Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Final Fantasy Type-0 PSP


School settings have been especially popular in JRPGs lately, and following suit, the newest Final Fantasy begins in a school, but don’t expect too many giggles and panty jokes. As early as the opening, Type-0‘s story is darker and more constantly serious than most others that use the setting, and even more than most JRPGs in general.


While not “gory” by today’s standards, it’s several notches above what Final Fantasy has been used to. Lack of advanced graphics prevented us from seeing blood for years and years, and even when characters died in the past, there was something… somehow cleaner about it. That changes in Type-0 with its frequent images of people losing their lives – often violently. It’s not the FF we grew up with, but damn if it isn’t powerful and well done throughout, epitomized in the thrilling introduction and memorable conclusion.

Rather than collecting party members gradually, we’ll meet all of our 14 protagonists within minutes of starting, all of whom are as different on the battlefield as they are in personality. It’s enough to make a big cast that the player honestly cares about, but not too big to suffer from “Chrono Cross Syndrome,” during which the player is overloaded with too many characters and has to ask “Who was he again? Was he the one with the dead mom? No? Well, then whose funeral did I go to? I have no idea who this kid is.” It would be nice to be able to rotate the order somewhere other than save points, though; either that, or make the world map a save point so that changing up the roster isn’t such a pain in the butt. Sometimes, characters won’t even need to be rotated at all, as some parts of the game are clearly done more sensibly as a solo effort. Being an extension of the Crisis Core battle system, this might not be surprising. With enemies so powerful that they’re often capable of one-shot killing anyone in the party, having a second and third character simply stand around can be detrimental to progress. I noticed multiple instances of my allies simply standing around (with no negative status, even) instead of attacking things. I busted into a room, guns blazing, only to realize too late that my two teammates hadn’t even followed me in.

One downfall of having 14 playable characters is that they all apparently need some spotlight time, and some story sequences will have, say, 15 lines of dialogue split among 11 people, as if the writers had a checklist and a quota beside them. This is mostly an early thing though, to establish the characters; like most other aspects, it gets better as the game goes on. The story and its characters are pretty strong overall, and hopefully they’ll transition well into English. Another small setback with the sheer amount of characters is how it ties into leveling them up. The punishing mission structure and strong enemies will put players into situations in which almost all characters must be used at some point. I had two instances of being down to my last singular character when finishing a mission; everyone else was knocked out. What a rush.

It might be Final Fantasy, but Type-0 is no walk in the park. In the first 10 or 11 Final Fantasy games, when you couldn’t beat a dungeon or boss in the first try or two, a feasible option would be to go get your main crew two or three level-ups and have another go at it with a noticeable difference. Levels certainly are important in this game, but for all the power that leveling can grant against regular enemies, the time-honored grinding tradition described above won’t work on most of the game’s bosses. Much more important is timing one’s shot to get critical damage, and the game is actually better for it. It can be initially frustrating to get Game Overs and feel helpless against someone, but the benefit is that it makes the player to get in there and fight a better fight. It’s surprisingly more possible than it might sound, which to a player that just got stomped, is great to realize. The increase in difficulty without being ridiculous is an overdue addition to the Final Fantasy series.

Final Fantasy Type-0 is addictive as hell, thanks to its furiously fast combat and magic growth system. On one hand, the huge level gaps between some of the story segments suggest a need to hit the grindstone, but on the other, time flies during that process. You’re always looking for that next Phantoma, that next level for whatever character, and FFT0 keeps the hunt exciting with the fast pace and high challenge of its battle system. There is a killer amount of fun to be had finding the best party combinations, finding which characters are best for taking out which enemies, or testing out the results of your Alto Crystarium magic mixing. It’s just too freaking easy to get caught up obsessing over your master plan for how you’re going to customize the magic spells, then accidentally spending hours working towards it. The spells can be modified manually through gathering Phantomas from defeated enemies, though, on the downside, the game has a way of capping the player’s growth. Through making certain types of Phantomas available only appear in select locations, then roping those locations off from the player via invisible walls, players are somewhat restricted in just how crazy they can really get with the Phantoma system, though a lot of players won’t notice this.



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