The PSP still has some hit points left
Final Fantasy Agito XIII was announced at E3 2006 as part of the big “Final Fantasy XIII” project which included, of course, Final Fantasy XIII itself, along with Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Now over five years later, FFXII is on the verge of getting a sequel, Versus is still nowhere close to being released, and Agito underwent a name transformation into Final Fantasy Type 0.
Thought it might not be fair to speculate that Type 0 got stuck in some sort of “development hell”, it’s still always worrisome when a title has its development cycle extended far beyond what it seems it should have been. Still, I’ve never stopped giving up hope on Type 0. When thinking about it, I’m not even sure exactly what it is about the game that caused me to latch on to it; maybe it’s the character designs—I’m a sucker for school uniforms—or maybe it’s the fact that Square Enix seems to hold some magic when it comes to pushing the PSP for all its worth.
That second statement was certainly the case when I got my hands on Type 0 at TGS. Whatever tricks the developers at Square Enix know for working the PSP’s graphical abilities must have come from some dark demonic pact, because they consistently have created titles for Sony’s handheld that seem like they shouldn’t be possible on the hardware. Characters themselves are highly detailed and rendered, but this isn’t one of those games where the characters look good by making other elements suffer—everything is of an equally high standard visually.
While there’s no need for me to talk about the visual quality of the opening cinematic for the Type 0 demo I played—it’s Square Enix, all of their cinema work is top-notch at this point—I do have to mention how bloody and brutal it was. In many games that feature war, the actual reality of those wars is so often lost on the player. Here, from the very opening we get a feeling for how serious the game’s events and themes are, and it’s hard to not get a little emotional over what unfolds. I found the cinema to be a really good lead-in for the game—it helps you connect with the playable characters you’re going to have offered to you beyond just the typical “let’s go on a quest”-type scenario.
(Also, by the way—the intro caused me to ask, “why can’t they just heal him” in reference to a character’s death, only to have the game directly answered that question right after. It was a very small element, but I appreciated that some effort was put into touching upon that age-old question of why we can heal our characters in RPGs, but then have them permanently die via a similar situation later.)
Speaking of characters, there are to be around 31 of them playable in the final game. Having not one idea who anybody was or what they did, I picked my team completely at random based simply on who I thought looked most appealing. Two of my characters were melee-weapon users—one with a spear and another with a big mace—but the third ran into battle with… a flute. I never fully grasped what this character’s role was, but it was something that made me more interested in the game. If Type 0 is going to have enough character choices that the game can offer more variety in what role each of those characters can play, that’ll be a nice change of pace from other games where you choices are simply based around damage dealers. Type 0 will connect up to three players when playing via multiplayer, so I love the idea of being able to fit into a more support-type choice.
Gameplay in Type 0 felt more like an action-RPG hybrid, and I’ll be honest—this is the type of game I’m getting more and more interested in. Though I can still absolutely enjoy the traditional turn-based combat of other RPGs, I’m finding that I love a lot of the storyline and character elements of those games, but I really wish I could just go directly into action-oriented combat instead of getting whisked away to some strange combat environment every time a battle takes place. So, this was another of Type 0’s sides that I ended up pleased with, and it’s another reason I can’t wait to get more time with the game.
Thought I feel I only scratched the surface of what Final Fantasy Type 0 has to offer, it’s an intriguing project that left me wanting more. Combining terrific visuals with an action-RPG style of gameplay that promises a wealth of depth through its vast amount of character choices and scenarios, Type 0 may be coming late in the life of the PSP, but it proves that the system isn’t going down quietly.