Final Fantasy Type-0 HD Review (PlayStation 4)
While everyone has been waiting for Final Fantasy XV to debut, Square Enix has ported Final Fantasy Type-0 to current-gen systems from its 2011 PSP release, marking the series' long awaited debut on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Type-0 HD's "Mature" rating and blood-filled imagery should be telltale signs that we're in for a different kind of Final Fantasy experience heading onto the new systems. Unfortunately, Type-0 HD doesn't rectify the shortcomings of its predecessors and simply rehashes the mistakes of the past while doing very little to update an already outdated PSP title.
Going from PlayStation Portable to PlayStation 3 is already a considerable gap in technology, and Final Fantasy Type-0 HD clearly shows its age and PSP origins heading onto the PS4. Type-0 HD's textures range from acceptable to atrocious depending on what you're focused on. Major environmental set pieces, bosses, major characters and the members of Class Zero all have had retouched visuals, whereas everything else in the game appears to be left with the nearly quality that it once had on the PSP and stretched onto a bigger screen. The new cutscenes are a nice touch, as are the revamped particle physics and spell effects.
Unfortunately, everything else in Type-0 HD's visuals is just an ugly mess. The core 14 characters all look nice, despite most of them reusing the same assets. I understand that it's a uniform, but the capes, skirts, shirts and pants of Class Zero are reused in unflattering ways — even the wrinkles in the boys' pants are all the same when they're on screen together. The same can be said for most environmental objects, leading to every hallway, street, forest, cave and building looking the same. Most of the models other than the main cast have not been upgraded, showing a massive difference in quality when less-important characters are talking, with some of dreadful lip syncing ruining much of its presentation. A majority of the game's models simply looking blurred and blocky, blatantly reminding us they were pulled from the PSP. Cinematic cutscenes aside, these graphics are not acceptable for last-gen technology, let alone the PlayStation 4.
Many of the successes and faults of Final Fantasy Type-0 mirror that of Final Fantasy XIII. Upon starting the game, you'll be introduced to a multitude of cutscenes that are completely filled with the same kind of jargon that has plagued the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries. While Type-0 HD shares the same mythos with Final Fantasy XIII and XV, this game does nothing to introduce you to these already abstract concepts, which many felt were hard to grasp the first time around. It doesn't help that the unorthodox naming system of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series is in full effect, but Type-0 HD has its own bizarre nomenclature to add.
You control the 14 members of Class Zero, who are a part of the Vermilion Peristylium, also known as Akademeia, which is located in the Rubrum Dominion. None of these terms are explained, but merely used multiple times, leaving you to guess what means what. Making words like "Agito" and "l'Cie" major parts of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD's world without even offering context clues or explanations as to what they mean just screams for an in-game codex of definitions. While one is accessible from Akademeia (your school/headquarters) and from the main menu, no explanations of these terms are included. The codex simply recaps the monsters, Eidolons, enemies, battles and main plot points of what happened, using the same foreign nomenclature, resulting in a strong disconnect from what potentially could have been an engaging overall story.
Another major problem here is that Type-0 HD does very little to invest you into its actual characters, even after spending dozens of hours with them. Having a group of 14 teenage introduced to you from the very beginning (each with silly numerical names like Ace, Deuce, Trey, Cater, Cinque, Sice, Seven and so on) just makes it hard to develop any empathy or care for these characters--even when they die-off or give us insight into their one-dimensional personalities. And these ethereal personalities are quite cliche by this point: there's the hot-head who fights at the drop of a hat, the scatterbrained ditz, the quiet/serious one, the nerd, the oblivious Vanille-like character, etc. These characters look the same, act bland, have uninspired voice acting, monotonously recite poorly written dialogue and hardly give us any insight into who they are, making it very hard to care for the more personal side of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD's plot, even when it takes its dark turns and attempts to get interesting.
The narrative does little to remind you that these are teenagers (acting like high schoolers) who are going to war, taking the Garden and Seed concept of Final Fantasy VIII (and trying to charge it up with blood/shock value), but making it far less effective or believable. In reality, I found myself remembering and identifying characters based on their weapon-types in combat more so than their names, which is sad to say in regards to the main characters of a Final Fantasy title. With an "M" rating, you would hope that Type-0 would perhaps have someone with a bit more attitude or charisma or provide story content that was more adult in its subtext other than just teen soldiers getting brutally killed in war, to which they all act nonchalant and oblivious. Type-0 HD ends on a sad note, requiring a second playthrough to learn more of its convoluted and soulless plot, but most people will stop caring long before then, and the halfhearted, even lazy, efforts Square Enix made in bringing Type-0 to the PlayStation 4 will detract even the most die hard of Final Fantasy fans (and I've been one since I first played FFII/IV on the SNES in 1991). Story has been such a major drive of the Final Fantasy series, as it should with all RPGs, but this reiterates the notion that Square Enix hasn't given us anything unforgettable since Final Fantasy X.
