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Sigh… Final Frickin’ Fantasy…

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    Archmonk Iga
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    Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    Rating: 2.5 – Playable

    Sigh… Final Frickin’ Fantasy…

    Although I saw Final Fantasy Type-0 through to the end, I can’t say I felt invested in it. It is designed for multiple playthroughs but I do not see myself ever going back to it. On paper, it has all the appealing aspects of a fun and innovative action-RPG with high replay value. Actually playing the game, however, presents players with a muddled story, forgettable characters and settings, dull optional content, and repetitive gameplay.

    As a PSP game released in HD for the Playstation 4, Type-0 (through no fault of its own) can’t help but look and sound outdated. The transition to HD causes textures and effects to look blurry. Towns and the world map are extremely drab and lack any sort of variety-in fact, everything looks the same. Character models look better despite their simplicity. The soundtrack is great for a portable game, but for sitting down and playing Type-0 on a television, it gets very repetitive despite many of the classic FF tunes being present. Voice acting is fine, but the writing causes it to suffer. One of the cadets ends every sentence with "yo" while another character likes to use the word "frickin’" frequently; hearing this out loud just sounds stupid. It would have been fine to read this in textboxes like the older games, but when it is spoken it simply doesn’t work. Plus, moogles actually say "kupo" out loud. I eventually opted to listen to the Japanese voice work since I thought it sounded better.

    When you first start Type-0, you will witness several long, consecutive cutscenes that are bloated attempts at world building. I would summarize these cutscenes but they were so convoluted that I don’t think I am able to. Basically, there is a war between a few countries, loads of ridiculous jargon, and an academy of students being assigned to resolve everything. The story is presented very poorly and I, along with many others I’m sure, never really understood what was happening. There is even an encyclopedia regarding the world and its history that would take hours to get through. Not only do I not care enough to read through it all, but I definitely don’t have the time to do so, either.

    At the heart of this academy fighting for the "good guys" is Class Zero, a mysterious group of students led by Dr. Al-Rashia, whom they call "Mother." This lady seems like bad news from the get-go, however the 12 members of Class Zero worship her and blindly follow her every demand. Each of the members is a caricature of some sort, though they lack depth. Cinque is a ditz, Queen is a nerd, Ace is a prodigy, and Jack is a class clown. They are entertaining I suppose, but I never felt attached to any of them. Their appearances during cutscenes seem random, since having them all onscreen at once would be too much. Two new students are also added to Class Zero much to Al-Rashia’s chagrin, and they have more personality than anyone else. Unfortunately, one of them is a mopey little brat, and the other is a lost puppy who follows the mopey little brat around. Moogles also play an important leadership role in Type-0, however they completely downplay the tragedies of war that Type-0 wants to emphasize because moogles are, well, adorable and can’t be taken seriously. Bottom line? These characters aren’t all that great.

    The politics were interesting at certain points but at the end of the day this is a story about big egos and selfish hunger for power. That said, I couldn’t really take sides despite one civilization instigating the war and the other reacting. Even playing as the members of Class Zero, it was difficult for me to root for the "good guys" since the slimy Dr. Al-Rashia was pulling the strings. Furthermore, the plot has a strange aspect to it in this tragic war fantasy: with so many deaths (as you’d expect in a war), people actually forget about casualties. They forget what they look like, forget who they were, forget them altogether-it is as if they never existed. This is an important part of the storytelling and can make for some interesting context, but it was weird to see these characters forget each other since I knew what they didn’t. I think Square was challenging us to question the significance or purpose of war, but this concept of losing memories of dead loved ones simply did not click with me.

