Have you ever heard a band at a wedding and thought: "man, they're good! Where else can I see them?" Live bands that play at family events are not often touring or recording artists. But here are 10 Read more →
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD Review: A Welcome Departure
Nearly three-and-a-half years I waited to play Final Fantasy Type-0, and just when I’d given up hope of seeing a localization of the PlayStation Portable spin-off, Square Enix finally made my dreams come true, at least in some sense. It’s incredibly important to understand the roots of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, because going in believing it’s a Playstation 4/Xbox One original will undoubtedly lead to a lot of disappointment. For all its ambition, Type-0 really does belong on a handheld. That’s not to say it doesn’t translate well enough into a console title, but when you start to dig into the mechanics and features, the game’s native system is obvious.
Type-0 follows a repetitive and sometimes grating pattern of: mission>kill time in hub world>mission—the “kill time” part is literal, as you’re allotted a set amount of hours to run around the hub world (more on this later). A big part of earning SPP (points earned that are used to buy the best equipment the game offers) is selecting “Missions” from the title screen and replaying completed story missions. This is about as handheld as it gets and served as an excruciating reminder that the game had been ported from the PSP.
The other obvious clue is, of course, the graphics. Having gone in not expecting much, I wasn’t too turned off, but it’s worth mentioning this does not look remotely like a current gen (or last gen console) game. While the hub world looks pretty enough, virtually everything else is dated, down to the texture of grass in the overworld, where sunlight shines off the surface as though it were gloss or marble.
A much bigger issue—gameplay—is thankfully much more commendable. Following the trend of recent titles in the series, director Hajime Tabata opted for a more action-oriented approach to combat. Three party members (of a robust 14) participate at any given time, and if one falls, you may replace them on the fly with reserve members until the battle is won or all 14 party members perish.
Normally, I abhor overstuffed parties. Gameplay-wise, I loved it here. Though the few instances where I had to level were a pain in the ass (seriously, there’s no quick way to level in this game unless you’re willing to bend the rules), each character was given a distinct play style. One uses twin revolvers, offering a more third-person shooter feel, while another uses a bow to snipe, and still others use swords, scythes, daggers, and other close-range weapons to provide plenty of variety. There is something for just about everyone, and though I loved some and hated others, I appreciated that each character rendered the gameplay experience unique.
The same can’t be said for their personalities, however. There is little time given to our heroes, and what you do see is largely offered in the form of optional cut-scenes. This ties back in to the hub world time allotment feature. Between missions, you’re given a set time (3 days, 6 hours, for example) to do whatever you want. Going out to the world map costs six hours, regardless of how long you remain out there, and having conversations with specific characters costs two hours. You can also complete tasks for NPCs (these make up the game’s side quests) and complete Expert Trials, which consume 12 hours (a day by the game’s clock). I hated this mechanic, primarily because it felt unnecessary. Why limit what a person can see in one playthrough of the game? It’s even worse when you’re sacrificing character-building scenes.
I had similar sentiments toward the save points. Not just used for logging your progress, the save point is the only way you can switch out your active characters (unless you die and have to replace one) and reorganize your reserve characters. This proved a hassle when I was exploring and felt the need to change out characters either to level or just to try a new play style. There seems to be no discernible reason for this constraint, and it irked me on more than a few occasions. You also couldn’t use AP (Ability Points, earned by leveling up) to learn new character abilities unless you were at a save point (a trend that’s dangerously close to being cemented in the franchise, as Final Fantasy XV does the same thing).
And then there’s the plot. Given that deep stories are what I enjoy most in a game, I was bummed to find that the first (roughly) half of the game is propelled by the aforementioned pattern of completing missions and having downtime in the hub world. By the time you hit the real meat of the plot, it brushes over everything in vague strokes. None of the characters are given enough time to develop properly so I wound up not really caring for anyone in the game. The villains, in particular, are poorly done, and the enemy nation’s motives for declaring war against the “good guys” are never revealed, save a few remarks from NPCs you can voluntarily speak to during one chapter of the game.
Contrary to recent trends in the franchise, there are few cut-scenes until you reach the final chapter, where you’re bombarded with over an hour’s worth, many of them back-to-back. This was jarring and eviscerated the pacing. It also left me asking, “Why didn’t we get more of this?” The final scene shared between the motley protagonists is largely conversational, and made me wonder why we weren’t treated to more moments of Class Zero (the collective name of our 14 heroes) just hanging out. Given the academic setting, it would’ve been great if the developers had captured the aesthetic of students having those short conversations between classes.
What’s worse, you’re sucker-punched by an ending that doesn’t make total sense the first time through. Herein lies my biggest gripe: you’re not privy to crucial cut-scenes explaining the plot until the second playthrough. I love that the game attempts to offer replay value, but doing it by holding back critical moments of exposition during the initial playthrough is not the way to do it. Like Dissidia Final Fantasy, you’re left in a tizzy of confusion until you unlock post-game content that begins connecting the dots in an anachronistic and convoluted fashion. This is a serious problem, as the obfuscation detracts from what was meant to be a sweeping and emotional close.
My feelings toward Type-o’s plot (or rather, the presentation of the plot) are a real shame, as the tone of the game is wonderful. Diverging from previous installments, Type-0 is dark, bloody, and often achieves that war documentary aesthetic it aims for. The good news is it makes up for those missteps with overall engaging gameplay that never wears out thanks to the wide variety of combat styles for each character. It might not feel quite at home on consoles, but it’s still a fantastic experience and a must-play for longtime Final Fantasy fans.
This review is based on a retail copy of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD for the Playstation 4, developed by Square Enix and HexaDrive.