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD's gameplay is its only saving grace, but its plagued by a blurring and disorienting camera system. Whenever you're not in an open area and have to turn back and forth to inspect the environment, the camera automatically swivels along with you. While this is expected in most third-person games, Type-0's camera blurs everything except the main character as it pans, which blurs more the faster it turns. If your character does a sharp turn, the camera does likewise, resulting in a very disorienting effect whenever you're trying to thoroughly explore. Like in the FFXIII trilogy, this camera focuses more on the main character than it does your surroundings, which is meant to give it a more cinematic-like look whenever the camera stops, but it takes away from the gameplay experience whenever you're trying to get something done, especially when it focuses on your character in order to put less of a focus on the low quality environmental details.
Type-0's combat plays like a unique combination of Final Fantasy XII and Kingdom Hearts, but with a slower pace. Gameplay fairly remains repetitive; you enter an area, kill the enemies, absorb their Phantoma for Magic Points and move on to the next area. You go to town or Akademeia in between missions for gear, upgrades and socialization, and that's about it. There is nowhere near as much exploration as there was with previous titles, and a majority of Type-0 felt akin to the first half of FFXIII where you would repeatedly clear hallway after hallway, with very little freedom involved. Luckily, the actual fighting keeps you interested enough to keep going, it's just that everything becomes quite redundant after a while. Also, Type-0 HD contains war sequences and mini-games on the World Map (yes, there's actually a world map, a rather empty one that changes based on your mission) to add in some variance. Most of these war sequences don't have you doing much except supporting troops on the battlefield and ordering your forces to attack or defend certain areas.
Out of the 14 characters, you are able to bring three with you into a party at any time. While you should try to keep one ranged character for out-of-reach enemies and one healer in your group, it doesn't really matter who you really bring for a mission unless the story dictates it. You'll end up playing each of the 14 characters multiple times, only to see how unbalanced most of them are, but you're forced into bringing one or two of the weak links along in order to keep everyone at an equal level in case your forced into partying with one of the less useful characters during the story.
You can switch between whichever three characters you brought along on the fly, which means you're not punished for favoring a melee or caster type. When a character dies, you have the opportunity to replace them with one of the other members of the group. Again, these characters mostly play the same except for their weapon styles, reminding us how expendable they are as a whole. After a while, I saw myself looking at all of Type-0's characters as extra lives for battle in case the three I started with die. The computer AI controls the other two characters, but don't expect any complex gameplay from them. They simply heal, cast magic and attack when appropriate. Many times, they would stay behind my ranged character and do nothing while I shot at the enemy forces and whittled them down one by one.
Let the bloodied chocobo and the nameless character dying next to it (who actually turned out to be important to the plot) in the game's intro symbolize everything wrong with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. It's bloody for no reason and its characters are quite forgettable, even when they're supposed to be important. More importantly, I felt this was a nonchalant death of Final Fantasy as I knew it in an another attempt to regrow it into an action-RPG. Only this time, Type-0 HD doesn't have the wondrous presentation that Final Fantasy XIII had to help carry it through its many lackluster segments. Don't get me wrong, I really wanted to like Type-0 HD and I gave it a legitimate chance, but there are only so many times a fan can take a substandard product knowing that the studio behind it is capable of so much more.
Type-0 HD's many technical shortcomings may have been forgiven if it were ported to the PS Vita instead of a current-gen console. Despite including stalwarts like chocobos, Odin, Moogles, Airships and a major character named Cid, Type-0 HD did not feel like a Final Fantasy product, especially in terms of quality. Even if you try to overlook its abysmal story telling process, which merely and blatantly tells without showing or explaining; its last-gen-removed graphics, whose clear coat of polish hardly hides its numerous fallacies; its horrendous camera, which blurs everything around the character as it pans in an attempt to hide everything ugly in the background; and the few flaws in its action-oriented combat system, (the game's only saving grace), Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is nothing more than a quick-and-dirty port that not only misses the standards of current-gen (and even last-gen) consoles, it misses the standards of the Final Fantasy series as a whole.
This review is based on a retail copy of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.