Darkness Falls: A First Look at Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
As a matter of course, North America always feels like its lagging well on the tail-end when it comes to Final Fantasy anything - and with good reason too. Far too many releases (particularly on handheld and mobile) never actually manage to make it to the states, no matter how many years pass or how popular the series (I'm looking at you Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII!).
Final Fantasy Type-0 feels like one of those - an action RPG developed and published by Square Enix originally for the PSP, it was released in Japan in October 2011. Once known by the working title Final Fantasy Agito XIII, it was intended for mobile phones as well to continue the FFXIII Fabula Noval Crystallis mythos.
This was eventually canceled and renamed to distance itself somewhat from Final Fantasy XIII - unnecessarily in my opinion, since Square Enix eventually ended up releasing Final Fantasy Agito, a follow-up to Type-0 on iOS and Android in Japan earlier this year anyway. A PS Vita version called Agito+ will follow in Japan early next year, and a Western localization of it has been announced to coincide with Type-0.
In Type-0, what is considered by many to be the "darkest" story to come out so far in the Final Fantasy franchise, and centers around Class Zero; twelve students from a magical school in the Dominion of Rubrum who are pulled into a war between the Crystal States of Orience and the Militesi Empire.
I managed to get a good look at the hands-on demo for Type-o while I was covering New York Comic Con and stopped by Square Enix's off-site media suite to check out some of the hottest upcoming titles slated to hit the market within this year to next.
Finding the media suite was a challenge itself and required a last-minute text messages containing an address change, a terrifying cab ride through the heart of New York rush hour traffic, and the dubious choice between a dark stairwell with a lightbulb blown out and a freight elevator.
It also involved looking for visual cues like this sign taped to the side of the building (see right) to help us figure out whether or not we'd found the right building altogether (we had). To their credit, I believe the sign was intentionally made to look as sketchy as it was in order to dissuade the steady stream of cosplayers and convention-goers passing by from sneaking in to see what all the fuss was about. It worked.
While I did not actually get a chance to pick up a controller myself, I spent a great deal of time (particularly through the duller cutscenes during my brief run-through of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX) checking it out over other peoples' shoulders.
How could I not?
It's a Final Fantasy game. And it is very, very pretty.
With gameplay reminiscent of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Kingdom Hearts, where you take direct control of the characters in real-time (in this case, up to a 4-person team of playable characters but always with at least three in a party that you can switch between), Type-0 allows you take your party into missions and headlong into large-scale battles with giant monsters.
Each character (the demo only allowed players to check out 3 out of the 14 playable characters) possesses different attacks and magic attacks and switching between characters is imperative if you're going to survive a battle. (For demo purposes, players were given unlimited lives.) In terms of controls, other players reported that despite using the X button for both dodging and taking potions, the mechanic worked surprisingly well.
Like nearly every Final Fantasy to date, Type-0 comes complete with stunning graphics and gorgeous cutscenes. In-game characters are fleshed out and highly reminiscent of FFXIII done in schoolgirl dress. Unlike other games however, the 30-minute demo of Type-0 did not shy away from the darker undertones of the main story, nor does it pull its punches from exhibiting outright gore.
Compared to the original Japanese PSP version, there have been a few changes implemented into the HD version - most notably the "dumbing down" to an easier difficulty and no more multiplayer. Of course, these changes should only concern you if you happen to take to the franchise as a purist - as a first time player trying out the Western localization, I highly doubt you would even notice.
Fans of FFXIII and the Fabula Noval Crystallis arc can look forward to picking this title up for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on March 17, 2015.