A game that had been announced a long time ago, along with Final Fantasy XIII, finally came out in 2011. What was to be “Final Fantasy Agito XIII” actually came out titled “Final Fantasy Type-0” and that was a clear indication that the game had moved away from its XIII sibling which was met with very mixed response from fans. Indeed, the only thing connecting the two to some extent is the notion of “l’Cie”. Originally, it only came out in Japan, and us non-Japanese speaking gamers patiently awaited its PSP localisation… Which actually never happened! Square decided to be greedy and an English version is only coming out less than a month from now, on PlayStation 4.
Good thing there are dedicated fans who translate these things… And the PSP version that I played got an incredibly professionally done translation with only a few mess-ups (like “calender” instead of “calendar”) that I noticed. Japanese voiced dialogue remained (with English subtitles below), and that’s not bad at all – I tend to prefer Japanese audio when possible, and, furthermore, I happen to have recently started studying Japanese, so it was a bit of a listening exercise (although, of course, I could not understand much).
Game: Final Fantasy Type-0
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PlayStation Portable (HD version coming soon for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One)
Original release: 2011
Territories: Japan (HD version coming soon worldwide)
Final Fantasy Type-0 is actually a rare gem among the games developed by Square Enix in the last 10 or so years. It completely blows their most recent big project, Final Fantasy XIII (and more than likely its sequels – though I’m yet to play them) out of the water. Type-0 is a game about war, depicting its horrors in a way I hadn’t seen in RPGs in a very long time, while maintaining the cute, fantasy theme the series has become known for. The story is solid, if not particularly spectacular, and a lot of the characters, even some relatively minor, will make you care about them, which is impressive. The action battle system is quite fun, and the game has an impressive amount of content – I’d only done around half of the stuff available in the 60+ hours it took me to beat it.
Screenshots in the review have been taken by me.
- Solid story (though not amazing), good depiction of the horror and loss of life in war
- Several likeable characters
- Fun action battle system and good character customisation options
- Beautiful visuals
- Story mission difficulty drops significantly near the end
WAR DETERMINES THE WORLD’S FUTURE
Already in the intro, the course of Final Fantasy Type-0’s story is set. The Milites Empire, or Byakko (whose crest is the white tiger), attacks the nation of Rubrum, or Suzaku (red phoenix). The Empire, relying on technology makes quick gains thanks to its Crystal Jammer that suppresses their enemies’ strong side, magic, and is very close to taking over the very heart of Suzaku, the Magic Academy. That’s when our heroes, young cadets at the Academy, enter the stage… Class 0, also known as Dr. Arecia’s children, are somehow unaffected by the Crystal Jammer and, with their magic intact, they fight back against the imperial forces, aiming to destroy the Jammer and allow their compatriots to use their full abilities against the aggressors.
From there on, it is a long war, in which the forces of Suzaku aim to recover their lost territories… Naturally, the peaceful citizens of the affected towns are faced with ruin and the perspective of utter destruction at worst, slow and painful rebuilding at best. Type-0 shows the horrors of war well enough, albeit still in a sugar-coated fashion typical for the series, with strong emphasis on supernatural abilities and flashy combat. You will encounter death often throughout the journey, and the most tragic part of it is that anyone who dies is instantly forgotten by people who knew them – apparently a result of the Suzaku Crystal willing to protect its people from the sorrow death brings. This very notion is quite sad and frightening to me, and it leads to some really heart-breaking scenes in the game.
As mentioned earlier, the incredibly powerful l’Cie are important in Type-0 story, but this time they’re servants to the Crystals, as opposed to the fal’Cie of FFXIII. There are four Crystals in the world of Orience, and naturally control over them is strongly desirable. Still, the motivation of Byakko’s aggression is sketchy at best, the main reason I suppose being simply the individual ambition of their mighty leader, Imperial Marshal Cid Aulstyne. He is a ruthless man, but also an excellent strategist whose wisdom almost brings the Milites Empire dominion over the world.
