters individually in a small squad. You can switch between the characters on the fly, as well as use different items and abilities against enemies. Most of the game is spent traversing through different environments, completing objectives, fighting enemy soldiers and monsters, and leveling up the members of Class Zero. At some point in the narrative you gain the ability to travel on a world map like in older Final Fantasy games, and complete missions that advance the story. You even can explore the area while riding a chocobo, which you can help breed in the game’s main hub area called Akademeia.
Some missions take on the form of a Real Time Strategy style meta-game that has you gaining control of cities and towns from enemy forces. Completing these opens up new towns and areas to explore that give the chance to acquire powerful weapons and items for Class Zero. While this definitely mixes things up during the narrative, it can feel a bit out of place after playing through many of the game’s action-packed standard missions.
There are a bunch of different enemy and monster types, including new takes on classic beasts and machinations from earlier games in the series. Their fresh take in this brutally torn up world revitalizes their presence as enemies you were meant to encounter over and over again.
There are a few annoying issues that pop up from time to time. Some of the design choices made back when the game was on PSP have not been adjusted for the PlayStation 4, such as the lifeless environments in areas you explore. Throughout Akademeia and Orience, NPCs will stand idle without any sort of purpose and wait for you to converse with them. Even when areas are populated with characters, having a bunch of motionless NPCs in one place makes the area look less like a bustling environment, and more of a gallery of mannequins.
There is also a necessity to constantly change characters at specific points in the main hub world. Because of the changing dialogue sections that occur for different characters of Class Zero, you need to constantly trek back to a save point to switch out and then return to where you need to be. This can get unnecessarily time consuming for a less than stellar payoff that usually results in a small exchange between characters and obtaining an easily disposable item.
There are the occasional quests that yield important key items and abilities, but they can be overshadowed by the saturation of fluff scattered throughout. The difficulty of the game can sometimes fluctuate erratically, depending on the active mission you are playing. Sometimes enemies will easily be dispatched with attacks in large numbers, while other times they will become incredibly resilient and overwhelming faster than you can react. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does you’ll find yourself needing to replay some missions over.
All shortcomings aside, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a game for fans that have wanted to see a real advancement for the series. The dark story that unfolds helps open up new possibilities for future games to go in bolder directions. While this may not be the game with the most relatable characters or memorable plot, it does contribute significantly for what may be a turning point for the series in years to come. Those who were displeased with everything that came out of the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy will definitely want to see the fresh approach from Square Enix with this original entry in the series.
This review was based off a purchased retail copy of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD for the PlayStation 4.