PAX 2014: FINAL FANTASY TYPE-0 HD: FAST, VIOLENT, AND MATURE
Redefining what a Final Fantasy game can be.
BY MARTY SLIVAFrom the 20-minutes of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD gameplay I saw at PAX Prime 2014, it seems like Square-Enix is redefining what a Final Fantasy game can be. Obviously those fortunate enough to have played the PSP game in Japanese (it never got officially translated or released overseas) know that Type-0 shakes things up, but FF fans that haven’t played it are in for a treat with this Xbox One and PlayStation 4 HD-version.
Full disclosure, I played a super small amount of an imported copy of Type-0 back in 2011. I really dug what was there mechanically, but I just couldn’t leap over the language barrier. However, a bunch of Final Fantasy fans whom I trust fully and who can actually speak Japanese told me that Type-0 was incredible and right up my alley. Turns out, they were probably right.
Much of the core Final Fantasy iconography is scattered throughout Type-0. Spells and items have their traditional names, a cute little Moogle popped up every so often and gave your party advice, and a giant Ifrit was spotted wrecking fools in a crypt. That past sentence has pretty much appeared in every Final Fantasy game over the past 25 years, so there’s no surprise there.
But everything else, though, is a completely different story. While I was chatting with the game’s director Hajime Tabata, he kept on circling back to the word mature. And honestly, that’s what Type-0 seems to be.
The maturity starts right at the ground floor. The story revolves around a pair of warring nations, each of which commands a very specific and very powerful crystal. But instead of focusing on either side’s heroes and champions, Type-0 instead shines its spotlight on a class of 14 young cadets. None of them are the game’s main character; all of them are the game’s main character. Tabata described the form of storytelling more akin to a documentary than something like a superhero comic, which is a far departure from the Lightning-centric XIII trilogy.
Each of the 14 cadets brings their own distinct flavor to battles. One used playing cards as projectile attacks, one was packing the whole suite of high-level magic spells, and another was an incredible fast and agile swordsman. Tabata told me that there's a character who only uses a flute, which seems to be the worst possible thing to ever bring into war. All 14 characters go with you on missions, and if all 14 die in combat, it’s game over. But while all 14 are there, you only manage a party of three at any given moment. You’re able to swap between while of the trio you’re directly controlling at any given moment, which leads me to my next point: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is ridiculously fast.
Sure, Lightning Returns brought real-time action to the FF series, but the speed at which Type-0’s battles occur is insane. I was watching the game’s director play through a series of fights, and I kept being surprised by how action-oriented everything was. It felt more like DmC or Bayonetta than a traditional Final Fantasy game, and I say that in the best possible way. But within that tremendous speed was an obvious emphasis on strategy. He had to continually swap between his party to combat the situation at hand.
A group of enemies up above the cadets were raining down gunfire. He used his mage to erect a gigantic transparent wall that helped shield his party. He then swapped over to the card-thrower, and dispatched the enemies from behind cover. But as soon as that was finished, a group of monsters busted through to the courtyard, at which point he had to swap back to his heavy and engage them face-to-face. T,All of this occurred in just over 10 seconds. The fact that this dynamic existed so fluidly with just three of the 14 characters got me immediately excited for the possibilities and experimentation that Type-0 will offer, and honestly, the speed of the game seems to be something that will ease player’s into the action of Final Fantasy XV.
While talking with Tabata, I brought up a lot of the questions we had immediately following Type-0 HD’s stealth announcement back in June at E3, first and foremost, why isn’t it coming to Vita. His answer was a bit vague, but he kept circling around to the idea of his excitement of finally being able to play through the portable game on the big screen, on new hardware, and the fact that it’ll now be able to get out to a much wider audience.
Tabata also assured me that Type-0 HD will be a full retail game, and while he couldn’t comment on when we’ll be able to play it, he mentioned that it’s currently about 80% done. From the demo I saw, it looked good and ran super smoothly, but don't expect the kind of visuals we saw at the XV demo back at E3 2013. It's still definitely built upon the foundations of a game from 2011. But honestly, that's not a big deal for me considering how interesting the world seems, and how deep the combat options go.
Obviously die-hard FF fans are counting the days until Square gives us another look at Final Fantasy XV, but Type-0 HD seems like something that will make the wait more-than bearable. Its story, approach to characters, and the speed of the action all immediately helped the game sink its hooks into me. I'm looking forward to seeing if all of those people who told me I'd love it were right.