During the latest E3 in Los Angeles, game director Hajime Tabata made an important announcement, one that no doubt made Final Fantasy fans very happy. Final Fantasy Type 0 - the action / RPG game released only in Japan in 2011 on PSP, part of the ambitious pentalogy Fabula Nova Crystallis - would for the for the first time be heading to the West, and in a completely remastered version and exclusively for new-gen platforms. We have had the opportunity to get our hands on the game during an event in Paris and talk to Tabata-san about this interesting project.
In comparison to the PSP version, the first noticeable change in Final Fantasy Type-0 comes in terms of graphics. Fluid and well-finished, the game looks nice and it represents a substantial leap forward compared to its portable predecessor. As the game director said in the interview after our hands-on session, choosing to focus exclusively on new-gen versions is down to continuity; the new chapter in Fabula Nova Crystallis' pentalogy, Final Fantasy XV, is coming soon exclusively to new-gen consoles. In fact, this port presents players with a chance to prepare for the leap that the series is about to take.
Concerning the combat system and gameplay, Final Fantasy Type-0 is a deliciously Japanese game, and consequently it's difficult (especially for those with more western-facing sensibilities). Our roster is formed initially by six characters - from a total of fourteen characters - each characterised by special weapons and special attacks. The leitmotiv underlying the group of characters is that they are the human version of playing cards and, in fact, each character is named after a playing card numbered up to 10, as well as Ace, King, Queen and Jack (and there' a special card, but we won't spoil that for you here).
Each battle, which occur in specific areas against groups of enemies, gives you the possibility of swapping between three different characters, and you can change your party every time a new level begins. During the battle, you can switch from one character to another with a simple press of a button - we have played the PS4 version and it corresponds to the right button of the D-pad - something that allows for greater flexibility and dynamism from the combat system. Each character can lock on an enemy using the appropriate R1 button, and hit it with his/her own weapons (from bows to guns, swords and maces), in an attempt to clear its life bar. Characters are divided into ranged and melee classes, and a versatile party is essential to overcome many of the challenges.
Alongside the standard attacks, we are able to score two special attacks, called Break Sight and Kill Sight. The first one is a critical attack that allows you to inflict more damage to an enemy when a yellow circle appears, and if you hit it at the right moment you can substantially reduce the opponent's life bar. Kill Sight, however, appears only in the final phase of a struggle and, as with the previous special, if you time it just right you can inflict significant damage, maybe even instantly killing your enemy.
Time is crucial in the game, because each level has a timer, during which we have to annihilate enemies and mini-bosses. Completing missions as quickly as possible will significantly influence the final score of each section, with the score reflecting the attacks and special moves used along the way.
As we said at the beginning of this article, Final Fantasy Type-0 is a hard game. In addition to needing to pull special moves off with perfect timing, you have to learn the right patterns to destroy your enemies, especially the bosses. Often this needs to be done in a fast and direct manner, something that makes the pace of the game more frenetic. Talking about that during our interview, Tabata told us that FF Type 0 is not a complex game, but it's up to the player's ability to learn the different techniques and tactics to deal with the bosses. You have to analyse and observe more closely the pattern and behaviour of the enemies before launching your attacks and in quick succession. You can't push buttons at random, you have to think strategically with every single move you make.
There are a couple of things that we weren't fully convinced about regarding this next-gen port. The first issue is in regards to the sometimes inexplicable camera angles that appear during the fighting, perhaps derived from the original version, but which often leads us to lose track of the enemy, as well as creating an element of motion sickness during the more hectic battles. The latter is the mapping of the buttons on the controller, which turned out to be rather bizarre. On PS4, lock-on and attacks are carried out with the R2 button and the face buttons on the pad, while the Circle button is responsible for the dodging. So far nothing unusual, if wasn't for the absurd decision to map the button to cycle through enemies to the R3 button, which requires you to move your fingers from the face buttons which in turn causes you to lose precious time. Perhaps it's just our problem (or maybe our small hands!), but given the frenzied fighting and the addictive nature of the game, we'll expect cramped hands at the end of longer sessions.
Final Fantasy Type-0 is an interesting port, and overall it's shaping up to be very good, a port that it will surely delight the many fans of the saga who have been left empty-handed after the game never made it out of Japan back in 2011. It also proves to be a great appetiser for Final Fantasy XV, of which this game will also offer a playable demo. We look forward to next March, when we will be able enjoy this next chapter in the Final Fantasy series in its entirety.