Ten percent pleasure, ninety percent pain, and a zero percent reason to remember the name!
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Square Enix and HexaDrive
Publisher: Square Enix
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is an action RPG that centers around a great war within the region of Orience between four major nations all vying for power as conflicts escalate to one with a level of destruction and brutality that is a bit unfounded considering how tame prior entries of the Final Fantasy series were when it comes to content such as this. More specifically, the game centers around class zero, a group of talented magically adept teenagers from the dominion of Redrum, who serve as an elite military force for their nation. With the bulk of the story detailing them embarking on history defining missions and wreck levels of untold levels of destruction against all who oppose them, except it is executed in a manner lacking the grittiness the game opens up with.
That is a pretty basic overview, but that’s because Type-0 is one of those particularly peculiar stories can either be summarized in a very concise manner, but are so bogged down with odd details, poorly handled exposition, and lackluster characterization that describing it in a concise and palpable manner is quite difficult. From the opening cutscene onwards, it indoctrinates the player with a surplus of information and terms, while failing to give them adequate context to digest and understand the information. It is almost appalling how many characters, concepts, plot points, and terms are thrown at the player during the very first hour of this game, and the game never necessarily stops to explain them in detail until several hours later, if at all.
Say what you will about Final Fantasy XIII, but at least that game had the decency to provide the player with a useable datalog of information where they could review terms, locations, characters, and concepts from the menu. Meanwhile, Type-0 offers the ability to rewatch cutscenes, look up extraneous lore on the hundreds of years of history the developers wrote for this game, view enemy information, and look up characters. But all of that is tucked away in a single location, and does not provide much of an insight into what the copious amounts of chuunibyou sounding gibberish this game has. Such as how humans in this world are unable to remember those who die. The supposed immortality of the main characters. Or how L’cies are back from the Final Fantasy XIII games, yet their rules and abilities are rewritten and the Fal’cie are replaced by crystals who may as well be called Fal’cie since they are the same basic thing, and the Fal’Cie were ultimately crystals. Well, the same thing as Cocoon Fal’cie, not Pulse Fal’cie, though it was difficult to ascertain the difference between the two a lot of the time due to the—
If the comparison is not already clear, Type-0 clearly prescribes to the same school of storytelling as XIII, but it manages to be an even worse example of it than its predecessor due to how little information is made available to the player, and how little palpable information is conveyed in its cutscenes. I am being completely serious when I say that a trip to a fan wiki would make for a more interesting and concise story than whatever is offered in the actual game, and that is just kind of sad on behalf of everyone who was in charge of this game’s story.
Oh, and speaking of sad wasted efforts, the vast majority of the cast of Type-0 is under detailed to the point where their personalities being to genuinely feel one dimensional, with the worst offender of this being class zero themselves. They are a group of 14 anime archetypes who do not undergo any meaningful development or change, are largely forgettable, and are so similar visually that I genuinely forgot who was supposed to be who throughout the entirety of the game. There are sparse moments where I could feel the characters becoming something worthwhile, but the story does not allow enough of those for any particular character to resonate, partially because it simply does not afford enough time to actually characterize the cast and help the player form a connection with them. What, with well over 25 characters, including the entirety of class zero, being introduced within the first two hours of this game.
Yet, I can still see it. Amidst this poor execution, I can still see this game baring an interesting story that details a relationship between mortals and gods, the horrors of war, and a rich history of a fantastical detailed world. It has ambition behind it, and the people behind the story were clearly exerting a lot of effort into bringing their ideas to life. Yet as it stands on its own, it is a story that I found myself growing increasingly frustrated at as things progressed. Though, you can express that same sentiment to the gameplay.
Starting with the highlight, the game adopts a far more action oriented approach, veering heavily on the action end of action RPG. As it stands, combat can be fast, frantic, fluid, and overall involving, tasking the player with dispatching foes quickly and efficiently while keeping their HP, skill based AP, and magic based MP all in check. With a total of 14 playable characters, there is a fair amount of diversity available to, with even more when getting into the multitude of abilities available to each party member that can be gradually built up as time goes on.
For for every other thing I can note about the gameplay… it is fraught with questionable design decisions that left me perplexed as to how anybody thought they were good ideas. Starting with combat again, while a good portion of the cast are genuinely fun to play, about a third of the playable characters lack the precision, speed, or general intuitiveness to make playing them an enjoyable endeavor. Combat in general has a level of jankiness and unwieldiness that I would expect from an ambitious PSP title. While one of the central unique mechanics, the killsight system, which is meant to land fatal or heavy damaging hits, often seems to rely on precognition in order to strike enemies in the short window given to the player. Furthermore, the distribution of damage from enemies can vary dramatically, with some sections being dirt easy and others involving enemies with weapons that can kill characters in two hits. Such as an enemy leader seen near the end of mission 3.
Missions content often consists of travelling through corridors and cluttered rooms, battling enemies, and occasionally bizarre restrictions imposed on the player, such as forced stealth sections. Yet a startling number of them involve battling against enemies that, on the first playthrough, can utterly eviscerate their way through all 14 characters, with one section in particular going out of its way to kill off the party leader halfway through a mission. It is a bizarre form of a forced loss that incentivises the player to spend a lot of time waiting around with their character dead on the floor, and to not roll into certain bosses with more than one party member, because the AI party members would just die anyways and negatively affect the mission rank.
