The Power of Friendship! – Final Fantasy Type-0 HD impression

Final Fantasy Type-0 is over a year old now, but considering that I invested some serious time into it and how much I enjoyed it, I want to take a little time to talk about it in an impression post. Similar to how I’ve done demo impressions, I also plan to do the same with games that I’ve played that are over a year old. So spoilers ahoy, my friends! Time to talk Agito!

So real talk, after probably my first thirty minutes with this game, I was primed and ready to hate it. It sports an uncomfortably morbid and depressing opening, complete with the heartbreaking death of a chocobo. I don’t do animal pain or death. Kill all the people in a story you want, but even hint at harming an animal and I bolt for the door. I’m even a frequent visitor to DoesTheDogDie.com, much to my friends’ amusement. So killing the fluffy, yellow, stead-birds that I frequently squee over? That was almost the death-knell for my relationship with this game. However, I pushed on. I have a three hour minimum with a game before I decide I hate it, so I figured I might as well see that commitment through. Quite honestly, I was pretty certain that I’d hit that point and still hate the game, at which time I’d close it up and pawn it off at my local 2nd & Charles. It’s a future that got dangerously close to coming true, but somewhere after the two and a half hour mark, the game turned around.

Now I don’t want to oversell here. It turned around, but by margins. However, it was just enough to get me intrigued to continue the story. I still trekked on tentatively. I was prepared that at any moment, I would still be packing up this game and sending it away to find another home. Eventually, slowly, somehow I grew to be really attached to the story of Class Zero. Then I was invested, and there was just no turning back.

So first off, the graphics, just because they don’t fit organically into any other part of this review, and it is nice to address up front. Don’t let the “HD” tacked onto the end of the title fool you. This is just a cleaned up port of a PS Vita game. The graphics, and even some of the voice acting, are almost painful in some places. Still, I hope you can see past that because it’s a relatively good game, even if it isn’t up to current-gen snuff graphically.

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Why do my screenshots look better than the active gameplay?

The story of Type-0 is simple enough, and almost reminds me of Final Fantasy VIII. I’m totally cool with that though, since VIII is one of my favorite Final Fantasies. Type-0 is about a group of orphans who are raised together in a military academy to learn magic and combat skills so that they can fight in the war currently happening with Milites. It also features the four gods of the four cardinal directions, which is a fairly prevalent theme in Asian fantasy media. They don’t go super in-depth into it though, at least not in any dialogue, so it’s possible to not even fully grasp that idea if you aren’t already familiar with the concept. The story becomes more and more convoluted, though, as the group of orphans, known as Class Zero, are joined by two new classmates, Machina and Rem. Machina and Rem know each other from way back in the day, but are somehow just now reuniting despite having gone to the same school for who knows how long? Either way, they have to learn to work together, much to Machina’s chagrin, as the war becomes more and more complicated, what with assassinations for which Class Zero is framed and other countries joining Milites’s cause.

 

Now, I read another review that said the charm in this game comes between the story missions, and I have to say I mostly agree with that. There’s something addictive about walking around the school and towns just to talk to people. It’s quaint, and it’s brilliant. Seeing the relationship of the otherwise pariahed Class Zero with the rest of Akademia growing into friendship tugged at my sensitive heart strings. It’s not world-moving, but it’s sweet. More than anything, it really ties in beautifully with the overall theme of the game – friendship and learning to trust others. Even as the relationship between Class Zero and their schoolmates grows, so too do their relationships with each other. Except Machina. Screw that guy.

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It’s also the only way in which you really get a feel for the mentality of the people from other countries. It adds more depth to the whole scenario, depth which you definitely don’t experience otherwise. This is actually kind of clever because isn’t that also true of real world scenarios? It’s easy to listen to the propaganda fed to us and take everything at face value. It is ultimately much harder and more time-consuming to speak to those who are different from us and learn to understand their view. Taking this approach seriously changed the way I viewed a lot of things in this game. It’s a brilliant level of subtlety.

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Type-0 also introduces some really intriguing story ideas that I’m not sure I’ve seen much of before, which definitely gives it a leg up that it wouldn’t otherwise have. I loved the way the game treated the idea of death and mourning, even if it was a little hard to resonate with. It’s nearly impossible to understand what it is to not mourn or miss the dead because you can’t remember them when that is clearly not a reality. I give them an A+ for originality though.

