The story takes place in a world called Orience. There are four major nations fighting wars against each other, and what stood out in the war is the Akademeia of Rubrum nation, which hosts a number of military cadets specialised in combat. Class Zero is one of the reason why Akademeia are feared by the military opposition, for being extremely skilled magic users as fighters.
While the story is interesting in some ways, it fell short until the end due to poorly explained terms, weak character developments, and poor story pacing. Completing the game once will not explain much of the game's lore, but reading through the in-game's encyclopedia called Annals of Orience after completing the game will explain certain mysteries. Not only that, second playthrough on the game will allow you to unlock new Story Missions as well as new scenes to clarify many of the game's mysteries.
Many of the game characters have poor character development as well as chaarcterisation. It is difficult to relate with any of the characters in the game due to little to no story exposure on them. Class Zero's members are not outstanding in terms of personalities when treated individually, but Class Zero itself can be an interesting character if treated the members collectively. Villains such as Cid are not well explained in the game, like motives.
This game is an action RPG, with real-time combat and it allows you to switch characters during combat. Unlike recent Final Fantasy games where you can only travel to interconnected areas, the World Map feature from older Final Fantasy games return in this game, where you can freely travel to dungeons or cities.
2) Exploration and Progression Section
The game progression is simple. The game's story separated into multiple Chapters, and you must complete Story Missions to progress the story. Before you do so however, you can need to pass time in your home base, Akadameia. Before you can start a Story Mission, you need to pass the time such as initiating Events with your Class Zero members, NPCs, or complete optional side quests called Tasks by interacting with NPC. However, you can only take one side quest at a time, and you can find them in Akadameia or other towns in different chapters. Different Tasks offer different rewards, but most of them are beneficial in completing them.
During your Free Time or Mission Time, you can freely explore the World Map to fight monsters, discover new towns or dungeons, or complete your optional Tasks. However, upon returning from exploring World Map during Free Time, you will spend a certain amount of hours required to start a Story Mission.
During Missions, you must complete your objectives to complete your Mission. Mission Objectives are simple, such as going to your destination and fight bosses. You will be awarded accordingly on how well you done in a Mission, such as money and items.
3) Upgrading and Customisation Section
The leveling system is simple. You gain experience points after defeating an enemy. However, only Cadets that are selected for that Mission will receive experience points, including reserves. Non-selected Cadets will not receive any experience points unless chosen in the party, either as active members or reserves. Gaining a level will increase their stats and reward them Ability Points (AP).
AP is needed to learn new abilities for each Cadet. Each Cadet in Class Zero has different sets of abilities. For example, Jack learns abilities related to his quick draw and katana weaponry, and King learns abilities related to his shooting skills. Learning a new Ability will sometimes unlock new ones, so you should learn new abilities for each member of Class Zero as much as you can.
You may also equip the Class Zero members with newer weapons and accessories They can be found while exploring in hostile areas, buying them from shops, or obtaining them as Mission Rewards. You may also choose to upgrade your Magic abilities by spending Phantoma. However, upgrading different types of Magic is not simple. If you upgrade a certain stat of a Magic ability, some of the stats of that particular magic may be degraded. Careful planning on magic leveling is highly recommended.
4) Combat Section
This game uses real-time action battle system, where you can move and attack in real-time just like regular action games. In combat, you can switch between active members in the combat, or switch out with your reserve members if they get killed in combat. You may also dodge attacks, use Magic, and use Abilities. You may set your commands during the mission preparation, such as Magic and Abilities.
There are not many techniques in the game, but each Class Zero member has different weaponry, abilities, and playing style. For example, Ace and Trey are long-ranged fighters, whereas Jack and Eight are close-ranged fighters. With proper setup on abilities, weapons, and accessories, each Class Zero member can be powerful when you play them correctly. They also have their own drawbacks, such as King has reload time after firing his guns until his ammunition is empty.