DIVERSE, QUIRKY CAST
At first, you will inevitably be overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of characters in your party. Unlike traditional RPGs where you start small (if not single) and recruit most of your party members as you go along, in Type-0, they’re all there in the beginning. Class 0, the children of Dr. Arecia, are 12 in number, and Class 2’s finest, Machina and Rem, join up with them. So you suddenly find yourself with 14 characters in your party, and everyone will seem almost the same at first, but give it some time and their relatively unique personalities will start to shape up before your eyes.
Of course, do not expect TOO much – even if they did a relatively good job here, this is not the Square of old. My favourite is probably Ace, who is kind of presented as the main character, albeit not officially. He’s most prominent in artwork, a replica of his interesting weapon – cards, are a bonus awaiting those who ordered the Collector’s Edition of the HD version, etc. Anyway, in terms of looks, he is a pretty boy rather typical for Japanese creators of late, but it’s his personality that sets him apart – he is quite kind-hearted, unusually so in comparison to his brothers and sisters, and he is able to combine that with the determination of a warrior nicely. It helps that he is also the most fun (and effective) to play as, with his ranged weapon that often helps you keep out of harm’s way.
As one who can hardly ignore a pretty girl in my games (or anywhere else ), I was instantly drawn to Rem, as well, and used her as my player character almost the whole way through the game. Aside from being cute, she’s also quite likeable in terms of personality, being a relatively quiet, but determined person who will do everything for her friends. Her childhood friend Machina, whose affection for her is rather transparent, even if not outright stated, is also one of the most interesting characters, the struggles he’s had to face in his life building him up. From the others, I like the calm Deuce and the wise Trey… And the rest did not leave a particularly lasting impression, aside from Seven looking kinda like FFXIII’s Lightning, Nine being overly aggressive, and Queen messing up often despite having good intentions. Yes, in case you haven’t noticed so far, Dr. Arecia’s children are named after playing cards (with some non-English variations).
As for the rest of the cast, there aren’t many that stand out much. I would highlight Aria, Class 0’s adjutant, whose fate is, in my eyes, the strongest message the game manages to send – despite her simply being a relatively minor side character. Izana’s story is also touching. Captain Kurasame is rather cool, as well as his old war buddies that you’ll encounter as you go along… You will encounter various powerful l’Cie from the nations of Orience, I thought Suzaku’s Zhuyu was quite cool. As for Dr. Arecia, Class 0’s “mother,” I must say I found her quite unlikeable, she generally felt cold and distant. The main villain, Cid, plays his role well, but does not really have a remarkable amount of charisma. Still, he’s one of the better characters.
As a whole, despite the cast rather lacking in bright stars, the world as a whole is built quite nicely, and feels alive and vibrant. The people you encounter in various towns you visit have their goals and ambitions, small and big, and make you sympathise with them and try to help them. It’s not easy to even survive in such a massive war, much less try to lead a normal life. You get to visit towns also in other nations, not just your own, and you can easily see the common sentiment uniting every regular citizen around the world – the desire for peace.
FUN GAMEPLAY, LOTS OF CONTENT
Type-0 is an action RPG with the story being split into chapters, which contain obligatory story missions. Those are the only missions you need to complete in order to move the game forward, but you will find yourself with a lot of time to do other things, too. Between the main missions, there is always a certain amount of time for the heroes to rest, chat with others at the Academy, do an errand for someone, take up a “Combat Exercise” (which is a mission fully part of the war, just not obligatory to progress the story), or just run around the world map and fight monsters and Imperial soldiers. A conversations takes up 2 hours of that time, and leaving the Academy takes 6 once you return. Characters with exclamation marks over their head offer a conversation or mission, similarly to World of Warcraft. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to do everything offered, but there are cases, especially later in the game, where you’ll have an abundance of free time to be utilised. You can always directly progress to the next story mission if you want.
