"The first noticeable change that sets apart Type-0 HD from a normal Final Fantasy title is just how much darker the story is."
Final Fantasy Type-0 has had a long and storied production leading up to its release outside of Japan. Originally made for the PlayStation Portable in 2011, the game spent many years being teased for localization but nothing ever came of it. Due to the PlayStation Portable being on its last legs and Square Enix being unsure about the fate of the PlayStation Vita, the game seemed doomed to sit in Japan. Only with the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One did Square Enix see an opportunity to get Final Fantasy fans on the platforms in time for Final Fantasy XV. Now western RPGamers will finally have Final Fantasy Type-0 HD.
The history lesson is essential as it puts in perspective what exactly players are getting with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. This isn't a mainline Final Fantasy game. Neither is it a big budget game or a game designed with these consoles in mind. It is a HD remaster of late-era PlayStation Portable title, Square Enix's swan song for a device that was seven years old by the time of its release. Keeping those expectations in check, a better idea of what the game is can be reached.
Final Fantasy Type-0 takes place in the world of Orience, a continent of four nations: the Dominion of Rubrum, the Milites Empire, the Kingdom of Concordia, and the Lorican Alliance. The longstanding peace between the nations comes to an end when Imperial Marshal Cid Aulstyne, leader of the Militesi, attacks and conquers both Lorica and Concordia. When he moves on to Rubrum, he uses a special weapon that works to sever the ties of the military from the crystal that bestows on them their powers. Class Zero, a group of fourteen students who alone have retained their powers, stand as the last hope for Rubrum and the war effort.
The first noticeable change that sets apart Type-0 HD from a normal Final Fantasy title is just how much darker the story is. Final Fantasy has had darker elements before, but its heart always remained very fantastical. Just the opening shot of Type-0 HD alone is enough to set the tone. Enter on a war-torn city, where weary soldiers shamble past graphic depictions of corpses, human and chocobo alike, as a hue of fire frames the scene. Type-0 is as much, if not more, a war story than it is a classic Final Fantasy tale.
Its large cast of characters is also a change of pace from modern Final Fantasy. Type-0 HD boasts fourteen playable characters, a high number beaten only by the likes of the Tactics games and Final Fantasy VI. Twelve of these said students take their names from the ranks of playing cards, while two of the students receive the full name treatment in Machina Kunagiri and Rem Tokiyama, who serve as the game's narrators. The need for fourteen playable characters becomes apparent when given the sheer variety of the weapons present. From the expected appearances of swords, a bow, a spear, and handguns to much more unconventional armament like a scythe, a whip, a deck of cards, and a flute, each character brings something different to the table.
Type-0 HD's overworld is called the Active World Map. Here, players can ride chocobos, control airships, and encounter the monsters that roam. There are two elements to the Active World Map: Skirmishes and Airship Dogfights. Skirmishes add a Real Time Strategy component to the game, moving different, specialized troops around the overworld to control encampments, which can offer their own rewards like new shops and information from NPCs. Airship Dogfights involve direct control of an airship's guns to fight off dragons in midair. However, the meat of the content comes from missions and that's where players will spend most of their time. During each mission, players will call together a set number of Class Zero members to bring along. Three can be active at one time while the rest remain in reserve, with players being able to switch to them on the fly or using them to replace downed party members.
Combat is a far more action-oriented affair than previous titles. The face buttons are mapped to contain a standard attack, magic, and a character-unique ability. The fourth face button is held for supportive and healing magic or dodging. Magic attacks use MP while abilities are tied to an AP bar that fills while performing other attacks. While locking on to enemies, players can attempt to attack during specific moments in an enemy attack and either "Break Sight", which causes high amounts of damage, or "Kill Sight", which kills off minor enemies instantly. There are also high-powered attacks for each character, which when used together form a Trinity Attack that can be used multiple times during a mission. Characters progress through levels by gaining experience, which earns them AP they can use to purchase new abilities or strengthen existing ones.
Summons are present in Type-0 HD as well. Each character equips a summon from a selection of Bahamut, Diablos, Golem, Ifrit, Odin, and Shiva. Summoning is a costly process as doing so drains the active character's health, effectively killing them for the mission until they are revived at the game's hub. At that point, the summon takes the downed character's spot and can be player controlled. The summons have high damage potential, higher even than Trinity Attacks, but are obviously limited. After a short time or if its HP is reduced to zero, the summon leaves and another character comes to fill in the empty slot.
Magic works differently than in other Final Fantasy games. There are three types of elemental magic that can be equipped: fire, ice, and thunder. The variety in the spellcasting comes not from what can be equipped, but how it is equipped. Another modification is added to the magic attacks that shape how they are cast. The available choices are shotgun, rifle, bomb, missile, and rocket launcher. Shotgun shoots the magic out in a short-ranged but damaging spread. Rifle has a pinpoint but high damage arc. Bomb gives the spell an area of effect quality immediately around the player. Missile tracks in on an enemy before releasing. Rocket launcher shoots an exploding blast in a targeted direction. Holding the magic attack button can increase the effectiveness of the spell and the classic -ra and -ga evolutions alter the magic in additional ways. While using magic attacks consumes MP, defeated enemies drop a substance called Phantoma, which can be absorbed to restore some of the MP of the party.
In its transition to consoles, Type-0 HD is actually missing some things present in the PSP version. The multiplayer, which allowed people to assist on missions, has been removed entirely. To help make up for it, all DLC for the game — costumes — has been included as unlockables and multiplayer exclusive magic has been merged into the main game. The game's roots as a PSP title are also present, as the environments look likely to be rather static, flat, and unpopulated, especially by modern console standards. However, the facelift is still present and it should still look noticeably better than the original.
Within the next few months, the game many fans have been clamoring for will be released on platforms very few expected. The Final Fantasy name has taken a beating these last few years but Type-0 HD seems to be a new spin on a familiar story, one that might inject some life into the series for many who have since lost interest. Keeping in mind the limitations of its presentation, players may be in for a pleasant surprise when the game releases on March 17 in North America, and March 20 in Europe.