Due to my everlasting hope against hope for a localization, I kept myself away from as much of Final Fantasy Type-0 as I could in order to leave my inevitable experience in the world of Orience as fresh as possible. The efforts of a choice few fans hindered my need to import the original PlayStation Portable version, and the official PS4 release refurbished my long, almost-lost hope of seeing this game in my native tongue. What I was greeted with was something that I didn’t expect in a lot of different ways.
Type-0 has a welcoming feel to a wide array of gamers, since the sheer variety of weapons will be in the favor of many gamers. Initially, the game’s presentation is a bit of a mixed bag, as the overall delivery combines a historical documentary with an action-adventure movie, which is surprisingly delightfully done; but this approach may deter those who would wish for a more character-centric narrative throughout. The overall theme explores a lot of arguably common topics, but the depth it divulges is borderline philosophical. The subject of life and death is prevalent in nearly every Final Fantasy title, but Type-0 takes that topic and gives it a pretense, driving Class Zero to want more than simply being tools of the government and then forgotten when they die, the forgetfulness all thanks to the world’s Crystals. To substantiate all this, the use and collection of an entity taken from living things called Phantoma, necessary for refining skills, holds its own level of morbidity.
The game goes even further by slowly uprooting the concepts of church and state as well as fighting for a cause without justification and what one must do to recompense to his or herself (and this is represented visually with the gothic/steampunk-inspired institution called Akademeia. The tearful conclusion pits hope and sacrifice together in a way that could only be appreciated through experience; and only more character development in the game’s early stages as well as a little more narrative balance would have made the ending even more potent.
Cutscenes carry a strong representation of what’s taking place in the world; where all colors hold a foggy shade of themselves with different depths of red amplifying the on-screen events, whether they be light-hearted or malicious. While these scenes visually retain the original visual integrity with some enhancements, their overall effect brings an integral flair of pre-PlayStation 3 favorites in the Final Fantasy franchise. Conversely, standard gameplay and conversational scenes have refined graphics that mimic those found in Final Fantasy 13, flipping the old ways between cutscenes and gameplay that RPGs used to have. All in all, it takes some time to acclimate to it, especially since the visually-enhanced dialogue scenes tend to present all characters as rigid.
The world of Orience is rather large, but the desired path is always easy to discern with the on-screen map pointing to the objective while in the field. Zones, caves, and towns are all laid out to favor the original portable hardware, so these areas are broken down into small, quick-to-load subareas, making getting around very simple. Conversely, the world map, which can be freely navigated, is broken down into regions while towns aren’t labeled, making exploration dependent solely on experience and memory.
After playing a while, hindsight sensibly dictates that a game originating on the PSP wouldn’t have a great deal of integration for a second joystick; and while that’s not true in this case, the right joystick’s use for the camera feels a bit forced. Though the response of it is pitch perfect, the visual performance ends up marring the screen with Photoshop-like blurs that indicate motion with all signs pointing to this being a direct translation from what the PSP version displayed. This is easy compensated, however, as the game has the camera follow well enough to not necessitate its use outside of extreme conditions. In this same hindsight, this is a very miniscule piece to a puzzle that has a lot to offer on all fronts, but its prevalence remains throughout.
This time around, the right joystick does get one very functional utility: After locking on a target with R1, this joystick can jump between targets on the field. While the camera lock can be a bit janky when up against fast opponents, combat itself feels absolutely wonderful with fast pacing and plenty of characters with plenty of weapon types to wield that range from the risk-reward of a samurai sword to a range-savvy deck of cards. Timing plays a big part at all times as well, as all enemies will show their weak points at individual points, rewarding those with adaptive skill an easier time with Type-0; the different weapons make timing adjustment very important. Granted, higher difficulties give the most ambitious of players greater challenge and personal fulfillment, neither the trophies nor the game itself necessitate playing outside of the Cadet difficulty. On a positive note, Expert Missions, collectibles, unlocks, and the ability to carry over completed saves all leave enough for the invested heart to continue after the credits roll.
The overall direction of the game maintains a sense of linearity in all areas. From learning and developing abilities to simply getting around, statistical development and narrative movement always feel unidirectional, making the focus set solely on progressing through the game. Side and Expert Quests exist to help divvy out the time, but the core narrative, while on Cadet difficulty, only needs about 30 hours to complete with minimal grinding for experience; classes taught in the school develop skills and grant experience with no effort. Weapons and equipment are only available from vendors and the occasional drop, so the need to equip players isn’t necessarily important either.
What Type-0 ultimately does is deliver an RPG for fans as well as those who may not have the time or inclination to jump into a massive RPG wrought with options and customization, while still providing a memorable experience for everyone. Even with its flaws, Type-0 is hard to ignore based on the product itself, but the $60 price tag may deter some.