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    Final Fantasy Type-0: Review

    Brace yourself as Type-0’s opening credits roll; this is Final Fantasy’s gritty war movie phase. In the opening minutes a chocobo is mown down by machine gun fire. Bombardments lay waste to a city, and a teenage soldier screams his way through a protracted and bloody death as his comrades look on helplessly, falling prey to the FF cutscene curse: no-one has a phoenix down when you really need one.

    The evil militesi Empire has decided to invade the peaceful academic utopia of Rubrum, a place so unfit for war that their most deadly military unit is a prodigious class of high-school sorcerers. They’re Class Zero, and all 12 pupils are yours to control for the span of this long and slightly arduous adventure, which ostensibly covers the Rubrum counter-offensive. Inevitably, though, there are greater forces at work, such as the all-powerful Crystals and their dangerous L’Cie avatars.

    Type-0 was initially a Japanese PSP release, and so was free to play fast and loose with Final Fantasy’s conventions. This is not a road trip through a grandiose high-fantasy world, and there’s no hero’s journey to cling onto. Type-0 is about war, squad management, attrition and repetition across a series of combat scenarios.

    The campaign is divided into preparation and mission phases. The first gives you free reign of the university and the world map, where you can fight, level up, and have conversational skits with teachers and classmates. You’re given a time limit before you’re forced to hit your next mission, but time only jumps forwards when you activate important conversations, signalled by floating yellow exclams over NPCs’ heads. These fill in bits of lore here and there, and present some minor developing subplots as you progress between missions. You can also take on tasks for item and experience rewards, but these amount to very basic fetch quests and “kill ten of X monster” tasks.
    “The game can’t escape its handheld origins… it’s not up to the standard we expect”
    The individual offerings in the preparation stages are shallow, but collectively they slowly infuse your cadets with personality. Type-0’s main plot thread is driven along nicely by explosive CGI interludes, but the game takes a very slow-burn approach to making you care about the real stars: your 12 youthful warriors. Fortunately, they really shine in Type-0’s missions, each a fast-paced combat gauntlet guarded by a boss or four.

    Military Grade
    You can have three pupils active in the field at once. You can only control one at a time directly, but you can switch between active members with the D-pad. If a squad-member is wiped out, you can call in a replacement from your remaining team. If you lose all 12 cadets not as hard as it might sound it’s game over. Combat unfolds at pace in real-time as you dash around the battlefield, lock onto individual enemies, and unleash attacks with the face buttons.

    Crisis Core players will instantly feel comfortable with Type-0’s combat, but these battles are far more involved. The style and timing of your attacks vary massively between characters. Jack deals huge damage with his katana, but moves at a crawl when it’s unsheathed. Deuce plays concertos on a flute to inspire her allies. ace deals damage by throwing magic cards. Sice can plough through groups with her huge scythe, and is able to use dark magic to summon tornadoes to the battlefield.

    Combat rewards skilful timing with the killsight system. Enemy attack patterns incorporate moments of vulnerability indicated by the appearance of a red targeting reticule that you can strike to destroy your target instantly. Bosses have lesser breaksight moments that let you hack chunks off their massive health bars. We found it hugely satisfying executing enemies outright with King’s quick-shot pistols.

    Teacher’s Pets
    Finding your favourite characters and developing effective cadet combinations is Type-0’s central pleasure, but keeping your entire team up to speed is a chore. Cadets you don’t use don’t gain experience, so a lot of housekeeping is required between story beats as you repeat old missions and grind enemies to get everyone up to level.

    It’s essential you do, because there are some fierce difficulty spikes waiting to wipe you out. an easy mode has been added specifically for the HD upgrade, but if you’d rather ignore it be prepared for some cruel moments. There are sections when you’re required to simply survive for a certain amount of time rather than kill everything, but that’s not clearly flagged, and you’ll lose a few cadets trying to win an unwinnable fight. Sometimes an NPC can show up to instantly kill the main character you’re controlling. Type-0’s missions feel as though they’re designed to be played with the benefit of hindsight, and can be unfair the first time through, particularly when it comes to major boss fights, which require you to memorise lengthy attack patterns.

    It doesn’t help that mission zones consist of a few boxy environments that vary wildly in quality. a battle through a flaming city can look ok, but poorer missions  like an infiltration objective set in a foggy sewer represent some of the most forgettable game environments we’ve seen for a while.

    Papers Down
    Type-0 HD can’t escape its handheld origins. Character models look fine lifted from the high-poly models used to create the PSP version’s cutscenes but environments are simplistic and daubed in smeary textures. The new lighting system helps, and combat pyrotechnics look spectacular, but the game is worsened by a cloying full-screen motion blur that reduces the world to a smear whenever you turn the camera. This is slightly nauseating in general use and can be a real nuisance in combat when you’re rotating to get an enemy’s back and they're moving at the same time. It’s not up to the standard we expect of a full-price current-gen release.

    Despite its problems there is a fascinating game here, and while the story takes an age to properly get going, there are some interesting twists to enjoy and choices to be made. If you want an atypical Final Fantasy game with some flashy fights, Type-0 is an option, but be ready to grind to get the most out of it.

    Why levelling is essential
    Upgrading a cadet gives you points to spend on new abilities. Each cadet has three customisable slots. One must be filled by a defensive move such as a block or a cure spell. The other two can be populated with offensive magic or special character skills. These can change the role of a cadet entirely, replacing a counter-attack with abilities that can restore allied HP and MP, for example. Spells are boosted with Phantoma, which you can harvest from corpses after every fight. This lets you improve the power and casting time of your favourite ice, fire or lightning magic. Just like you learned while doing your GCSEs.

    You can bring a demigod to battle if you make the ultimate sacrifice.
    Final Fantasy’s famous summons or Eidolons, as they’re called in this game have an interesting role to play in combat. Once a mission you can choose to sacrifice the cadet you’re playing to summon a demi-god from Final Fantasy’s pantheon. You then control the summon directly on the battlefield, wielding absurdly powerful abilities such as Odin’s instant-kill Zantetsuken strike to wipe out enemies. It’s a tricky tactical choice, given that it outright dead-ifies the summoner for the duration of a mission.

    Your Eidolons can be levelled up between fights if they’ve seen action, which gives them more health and greater longevity in combat. You can also spend points to make their individual abilities more powerful and even unlock more grandiose forms, such as Ifrit’s Ignis variety. These slightly alter your Eidolon’s movesets and makes them deadlier in a fight.

    Given the short amount of time Eidolons are in play, it takes a while to bring them up to full speed. You do unlock some of the most powerful abilities in the game by grinding them up always the way in Type-0. Alternatively, you can bypass the Eidolons entirely and use Triad Maneuver attacks, which allow your party members to deal lots of damage without killing themselves in the process. You can only adopt one approach or the other at the outset of a mission though, so choose carefully.


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