Yes, that’s right, Type-0 has a mission ranking system that is based around the number of characters who died, the time it took to reach completion, and the number of souls of the innocent the player extracted from the blood drenched corpses of the foreign menace, also known as phantoma. Phantoma serves the dual purpose of restoring MP on the battlefield and is used in one of the most convoluted and irritating upgrade systems that I have ever seen. In order to upgrade class zero’s arsenal of acquired magical spells, phantoma must be used to increase the attack power, range, MP cost, or cast time of a spell, but doing so will decrease something else by a nearly proportional amount, most often MP cost. It is a daunting system that I found myself barely using, and by extension, I barely used magic as well, simply because I did not understand what an effective build was, and magic is fairly useless regardless. Well, aside from cure, but that could just be replaced with an auto-potion function.
Now, missions are only about half, probably less actually, of this game, with the other portion being devoted to interim periods where the player is given the opportunity to explore the hub area, Akademia. Here, the player is given the opportunity to attend classes for stat boosts or easy EXP for their 14 characters, converse with relevant NPCs for more lore and an item, and complete requests from other NPCs in exchange for rewards. It is all fairly standard, except for the time limits themselves, which feel greatly unnecessary and bizarre. I ultimately saw no purpose to the whole limited time angle of this game beyond discouraging rampant exploration and creating a false sense of urgency that is greatly undermined by how the player is often encouraged to spend several hours exploring and grinding between missions.
Furthermore, exploration of the academy is alarmingly slow and tiresome, requiring the player to walk through various small rooms in pursuit of relevant NPCs, going through a dull routine broken up by copious amounts of loading screens, and a structure that involves going from room A, to room B, and back to room A before going to room C. It honestly made me wish navigation was done a menu, though I could say the same thing about the overworld. Which is easily the worst overworld I have ever seen. Firstly, the world of Orience is a particularly ugly one with drab colors, dull scenery, awful lighting, and a sense of emptiness. I genuinely groaned when I first saw it, questioning how or why anybody would think this way okay, but then I tried to navigate through this world, and found another pile of oversights.
There are no map markers, nothing on the main map or minimap to indicate a point of interest, and not even a basic layout of the terrain for the player to abide by. There are no easy reference points to remembering where everything is, and even the ability to move across the undetailed world map to figure out the names of these regions is far less intuitive than it should be. Oh, but it gets better. The world map is littered with visible wandering level 99 enemies from the very beginning of the game, because… I have genuinely no idea. The entire act of exploration feels tiresome, futile, lifeless, directionless, and overall effortless due to the number of oversights present across this waste of a landmass. Admittedly things do get better if the player explores and discovers an airship, but then they need to deal with a bad camera perspective and an awkward flying minigame. So it’s still like comparing wallowing in trash and wallowing in muck.
Oh, and I almost forgot about the RTS battles. Yes, in addition to regular missions, there are sorties where the player marches around a section of the overworld. It is very simple, involving the player’s territories launching an endless number of troops that clash against enemy territories that do the same, with the player being the equalizer that defeats enemy troops in order to allow their troops to get a foothold in enemy territory and eventually claim it. After which, more troops are produced, which perpetuate the cycle until all enemy territories are gone. Also, there are small regular combat sections mixed in when launching a siege on large enemy territories. If that sounds very simple and almost braindead, then I did my job in accurately describing these missions.
Moving onto the presentation, as I have previously mentioned, Type-0 was originally a PSP title, and that certainly shows with its blocky level geometry, low quality textures, small rooms, overworld, and NPCs with potato heads. However, the developers exerted effort in replacing and revising many character models and certain elements, namely those relating to class zero themselves and other major characters, in order to make the title more visually appealing. However, this causes the newer assets to stand out next to the older ones due to the gulf of polygons and texture sizes between the two, and makes the instances where the game does not look very good look even worse.
Even as a PSP title though, I find a lot of the aesthetical decisions here rather unwanted, with the game aiming for a more realistic look regarding its world and characters, which I always feel cause a game to age significantly and look, well, positively bad as time progresses and the game lacks a distinct art style to rely on. Also, the difference between character model quality is also quite pronounced when looking at the game’s various pre-rendered cutscenes. Not only are they doused in garish yellow and green filters, but the models used for class zero look significantly worse than the ones in-game. I understand why they could not simply re-render these cutscenes, but it is just one more example of the game’s overall lopsided visual presentation.
Following its initial Japanese only release, I was quite interested in Final Fantasy Type-0, and was under the impression that it was a legitimately great entry in the series deemed to in some sense redeem it after the underwhelming nature of Final Fantasy XIII. Actually playing through it was a sobering and upsetting experience, seeing the title unfurl itself before me, becoming gradually more frustrating as time went on. Ultimately culminating in a story that was confusing from start to finish and a gameplay paradigm that I found simply annoying near the end, as punctuated by one of the most frustrating final areas I can ever recall forcing myself through.