Also on: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Months after Final Fantasy Type-0 HD's arrival next-gen consoles, Square's grittiest Final Fantasy is finally on PC. While the HD title straddles a line between remaster and remake from the original Type-0, the game has sustained a level of interest toward what advantages it would utilize once on PC hardware. It's mostly business as usual, in that regard, as the anticipation of PC ports is mostly performance-oriented. This is the audience that likes to trick out their games, after all, so on that note, just how tricked out is final fantasy Type-0 HD on PC?
Quite frankly, it's the kind of port that we expected to see: the console version in all its glory, yet with the benefit of graphics options to tinker with. Despite being reviewed on powerful hardware, some of the post-processing effects (that means you, motion blur) are actually more paletable when turned down or off entirely. In any case, the performance was buttery smooth, running at 1080p with the typical visual boosts that a nice PC gives. I do wish there was a borderless fullscreen mode, and while I'm agnostic towards framerate, it has a 30fps limiter which some players may want to know about.
The game itself is actually where I found my experience to be troublesome, as its scope as a PSP game is really quite clear from the get-go. I'm not talking about the low-poly models or low-res textures here and there, but in how disjointed the game feels on the whole.
The story opens on the battlefield at a school, which re-opens its doors to more scholarly pursuits once the first chapter has wrapped up. Players will take up arms at a school as Class Zero, where their placement as students is secondary to fighting off enemy encampments in sorties and other missions. There's a little bit of Persona in the day-to-day time management of events eating up a portion of the player's day, having to choose how your time is spent, all the while with a constant countdown to the next mission.
What's problematic is that the balance between school and combat seems to be nonexistant. Despite both having a seemingly functional ecosystem, I never had the feeling they were connected. I'm less aware of the consequences in school when compared to how things are going on the battlefield, but maybe that's the game's design mirroring the superficial student enrollment of Class Zero. Then again, Type-0 doesn't seem to be concerned with using uneven game design as a metaphor for its setting.
The roots of a portable game run deep in Type-0 HD, leading to some really disjointed cutscenes that hop between dry military history, forced humor, and an otherwise persistent grim tone. There was only so much room on a PSP game to convey a game in the scope that Type-0 hopes to accomplish, but in graduating to a console platform, it's too bad that the title didn't receive some buffing out of its original design. The uneven storytelling and small environments make the game feel claustrophobic on the big screen, when on a handheld it was probably a lot easier to buy in to the massive war going on.
Combat itself is actually kind of fun, and I played with a controller. Player control one character in a party of three, able to swap between characters at almost any time, and combat is mapped to the face buttons. Should a character fall, you can pull new members from your reserves off the D-pad, and each one has a good variety of skills to keep combat fresh. Fighting takes place in real-time, and in environments that are broken up between gates inside a larger area. I'm not sure if load times were ever an issue for the constant loading of a new "room" but on PC they're not much of an issue.
I also enjoyed the larger scale battles, with some light RTS troop management in maneuvering on a great plain to capture enemy outposts and cities. It's these type of great ideas that help show what's special about Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. For some, it may be the story and themes, but the gameplay incorporates some great bits from other genres in Type-0 which shows a potential for Final Fantasy games to evolve in their own right, just as genres such as FPS games incorporated RPG elements into their multiplayer modes. It's refreshing to see developers understand that it's a two-way street in game design, and this is largely what's important about Final Fantasy Type-0. It's not only an experimental game of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series, but one that's not afraid to look outside the world of traditional RPGs.
Overall, Final Fantasy Type-0 Hd was a confusing game to me. It's got some interesting concepts, but the execution is off. The overall design and nature of the PSP game feels cramped when ported to consoles and PC, and was generally distracting when in any part of the game that wasn't some version of combat. It does grow on you a little bit, but I'd prefer a game that feels cozy right away. As far as the PC port nature is concerned, it's a pretty decent job that most players should be happy with. If you're the sort of person that can't understand that it's an HD port of a PSP game, then you'll likely be disappointed in some of the game's visual shortcomings and will be happier playing something else.