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Final Fantasy Type-0 Impressions: Battle Academy's Final Exam

We try an early build of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, a fully remastered port of the 2011 PSP game, to see if we can survive to see battle academy's graduation.

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Originally released for the PlayStation Portable in 2011 in Japan, Final Fantasy Type-0 is making its way to western consoles this spring, completely reworked with high-definition graphics and controls. I recently got the opportunity to try it out the port on a PS4, and the developers kindly set up god mode for my characters with infinite reraise.

The game takes place on the planet Orience, which is torn apart by a long-standing war. Its story involves 14 characters, each with distinct personalities, powers and weapons, recounting their trials at a time of war. Only three characters can be included in a party at time, and players can switch between them on the fly. The demonstration takes place on a military academy as it is being invaded, and a team of three students come together to help fend off an army. For that extra feeling of authenticity, the game will be released with dual-language audio. I played with Japanese voices with English subtitles.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD features real-time combat, with the ability to lock-on to enemies and lay on the damage. Although three characters are included in the party, only one is out and active at a time. I didn't do a lot of character switching, but I'm guessing that more advanced gameplay would involve flipping between party members for group combos. Much of the game involves piling on damage, dodging, and waiting for the magic attacks to recharge. Every so often, there will be a yellow pop-up, which indicates an break site opportunity, and causes massive critical hit with a chance to stun. Red indicators represent instant-kill opportunities, but these are usually reserved for light grunts.

Enemies contain an essence called phantoma, which powers your spells, and killing them releases it. Standing in place and holding down the square button for a second will collect the nearby phantoma. It would probably make the game a little easier if the phantoma were auto-collected by running over or near them, similar to some other action games. As is, the phantoma system becomes one extra thing to think about while running around and fighting groups of enemies, which includes aircraft, ground soldiers, and large bosses.

Things can become rather chaotic as player battle their way across the academy. Mechanical enemies, like aircraft, are vulnerable to electricity, so I found myself mainly using the girl with sword and lightning spell. However, even with the lightning spell, she doesn't have much in the way of range. The only way to hit snipers perched up high on walls is to switch a male character that throws magically charged cards. My third character throws a chain to pull herself close to foes, but she's not really a ranged character. Given how easy it is to be overwhelmed by enemies, I can't help wondering how difficult this game would be if my one and only ranged fighter were to fall.

The game's camera can get a little crazy at times. It can be hard to tell where damage is coming from, especially with enemies placed high up on walls. A problem I frequently experienced was accidentally loading back to an area I just came from while backing away from an enemy. However, I do like the fact that some areas have multiple entry points. For example, players have two options when trying to get within the academy walls. They could either fight a giant multi-health bar boss creature that's blocking a side portal, or they could make their way over to the front gate and battle through an army of soldiers. The boss takes a long while to wear down, so I chose the front gate and threw a lot of lightning around.

Type-0's HD graphics are about on par for a Final Fantasy game, but the fact that it's ported from a three year old PSP game makes it all the more impressive. Bosses look great, and the animations are fast and fluid. The gameplay can feel a little too straightforward at times, and almost becomes monotonous, but that could be a side-effect of being on god mode. However, that leads me to wonder how difficult the game would will be, considering how only one character in my party had ranged abilities. Regardless, the game's main issue is with the camera right now. If that can be fixed or adjusted, then the rest of the gameplay might fall into place.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD releases for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on March 17, 2015.

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