When Final Fantasy XIII was first announced, several other upcoming titles were revealled as part of the “Fabula Nova Crystallis” universe. These are games that have since seen a name change. “Final Fantasy Versus XIII” has since been branded Final Fantasy XV, while the game formerly known as “Final Fantasy Agito XIII” was released as Final Fantasy Type-0 for the PSP in Japan. Four years later, the game finally leaves Japanese shores with spruced up visuals and the carrot on a stick in the form of Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae. But is the game it comes with worth all the attention?
Much like the rest of the “Fabula Nova Crystallis” universe, the plot uses terms like l’cie with reckless abandon. Essentially it’s a tale about one power hunger nation, known as the Militesi, suddenly declaring war on the rest of the Orience region. During an attack on the Rubrum nation, they use a device known as a “Crystal Jammer” to nulify the effects of their crystal, leading to the decimation of their forces. Enter “Class Zero” – a select team of students seemingly unaffected by the jammer to not only save the day, but also turn the tides of the upcoming conflict.
But, even though, Type-0 HD is keen to tell a story, it relies on exposition dumps to the point where it comes across as poorly written fan-fiction. You’re forced to accept that something happens because a character told you it must be so, rather than showing you through actions. The complex nature of the “Fabula Nova Crystallis” is clunky at the best of times, but Type-0 HD does little to create a cast of characters worth caring about.
Part of this is down to the translation being poor and the subsequent English dub is even worse (thankfully the Japanese option remains); but I found no reason to care about anyone when there’s little to no characterisation. What’s even worse however is the game expects you to play through a 25 hour campaign a minimum of two times to get the full story, which for an RPG of this length is a hard ask at the best of times!
As far as the HD upgrade goes, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a bit hit and miss. Evidently there’s been a lot of attention with regards to backgrounds and certain character models and for the most-part they look excellent. However, other character models look like they were ported directly from the PSP version, feeling out of place as a result. Music, on the other hand, has seen a huge leap in quality, despite some odd placements of said soundtrack. But things get unstuck with regards to the motion sickness inducing camera, that has a weird motion blur effect when panning. With no option to turn this off, I had to play the game in short bursts to avoid being ill!
Split into several main missions, Type-0 HD utilises a real-time battle system where you take control of one of Class Zero with two other members supporting. You’re free to switch between the three during battle, calling in reserves should any party member fall. Timing hits when red or yellow reticules appear on foes is key as countering deals heavy damage with stun potential, giving a more reflex orientated experience. Each character is completely unique, with access to their own set of skills. No doubt that players will have certain favourites, but the game subtlely hints that playing as certain characters will reap benefits. Mission structure feels a lot like Phantasy Star Online did back on the Dreamcast, only with far more customisable characters.
But problems do rear their ugly head. Locking onto foes is cumbersome at best, especially when attempting to extract materials to upgrade your team’s magic. With the awful camera being as bad as it is, it’s difficult to keep track of which enemy you are fighting at any given point. This is especially bad when fighting fast-moving enemies, as, by the time the camera focuses, the enemy will have moved again.
Missions themselves begin with the option to turn on support characters, named after the development team, who spawn in for short bursts of time. While they are of some help, they stop party members from gaining experience, meaning they’re a hindrance in the long term. You do, however, gain SSP to spend on perks back in the school. Mission structure is heavily segmented, deviating little from fighting in each room before moving onto the next one. Missions do get a little more interesting as the game progresses, such as infiltrating a monster-infested sewer while forces above distract the enemy army.
Then there are the tactical battles where you try to hold back enemy patrols as your own troops move forward. Capturing territory grants you access to new waves of units to approach enemy strongholds, with team composition key to winning the day. On occasion, you will need to manually storm a base to capture territory, but a key part of this type of mission is running from base to base and changing compositions to turn the tide of battle.
In between missions, you are given a certain amount of free time to chat to NPCs, take on side missions, buy gear, and train. Since missions get on the difficult side quite quickly thanks to the leap in minimum level requirements, the need to grind is heavily apparent and immensely tedious thanks to the fact the party doesn’t share an experience. While the arena does help alleviate this a little, the benefits are only to some characters, not all of them. At least Chocobo breeding is a nice diversion that doesn’t outstay its welcome!
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD has its moments where the game shines, but in general is a bothersome experience. When you are allowed to actually play the game, the fast paced combat is tight and well executed and to its credit there is a lot going on in terms of activities. However the uninteresting plot takes centre stage, complete with its exposition heavy delivery. Across the board however, the camera is a huge nuisance that bogs down this 25-hour experience further. It’s certainly not worth the second play-through it requires to get the full game and in all honesty it might not be worth the first one either.