Immediately, as I boot up the game, I am met with a dying soldier and a bloodied Chocobo (an animal used like a horse), an incredibly violent scene for a Final Fantasy game. From the very beginning sequence in-game, Final Fantasy Type 0 HD makes the player aware that the themes and topics in this installment will be far darker than before. Final Fantasy Type 0 HD is the remastered and rebalanced version of the PSP game; Originally released in Japan exclusively back in 2011, Type 0 HD reiterates its dark themes. In fact, Type 0 was the first and only Final Fantasy title to receive a Mature rating from the ESRB. Unlike previous iterations in the franchise, Type 0 depicts a gritty and graphic war between four nations. The added gore and blood sets this game apart from the rest and is absolutely geared toward a more mature audience.
The game takes place in the world of Orience, which is divided into four kingdoms. Each kingdom has its own magical crystal that grants the specific kingdom a certain magical ability. One of the kingdoms, the Milites (white on the map), sparks the beginning of a war between the other kingdoms. The protagonist of the game hails from the first kingdom that was attacked, Rubrum (red on the map). To be specific, the playable characters in the game are all cadets for a special military academy near the border between the two kingdoms. This special academy trains students to wield deadly magic with utmost precision. In total, 14 cadets are playable; each one uses a different play-style and excels and struggles at different situations and fighting specific enemy types. The cadets range from a katana-wielding student by the name of Jack, who is incredibly slow but deals an immense amount of damage, to the quick and agile Ace, who uses a deck of magic cards to eliminate enemies at range and teleport from enemy to enemy.
The voice-acting cast could have been a little better, but it still brings life and diversity to the 14 characters, not to mention the incredibly memorable journey that the students embark on throughout the entire world of Orience during the war. I found the story compelling and even quite tragic in the last two acts.
Unlike previous games, Type 0 HD takes place during a brutal war. Gameplay and main story missions reflect this motif. Unlike other Final Fantasy games, you aren’t searching for a special weapon or a hermit that holds secrets that could save the world. In Type 0 HD, you wage raids and military campaigns with the only goal in mind being the extermination of Rubrum’s enemies. The cinematics are incredibly saturated during military combat scenes, much like recent war films, which helps encapsulate the different tone of this game. On top of this, the game narrates itself like a war footage documentary. In other words, the game helps explain battles and tasks through diagrams and voice-overs during cutscenes.
The game itself has two different kinds of cinematics, the fantastic-looking CGI cutscenes and the in-game engine cutscenes, the latter of which isn’t that incredible to look at and is the consequence of the game being a port of the original Japanese PSP game. I felt as if further anti-aliasing and reworked textures could have saved this game from mediocre in-game cutscenes because they put the pre-established CGI cinematics to shame. That being said, the graphics in Type 0 HD truly couldn’t be capable on last-gen systems. Though it isn’t the best looking game at all with some muddy textures, the sheer amount of things happening on screen do not cause the game to ever drop frames. At times I counted 30 plus enemies all moving independently combined with environmental effects and aftereffects from weapons and magic. In nearly any other game so far on the next-gen consoles, a setting like this would cause the game to slow down and drop frames. Yet, time was obviously spent more on performance and gameplay over graphics, which isn’t bad since the gameplay is an absolute blast.
Type 0 HD takes the normal party system that is quite common in the Final Fantasy series and adds a more high risk theme. Unlike other Final Fantasy games that allow party members to be revived using various items, Type 0 HD penalizes the player and forces the player to trade in a different cadet to take the fallen one’s place. On top of this, the cadets do not come back to life until the mission is completed. This can prove to be a significant problem if, for example, your top 3 party members are all slain at once. This would then force the player to equip a B-team of under-leveled cadets to continue the fight, which normally doesn’t go well for the player. To combat this, I tended to use one of my top cadets with two lower level ones, and I attempted to keep all of my party members near the same level. This made the mission perma-death a lot easier to manage. After missions, all cadets are revived and you as a player return to the Academy, which acts as a hub for all interactions in the game. In the Academy, players can buy new gear, attend class for experience, and do other things that a student would do in a college setting. Interactions between members of Class Zero (the group of cadets you play as) also occur behind the safe walls of the Academy.
When compared to the main installments in the numerical Final Fantasy games, Type 0 HD holds its own. It adds new features and aspects to gameplay such as insta-kill strikes and a unique perma-death for cadets in mission. However, since the game is a port of the PSP version, it fails to truly reach next-gen level graphics and ends up being a muddy mess at times. Yet, performance-wise the game does not show any signs of FPS drop or tearing so I commend the developers on that. At its core, Final Fantasy Type 0 HD is a fun game when it comes to gameplay. It took me a solid 40 hours to beat it, and that honestly didn’t require that bad of a grind. In summary, the game is fun and the story is great, but the visuals, however, could have used some reworking.