Sunday, 22 March 2015

Anytime Reviews: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

School's Out- not for summer, but for war.
Originally released in Japan as a title for the PSP, Type-0 has just come to Western audiences in the form of a HD remaster, and is another spin-off of the popular Final Fantasy franchise of JRPG games. It opens with a saturated sequence of cutscenes with a grim death in them- a departure from the more colourful, light-hearted previous entries in the franchise. The opening scenes are quite lengthy, and can get quite confusing even for veterans of the franchise (which I admit, I'm not). But long story cut very, very short, you play as a selection of one of the 14 Class Zero cadets from the magical academy of Akademia as you fight to help stop the war between the four nations of Orience.It's quite a dark mood change, even killing an animal at the beginning too - and everyone knows an animal dying makes it even sadder. Although it starts to seem like a gritty reboot a la Tomb Raider, it feels less like a reboot and more like a different game.

Once you're out of the opening cutscenes, you're thrust into a string of tutorials, most of which I felt could have been taught as you played through the game, as the start does seem a little boring. But the action packed real-time combat is insanely fun; it's fast-paced, basic enough for newcomers to pick up without a hitch, but deep enough to have gameplay be varied all the way through the game's 20-40 hour lifespan of a single playthrough.

It's highly reminiscent of a game that I personally loved, Kingdom Hearts, which is another Square Enix game. In combat, each face button is assigned to an ability and you are able to dash and dodge and lock onto foes. As well as that, two of your class members of your choice join you in every mission to fight alongside you with (surprisingly) intelligent AI controlling them. You are able to switch between them at any time, and call for a reserve member if you or any of your team fall. The cadets can replenish HP and MP by harvesting Phantoma from fallen enemies in battle, which is the game's distant cousin to the crafting material Materia and is used for upgrading spells.

The fact that you are able to switch between class members is a huge factor in ensuring the variety in gameplay, as each character is wildly different; take for example Jack: a slow moving, low-hp katana-user that is able to output damage very quickly, a glass cannon of sorts. Then there is Sice, French for Six (Yes, most of Class Zero is named after cards), who moves around more and uses a combination of her scythe and spells. Timing is another feature of combat: time attacks correctly for critical strikes and Killstrikes (Insta-kills), which are available when the reticule over the enemy turns yellow or red respectively and when conducted right are wildly invigorating; performing a perfect battle by dodging and attacking correctly is satisfying to say the least.

There are also Eidolons which are huge creatures you can summon and play as by sacrificing a team member, and team attacks which you can do to deal massive damage. Some battles are problematic though, as there is no way to get past without a ranged ally and at these moments I found myself having to load up a save all because I had the wrong people for the job.While the combat is good, some of the areas you fight in, specifically dungeons are boring, and the mini-games of sorts that are found in Type-0 are not as well executed, like the real-time strategy segments which have no place whatsoever.

Your hub area is the aforementioned Akademia, and is where you receive side missions, chat to your fellow classmates, train and upgrade yourselves in an allotted amount of time. You can also save, equip and upgrade at red crystals scattered through the game. The game actually has decent progression, with each member acquiring new abilities and new gear affecting performance, as well as the Phantoma being used to upgrade spells Venturing outside is another option as well, and random encounters are a plenty when you aren't riding a chocobo -which are in fact able to be bred at Akademia- around the plains. Although those plains, like a lot of the game, doesn't necessarily look as good as it could have.

Flat textures and low quality environments plague a lot of Type-0 and is probably left over from the PSP version, though with a slightly better skin. The quality of the main characters however is fantastic and while in battle retain their looks. The designs are awesome and are grounded but imaginative, with each of Class Zero having their own (admittedly not very fleshed out) personalities. But anyone who isn't a main character has their face severely flattened and the difference is even more noticeable when side characters talk to a main. Not to mention the camera. The sensitivity is really quite off, and it gets confused when locking on to enemies sometimes. Accompanying that is the motion blur which at times looks alright, but at others, leaves you with feelings of nausea.

The setting is also off. One minute everything is surrounded by tragedy and war, the next you're riding on a chocobo and talking to cute little moogles. So the setting it tried to establish at the start is completely written off for half the time. The story is convoluted at times, and the ending requires you to replay the game multiple times to get the gist of what actually happened.

The sound of the game is 50/50; the lines and the voices that recite said lines are at times cheesy, although the music is amazing, a fitting soundtrack to the various places you visit and scenarios you encounter, feeling like a true adventure most of the time, and the magic and attacks that are pulled off by you sound gratifying and like they have an impact.

Overall, Type-0 is a fast-paced action RPG, with an amazing combat system but "meh" story and graphics. It is still a wildly enjoyable experience that has hours on hours of game time- as expected of an RPG- and good enough reason to replay it to get even more out of it.

Verdict: For anyone who wants to spend a long time with fun combat and good progression, that doesn't necessarily care about story or graphics

Thanks to Square Enix for our review copy!

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