Agito, as it was once called, was first introduced as a mobile game years ago and then eventually moved to become a PSP title. At long last, we’ve received; well the Japanese anyways have gotten a demo of what could be the first real Final Fantasy in a long time. The demo starts off with some impressive pre rendered cutscenes. The cutscenes detail some rather violent events, of what looks to be a war. Some students participating in this war, a crazy academy of sorts and other things I don’t particularly understand. So far it seems the latest installment of Final Fantasy will be a much darker one. Perhaps a welcoming change of pace?
Let’s just jump straight into the gameplay then, to begin, it’s not turn based. Its action based, it reminds you of Crisis Core, but it’s a lot more refined than that. To begin, all the characters feel very unique. They all have different moves and play very differently. The demo only had 7 characters but I believe the final game will have 15, so there’s lots of variety to choose from. You can have multiple characters fighting together (max 3 including yourself), I believe there is a multiplayer option with friends, however I haven’t tried it, nor sure if the demo included it. There is also the option to go solo, this personally is my preferred option, having party members controlled by the AI may die and I’d have lost a character for nothing. There is also the option to have “Guest” characters, these characters are shadowy forms of your party members, and even though they do die, they won’t have wasted a party member. You can’t switch them out so if they are occupying a slot you can’t remove or switch to them.
The character commands are imputed using the face buttons, the Triangle button is your normal attack, the Square button is usually your magic, and the Circle button is your active command while your X is your defensive spells or moves. Pressing Circle+Triangle unleashes the summon you have selected prior to the mission. In the demo there was Golem and Shiva to pick from.
However these summons come with a cost, the life of one party member you use the command on. Summons don’t last forever either, with a span of either their life bar depleting or the timer running out. These commands are customizable, and new commands are unlocked as you gain AP and spend them accordingly. AP can also help grow other stats and essentially help your characters grow even stronger.
Magic on the other hand, has its own slew of assortments and management that you’ll have to keep an eye on. There are different types of magic, they are labeled by MIS (Missile), ROK (Rocket) and so forth. Their properties are different so it’s best to pay attention to which character has which kind. Magic has its own form of leveling, known as the Alto Crystarium.
Powering up your magic is crucial, though in the demo, it’s locked so I wasn’t able to give it much of a shot to try it. From what I do understand is that you’ll have to collect “Phantasma” items which are found by defeating enemies. But how you collect them is big, when you defeat an enemy, a special lock on appears on the dead enemy, holding it and waiting for the reticule to flip will allow you to extract the phantasma, this ability also restores a little bit of mana. It’s an annoying little feature that I wish was better designed. This is mostly due to the lock-on system which auto locks onto an ALIVE target rather than the dead target, this makes sense, however to change targets to a dead one, you have to press Down on the D-pad rather than switch between normally with left and right, this makes it a bit more confusing and a bit more tedious.
Speaking of the lock on system, the camera is also a big issue. I understand it’s mostly due to the lack of dual analog on the PSP, but there are a lot of times when it’s just a real nuisance. The lock on system does a poor job of readjusting the camera and most of the time you won’t be able to see what’s going on and could end up getting killed. It also has trouble catching up with Shiva when you’re using her, making it difficult to land her attacks. If there is one major flaw, it’s the camera. Hopefully by the final release, Square will have fixed this up.
Other gameplay elements include being able to switch up party members in battle. Should your controlled character fall in battle, you can easily just change to another and continue where you left off. Having a party of 3 allows you switch between the 3 as well (provided they aren’t guests), this gives a lot of versatility and allows you to incorporate a lot more different play sty|e into a mission. There are also items as well, but in the demo they only included some HP restore and MP restore, nothing significant or gameplay changing. During missions however, you may receive an “S.O” which flashes at the top, my belief is that it stands for Special Orders. These special orders add a bonus objective that you may or may not want to complete. They are entirely optional though I’m not 100% what the benefit of completing them are. However there is a time limit in completing these orders and failure to do so means the cost of your life.
Another element is the “Overkill” (I totally made that up) attack, basically there are times when the reticule changes to either Yellow or Red, performing an attack an enemy while this is the case either causes massive damage or kills them respectively. Learning how to time your attacks is essential in completing your mission quickly for the best grade possible. It doesn’t necessary discourage mashing, but it encourages to better time your moves and better learn the enemy’s movements, which in later missions is crucial.
In terms of graphics, the game looks very solid for a PSP title. Square’s been known for making some of the best looking handheld games, and this is no exception. It’s not spectacular or had the same impact of WOW like Crisis Core did or looks as solid as Kingdom Hearts but it’s still a good looking game. The academy where you begin doesn’t offer much exploration as most of the areas are locked out from the demo. But it still provides a feel that this game is quite a big one, lots of NPCs as well around, some moving from area to area to give it a more livelier feel to it. Also to my surprise, there was also a town! Albeit the town was very small, it didn’t contain much but a few narrow alleys and some people including a merchant who sells accessories. Still we went from no towns in Final Fantasy XIII to a small one, slowly Square’s getting there.
Lastly, how does the soundtrack stack up? If you know me, you’ll know that I absolutely loved Final Fantasy XIII’s soundtrack, it’s one of the huge pluses for the game. So how does Type-0 fare? Well, it’s incredible. The songs fit quite well with the tone of the missions, whether you were going off into a battlefield with Bahamut in the background blasting away at stuff or in a forest taking down mechs, they would make the feel of the battle quite epic. Even while exploring the academy with it’s much more peaceful tone you could feel the soundtrack of this game is going to be quite solid.
Overall the game is very solid, I’ve enjoyed the demo quite a bit (put like 10 hours into it). There’s a lot of replayability with trying to complete all missions with an S grade, using one of the other varied characters, leveling up your magic, gaining new commands and much more. There are sidequests to do, places to explore, fantastic music to enjoy and some incredibly difficult missions to fulfill. The game has its share of flaws one mainly being the camera and the other being that it can be quite difficult at times, with the camera not making it any easier. It also has this “The 3rd Birthday” feel for me, the way the timing attacks work, the interface has the same kind of look, the fact that you have to really abuse the dodge roll. However, while The 3rd Birthday didn’t feel like Parasite Eve, Type-0 feels more like a Final Fantasy title than XIII was. This just might be the long awaited “true” Final Fantasy game we’ve all been waiting for.