Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Class Field Trips to the Battle Field - The Final Fantasy Type-0 Take Your Time Review

Quick Note: The fast paced combat satisfies, especially with the numerous options available to you, but the story falls off on the last chapter and the camera can make you nauseous. The combat makes it a great game for newbies and old fans alike, though not for the hardcore JRPG gamers.

Final Fantasy has been on a downhill slope for quite some time. Love them or hate them, the Final Fantasy XIII games have left a bad taste in a majority of fans of mouths (including this fan). Despite Final Fantasy Type-0 having more to like than the previously released games of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series, it's still lacking the punch of entries of yesteryear.

Before we go any further, it's important to note the history of this game. When Final Fantasy XIII was announced, Square Enix also announced Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which has now become Final Fantasy XV, and Final Fantasy Agito, which has become Final Fantasy Type-0. It's also significant to know that Final Fantasy Type-0 was originally a PSP game, and therefore a handheld game, because it's very evident in how the game feels and plays. And now, the history lesson is over, onto the important stuff.

Final Fantasy Type-0 takes place in the world of Orience, where four different nations have a tenuous peace between each other. With the Crystal guiding each nation, the Militesi empire takes action and starts to invade the other empires, aiming to destroy each Crystal through the means of it's Crystal jamming technology. These Crystals are the key to all magic, and leave most of the empires helpless, except for Rubrum, which has a secret weapon: Class Zero.

Class is now in session.
Class Zero is a group of 14 exceptional students of Rubrum's Vermillion Peristylium, or magic academy. 12 of these students are unaffected by the Crystal jammer, making them valuable in most encounters with the Militesi. I won't dive further into the story details, but for the most part it's pretty compelling. The darker nature of war and loss are highlighted by the terrible actions and consequences of each battle. It's refreshing for a Final Fantasy game, especially after XIII which felt like a long running soap opera, and for any game really as most tend to focus on combat and not the repercussions of the battles afterward. And all of this holds true up until the final chapter of the game, when it switches to the typical Final Fantasy 'twist' we've all come to know and love, or hate depending on how many games you've played in the franchise. It's really a shame too, because the overall feel of the game is excellent and completely ruined by that final chapter. 

But the story is only one part of the game, as the real reason to pick up Type-0 is by far the game play. Players take control of the entirety of Class Zero, giving them 14 different options in battle. Combat takes place on small, enclosed levels, with players taking full control of one of three active characters in an action oriented combat. This means players have full control of the camera and character actions. At any point in time, players can shift between the three in active combat, allowing for a bit of versatility while actively fighting enemies. Most of the time, all 14 students of Class Zero will be available to take into combat, so when one of the classmates fall in battle, another can be swapped in it's place. 

The over world will look awfully familiar to fans of the franchise.
Combat takes place in both missions and on the overworld. On the main world, while moving from town to town, characters are revived when a save point is hit. However, in missions, when a student is down, that student is down until the end of the mission. Missions last anywhere from five minutes to well over an hour, depending on the circumstances of the mission. This design is definitely a remnant of the original platform the game was designed for, and works well for the game, though it often makes the game feel jumpy, like it's jumping from mission to quick cut scene to the over world. The lack of fluidity isn't a deal breaker, but it's very noticeable compared to other, more seamless games in the same genre. 

Each character has a unique weapon to attack with, two custom commands and one defensive magic command, with all four commands mapped to the controller face buttons. Characters have their own abilities, such as the card wielding Ace and his Wild Card ability that let's him teleport behind enemies to deal massive damage, or Nine's Jump ability, that allows him to disappear for a few seconds only to slam his spear down on top of nearby enemies. These abilities can be upgraded and new ones can be learned by promoting characters via a Save Point, but these aren't the only actions available to characters. 

An example of the area effect Blizzard magic.
Magic is also available, with Fire, Ice, Lightning and Healing magic being the main categories. Magic is fairly useful and comes in many forms, from an area attack around the player to a wide spread "shotgun" like attack. What's great about these abilities is that each character can become versatile rather than having to focus on weapon abilities. If a character is melee oriented, adding a long range magic ability can help make that character more useful. Magic can be powered up by using Phantoma, which is collected off of the bodies of fallen enemies. Each has it's uses, and with the different characters available it becomes quite difficult to simply just pick something due to the amount of possibilities available to the player. Suffice it to say that there is plenty of variety for each character.

Ah the sweet smell of dead monsters...
During combat, the player can lock on to one enemy at a time, moving between each enemy if desired. Using attacks and dodging when necessary, the player will take on enemies until they are all defeated. Periodically, enemies will have a "Killsight" target on them. When hit during this time period, the damage per attack is multiplied, resulting in massive hits. This creates a different feel from previous Square Enix action-RPG's, resulting in a dance or sorts, requiring players to dodge enemy movements and learn exactly when to strike rather than simply spamming an attack. It's a really refreshing system, but ultimately, it's not needed for most combat occurrences. Sure, dealing extra damage is nice, but most enemies can be taken down without the "Killsight". Better enemy variety would have made this combat system feel extremely refreshing rather than a small twist on your average action-RPG system. 

On top of these abilities, players also have access to super attacks and summons. Both require players to fill up an AG gauge, which fills as enemies are attacked by the player. The super attack is a group attack that deals massive damage to enemies using the three active members. The only limit to the amount of times this super move can be used is how often the player can fill up the AG gauge, so attacking quickly and often results in the ability to deal massive damage often. 

Eidolons are powerful, but require a sacrifice to bring to the battlefield.
Summoning Eidolons, however, requires the active member to be sacrificed. By killing themselves, a powerful Eidolon replaces the active player for a set time. Longtime fans of the franchise will remember many of these summons, such as Odin and Ifrit, which use their signature moves to deal massive amounts of damage to enemies. Summoning is often risky, and if not done correctly, can result in the needless death of a party member. But if done correctly, the summoned Eidolon can rain down hell on enemies and is very satisfying. 

Outside of the complex combat system the world is interesting, but bland. In between missions there is a clock that counts down the time left until the next mission and the academy is free to explore. By talking to people with a green exclamation point, players can spend 2 hours of in-game time or leave the academy to explore the outside world, resulting in 6 hours of in-game time being spent. Talking to individuals does reveal interesting tidbits about the world and there are some interesting side quests with unique characters, but only if you are truly enveloped in this world. Ultimately, I found most of this world to be forgettable. Again, this ultimately stems from the origin of the game and what platform it was intended to be played on, but that excuse only goes on for so long. 

Fundamentally, Final Fantasy Type-0 is a fun romp for the combat. The story has potential, but falls flat and the world is a little bland, but the fast paced action and few interesting combat situations make it worth playing for any fan of the franchise. For those who are looking for a reason to get back into Final Fantasy, this is a good start. Hopefully this is just the beginning of the upswing.

8.5 out of 10

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