The land of Orience is in turmoil. The Militesi Empire has invaded Akademia, The Dominion of Rubrum’s capital city and home to the Vermillion Peristylium containing the sacred Vermillion Bird Crystal. The Empire deploys the crystal jammer, a device which prevents the Dominion from using their magic, leaving them defenseless and giving the Empire the upper hand. All seems lost for the Dominion, but in a last ditch attempt to save Akademia, they dispatch the Agito Cadets, a group of magic wielding high-school students, to destroy the crystal jammer and save Akademia!
Did you catch all that absurdity? Good, it takes two cut scenes and nearly twenty minutes to explain that.
Immediately afterwards you are given control three Agito Cadets from Class Zero, a super-secret group of elite cadets that many Dominion Citizens thought was only a myth (had enough backstory yet?). After quickly saving Akademia from the Militesi Empire and generally blowing everyone’s mind that you exist, a Moogle courts you around town, exhaustively explaining every building, place, store, person, feature, alpha, tango, catbug… sorry, lost track there, I got distracted by ALMOST ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE GAME during this part. I don’t know why Square Enix, the developers behind the FF series, felt the urge to explain everything in epic detail, but at the very least I didn’t wonder how to save.
Annoying explanations aside, Akademia is actually a fairly interesting place, and is home to the Agito Cadet School, which serves as the “town center” for the action. Here you can visit your classmates, roam the hallways in search of NPCs, find interesting side quests, and gaze upon the beautiful scenery. A central portal can warp you to several different locations as well, such as the armory or student lounge, but most importantly it can transport you to a chocobo ranch. It wouldn’t be Final Fantasy if there weren’t fluffy bird creatures to breed, train and ride, and this chapter in the series does not disappoint. Although this side quest has nothing to do with the main storyline, it provided a nice reprieve from the action, and the fruits of your labor produce mountable chocobos that can be used on the overworld map.
The player is given a certain degree of freedom to move about the world, but each time you perform an action, time advances by two hours, and eventually you will be forced to take a mission. If you’d rather not wait, missions can be issued from Central Command, a wing of the cadet school which has been repurposed into a war room. Any mission can be refused, but you cannot progress if you don’t accept one eventually. After receiving your mission, choose your favorite Class Zero character and simply walk out the front gate of Akademia and into the overworld map of Orience. Anyone who has played a Square Enix title will immediately recognize the overworld map, a place in which cities are tiny, fields are massive, and monsters appear from nowhere to attack you with annoying frequency. Yes, the dreaded random encounters are back, but pull out a chocobo from your inventory and you’ll be free to roam without care! The game implements an awkward MOBA type gameplay on the overworld during some missions that require you to play general and capture cities with troops. Once you’ve surrounded a city, you can enter it with the cadets to quicken its capture.
The interior of cities is where the true gameplay takes place. Unlike a typical turn-based RPG, battle in FF: Type-0 is twitch based and takes place in real-time. Each character has four actions: one main attack, two offensive abilities, and one defensive ability. An action bar depletes overtime as you use your abilities, but main attacks can be used infinitely. You can switch between your three party members at will, with AI taking over for the party members you are not using. After losing a member of your party you can call in a replacement classmate to keep your party maxed out. When you lose the entire Class Zero, you get a game over, but all members revive at the end of each mission if you manage to complete it. Similarly to other RPGs, items such as potions can be used to heal HP, and many of the defensive and healing abilities are ripped straight from other FF games. A Moogle chirps in your ear to issue waypoints and missions which helps keep the action focused.
Inside of cities, all enemies can be seen before battle, unlike the random encounters in the overworld. The fighting system was hard for me to grasp at first, but once I got the hang of it I found it to be deep and complex, allowing for multiple play styles. Your class has roughly 14 members in it, depending on where you are in the story, and they can only gain experience points and level up if you use them, forcing you to try all the options. Each student has a unique weapon, which ranges from the obvious (katanas), to the awesome (magic dual revolvers), to the insane (a flute). It can be particularly jarring to be wielding Ace’s sweet deck of magic playing cards one moment, and then be twiddling on a flute the next, all while fighting massive rock golems. Thankfully, the AI can handle itself, so I stuck with the characters with weapons that were, uh, weapons.
If you find yourself caught in a tough spot, higher-level cadets can step in and help you out, but they are not technically your classmates and therefore you cannot control them or keep their experience points. Another option is to sacrifice a classmate and temporarily summon a massive creature you can control, but this is a last option reserved for emergencies and boss fights.
A targeting system keeps your character locked-on to an enemy, but the camera frequently spins around like a Go-Pro on a chocobo’s head, leading to confusing battles and the occasional button mashing. I don’t know if this game can be easily played with a keyboard and mouse because I didn’t dare try, as some of the key bindings for the most important actions were bound to the function keys. My Xbox controller worked splendidly, however, so don’t bother with anything else unless you’re forced to.
The technical issues with the controller are forgivable, as the rest of the game looks and functions wonderfully.
Type-0 originally released for the Sony PSP in 2011, and as such looks a bit dated; however, Square Enix’s masterful use of the hardware available to it at the time, combined with the HD overhaul, really makes it shine. Floors reflect light brilliantly, textures are crisp and colorful, bloom effects look spectacular, and the massive cleavage of your commander (referred to as Mother for Freud’s sake) bounces perfectly. Akademia’s graphical style is amazing, with the interior rooms being particularly well designed, and I found myself frequently pausing just to gawk at the beautiful set pieces. The music will be instantly recognizable to any Final Fantasy fan as well, giving the game a nostalgic quality for those who cherish the series. The awe inspiring nature of FF games is partly what gives them their epic quality and rarely will you find a game with such attention to detail as this one.
In the end, the story of how the Dominion reclaims its lost glory was not altogether terrible, but unfortunately the voice acting was extremely inconsistent due to bad translations, awkward pauses, and poor Godzilla style dubbing. Most of your classmates are tropes of anime characters, but I nonetheless became attached to their awkward charm. Like many Final Fantasy games, Type-O is long in explanation and drenched in overwrought backstory, but after clearing the first few hours, the game’s pulse starts to regulate, and a deep, action RPG is revealed. At $29.99 on Steam, its a steal, and anyone who is a fan of action RPGs, particularly jRPGs, will surely find a rewarding and fun game in Type-0.