Final Fantasy Type-0 really does not fuck around. A humbled Brenna plays it in Tokyo.
"I’ve played Type-0 twice in my life now – once at TGS 2011 and now again at a peripheral TGS 2014 event – and both times I was slaughtered, mercilessly, over and over again."
It's been donkeys since I felt the steel-jawed bite of the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy 13 got its fangs into me, but after the initial giddy high of playing in glorious technicolour HD, the passion wore off, and the rest of the 13 family has failed even to leave gentle chew marks on my pliant flesh.
This is not a situation I ever anticipated; my history with the series is filled with high notes. I loved FF6. I was obsessed with FF7. I clasped FF8 to my bosom with such passion that I even ran a fanfiction site (pause for derisive laughter). I maintain, controversially, that FF9 is the peak of the series. FF10 I played to death and back and then to death again. FF12 is, in my opinion, one of the most unfairly criticised games of the PS2 era. What I'm saying is: I have loved Final Fantasy.
But the last decade hasn't been an easy time to be a Final Fantasy fan. Now that the backlash has died down it is socially acceptable to like FF13 again, but its two sequels are probably best described as non-entities. Square Enix's transition to the HD era has been rocky at best, as what the west wants are two different things indeed (stay on this channel for Pat and Brenna's long delayed joint editorial about The Great HD Divide, coming to browsers when we overcome our general existential malaise). Plus there's the bloody wait - I think it's worth remembering that a senior member of Square Enix management boldly called the publisher out for long development and PR cycles and a lack of understanding of audience desires.
That manager, Yosuke Matsuda, is now CEO of a Square Enix that announces games in June and releases them the following March (Final Fantasy Type-0). That's a very different beast to the kind that announces a game and then eight years later produces a playable demo.
Hajime Tabata is a very different man from Tetsuya Nomura. His project, Type-0 (originally announced as Final Fantasy Agito 13, a name later recycled for a mobile prologue), is a very different kind of Final Fantasy. (From what I've seen of Final Fantasy 15 - no more than you, alas - I suspect it will be quite different, too.)
Really hardcore Final Fantasy fans have already played Type-0, because the lack of a translation never gets between them and enjoying the mechanics; there's always a wiki or six to fill in the gaps. I'm a little torn on the prospect of Type-0 coming west because, to be honest, I'm not sure that those of us who haven't sought out the Japanese PSP release are hardcore enough for it.
Final Fantasy Type-0 is hard. If you're the kind of person that complains about regenerating health and how "unrealistic" video games are (to make a hollow laughing) Type-0 may tick a few of your boxes, although I genuinely wonder how pleased you will be when your wishes come true. Characters fall down pitifully before enemy assault if you're not constantly focused on evading their attacks; evading is much harder than simply waiting for the occasional icon prompt; and all your best attacks are fuelled by MP, a resource in pitifully short supply.
I've played Type-0 twice in my life now - once at TGS 2011 and now again at a peripheral TGS 2014 event - and both times I was slaughtered, mercilessly, over and over again. This second time, on a PS4 rather a PSP, things were slightly easier. I'd like to say this is because of the magic of twin analog, but actually it's because Square Enix kindly made all my characters invincible with incessant pre-raise.
"Final Fantasy is a series that has reinvented itself over and over again. Tabata, now director of Final Fantasy 15 as well as Type-0, is the spearhead of the revolution of the franchise."
Look, I'm not bad at RPGs. I love RPGs. My ideal scenario is a game with systems I can explore and explore and explore and explore and then exploit until I utterly break it. I'm sorry. It's my thing. (Hey, so, the enemies in the sunken submarine in FF7 can be morphed to stat sources; take your team of all-stats-255 to face Ruby sometime. Start with speed.)
I'm also not bad at action games. I'm not Dark Souls with a Rock Band controller good, but I've been doing this for a while now and there are very few challenges the triple-A industry throws at me I can't conquer. I can press the buttons at the appropriate time, in the appropriate sequence, at the appropriate timing.
But Jesus Christ on a perfectly salted cracker, Type-0 really does not fuck around. If you've ever maligned JRPGs for failing to require manual dexterity, then one: have you ever heard of Monster Hunter? And two: oh, wow, you may need some mustard on those words you're about to eat.
What really interests me about Type-0, now that I've played it with a helpful PR guide on a screen big enough to ease my hardcore-portable-Japanese-action-RPG phobia, is the way it does (summons, terrific haircuts, preposterous names, melodrama) and does not (intense action, constant difficulty) feel like Final Fantasy.
As a longterm fan, it is this combination of old and new that convinces me Type-0 it is a "proper" Final Fantasy game. Detractors hate to admit it, but Final Fantasy is a series that has reinvented itself over and over again. Tabata, now director of Final Fantasy 15 as well as Type-0, is the spearhead of the revolution of the franchise.
After ten years of flailing about and soft releases so accessible they're like thrusting your face in to cotton candy, Type-0 is a Final Fantasy that makes demands and brooks no compromises. With sharp edges, in fact. With teeth.