Final Fantasy Type-0 HD review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Medium: Blu-ray
Players: 1
Online: No

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD might not be the new-gen Final Fantasy game the masses are hoping to see, but that?s pretty understandable considering it?s a slightly rezzed-up port of a 2011 PSP release. There?s a number of areas where it?s easy enough to see that this was originally a portable title, and admittedly the graphical prowess here is somewhat lacking. But what Final Fantasy Type-0 HD lacks in visual fidelity, it more than makes up for it with a unique blend of classic Final Fantasy mechanics and action-RPG combat, combined with a pretty dense plot revolving around war and death. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD isn?t a cheery, J-Pop romp through colorful scenery. Instead it?s a tense, sometimes depressing, and often bleak take on war and the losses suffered by all combatants.

The basic concept is this: You take control of Class Zero, a group of 14 students that study and train in Akademeia, residing in Rubrum, which makes up one of the four major nations within the world of Orience. Rubrum, along with other nations, come under attack by the army of Milites, led by this Final Fantasy?s version of Cid. At the onset of the game Rubrum and Class Zero are driving back an occupation force, and as the plot expands, other nations become involved in the conflict with Milites, sometimes in surprising ways.

Final Fantasy Type-0_1Type-0 HD does a great job or setting the tone of the story right up front. There?s a lengthy opening cutscene that features a member of Class Zero being cut down, along with his Chocobo, which is hands down one of the most brutal scenes I?ve ever seen in a game under the Final Fantasy banner. The ?fun? doesn?t stop there, as Type-0 HD attempts to explore the thematic elements of war, invasion, and betrayal throughout its 20 plus hour running time. And for the most part it handles its story elements really well, despite being a bit tough to follow at the onset. The only thing that really brings the storytelling down is the abysmal English VO work, which is some of the worst I?ve seen out of a JRPG in quite some time.

As I mentioned above, you?ll be able to directly control all 14 students of Class Zero. A team will only consist of three members at once, so when you jump into combat, you?ll have a lead character you control, with two more assisting, controlled via the A.I. You can switch between the three at will during combat, done with a simple press of the D-Pad. While exploring the overworld you?ll only see your lead character, and the same goes for exploring the various towns around Orience.

Final Fantasy Type-0_3There are some restrictions in place, however, which can be a bit annoying to deal with. You can only swap out your lead member via save points, or when beginning a mission from Akademeia. The same goes for your A.I. controlled partners, with the caveat of being able to replace fallen partners with any member from your reserve list. Only the characters that participate in combat will earn XP, which means you?ll either need to focus on a smaller group of favorites, or you?ll have to do some serious grinding if you want to evenly distribute levels for the group. Thankfully Type-0 HD doesn?t make it entirely necessary to level up every single character, at least not on the default difficulty, but some missions will throw in surprises that can disrupt your preferred party set-up on occasion.

Combat serves as one of the biggest highlights of Type-0, allowing for free movement in a way that?s not unlike the Final Fantasy XV demo packed in with every copy. Combat can occur in a few different ways. For one, you?ll get into random encounters when exploring the overworld map, which is about as old-school of a mechanic as you?re likely to find in the game. When this occurs, you?re taken to a small arena-like setting based on the terrain of the map, where you?ll battle it out with monsters or human enemies. Another method of experiencing combat comes from completing the story missions, which will typically toss you into dungeon-like settings, with multiple areas separated by small loading intervals. This is another area where Type-0 HD gives away its portable roots, as these sectioned off dungeon rooms were clearly designed to accommodate a less powerful system than the PS4 or Xbox One.

Final Fantasy Type-0_4There?s also a somewhat strange spin-off in relation to combat, which comes in the form of taking control of neighboring towns or cities. At different points in the game you?ll be tasked with repelling occupying forces, most of which is done from the overworld map. During this time, you can combat enemy forces that move along predetermined paths on the map, usually towards or away friendly/enemy cities. Backing you up are A.I. controlled friendly forces, which will attempt to lay siege to enemy locations. Once your forces have knocked down the barrier of an occupied city, you can then invade, which will bring the combat back to a dungeon type mentioned above. It?s an interesting change from the standard combat, but not one that feels essential to the game. This feels more like an idea that skipped past the cutting-room floor, and I doubt these sequences will be highlighted as anyone?s favorite part ot Type-0 HD.

While actually engaging in combat, you?ll have access to a basic attack, two special attacks, and one defensive action, all of which are mapped to the four face buttons on your controller. Basic attacks are usually pretty versatile, with additional directional inputs dictating the type of attack performed. Some characters excel at ranged combat, like Ace and King, while others are melee focused, such as Machina or Sice. And of course, Final Fantasy wouldn?t be complete without magic-wielders, which supplant their special abilities in favor of magical attacks across different elements.

Final Fantasy Type-0_7When battling enemies, particularly bosses, you?ll also want to keep an eye out for different opportunities. You can lock-on to nearby enemies by holding in a shoulder button, and switch between enemies with a flick of the right analog stick. While locked-on, you may notice a yellow or red marker appear on an enemy, usually after they?ve attacked. These represent moments to strike, with yellow giving you an opportunity to cause significant damage, and red providing the option to instantly kill an opponent. This mechanic is key to survival during tougher battles, and one that you?ll quickly acclimate to while playing.

There?s not much on the presentation side of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD that you?ll find particularly exciting, outside of the pretty great soundtrack by composer Takeharu Ishimoto. As I mentioned previously, the English VO work is pretty bad, across almost every major character. It?s often stilted, lacks the emotion the story is trying to convey, and very few scenes feel like they were read with all actors present. Thankfully, there is an option for the original voice track, which will generally mask these issues for non-Japanese speakers.

Final Fantasy Type-0_8Visually, it?s pretty easy to tell that Type-0 HD was originally a PSP release. The HD portion of the title name stretches a bit thin here, with some solid work on the character models of the main cast, but some really shoddy work in just about every other area of the game. Is it a step up from the PSP original? Or course it is. But compare this to the excellent port by Square Enix on Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. That was a  game that originally came out a year earlier on PSP than Final Fantasy Type-0, and was ported to PS3, yet somehow looks far better than Type-0 HD does on PS4/Xbox One.

And that?s really a shame, because the presentation side of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is really the biggest mark against it. It?s an interesting departure in both tone and gameplay from other FF titles, and certainly worth playing. But I really wish Square Enix had banked a bit less on the packed in Final Fantasy XV demo to sell copies, and more on applying some additional technical prowess to the final package. I?m happy that Type-0 finally saw the light of day in North America, but compared to other remasters/ports by the same company, this doesn?t look like an A+ effort.

Grade: B