All the same, the story is a simple one. Or, well, it’s actually pretty nonsensical at times, so… not simple, but maybe shallow? Yeah, shallow works. The story is kind of shallow, and like I said, it’s the moments that come between story missions that make it. That should make this game still pretty unplayable, right? Well, good person, you’d be wrong! The combat is a blast! It’s zippy and fresh, and every character has a very distinct style, meaning there’s a little something for everyone. Normally, combat mechanics don’t mean a whole lot to me. So long as they aren’t broken, I don’t usually have much to say about it. Sorry, I’m a story girl nine times out of ten. Also, let it be known here and now that I absolutely hate level grinding. Now that I’ve said all that, let me contradict everything I stand for by saying that I had a blast with the combat in this game! I actually enjoyed level grinding, which is something I can with much confidence say has never before happened in my close to two decades of gaming experience. I probably would have continued grinding and still not be done with the game if not for the fact I was starting to feel a time crunch due to some of my pre-orders soon being released.

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So moderately enjoyable story with unique concepts and warm-fuzzy theme paired with absolutely rad combat? Seems simple enough. You think you know what you’re getting. Then boom! Final chapter for which my poor, sensitive soul was woefully ill-prepared.

The final chapter of this almost feels like it could be from a different game? There’s suddenly a whole lot going on that unless you read all the history seems completely out of left field. I, of course, didn’t read all the history, so I sat there at the chapter opening just WTF-ing my way through trippy pseudo-fights and cut scenes. It all pulls together though to pack one sucker punch of an emotional ending. It also introduces the idea of perma-death for your party, which is all the more heart-breaking because of how the game treats death and the dead. I was actually upset at the idea that my characters may not remember some of their classmates. Now I will say, perma-death only happens in very specific instances, so there’s at least that.

Also, here’s your warning, this final chapter full on trolls you. You are given the option to become a l’Cie or remain human. Well, let me tell you right now, your mother did not send you to school to become a l’Cie! Just give up on those idol dreams right now, young kid! If you pick the l’Cie option, you trigger game over. The game wants to pretend it’s the “bad ending,” but the game is confused. This is just a you-dun-fucked-up game over. Stay human so that you can go ahead and finish the game for real. Or not. I mean, you’re going to die anyway. It really just depends how emotional you want to feel about it.

Once you turn down becoming a l’Cie, one of the classmates you left behind due to her recently having become coma-fied wakes up just in time to steal your dreams of stardom away and become a l’Cie herself. Cue me screaming at my TV that I totally saw that coming. She throws down with resident non-team player Machina, who we find out at some point along the way became an enemy l’Cie? Yeah, the story kind of says fuck it to making sensible plot points and sticking with those.

So Rem and Machina throw down and both… die? Except… they don’t? They become encased in crystal, as l’Cie do when they die, and they are holding each other. And it’s supposed to be this sweet moment, except I totally don’t ship it because Machina is kind of a controlling asshole sometimes. Or, well, okay, most of the time. So the rest of Class Zero marches on to defeat the resident Cid, and they fail miserably? Cue Rem and Machina’s voices from the sky, sending their energy to their friends so that the world can be saved! It’s actually a really great moment, and I was totally pumped about it. You can’t lose the game at this point, so time to beat the final baddie and happily ever after!

Except remember how I said everyone dies? For the ending, you are treated to what may possibly have been the most painful ending I’ve ever experienced in a video game. It actually kind of reflects the uncomfortably morbid beginning, except now I care about these kids so it’s worse. I got to watch these teenagers who have up until now been very unused to the idea of pain and dying due to their superior abilities cry and scream over the amount of pain they are in and that they are dying. It’s a gruesome, horrific moment that jarringly reminds you that these are children who were forced to fight in a war and carry a burden for which they never should have been responsible.

Finally, they rally together their feelings of friendship and hope enough to stop crying and discuss the future they want to live. At which point I fool heartedly hoped that this wasn’t going to have a tragic ending. Then the credits play, and the miraculously alive Rem and Machina enter the room to find all their friends holding hands and dead. But don’t worry, because they changed the world with that final battle and people can actually remember the dead now! Yeah, it’s rough.

So basically, Final Fantasy Type-0 has a very disjointed story, super fun mechanics and combat, and I highly recommend it. I can’t help but feel that this is a highly under-rated game, and one of those sort of hidden gems that people far too often pass over. It also makes me pretty excited for Final Fantasy XV (like I wasn’t already), considering Hajime Tabata directed both games. Sure, there’s issues, but there’s also a crap ton of potential for him to have built upon. Never mind that this was simply a Vita game and not a main series installment. More and more my faith in XV seems to be well-founded. But this isn’t about XV, it’s about Type-0. So I say it’s pretty dang good, and go play it if you have the time!

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