The long awaited Final Fantasy Type-0 is coming to the West in its brand new HD-remastered form this coming March. This past Tuesday, Brian Ashcraft and I stopped by Square Enix HQ in Tokyo for some hands-on time with the game.

Type-0 is an action RPG where you control a party of three characters you can switch between on the fly. Each character has his or her own unique weapon and special skill and can be equipped with a wide array of offensive and defensive magic.

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In the demo, we controlled three members of Class 0—Ace, Rem, and Seven. Ace wields a deck of cards which acts as a long-range weapon capable of attacking from multiple directions at once. He is also able to combine up to four cards to cast a random magic spell and has the ability to teleport short distances when he dodges. He is by far the most useful character in the demo (and the entire PSP version of the game, to be honest). Rem, on the other hand, is a dagger user and attacks in a wild pattern so that she dodges as she attacks. The final party member, Seven, uses a sword-whip (like Ivy in Soulcalibur). It acts as a mid-range weapon that is capable of attacking on all sides at once.

In the full game, the death of one of these characters would allow us to bring in any of the 11 other characters as a backup; however, the demo we played had the re-raise magic spell continually cast on the party, making it impossible for them to die. (Square Enix representatives informed us the full title will not have this feature.) Odd though it was to be unable to lose, it may have been for the best as it is doubtful we would have been able to finish the demo at all without this crutch. I speak from many hours of experience with the PSP version when I say Final Fantasy Type-0 is an unforgivingly difficult game. And as a game largely without phoenix downs and life resurrection spells, character death in battle is costly to the point of being crippling.

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In battle, normal attacks do little in the way of damage as you are basically just chipping away at an enemy's health. However, when enemies are charging with a powerful attack or immediately after they unleash one, there is often a prompt that appears. If your attack connects at this particular moment, it will do major damage, often killing the enemy in one hit. Learning the attack patterns and timing your attacks to hit the weak points of your enemy is the key to victory in Type-0.

The demo we played was one of the game's early missions (though not the first). In it, we took our Class 0 members into an assault on an enemy fortress—fighting everything from soldiers and magitek armor to cat-like monsters and giant golems.

After breaching the main gate of the fortress, we found ourselves trapped between two magical barriers with one of the aforementioned golems bearing down on us. It was at this point that Brian and I took our respective demo sessions in very different directions.

Because the golem was far too powerful to defeat at my level (as it can one-hit kill your characters), I dodged the golem until the Class 0's handler was able to remotely take down one of the barriers and allow us to continue on. Brian, in his demo, chose instead to break the other barrier by himself and continue the level that way—effectively skipping half the level.

I went on to clear out the lower portion of the fortress and disable the fortress’ defense system—gaining the ability to summon monsters as a reward. Brian did not. Instead he went directly for the top of the fortress, reaching the boss and fighting him just as I was starting my climb to the ramparts. However, while I was able to defeat the flying mecha boss with ease by controlling a summoned Ifrit, Brian had a much harder time as he only had Ace to do ranged attacks and Rem to do ranged magic. Seven was largely useless as she had neither. Party composition and equipped spells can drastically affect how effective your party is in Type-0.

Visually, the demo looked great. The action was quick, the animation fluid, and the textures detailed. It honestly doesn't look like an HD port of a PSP game. However, the demo did have a few camera issues. Sometimes it can't quite keep up with the speed of fast-moving targets, leaving you disoriented. It also doesn't react well to walls or floors. There were times when a lunging enemy knocked my character down beside a wall and I couldn't tell if I was standing or not given the camera angle. However, Square Enix representatives told us they were still tweaking the game's camera for the final release.

All in all, I had a good time with the demo, though I would have liked to play it with the ability to actually lose. However, as a player of the PSP version, I can say it did a good job of showing off what the game is all about outside of its crushing difficulty.

Final Fantasy Type-0 will be released in North America on March 17, 2015. It will include a playable demo of Tabata's other upcoming game, Final Fantasy XV.

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