Final Fantasy Type-0 HD – First Impressions

Final Fantasy Type 0 HD

I finally recently picked up Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, one of the first games I was actually interested in for the X-Box One. Well, mostly… it’s a port of a PSP game, with cranked-up graphics. There’s some really solid parts, from fantastic cutscenes, to pretty good third-person action sequences, to a pretty fuzzy world map where you go zipping into active time battles.

One of the first things that I should mention is that this game is rated Mature. That would be an easy fact to miss because, come on, it’s a Final Fantasy game… those are usually rated Teen. However, the decision on this one apparently was that they needed blood. Lots and lots of blood.

However, the blood does a good job of underscoring the serious nature of the story. Four kingdoms, where one decides to invade the others. It actually feels very Avatar: The Last Airbender. Except instead of the fun of that series, you take the more serious tone of Legend of Korra and add in bloody violence to really send the message home…

I’m a couple missions in, so I’ll say a few things about the story, and then about the two aspects to this RPG: action combat, and strategy.

Fabula Nova Crystallis

So this game is part of the larger “Fabula Nova Crystallis” project by SquareEnix, which also includes the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, and the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. Besides all being developed together in the sense that there are some gameplay elements and technology aspects that are similar, there are some significant worldbuilding elements that are similar.

An amazing amalgamation of past Final Fantasy elements (magicite, megitech armor, l’cie, crystals, a school with mercenaries). Take that, and add in Avatar: The Last Airbender style war between the four elemental/crystal nations. Continual, societal forgetfulness (reminding me of, for instance, Final Fantasy VIII) of people who die. Magical student anime aesthetic. All this blended together into a game that feels both very Final Fantasy and very anime.

The anime elements, in particular, give this game its own unique feel. And combining so much past Final Fantasy mythos into the game is fun too – and it’s a different combination than ever before. But it also feels a bit like laying it on thick… it’s a lot. It does make me feel like you probably need to be a fan to really get it, or enjoy it, or maybe just to care…

Gameplay: Action

So one thing that the overall Fabula Nova Crystallis games seem to be moving towards is a more action-driven RPG experience. This means real-time combat rather than the time and option battle of the past. It also means you control one character at a time, rather than controlling the whole party. This was most extreme in Lightning Returns, when you literally only had one character.

In Type 0, you also only have control of one character, and I’m still getting a hang of how to line up who else I get in the party – there are 16 player character I want to say, so getting them all out in the field takes some work. I’m also still working out how to do the targeting and cycle through targets, made particularly challenging because there is a resource on defeated enemies you want to collect, which even restores MP – but the targeting prioritizes remaining enemies. The fast-paced combat has made this difficult, and I think it might actually have been easier on a PSP with fewer buttons to be trying to use.

Final Fantasy Type-0 Nine

Nine.

That all said, I am really enjoying the different characters. They succeeded at making them feel different from one another, something that really came home to me when I headed out controlling the character wielding a giant two-handed hammer, slow to use but awesome on impact. Contrast that to the first character you control, Ace, who throws cards – or to Nine, a lance-wielding dragoon who leaps into the fray.

Oh yeah, did I mention that almost everyone is named for a card? Ace through King.

I’m still figuring out some of the characters, and have gained access to a single-character Arena, where you can go in and try out your skills. Very useful for getting a chance to try out the characters, and thus I found out that they are a blast!

Gameplay: Strategy

Beyond the action-based missions that game starts you out with, I’ve also encountered strategy missions, a sort of simplified real-time strategy setup. Since your nation has been invaded and you’re working on reclaiming your lands, you do so by taking a city, then using it as a staging ground for taking the surrounding area.

You control one of your characters, and then interact with the cities, controlling what sorts of troops it deploys and to where. Then you run along and participate as well, adding your attacks at the locations most helpful (hopefully). When a new city is ready to fall to your forces, you then play a short action run to fight through the last troops in the city, and claim it as your own!

Even the very first one of these missions, as it tutorials you along, had an alternate way you could handle the fighting – claiming an additional city to get more troops, or just throwing everything at the final objective city. You have to do some work to defend your territories as well. It really kind of amounts to a mini-game, and I can envision it on a handheld device as well – since the world map where it happens is way lower graphics quality. But it’s fun.

There’s one other interesting strategic element, beyond the RPG elements of party-selection and advancement. And that is between missions. You end up back at the academy from where you’re sent out on missions, with a length of time in hours until the next mission. Though the clock doesn’t tick down normally, it does hop forward 2 hours every time you talk to someone with a glowing “!” marker. And then, heading outside into the world map takes 6 hours (or more? It seemed like more).

It quickly became apparent that I couldn’t do everything available during each window of opportunity, and without following a strategy guide suggesting specific ones for optimal rewards and time use, I’m stuck trying to plan it out on my own. The maddening thing I’ve found on top of that is eventually characters will have requests of you, items to collect or things to do. I grabbed the first one I saw, which involved heading outside to hunt… then I found out you could only have one such task at a time.

Stubbornly, I held onto it, and meanwhile found a bunch of tasks that could have been easily completed within the academy, and then ones out in the world that also could have been completed quickly out there if only I hadn’t already been on a quest. Maximizing what I can accomplish during the time between missions is going to get just more and more interesting, it seems, especially without a sense of what the rewards are for all the different options!

That’s about where I’ve gotten to, so maybe there are more elements to the game from here. But for now, I’ve been enjoying the different decision points, the story has intrigued me, and all the different references are keeping me smiling. Is it the best game in the series? By no means. But is it a good one for the fans? I certainly think so.

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