In an interview with IGN, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD director described the game as being “both like and unlike Final Fantasy.” While I see where he’s coming from, this game is, to me, one of the most authentic Final Fantasy games to come out in a decade.
Sure it’s a big departure from series norms in terms of mechanics; battles are real-time, action-heavy affairs, the game uses a mission system very atypical of JRPGs in general, and the magic system is unlike anything I’ve seen before. But, it has the heart and soul of the series at its finest, the less quantifiable, but more fundamentally important things, like narrative and worldbuilding. Things that, notwithstanding Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, have long been missing from Square Enix’s flagship series.
In this regard, Type-0 brings to mind Final Fantasy VI - considered by many (myself included) to be one of series’ finest. Like VI, Type-0 tells a story of a conflict between magic and technology, and a world in the process of being torn apart by war. It opens with the Militesi Empire, one of the four “Crystal States” in the world of Orience, breaking a peace treaty by launching an attack on Rubrum, a state steeped in magic. Soon, the other states get pulled in as well, and the whole world is engulfed in war.
This is a welcome change of pace from the “save the world” plot that RPGs are so familiar with, instead it spins a tale of political intrigue and global conflict. It’s dark, haunting, and compelling, dealing unflinchingly with themes of loss, betrayal, and a soldier’s duty. It’s easy to get invested in this world and its lore, making the inevitable disasters all the more impactful. A handful of times, I even had to stop, put the controller down, and go for a walk - just to process whatever had transpired in the game moments before. In its criticism of atomic warfare, Type-0 rivals the likes of Metal Gear Solid 3.
At the centre of all of this is Class Zero, a squad of fourteen elite cadets from Rubrum’s magic training facility, Akademia. These are your player characters, and under the guidance of Rubrum’s military commanders, you’ll be sent on various missions to repel the Militesi invasion. This is another area where Type-0 sidesteps genre convention. You’re not really the “chosen ones”, destined to single-handedly save the world; rather you’re an elite, SAS-like task force, and the missions you undertake reflect that. Class Zero is an integral part of Rubrum’s war effort, but they’re still just one part of many.
As far as the missions themselves go, they’re pretty straight-foward, and typically involve fighting through a dungeon of sorts to complete objectives handed down by your commanding officer. It’s fitting that, in a story about war, fighting is the bulk of what you’ll be doing. There’s little in the way of exploration (in the main quests at least); Type-0 is a game that puts the “action” in “action RPG”.
This isn’t at all a bad thing though, because the game’s combat is incredibly well designed. There’s a lot of focus on reactions and timing, both in terms of attack and defence. You have a dodge button, and you’ll want to use it liberally - a lesson I learned the hard way, in the game’s very first mission. On the offensive, the emphasis is on striking foes that are at their most vulnerable, which is where the game’s Killsight and Breaksight mechanics kick in.
It’s easy to get invested in this world and its lore, making the inevitable disasters all the more impactful.
At certain times in a fight, enemies will get either a yellow (Breaksight) or red (Killsight) reticle over them, indicating a moment of weakness, typically after using a big move. Hit them while they’re in Breaksight, and you’ll score a critical hit, doing huge damage. Hit them during Killsight, and they’ll die instantly, regardless of their health. In most cases, these marks appear too briefly to react to, so the key to exploiting them is to read enemies’ movements, know when they’re going to leave themselves open, and strike accordingly. Mastering this will see you taking down enemies far stronger than your party, with ease.
The variation among Class Zero’s fighting style only adds to an already interesting system. Despite having 14 characters, they’re all unique, even when they fall into the same overarching role in battle. The katana-wielding Jack walks very slowly, but has a very quick dash and hits hard, making him great for an evade-and-counter strategy. Eight is also a melee fighter, but his fast movement and relentless martial arts techniques make him excellent for aggressive rushdown tactics. Trey and King are both ranged fighters, but King’s at his best when he’s unloading a barrage of bullets while Trey excels at well-timed, charged shots with his bow.
The best part is that the party setup means that playing and experimenting with everyone is not just an option, but is actually encouraged. For most missions, you can bring the whole class along, with three active members and the rest in reserve. When someone dies (and they will die), you simply bring in someone from the bench. You’ll have your favourites, of course, but this isn’t a game where you just pick one party and stick with them the whole way through.
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