So the time has finally come and the fine folks at Sky’s RomHacking Nest have finally released their fan translation of the probably last great PSP game, Final Fantasy Type-0. I say probably because The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter (such a long title!) is yet to arrive with an English localization. Anyway, being a Final Fantasy fan, I’ve always kept an eye out for any potential Western release, only to be massively disappointed by Square Enix. By all accounts, they already have done the localization work but for some reason decided not to do a release. Not even a digital one on PSN! Anyway, I’ve been playing this game now for a few days, am around 7 hours in so far and wanted to simply give some thoughts.
It’s possibly the most technically impressive PSP game ever
I wouldn’t say this lightly. With games like God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker, Monster Hunter 3rd Portable, the PSP has some damn fine-looking games, considering the hardware is from 2005. Square Enix has shown their ability to produce not only great-looking games, but also have them play very smoothly on Sony’s original handheld. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII are the most prominent of examples. What amazes me about Type-0 so far are the sheer production values shining through though. The character models are superbly animated, with crazy detail in their visages and costumes. The art direction is awesome as well. It’s got a very Final Fantasy VIII like vibe, what with the setting being young military students fighting a war, while also hanging out in a large military academy.
In battles, you’ll immediately notice how well the camera puts things in scene for cinematic angles without almost any compromise in playability. You have voice acting in all the major (and many minor) story sequences, which are of course kept in the original Japanese (which I like). It’s so much stuff in fact, that the game comes in two UMDs.
The real-time battles are fun all on their own
If there is one gripe I’ve had with Final Fantasy moving away from the traditional ATB battle system, it’s that the real time action battle systems have been dissatisfying to me so far. I didn’t much care for Crisis Core‘s button-mashing battle system (and especially the slot machine system), and I’m pretty luke warm about Kingdom Hearts‘ combat. Final Fantasy XII‘s combat was acceptable, but I still like ATB better. There’s something cerebral about it, and it was one of the main pillars of what defined Final Fantasy in my view. So, in spite of all the cool looking gameplay of Type-0 I saw in the past, I didn’t get my hopes up that the actual combat was really much fun. Turns out though, that Square Enix found a winning formula.
The camera lock on enemies (which is absolutely crucial in the hectic fights) looks absolutely sleek, while it puts the action right there in your face. All the while, they did away with the stupid list selection system of Crisis Core for abilities, and limited the selection to the four face buttons. Before battle, you must choose between two abilities (basically spells and character specific offensive moves), one defensive ability (defend, cure or spawning a wall) and one standard attack. This increases the focus, puts emphasis on pre-mission planning and simplifies the controls during battle in one fell swoop. The focus during battle is now about movement and timing of attacks.
Timing is a crucial skill now, because enemies will occasionally become prone to one-hit kills or critical damage. When that happens, a sound effect (a PING! like sound) is played and a big red or yellow icon appears on the enemy. You’ll have a window of about one second to land a hit. There’s a steady interval it seems where this opportunity arises, so you’ll try to adjust your distance (depending on the current character) and vary your attack in order to take advantage of it. When you land such a hit, it’s super satisfying. It’s called kill-sight and break-sight.
Also, battles are challenging from the get-go. In Final Fantasy‘s I played before, they start off extremely easy only to become difficult very late on, but Type-0 cranks it up from the beginning. You’ll need to be paying attention, invest time into learning the ins and outs of the supporting magic and ability systems and learn how to use each character in your team of 14 (don’t worry, most of them are quite intuitive). It’s not a button masher because the kill-sight/break-sight is crucial to taking down the meatier enemies.
Lastly, the wide range of animation of the characters is awesome. The personalities of each of the 14 shine through. They just looks so expressive and alive on screen. While in battle, you can switch between any of the current three in your party, while calling in another of the up to 11 characters in reserve immediately after one in the party dies. In difficult missions, you’ll sometimes eat through your entire roster, and when the last one dies, it’s game over.
The fan translation might as well be official
So Square Enix announced at E3 2014 that Final Fantasy Type-0 will get the HD treatment for a PS4/Xbox One release (ignoring the Vita!). You’d expect them to use the localization they’ve already had for the doomed PSP Western release. I can’t speak to the faithfulness of the translation, but the writing just comes off as completely professional. I wouldn’t have known it’s the work of an unpaid team of volunteers who’ve had to hack their translation into an image file. Very impressive indeed, and especially considering the short time frame they did it in. All the kudos in the world to Skyblade Cloud.