Wartime, Kupo!

The saviors of Rubrum. Hopefully, at least…

It’s hardly a summer holiday without beating at least some Final Fantasy. Since I’m now on my final week of vacation, I decided to see if Final Fantasy Type-0 HD would be it. The game is an action-packed offshoot from the main series, and was originally released in 2011 only for the PSP and only in Japan. This HD remake for the PC and current generation consoles got a worldwide release four years later. It’s not exactly a looker even with makeup but all is forgiven if the story holds up. At least for now, it seems to do just that.

It’s plain as day from the very beginning that Type-0 is exceptionally grim. The power-hungry Empire of Militesi decides to bring down its neighboring Dominion of Rubrum by blitzkrieg. After neutralizing their magic defenses, the invasion campaign proceeds swiftly, bloodily, and with no concern for civilian casualties. Amidst all the havoc and destruction, the students of Rubrum’s capital city and also its magic academy, manage to rebuff the initial onslaught. The war is soon centered around Class Zero, a group of 14 elite cadets spearheading Rubrum’s counter-offensive to drive off the invaders.

There’s no courting period whatsoever. The player is immediately given control of the entire class of cadets, so there’s plenty of characters to learn, equip, and level up. That’s why I pretty much spent the first couple of hours just running back and forth in front of the academy’s main gate, coaxing random encounters just to get a feel for each character’s strengths and weaknesses. Slow ones do plenty of damage with their mallets, spears, and katanas, the weaker ones are better off at a distance with magic or ranged weapons, and then there’s a decent bunch of multi-talented all-rounders. The real-time battles are fought as a team of three where the player controls one character and the AI handles the other two. Jumping between team members is a simple matter of pressing left or right on the d-pad, and should anyone fall in battle, they can be replaced by someone in the reserves. Care must still be taken, as casualties only revive back in home base.

The battles are fast and chaotic. One button is reserved for a basic attack while two others are for customizable offensive spells and special moves. A fourth button is used to dodge when moving, or invoking a curative or defensive spell when standing still. In small areas everyone then just runs around doing what they will while the poor player is desperately trying to keep up with everything. Individual enemies can also be locked on, which shows the fleeting moments when they are susceptible for massive damage. This usually happens right before or after they attack, so despite the hectic pace, tactical play is also very much encouraged.

For now, most of the wartime sorties have been about liberating nearby seized hometowns. This is when the team traverses to them on the world map and then cleans their streets from Militesi troops. In other words, plenty of running around narrow streets from one screen to another, swiftly beating the crap out of anything that seems even remotely hostile, and then usually taking on a much bigger bad guy at the very end. There’s very little breathing room. While the player is busy just surviving, keeping tabs on who does what where, and maybe even racing against a countdown, the operational center of the academy relays instructions that often fall to deaf ears in the heat of the moment. Accessing the main menu won’t pause the action, so even something as simple as applying antidote to a poisoned character is a real gamble in the middle of a skirmish. One item type can be set for use at a press of a button but that’s not really much.

Time between missions is, thankfully, more relaxing. After returning to the academy, the player is given a few hours of free time but they are only expended when actually committing to do something. You could, for example, spend some of that time to attend academy lectures that yield permanent status bonuses for all characters. The free hours are also good for getting to know the staff and other students of the institution, rewarding items and short cinematics that shed light into the characters’ backgrounds. Investing six hours will get you back to the world map to fight and visit liberated towns for possible side quests. Of course, there are also dungeons to be found and explored. It isn’t possible to experience every event in a single playthrough but those without shame will naturally consult the internet to see the most worthwhile ways of spending spare time.

After about 11 hours, Type-0 is definitely a very different kind of Final Fantasy, and not necessarily in a good way. My initial confusion is slowly fading, though, so it’s certainly something to get to know better. In the name of Rubrum, onwards!