A lot of Final Fantasy fans have only played the main Final Fantasy games; that means only the numbered, non-MMO titles (sorry Final Fantasy XIV). If you’re one of them, then it’s cool, although you’re probably missing out a bit. Or a lot, since there are many Final Fantasy games that are not part of the main line, and they’re definitely worth spending time and money with. Interested now? Good. But where do you begin, you ask? Well, there’s always the Tactics series, and like I’ve mentioned before, the MMOs. Or better yet, go all the way back to nil with Final Fantasy Type-Zero.
What began as a mobile phone game became a PSP release…exclusively for Japan. But thanks to strong fan request asking the game to be localized for western release, it finally did, four years after it was launched in Japan. The long wait was worth it, as it was released as an HD remaster for the PS4, PS Vita, and Steam. And quite on time too, as it serves as the second one-third of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series, a group of Final Fantasy games that have unrelated stories and are set in different worlds but share the same mythos, with Final Fantasy XIII franchise as the first and the upcoming Final Fantasy XV as the third.
The World, The Students, The Battle, And The Tale
The game is set in the world of Orience, which is divided into four countries, each of which representing one of the Four Celestial Beasts in Chinese mythology/astrology. Lorica of the north represents the Black Tortoise; Concordia, the easternmost nation, is of the Azure Dragon; Milites of the west is guided by the White Tiger; and Rubrum by the Vermillion Bird. These four countries once lived in peace, until Milites laid siege to Rubrum. But all hope is not lost, as Class Zero, the elite division of Rubrum’s military and magic academy Akademeia, can and will defend the city-state. Now it is up to the players to lead a rag-tag band of cream-of-the-crop students on different missions all across Orience in order to safeguard Rubrum’s survival, and eventually uncover the truth of this world rife with conflict.
Judging by the theme and story, this game isn’t your usual Final Fantasy fare where you venture across the world in order to save it. Sure there’s still a map overlay to give players the sense of a free-roam experience, but the game is more focused on fulfilling one mission after another. In addition, the military academy theme going on and the gritty portrayal of war and “politics” make the game feel like a cross between Final Fantasy VIII and Suikoden. The combat, however, is more like an instance-based Kingdom Hearts; that means it’s active and happen in a 3D confined zone, so players have to actually press the respective key/button an attack, spell, or item while positioning yourself right and moving offensively and defensively instead of standing still and deciding your action via the menu. And much like other active-battle RPGs, the players can only control the leader. But fret not, because their AI is competent enough to hold their own, and even save you at times.
Other than the battle system, what makes combat enjoyable, deep, and satisfying would be its highly diverse playable character cast of twelve. Each character – Ace, Deuce, Queen, King, Trey, Cater, Rem, Machina, Seven, Eight, Nine, Jack, and Cinque – has a unique way of attacking and character-exclusive skills, so it’s important to wisely choose which of them will you control and include in your party. But despite the great role they play in combat, they are first and foremost characters, and it is their differing but equally striking personalities that not only make the players care for them, but also add color – sometimes bright, most of the time drab – and weight to the story.
But despite all these praises, the game is far from perfect. First off would be the fact that the game world can get repetitive, as backdrops of towns and monsters are recycled a lot more often compared to other Final Fantasy titles. And speaking of which, the game world could’ve had more side quests in it: more non story-essential dungeons, places to explore and items to collect, and missions that don’t involve collecting X item or killing X kind or number of enemies. In addition, the setting and the lore would’ve been richer if it did add more wildlife, and diversified the locales and sub-missions even more. On another note, Class Zero members don’t get equal time in the spotlight and exert equal impact onto the plot. Because while Ace, Queen, Deuce, Rem, Machina get to play critical roles in the narrative, the same can’t be said with the likes of Jack, Cinque, and Seven. These weaknesses, however, hardly take away anything from the experience, but they do make players want more.
With a solid and dramatic story and a unique approach to combat, Type-Zero is indeed worthy of the Final Fantasy name, and is a fitting addition to the franchise and the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythos. So now that you got schooled, don’t be a fool: play this game before you get completely sidetracked by Final Fantasy XV.