You must damage enemies until their HP is zero to defeat them. Bosses are usually tougher than regular enemies, so proper strategy should be planned out. After enemies are killed, you can harvest their Phantoma, which you can use to complete side quests or use them to upgrade your Magic abilities.
5) Gameplay Conclusion
The gameplay is decent, and it has some nice ideas. World Map exploration is a welcomed addition, return from the older Final Fantasy games. Combat is fast-paced and exhilarating, and each Class Zero member has unique fighting style and abilities. Learning new Abilities feels progressively good, and the Magic customisation is pretty well-designed. Good time management feature, decent boss battles, some good variety of enemies to be fought, and lots of side content, especially New Game Plus. There are however, some issues remain in the game.
First of all, the game progression is not exciting. There are no variety of obstacles that halt your progress in the Missions, such as puzzles. Most of the time you will fight enemies, travel to another mission area, repeat, or do another objective. Party members A.I. are also problematic, and you can't give them commands to do specific actions, which is personally bad to me. They will however, heal the active party member that you control whenever possible. Dungeon and town designs are repetitive, as well. Camera system was an issue until an update was released later to fix it as well as the motion blurring.
However, keep in mind that this game is originally ported from the PSP version, so many of the gameplay features are made for a portable and less powerful console. For a handheld console, this game is actually pretty ambitious over other handheld game. As a home console game, the features may not be accepted readily for players like me who often play RPGs on home consoles. Regardless, this game has some solid gameplay features, with several issues.
This game has remastered graphics, with better colours and details on many of the game's main characters. Class Zero members look better than the average NPCs, but the environments themselves are mostly repetitive, where many dungeons and towns have similar designs and style. Average NPCs also don't look as good as the main characters in the game. While some of the background environments look good, they are still repetitive. Overall, the remastered graphics is passable, but not great.
Unfortunately, the English voice acting in this game weak, with many characters having poor dialogues as well as occasional unsuitable voices. However, the fault should be blamed on both voice direction and localisation. I can't comment on the Japanese voice acting since I do not use that voice option. The soundtrack is decent, with few good themes. The game's theme song is the highlight however, with a nice reprise of the main theme of Final Fantasy series.
This game has good replay value. You can play the game again in New Game Plus mode with your levels and items carried over, as well as able to unlock new scenes and items. Admittedly, playing the game once won't clear up many mysteries remaining in the game after completing the game once. Subsequent playthroughs using the same save may clear some of the mysteries, as well as able to unlock new endings. You may also able to unlock new items in new playthroughs as well as completing new Quests in the game's Chapters.
Ultimately, this game is decently good, with some great ideas such as the darker theme of war, interesting lore, fun combat, the return of World Map, good replay value, great variety of playable characters, and lots of side content. However, this game suffers some major issues, particularly the story aspect as there are no proper buildup on many events in the game, and many vital scenes are locked in the bestiary Annals of Orience, as well as many secret scenes only unlockable in the secnd playthrough. I admit, the game's plot is lost to me particularly in the second half of the game, and many of the terms used in the game's lore are complicated for me to follow. The remastered graphics are not incredibly well-done either, and the English voice acting is very weak, personally. Many of the game's characters are not memorable as well, especially Class Zero members like Machina and Rem. However, this game is still worth a try for Action RPG fans, but be cautious that the game may not be the best among other Action RPG games.
Pros and Cons
- Interesting story and lore.
- Fun combat.
- Good progression for leveling, Magic system and learning Abilities.
- Excellent variety of fourteen unique playable characters.
- New Game Plus offers new cutscenes and missions.
- Return of World Map exploration.
- Decent remastered graphics on main character models.
- Good replay value.
- Poor story developments.
- Unmemorable characters.
- Not many variety of mission objectives.
- Lack of commands for A.I. teammates.
- Poorly designed mission area locations and dungeons.
- Remastered graphics don't mesh well with environments and supporting NPCs.
- Weak English voice acting.