There’s something about playing Final Fantasy Type-0 HD (henceforth referred to as FFT0) that just makes you feel like the screen should be closer to your face. Obviously it started its life as a PSP game, but somehow the HD treatment hasn’t managed to shake the overall atmosphere of a handheld title. Its a strange feeling as there isn’t any one particular thing that can be attributed to this odd sensation.
The real-time battle system is the strongest feature in the game. While taking a little getting used to, once you’ve it figured out you’ll rarely have any trouble with it. The system was clearly designed for the PSP (ok — I’ll stop going on about it), but it manages to translate to the controller well as you would expect. It doesn’t take long to learn that dodging enemy attacks is really the most important part of any battle. That may sound obvious, but it’s true.
No, really; when you’re fighting bosses or even monsters you really shouldn’t be taking on because of a huge difference in level, you won’t have any problems if you just don’t get hit. Sure, taking down an enemy twenty levels your senior will take a while, but it’s good practice because it teaches you that the game can be played almost entirely while rolling. Remember when you realised in Ocarina of Time that if you roll everywhere its much faster than walking, so that’s what you did? Everywhere! The same is true with FFT0 but as an added bonus, when you jump out of the way in battle you’re invulnerable for a split second. Even if you’re in the middle of a attack you’ll be fine as long as your feet aren’t firmly planted on the ground.
At the end of each mission, you’ll be scored with a report card. It focuses on three categories: how long you took, how much phantoma you gained from fallen enemies and how many times you died. Once you realise you’re being graded, it makes the missions feel a little frantic; you’ll want to get the best score you can so try to save exploration for a second attempt. Time and deaths are self explanatory but the third field, phantoma, is the one you’ll have to play around with. Once an enemy dies, you have to wait a for a few seconds and you’ll be able to extract their soul, essentially. It’s a bit like the draw system in FFVIII… but trying to time it so you can draw phantoma from multiple enemies before they disappear so you’re as efficient as possible is the real trick. Take too long and you’ll miss a few opportunities as the enemies disappear; do it too quickly and you’re wasting time.
FFT0‘s story takes a while to get into… and just a little longer to get an understanding of. I’ll admit I was a little lost early on, but it wasn’t too long until I was completely sucked in. Its final chapter gets mildly insane and throws most of what you know out the window but I’ve come to expect that from a Final Fantasy title. The reason it’s not all that easy to follow at first is that your thrown into a huge world with lore stretching back for centuries. All you really need to focus on are the warring nations fighting for either dominance or independence and the characters.
Getting to know the protagonists isn’t as easy as you would think given there are fourteen main characters. You can swap each of them in or out while battling… and should also be trying to level each of them equally. It’s a bit of a drag but it’s totally worth it as the characters act as lives in missions. If one character goes down you just bring in the next one in the list and keep on going. If some characters are more powerful than others, battle will feel unbalanced. If everyone is relatively close, level-wise, those who die just become opportunities to use others instead of resulting as a catastrophe.
Most of the characters are named after playing cards in one way or another. Jack, King, Queen and Ace (the main, main character) are obvious, but there are a few others named after numbers — some in German or Italian and few exotic English names like Seven and Eight. Each character is super different to the point they are a bit like extreme stereotypes, but it helps to differentiate between them as each ends up unique.
I find music usually makes or breaks a game, but FFT0 is an exception. Its not a deal-breaker, but its not as good as in other titles in the franchise. In places the music is fantastic and serves to push the story and makes the game world come to life. In other places it’s nothing but an obnoxious distraction. During the many conversations in the game there is always music in the background. Normally there would be nothing wrong with a rockin’ guitar-focused piece of music if it weren’t for the hyper-compressed drums that accompany too many of the songs. The drums are way too loud and step all over the already-struggling dialogue. It’s not a massive problem, but if you consider the main focus of a JRPG its story over its music, it doesn’t make much sense.
There is plenty to see and do for Final Fantasy loyalists. There’s a world map to explore, filled with hidden caves and side-quests. And before you ask, of course, many enemies and NPCs that make a return. You can breed your own Chocobos and fight Cactuar on the world map; the main quest will take around hours 30 hours to finish even so. Once you’re done with the story, your initial playthrough you’ll be prompted to start again with all your levels, weapons and items. It’s a good way to try and find all the things you missed or raise the difficulty level to challenge yourself. You need to be pretty keen to jump straight back in but once you know the missions and don’t need to watch all the story again, a second playthrough can be knocked out really quickly.
Any shortcoming the game has can easily be dismissed by the fact it’s a PSP port… that is, except one: its price. If this was a complete overhaul, the price tag would make sense. I’m not denying that the team responsible put in a lot of hard work and made many improvements, but at the end of the day — and even with all its upgrades — FFT0 still feels like a simple port. Every improvement has helped to have the game limp over the line of what people would expect, but just barely. If FFT0 was half the price, it would serve as a great alternative way to play a decent game. In the end, that’s all this is. Asking $90 AUD is simply too much and makes you wonder why it doesn’t fit the standard of other current-gen title.
If you’re a big Final Fantasy fan you may be considering picking this one up; depending on how big a fan you are impacts how much you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a huge fan there’s a damn good chance you’ll be grabbing this simply because it comes with a demo for Final Fantasy XV. Removing that, I honestly had a little trouble deciding how I felt about FFT0; it’s not bad, it just feels a bit like focus at Square Enix has shifted (rightfully) towards other — and quite big — upcoming games.
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD was reviewed using a promotional copy of the game on PS4, as provided by the publisher.
Review: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD