Final Fantasy Type-0 HD Hands-On

You've probably already heard this from general buzz over the last couple of years, including a glowing import review here on RPG Site, but Final Fantasy Type-0 is rather good. Sure, it isn't the next Final Fantasy VI or VII - but it's an excellent game all the same.

Despite that, when I first get my hands on the high definition port of the game, set to release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One next year, I'm concerned. One of the things about Type-0 that made it special is that it was cleverly designed around the restrictions of its hardware. 

Despite humble beginnings as a game for cell phones as Agito XIII, Type-0 now looks like this.

That doesn't just go for visuals, which are more easily upgraded, but also for gameplay. As a Tokyo resident who commutes daily, the game was built with an understanding for that kind of lifestyle with a bite-sized, on-and-off, on-the-go friendly mission structure that might, I worry, be a little bit disjointed in a comfy couch and big screen setting.

The question of how that'll work out in the end is one that isn't satisfied by my hands-on, which only gives me the briefest glimpse at a small mission that is essentially identical in structure to what I remember from my time with the PSP version - save, of course, some demo-friendly tweaks.

One of the few real negative points in Type-0 was its camera, and while it wasn't perfect in this build of the HD version, the problem is immediately significantly remedied by control of the camera now being mapped to the right stick - something that of course wasn't possible on the PSP. This still needs a little work, however, with the sensitivity seemingly way too intense for the sort of movements trained into my thumb by other similar third person action games. 

Something that made sense on the PSP's tiny screen was an aggressive lock-on that would snap your camera to an enemy without any sort of delay when you hit the button to activate lock-on - but on a bigger screen, it feels jarring. It's here that the difference between a big-screen title and how this port attempts to bridge that gap, is most obvious.

It's very easy to forget this came from a handheld, even if it doesn't look like a game at full PS4 or Xbox One quality.

Visually, Type-0 HD is something of a joy. While no doubt the debate about the full-ticket retail price of what is essentially an enhanced port and not a remake will rage on, what I can say as somebody with significant experience with the original title is that the visual overhaul is quite impressive.

Make no mistake - this doesn't look like a fully-fledged PlayStation 4 or Xbox One title, and doesn't reach the heights that Final Fantasy XIII does visually, but having spent 50-some hours with the humble visual beginnings from which it came, Type-0 HD impresses. It's very easy to forget this came from a handheld, even if it doesn't look like a game at full PS4 or Xbox One quality.

High-resolution textures seem to pop with a more colorful palette than on the PSP, and character models seem similarly improved. 

There are, of course, telltale signs as to Type-0's origins littered throughout. Animations are more stiff and limited than one is used to from big-screen titles, for instance, and geometry is generally more jagged than you'd expect, having not been given the same attention as character models and effects. As pretty as it comparatively is to the original, this is very obviously still a game with its roots on the PSP.

That makes it all the more mind-boggling that this game is only coming to PS4 and Xbox One, where another PSP port, Assassin's Creed: Liberation, made its way to Xbox 360 and PS3.

Story sequences at once provide some of the most strikingly impressive visuals and some of the bigger close-up shots that expose the upgrade work.

Much of the best visual work in Type-0 HD appears to be done by a new lighting engine which really gives a modern, high-definition sheen to work that without it might look a little cheap. Whatever the trickery is, when in action and with a silky smooth frame rate, Type-0 HD ends up looking rather pretty - but always with that notable caveat kept in mind: this is a PSP game. It never quite looks impressive in its own right.

In gameplay terms, the game plays much as I remember it - and for me, it remains the most interesting and fun Final Fantasy title in a decade. If you want to know more about how Type-0 plays, I highly suggest you read our review of the PSP original - nothing of any note has changed at the core, though there are to be more difficulty levels and generally tweaked gameplay for fairness.

Only time with the final release will tell how Type-0 HD's handheld-friendly mission structure plays out on the big screen, and the pricing does seem a little much for a re-release of an older game - even if the West never received it in the first place. 

Even with that said, I'd struggle not to recommend it to people - it's an excellent game, and this version seems to in all aspects be an improvement over the original.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is set to launch in March 2015, and is available for pre-order now. The first print run of the game will include a playable demo of Final Fantasy XV.