Another One To Wait For
Final Fantasy Type-0 could be the best Final Fantasy for portable gaming, and quite possibly the best in the series in recent times. Just released for the PSP in Japan, it received an almost perfect score by the popular Japanese magazine, Famitsu (a 39 of 40!). With multiple characters to select from and a combat system reminiscent of another great PSP game, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, FF Type-0 seems poised to be a remarkable entry into Final Fantasy lore. But, what is the game about?
First off, it's part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis, though readers may have known it under a different title, FF Agito XIII. It was originally intended to be a mobile phone exclusive, but when the developers switched platforms to the PSP, the game evolved into something immensely bigger. The director, Hajime Tabata, feeling the old title no longer fit, changed it to Final Fantasy Type-0. The game still takes place in the same universe as Final Fantasy XIII, but it's gone in a very different direction than was originally intended.
The new tone abounds with gravitas. The opening trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0, where a lone student is doing his best to escape enemy soldiers, is sobering and tragic. The chocobo who comes to his rescue is killed, as is the character after a desperate last strike to ward off his enemies. Covered in blood and bitterly weeping, his friends rush to his aid. In a recent interview with the developers, they mentioned that death and the "weight of life" will be a big theme in the game. The crystals allow the people of the world to erase their memories of anyone who died. Sorrow is avoided and the lives of those before them fade into oblivion. It's a depressing, yet strangely comforting, way to circumvent the feeling of loss. Whether this applies to everyone, our 14 main heroes, or only the l'Cie (beings who possess special powers from the crystals with a "Focus" - FF13 players should recognize the name), I don't know. But it indicates this game will take on a more mature tone than some of the previous entries.
Final Fantasy Type-0 takes place in the land of Oriens, which is split into four nations, each possessing a crystal. Cid, the recurring pilot who shows up in most of the FF's, is the high commander of the Milites Empire in this iteration. The Milites own the Byakko Crystal, which grants them the power of Weapons. Cid initiates the war to wrest the crystals from the other three nations. He successfully invades Lorica with the Genbu Crystal (shield) and Condordia with their Soryu Crystal (power of dragons). The trailers show speeches and marches reminiscent of old war propaganda films. Upon invading Rubrum, their crystal (with the power of magic) shatters, leaving most of the fiefdom defenseless. The students of Class Zero, an elite magic school, still maintain their powers and must do their utmost to prevent the Empire from destroying their nation. You play as any of the 12 students along with 2 additional characters.
Each of the characters in FF Type-0 has a different style of fighting. Named after playing cards, there's an archer, Rey; a martial artist named Eight; a King who wields dual pistols; and Cater who unleashes a magic-gun. As each character plays in a different fashion, speed and strength being among the varying attributes, the gameplay is very diverse. You can play as three characters at one time, and they're instantly swappable with any of the others. I'm sure you will have to strategize which combination to use against specific enemies and classes. The combat is intense, with attacks mapped to the buttons. Triangle does the normal attack, while the circle and square buttons trigger skills and magic. There are also time-based attacks, and it seems taking cover plays an important role, especially with the plethora of enormous bosses unleashing volleys of attacks. The Milites, possessing the ability to harness incredible weapons, have a fleet of deadly machines at their disposal. Players will be able to summon powerful monsters / war gods to their aid, which are upgradable. As the summoned beings are so strong, the developers force a trade-off; you will lose the full HP of one character when you call them forth.
Multiplayer is also present in the game. You can play with friends who take over the students by your side. The structure of the game is mission-based, with key objectives and additional goals present to earn extras. The multiplayer is optional and not integral to the main mission. However, the developers have mentioned that several objectives cannot be completed without the assistance of additional players.
There were a couple additional aspects of the Final Fantasy Type-0 gameplay that have only briefly been shown. The Active World Map involves real time strategy, leading big armies to face off against others. It looks fascinating, as different hordes clash on the outer world map. While one of the screens I saw had destinations selected through a menu for travel on an airship, I also saw parts of a fully controllable airship and even a part where players could take control of a turret to shoot down aerial foes! That was on my wish list for FF Versus XIII, and I'm hopeful it'll be on Type-0 first. The more I find out about the game, the more I want to know!
Although it's been released in Japan, the Final Fantasy Type-0 release date for North America and the rest of the world is still unknown. It's a huge game shipping on two UMD discs. The first disc contains the prologue and final section, while everything in between, including multiplayer, will take place on the second disc. You will be able to play through the game a second time with all your powers intact, allowing you to see more of the game as well as different shades of the story. I can't help but feel a sense of melancholy whenever I see the cinematics. These young students are thrust into the brutal realities of war, coming to terms with grave issues while fending for their lives. Their whole world is in flux, life and death at stake with every action they take. I'm excited that the game seems to have a story I genuinely care about. Will this be a Final Fantasy to remember, or one the crystals will help us to forget? I genuinely hope for the former.
He has been working in film and games for over a decade. On his off time, he likes to travel the world. His short story collection, Watering Heaven, was just published by Signal 8 Press.
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