    Type-0’s gameplay is a conundrum of invigorating depth and arduous limitation. The academy is your main hub, where you talk to students, learn about the world, and undertake missions. It is designed well, though soon enough you will simply go through the motions between missions: visit this area, talk to people, visit that area, talk to people, rinse, repeat. The battle system is a departure from the standard FF formula since it is real-time action. You have 14 playable characters with Class Zero, each with very different fighting styles, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. You can have three in an active party at a time, one of whom is controlled by you. The other two members in your active party have weird AI, and at times I would be in the middle of an intense battle and see them standing there doing nothing. Changing to another character is fluid while in battle, yet no character is alike since they each have their own weapon type. Playing with someone like King, who uses dual pistols, is much different from playing with Eight, who fights with his fists. If a cadet is killed in battle, you can replace him or her with someone in your reserves. Battle is fluid and often challenging, requiring keen observation of your enemies’ movements and a good understanding of the character you are using. Characters can also use magic and special abilities that are unique to them. I had a lot of fun experimenting with each cadet and finding the handful that I enjoyed the most.

    Type-0 has a few other nuances to battle, as well. Taking on an "SO" during missions gives you an extra challenge that can reward you with bonuses for a small duration of time. I never did these because I did not see the rewards as worth the risk of instant death if I failed the SO. You can also opt for "SPP" support, which brings in replacements for your second and third active party members in the form of a sort of bot. This can be helpful when you are struggling during a mission since you’re essentially using scapegoats to fight for the real Class Zero.

    Characters level up and can learn new abilities and increase their stats. Building characters seems almost limitless as you choose what abilities to learn, but it wasn’t long before I realized that the unique abilities are largely useless in comparison to the magic. They are fun to experiment with for a little bit, but they simply aren’t as effective as using the weapons and magic. You can also build magic by collecting "phantoma" from the enemies you defeat. This gives room for some interesting experimentation, though I didn’t find myself spending too much time doing this. It may be necessary for players who want to go through the game many times, but magic is powerful enough from the start that you don’t need to build it up if you’re just playing through for fun.

    Since the points you spend from levels up are mostly allocated towards building abilities, it wasn’t long before I gave up on building them altogether. In turn, combat eventually became stale-in spite of all the unique characters, I was bored with it after maybe 15 hours. What’s worse, the optional content is essentially "get me 10 of this item" or "defeat 20 of this type of enemy." You can only take on one sidequest at a time, and leaving the Academy consumes time between missions. Not to mention travelling across the world map is a slog, even with airships and chocobos. When I would see the "Task" icon above a character, I’d get excited to see what would be in store for me. After talking to them and learning that I would need to farm some silly item (with the risk of getting a worthless reward), I would immediately be turned off.

    Type-0 also has a separate battle system that is similar to a strategy game. It is very barebones and you still control one of the cadets as you try to take over cities and military bases over a large scale on the world map. This system is a cool idea that pulls you out of the regular battles, however it is also a bit broken. The issue comes in with the short-range and long-range characters, because after an attack the enemy mass will immediately counterattack. That said, I quickly realized that Trey was the single best option for these since he has a very powerful charge attack with his bow and arrow. At that point, I figured why challenge myself unnecessarily with the other cadets when using Trey makes this whole thing a breeze?

    Type-0 encourages replays so that players can see and do everything in the game, since a single playthrough would not allow this. There is a lot of optional and hidden content, plenty of upgrading and collecting, and multiple endings; dedicated players will work through Type-0 at least twice. A typical playthrough can last around 30 hours, though that will fluctuate a lot since the game gives players enough freedom to do as much as they’d like. In my case again, I struggled to enjoy Type-0 halfway in, and rarely felt rewarded with all the gameplay it offered me. That said, the replay value, much like the game as a whole, will be whatever you make of it.

    As a Final Fantasy fan since the mid-90’s, I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that the series has changed beyond recognition. Type-0 has chocobos and moogles and all that, but it lacks the enchanting and invigorating atmosphere that I was familiar with. Type-0’s battle system is fun and challenging, but it became stale when I got a grip on how to best use the unique characters. The story might be good if I had the time to understand it, but all I’ve got is a muddled war with forgettable characters. Most of my time with Type-0 was spent wondering why I even bothered to turn it on again. Clearly some people had a blast with Type-0. But me? I just don’t get it, yo.

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