This past week in Tokyo, Kotaku was able to sit down with Final Fantasy Type-0 director Hajime Tabata and talk with him about the game's upcoming HD remaster — what's new, what's cut, and why the game is so damned hard.
In the West, there is no doubt Final Fantasy Type-0 is one of the most anticipated of Square Enix's upcoming titles — especially since the original PSP version never left Japanese shores. Tabata never expected his game to be so desired by foreign audiences.7
"I was surprised and I am continuously surprised by the reactions of the Western audience." But he was even more amazed by the reaction he received when it was announced he was directing Final Fantasy XV. "I got comments that said 'you're going at it in the wrong order' so I was surprised about how passionate people were about having Type-0 come to Western audiences."
Even though most Western gamers have not played Final Fantasy Type-0, I personally played it back when it was first released in Japan. And when I did, there was one thing I felt more than anything else: This game is unforgivingly difficult.
A nearly complete lack of resurrection spells and phoenix downs means that the deaths of characters are quite final; you can't simply bring them back. And while you have 14 characters to cycle through, once they are all dead, it's game over.
Moreover, if, for example, a dungeon's boss can fly and you have no ranged characters left alive or have no ranged magic equipped, you cannot win. You will likely have to start the dungeon over completely — losing 30 minutes to an hour of progress. While I found this more than a bit frustrating, Tabata explained that this was by design.
"The whole setting of Type-0 is that you are in a war and these kids form a special ops team," he said. "And you've got these very talented individuals who are very proficient in their given weapons but are also capable of equipping magic as they progress. So you are kind of strategising on which character and what equipment combination would be most suitable for a particular mission and executing that activity.
Continuing, Tabata said, "I wanted to emphasise knowing the characters you have in your party. You have 14 students and each of them has his or her individual abilities. So it's a combination of skill, weapons, and magic — trying to understand your characters... so that you can fully equip them appropriately — so you can send them into the mission. Of course, there is an ideal way of beating your monsters, but you also want to be faced with the reality of if you don't plan appropriately, you've got the reality of failure of the mission. And I felt it wouldn't be right to spoon feed the direction — it kind of spoils the fun of being able to strategise and go into battle and execute your plans seamlessly."
However, that's not to say that Tabata was unsympathetic to players who might find the game unenjoyable because of its difficulty. Not only has the PSP game's annoyingly long loading time for a mission retry been vastly improved, he has opted to create a new easy mode for the HD version of the game.
In the PSP version of the game, normal attacks do little damage. As Tabata put it, "The main mechanic of [the game] is not just hitting the enemy and attacking the enemy, it's more about strategising and getting the enemy off guard and knocking them down." However, he understands that this can be difficult. So in the new easy mode, characters do more damage, level up quicker, and have higher defence. However, he hopes that once people master the easy mode, they will play it on normal mode as it was originally designed.
Yet, while some features have been added or tweaked, others have been cut in their entirety — namely coop. The original PSP game allowed you to play ad-hoc with up to two other human players in your party. However, to do that in the HD release, the coop mode would have had to be entirely redesigned for online play; so the feature was removed.
"The reason why we made this decision was because what prompted us to make a Western version of Type-0 in the first place was the demand from the fans. So we wanted to deliver the game as quickly as possible to the fans. So rather than taking time to remake [the coop mode], I would rather keep as many of the original elements as possible but still deliver a game as quickly as possible to satisfy the demands of the fans."
Final Fantasy Type-0 will be released in North America and Europe on March 21, 2015 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It will include a playable demo of Tabata's other upcoming game, Final Fantasy XV.