The Academy is a big place, bigger than any city in the game (mostly because cities are quite limited by the fact that you can’t enter buildings like in most RPGs)… You can visit Class 0’s classroom in order to learn new things from Moglin, the moogle assigned to assist the class (each class has one), and Captain Kurasame. There are also the Crystarium, a library where you can read historical records about the game’s world and re-watch cutscenes (and watch special ones, if you manage to unlock them), the Alto Crystarium for upgrading magic, the Chocobo Ranch where you can breed chocobos, the Military Command, Magic Buerau, and other places where you can chat with other cadets, teachers, and occasionally even important figures in Suzaku’s parliament. Outside the big building, you also have the Arena where you can participate in mock combat, and the Airship Dock, from where you can travel to some other spots, their number depending on how much territory you’ve managed to reclaim for Rubrum.
Type-0’s battle system is quite fun and dynamic. As it is an action RPG, you can only control one character at a time, and there are up to three in your party at any one time. You can switch between those three at will, as long as they are members and not backup characters. At the beginning of each mission, you have the option to use backup – either the help of real people playing the game around you (good luck with that unless you’re in Japan), or AI-controlled “Academy Backup” which has some hilarious names appear like WADY, announced as President (clearly referring to Yoichi Wada, president of Square Enix at the time the game was made). You can also refuse backup, if you like things harder. Backup characters enter the game “at will,” and take the slot of a character you aren’t personally controlling.
Each button does a different attack – X is for recovery magic, O and square are for special ability and/or attacking magic, and triangle is for physical attack. You can assign the exact type of the former three at any save point. You can even unlock the Dual Magic ability for some characters, and can thus map two types of attacking magic. The analog nub moves your character, and the D-pad moves the camera. With L, you invoke some special commands, like switching characters, and with R, you reset the camera to be behind your character. Holding a direction and pressing X is used for dodging, and you’ll find yourself using it a lot. It must be said that the AI controlling your teammates is rather adequate – usually, they help a decent amount in dispatching enemies, and especially with healing, and they due in stupid fashion only occasionally. Of course, it’s still normally up to you to do most of the work.
There are also powerful special abilities which can be activated by pressing circle and triangle at the same time. Before a mission, you choose between one of three offered – combo attack of your three party members, Suzaku magic, or summoning Eidolons. The first is self-explanatory, the second is a huge projectile to hurl at your enemies (it can be upgraded with a special item), and Eidolons work kind of like in Final Fantasy XIII – you gain control over them and can execute powerful attacks to punish the opponents with. The catch is that you need to sacrifice a party member to call an Eidolon. And also, there’s the fact that, aside from the beginning of the game, Eidolons are quite underwhelming in terms of strength. They are big and slow – an easy target for enemies, and even though they can take many hits, enough will bring them down. I also utterly failed at unlocking more powerful versions of Eidolons that obviously exist.
Boss battles can be all over the place… Until a certain point in the game, they’re quite difficult and will take many sacrifices to take down (good thing you have so many members in your party!). But then, they get considerably easier – probably a result of the more time given between missions late in the game, which results in your party getting much stronger than before. This is a rather big problem of the game as a whole – the difficulty spikes at around 2/3 of it, and is then pretty much absent in the most epic portion that’s supposed to have the hardest battles…
Earning experience through battles or studying at the Academy, upgrading magic and unlocking extra character abilities by using ability points (AP) they earn in combat are the main means of improving the power of your party. When you kill an enemy in battle, you can extract their Phantoma, a strange substance that can then be used to improve your magic. Upgrading magic is quite cool – you can upgrade various aspects like power, MP cost, casting time, range and speed of the spells. Depending on the magic, you’ll need to improve different stats – lowering MP cost is quite important for Cure, but for Fire RF, you’ll likely need power the most. Oh yeah, attacking spells have seemingly weird suffixes – RF is for projectiles, BOM is for spells that form a sphere around the caster, etc. I didn’t manage to unlock anywhere near all spells during my playthrough… Type-0 is clearly designed with multiple playthroughs in mind – another clear indication being the presence of missions that require levels like 99 which are practically impossible for a first playthrough.
