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Remakes are all the rage right now.
Normally we see collections of old games being bundled together into a single package, or an old console game being given an overhaul for handhelds. But what makes “Final Fantasy Type 0” (Square Enix) stand out from the pack, for the wrong reasons, is that it is a remake of a 2011 handheld game for the now defunct PlayStation Portable -- the prequel to the PlayStation Vita.
So an upgraded version of a $40 2011 handheld title is being re-released with a graphical “HD” upgrade four years later for the PlayStation 4 for $60. It’s a tough sell, to say the least.
The reason for the cost differential is presumably because the original game was a Japan-only release, and so had to be translated and ported to an English-speaking audience. Nonetheless, making someone pay $60 for a 2011 handheld game definitely irks.
That being said, it is easy to understand why Square is so confident in its four-year-old game. The FF series is one punctuated by top-level quality and “Type-0” is definitely competitive.
The world in which Type-0 is set is one of all-out war and conquest. The evil Militesi Empire invade the dominion of Rubrum, looking to control the magic crystals of Rubrum, and all other surrounding states.
You play “class zero” -- a group of elite soldiers/students infused with great power, who are based in an academy in Rubrum. While initially pretty simple, the plot soon gets lost in a web of strange names, undefined terms and political minutiae. While the Final Fantasy has never been known for its easy plot, at times FF Type-0 definitely flirts with absurdity.
It also isn’t helped by a bunch of characters who are largely forgettable. Let me see if I can name all 14. Ace, Seven, Machina, Queen, Rem, Alvin, Simon, Theodore...ok I’m struggling. The characters aren’t bad, there just aren’t any standout characters in the traditions of Vivi, Barrett, Aeris and Terra from past Final Fantasy games.
In some ways however, this works for the gameplay. Instead of controlling just three or four characters for stretches of the game, you have a team of 14 with you, who you can switch into your immediate team of three.
It sounds fiddly, but it works intuitively. If one of your characters dies, you just tap up on the d-pad, and you quickly select another character who immediately jumps into the action. Should all of the class die, then the mission ends. It manages to convey the feeling of a team well, and because you will need all your characters at some point, it discourages you from prioritizing certain characters over others. You can leave your least favorites behind, but you can’t exclude them entirely -- like the guy with the katana blade who barely shuffles when he has his weapon out….I hate him.
The consequence is a fairly fast and fluid battle system in place of the heavier turn-based system. It’s less about picking the right spell for the right moment, and more dodging and countering enemy attacks. It isn’t a perfect system, but it balances nicely between simplicity and complexity so it is neither overwhelming nor dull.
Another nice feature rarely seen in Final Fantasy games is multiple difficulty settings. An “easy” game will allow you to breeze through without much grinding or intricate fiddling with attributes -- good for those who want to enjoy the story and not get bogged down in fiddling with characters or spending lots of time grinding.
Graphically, the game has had a big HD overhaul but it is pretty insufficient. Environments are clean and cutscenes are decent. However, blocky textures litter the screen, faces look clunky, and you never really escape the feeling you are playing a 2011 title on a big screen.
Many of the gameplay features have this same feeling too. As opposed to the wide, vast missions to which FF fans are accustomed, FF Type-0 is based on short missions in very similar looking environments. Go in, fight enemies, kill boss, get out. There are also weird real-time strategy segments where you have to invade cities while fending off incoming armies. Nice in theory, but in practice it's too simplistic to be any fun, and looks anachronistic on a next-gen console.
Final Fantasy Type-0 is an excellent portable title. It is a 20-hour adventure chopped up into nice easy bus-ride sections. Its graphics and story are functional and provide a cosy little adventure. However, on a console in 2015, for $60 -- Final Fantasy Type-0 HD doesn’t really pass muster. Although its fun action gameplay, the military setting and the ability to control your own college-aged army are big highlights, and the story is solid enough to give those of us waiting anxiously for Final Fantasy XV a shot in the arm, the weak graphics, the lack of depth, and the increased price means that, even with the upgrade, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD doesn’t quite cut the mustard.