Square Enix’s Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a substantially different game to other titles in the long-running series. For starters, the 2015 PS4 release is a port of the game originally released exclusively in Japan for the PSP four years before in 2011. Additionally, as the lack of a numerical designation would suggest, this game also falls outside of the main series of games. Instead, Type-0 HD is part of a subseries of titles sharing a common mythos known as Fabula Nova Crystallis, which also includes the recent Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, as well as IOS and Android exclusive Final Fantasy Agito.
Set in the world of Orience, Type-0 HD puts you in control of fourteen students belonging to a prestigious military academy, located within the dominion of Rubrum. Collectively known as class zero, your heroes and heroines are combat prodigies dispatched to complete important missions in the fight against the neighbouring Militesi Empire. Led by the tyrant Cid Aulstyne, the Militesi are attempting to conquer all neighbouring peoples; the crystal states of Orience. Though the plot itself boils down to the same, regular Final Fantasy tropes (magic crystals, teenage heroes etc) many of the themes explored in the game are much darker in tone than the majority of the previous titles, illustrated by the use of blood in the opening cut-scenes. Topics such as war, power and the effects of combat on soldiers are covered in a surprisingly skilful and responsible manner, giving the narrative real edge.
Conversely, little can be said of the characters as individuals, except that they pale in comparison to the cast of previous Final Fantasy games. On the surface at least, all fourteen characters look suitably dissimilar (complete with reality-defying hairstyles and weapons) to help the player differentiate between the party members, however, the story fails to explore the history or motivations of any playable character. Enough is learned to recognise Ace as the main character, that Queen is the brains and Nine the impulsive warrior; but nothing more. To a certain extent, this is understandable given the size of the task – writing and developing fourteen unique and fully fleshed-out characters, in an average size JRPG (one originally released for the PSP at that). Not to mention the various villains and subordinate characters also requiring due attention. One thing that is inexcusable however is the abysmal voice acting that plagues the game. Many of the performances are so bad; the player will be left cringing during the larger scenes.
The gameplay meanwhile, follows a style similar to that of last gen Final Fantasy titles and the Kingdom Hearts series. Rapid, real-time combat is favoured over the traditional turn-based setup, with an emphasis on switching between any of the fourteen characters during battle. Personally, I feel Square Enix’s efforts are far less successful here than on titles such as Final Fantasy XIII, in terms of implementing a new combat style. Frenetic rather than fluent, combat boils down to monotonously spamming the standard attack button, which largely eliminates the strategic elements the series is known for; indeed, even during boss battles, it’s rare you’ll need to dip into the pool of techniques unique to each character. Aside from combat, the number and diversity of side-quests available will keep players sufficiently engaged to persist with the game to the end, especially as the game is approximately forty hours in extent – brief compared to modern, open-world sandboxes. Moreover, as some of the side-quests are only possible when playing on new game plus, there’s even enough motivation to ignore the negatives and play through Type-0 HD multiple times.
The game looks as expected for a PSP port, though this will do little to lessen the sense of discontent the graphics will produce on gamers used to modern consoles. Closer in appearance to a PS2 game, the characters look wooden, stiff and only marginally more animate in appearance than a dressmaker’s mannequin; the background artwork is similarly mediocre. An indistinct colour scheme combined with ill-defined buildings and vistas produces a world devoid of spectacle and fails to capture the imagination. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is pleasant enough, without matching the peerless scores used in older titles of the series.
All things considered, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a somewhat disappointing game. Seemingly released to make extra money out of series collectors (like myself) who’ll buy almost anything named Final Fantasy. That being said, there are enough positives to make this a worthwhile purchase, especially for the £20 it currently costs on Amazon.
Therefore, on balance, I’d rate this game 6/10.