Type-0 also features an interesting mission type – “large-scale strategic operations”. These missions are pseudo-real-time strategy battles with a small number of basic units (usually groups of soldiers) that do battle. Your controlled character can aid the Suzaku side. In these missions, you start with one or two bases and need to capture the enemies’ main base (they usually have at least 3-4 additional bases which you can capture to increase your chances of clearing the mission). You usually can’t even choose the kind of units for Suzaku’s side to produce, you only get that chance with support bases you’ve captured. Usually, your character’s support is crucial for the mission’s success. Once you corner the enemies in their main base, Class 0 infiltrate it, and the mission proceeds like a normal one from then on.
There are some annoyances in the game, the biggest one probably being the fact that there are a certain kind of huge monsters called Grand Horn on the world map who, if you get into their sight, chase and catch you (they are incredibly fast, you only have a chance to avoid them if you are riding a Chocobo), triggering a battle. They kill you in one hit, the good news is that they get satisfied when they kill 3 characters and just leave the battle, instead of wiping out your entire party. There are various dungeons and areas where monsters will be much stronger than you, but you usually know about them in advance if you talk to people.
BEST GRAPHICS PSP HAS TO OFFER
Type-0 is a beautiful game, considering the relatively weak hardware it has to work with. Naturally, the FMV cutscenes you’ll encounter every once in a while are gorgeous, but even in-game, things look quite good. The animations are fluid, the various attacks your characters will be able to execute are quite pretty, and the enemies, and especially bosses, have fine, complex designs. The numerous characters in your party are very easily distinguished between one another, with some small exceptions (Cater vs. Cinque), special characters like Kurasame or Emina have cool designs, too. The other nations have distinctive themes – Milites characters stick to the military/technological style, while Concordians are clad in oriental, exotic attire. As far as environments go, there are plains, forests, desert areas, snowy fields… Nothing amazingly beautiful, but it works well enough.
The soundtrack by Takeharu Ishimoto is hardly memorable. It’s not bad, it’s just rather standard. There are a few relatively catchy themes, but that’s about it. Not even the choir-sung songs leave that big of an impression. Still, there is one song that I found quite touching – the song Ace sings occasionally throughout the game. It fits really well with the theme of the game and the overall story of Class 0 and Suzaku… While it’s seen in text when you talk to Ace occasionally, you won’t hear it actually sung until the end of the game… So I’m not featuring it here because it would spoil this important moment a player should experience while playing the game. Instead, I picked the song called “Apostles of the Crystal”.
AN UNEXPECTED GEM
Even if I haven’t played absolutely everything Square Enix have developed in the last 10 years or so, I have played most bigger ones, and I feel I can safely say that Final Fantasy Type-0 is the best game they have created since Final Fantasy X. The only other candidate is Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, and while it did some things right, like Cloud’s story in that portion of his life, and Zack and Aerith’s relationship, it also messed up on numerous occasions, so I feel it’s a tad weaker than Type-0. Anyway, this achievement is massive! Yes, Type-0 is not quite on the level of Square’s classics of the SNES and PS1 days, but it comes somewhat close, which is very impressive.
Type-0 has many strong aspects. The story is solid, if not particularly thought-provoking. The characters’ internal struggles make sense in the context, and there are several characters who are quite likeable. The destruction of war is depicted well, even if a bit glorified in typical Final Fantasy fashion – you just can’t avoid enjoying the beautiful explosions, or the Eidolon’s destructive power, even if you realise that this ultimately only brings misery to the world. Gameplay is fun, the battle system works well, and the only significant problem is that the difficulty in the story missions takes a nosedive near the end of the game.
All in all, Final Fantasy Type-0 is a massive and ultimately successful effort by Square Enix. I can only hope that this trend continues in their future games.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10