Final Fantasy Type-0 HD has an unorthodox history when it comes to its North American release. The original Type-0 was a PSP exclusive released back in 2011, and despite the series having had the vast majority of its other spinoff titles localized, Square Enix never ended up bringing the title overseas, due to the market for Sony’s first handheld not being as large as it was in Japan.
Now, the publisher has remastered the title for current-gen home consoles, and it’s this version that is the first to officially hit the West. Of course, fans of the series are likely curious about how the spinoff both compares to the main Final Fantasy games, as well as what new features it brings to the table. The final product, while certainly retaining some key elements of the series, also does many things very differently, but it’s still definitely worth a look for RPG fans despite some problematic elements.
The story takes place in the land of Orience and its four nations, with the prologue detailing a surprise invasion by the Milites that kicks off a war. Immediately, a group known as Class Zero is called into action. Consisting of over a dozen students with varied magical abilities, they serve as the primary group of protagonists, and when not recuperating at the academy they call home, they find themselves being assigned various missions to assist the war effort for their homeland of Rubrum.
The actual story is initially a bit of a non-entity when compared to most RPGs, but it thankfully picks up and starts introducing some more interesting plot threads and characters afterwards. If there’s a downside, it’s the fact that, due to the larger than usual lineup of protagonists, many members of Class Zero don’t get much in the way of development, especially since some of them are prioritized over the rest when it comes to the main plot. Also, while the voice acting is solid, lip syncing rarely matches up, and some of the dialog can come off as overwrought and melodramatic.
While there are classic Final Fantasy plot elements like powerful crystals, Chocobos, and Moogles, along with homages like the concepts of l’Cie and Magitek armor, the tone of the game is noticeably grittier at certain points. This is the first Final Fantasy game to receive an M rating from the ESRB, and while past titles have certainly had their share of grim story elements, this game pulls no punches with some of its cutscenes and shows a fair amount of blood.
When it comes to gameplay, Type-0 HD is also quite a departure from standard Final Fantasy mechanics. There is no element of turn-based combat in battle. It’s real-time action all the way, complete with a mechanic to lock on to enemies akin to Square Enix’s own Kingdom Hearts series. There are certainly other factors that help the game feel unique, though.
One notable feature is the fact that every member of Class Zero uses a different weapon with character-specific functions and abilities. One might throw magically enhanced playing cards, another might use a katana or whip, and another might get up close and attack with their fists. Not only do their attack methods vary between melee and projectiles, but each one has various other aspects at work to help them stand out, like the mace-using Cinque, whose attacks take a while to charge up but pack a major wallop.
Active characters are limited to only three at any given time, but players can set up a list of backups before each mission, who can then be summoned if anyone falls in action. Any of the characters in use can be chosen for direct control with the use of the D-pad, with the other two being AI-controlled. Characters can also sacrifice themselves for the remainder of a mission to activate a summon, which enables players to control a powerful creature with their own upgradable abilities.
Traditional Final Fantasy magic spells can also be equipped and used by each student, ranging from offensive attacks like Fire and Thunder to defensive moves and buffs. While each character still earns experience points and levels up their individual stats through battle, the spells have their own method of being strengthened. Additionally, defeated enemies can have an element called Phantoma manually harvested from them, with different colored Phantoma being used to enhance spells in a separate menu. The catch is that enemy corpses automatically fade after a short time, and characters are vulnerable while absorbing them, leading to a risk for each reward.
Type-0 HD also deviates in its overall structure. Half of the game is spent at Class Zero’s academy, and progresses in a similar manner to the Persona and Danganronpa games. A timer displays the amount of time until the next mission, but instead of passing in real time, it depletes as you partake in optional conversations with side characters, as well as the options to both attend classes and boost character stats.
While this portion of the game can certainly feel slow at points, it does benefit from having its own set of subplots, character interactions and side-quests to partake in, as well as the options to level up individual characters through training exercises, purchase stronger weapons and equipment, and raise Chocobos for the purpose of transportation. The map, itself, also contains a simplistic real-time-strategy-like mini-game where players can help Class Zero’s home army claim certain territories, which unlock fast travel options from the base.
Graphically, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD varies quite a bit. Primary character models look decent by current-gen standards, but the environments can sometimes look a bit bland, and many wall and floor textures look like something out of a PlayStation 2-era game up close. The game thankfully keeps a consistent framerate in battle, but a major annoyance comes from a motion blur filter that makes itself present whenever you maneuver the camera with the right analog stick. It really feels like overkill and is often disorienting, and there’s no way to disable it.
One last thing worth noting is that, despite how many backup characters you can have in battle, Type-0 HD can offer quite a challenge. The original version was apparently so notoriously difficult that this includes the new easier Cadet difficulty. Even on that, I had some experiences where my squad was wiped out and I needed to retry a mission. Players should definitely take the time to strengthen and learn to use each character, as they’ll often need to rely on all of them.
Though Final Fantasy Type-0 HD takes a little while to get engaging and has some issues with its presentation, it has a lengthy campaign with a good amount of depth, and a battle system that’s both challenging and engaging. As someone who’s played many entries in the series, this isn’t quite one of the very best, but it’s still certainly worth checking out if you’re a curious fan.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which was provided to us.
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD certainly has some flaws, but it's still an interesting and surprisingly deep spinoff that fans of the series should check out.