"...a tale of magic and war, told from the perspective of students who will not submit to a foreign power."
Nothing polarizes the role-playing gamer community like a new Final Fantasy title. Whether you love or hate the series and its assorted spin-off titles, you can't deny that any announcement of a Final Fantasy-branded title is an event all by itself. So when at E3 2006, Square Enix announced Final Fantasy Agito XIII, a mobile phone title that would play off the Final Fantasy XIII mythology, the reception was enthusiastic, skeptical, and many other adjectives to many other people. In that long time between announcement and today, things have changed. What was once Agito is now something else entirely, and in just a few months, Japan will see release of the renamed Final Fantasy Type-0 for the PlayStation Portable.
To briefly recap: what was once Final Fantasy Agito XIII for the mobile phone is now Final Fantasy Type-0 for the PSP, a sweeping, sprawling title spread over two UMDs. And though the "XIII" moniker is now gone from the game's title, the game still retains a tie to its Final Fantasy XIII roots - namely the mythological thread "Fabula Nova Crystallis." For all the non-Latin speakers out there, that roughly translates to "The New Tale of the Crystal." How does this separate Type-0 from the Final Fantasy XIII games - well, your guess is as good as mine. But expect thematic (if not character or setting) threads to carry over from the other FNC games: Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2, and Final Fantasy Versus XIII.
While the developers have officially announced little information regarding the plot of Type-0, the assets released and various gaming publications have been able to offer a few facts, which can be placed into something resembling a narrative. The world of Type-0 is one where four nations struggle for supremacy, with each nation's might embodied by a powerful crystal. Each crystal is protected by a magic academy, or "peristerium." As the game begins, the nation of Milites has used their crystal of science to become a juggernaut of war, with technology-savvy units and mechanical weapons. Using an invention called a "crystal jammer," Cid Oldstein, high commander of Milites, has managed to take over the Lolica Commonwealth and Concordia Kingdom, leaving only the nation of Rubrum to stand against Milites. The power of Rubrum's crystal has held back Milites for a time, but suddenly the crystal shatters, and Rubrum falls to Milites. All seems lost.
But at Suzaku, the magic academy named for the crystal it once protected, there is the Zero Class, a group of students who refuses to submit to Milites. Using the powers granted them by the crystal of magic, Suzaku's Zero Class raises the flag of Rebrum and begins taking on missions to free their nation and stop Milites.
The player in Type-0 controls twelve members of Zero Class, as well as two additional characters: Rem Tokimiya and Machina Kunagiri, giving the player a total of fourteen playable characters. All the characters use different weapons and have different abilities; for example, Ace uses a deck of magical cards in battle, while Nine is a spearman who jumps and strikes from the sky like the series' signature Dragoons. Rem uses a graceful blade with magic, while Machina uses twin blades capable of delivering huge combos. Aside from Rem and Machina, the members of Zero Class all have names based on types of playing cards, such as Jack, Cinque, Seven, and Trey.
Still based in the Suzaku peristerium, Zero Class is assigned missions from the class "Military Operations Organization, Guidance & Logistics Expert" or "MOOGLE." That's right, the cuddly mascot of the Final Fantasy series plays an in-game role, as Zero Class has its own moogle that provides them with guidance and directs them to missions. In fact, each class at Suzaku has its own moogle, and the thirteen moogles at the school make up an organization called the Cranberry Knights. Expect to interact with the class moogle often, as it delivers the missions that make up the bulk of the game's plot.
So given this setup, and this world that the characters inhabit, what can we expect the gameplay to be like in Type-0? Again, though we still don't know much, there have been a few bits and pieces released. Judging from screen captures and videos released, Type-0's combat seems similar to the previous Final Fantasy game for the PSP - Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Instead of controlling a single protagonist, however, the player has up to fourteen characters to choose from in order to make a party of three, but characters can be swapped out at times. Battles seem to be action-oriented, and some encounters can end with either defeat of all enemies or of a lead unit, causing the rest of the foes to surrender.
The developers have said from the beginning that magic is central to combat, which makes sense in the narrative since Rebrum's guardian crystal governs magic. Early reports indicate that magic can be used similarly to regular weapon attacks in other games, with each of the face buttons indicating a different type of attack or magical ability. Magic is customizable as well. In some instances magic abilities can be chained, or buttons can be held down to use more powerful versions of a given spell.
It appears that summons make a welcome re-appearance in Final Fantasy Type-0. Classic summons Ifrit, Golem, and Bahamut have all been spotted in gameplay images or confirmed by the development team. Summons replace party members in battle once summoned, but if a summon falls, the player has to make their way to a town and have the summon revived before being able to summon it again.
In a move likely to surprise no one, Square Enix has also announced that Type-0 contains multiplayer functionality. Details are purposefully vague, but producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Hajime Tabata have said that the multiplayer system could be used to help out other players for a short time, as if there were support party members included in battle. As with nearly every PSP title offered by Square, one can imagine that some form of co-op play through ad-hoc connectivity will be available, but no specifics about the multiplayer functionality (or whether there might be an online component) have been revealed at this time.
And really, that's about all we know about Final Fantasy Type-0 at this time: it is a tale of magic and war, told from the perspective of students who will not submit to a foreign power. There is no firm release date for Final Fantasy Type-0 as of yet, but the release window is expected to be this summer in Japan. A North American release has not been announced at this time, but don't fret, worldwide FF-fans! Director Tabata has said that he is trying to appeal to North American gamers as well with the release of this title. The expectation is that, like any other game branded with the words "Final" and "Fantasy," Type-0 will see a US release.
While you're waiting with bated breath for more news about Machina, Rem, and the rest of the Zero Class, stop by our Type-0 gallery which we're constantly updating with new assets. And keep tuning into RPGFan for more information as we hear it!