To recap from past previews of Final Fantasy Type-0, the PSP action role-playing game lets you control a group of students from a magic school called Suzaku as they fight off the invading Milites Empire. In this case, the students you control are from Class Zero school, and they are indeed a diverse cast in terms of personalities and skill sets. Think the last few Harry Potter books but with summons, airships, and chocobos instead of sorting hats and Quidditch.
The game implements a system called the "kill sight." Whenever you lock onto an enemy using the right trigger for a good amount of time, the reticle will flash either red or yellow. When your attacks connect during the flash, you will either instantly kill or deal a huge amount of damage to the enemy. Given the number of enemies you'll be facing, it's a good idea to thin the herd as quickly as possible before your team of students become overwhelmed.
When in such a situation, you can call forth a giant summon by pressing the circle and X buttons together mid-battle at the expense of one of your students. Whether you control Ifrit, Golem, Shiva, Diabolos, or Bahamut, they'll be around for only 30 seconds, so you better make the most of their hard-hitting attacks and self-buffs.
Furthermore, you can acquire different summons in certain summon classes via free-roaming, completing certain special orders during missions, or doing quests in the second playthrough of the game. For instance, the Ifrit class summon Rubicante (a nod to one of FFIV's boss) has automatic regeneration, while the Golem class summon Gigas can hang around the battlefield for an additional 10 seconds.
Now that the basics are out of the way, we can give you a brief rundown on each of the students. Do note that, by default, students have normal attacks mapped to the triangle button, their magic spells mapped onto the square button, and their special ability mapped onto the circle button. They can dodge or let loose a defensive skill like a wall barrier with the X button. You can upgrade each student's skills and abilities using accumulated action points (AP) from levelling them up. You can also customise their move sets by making them wield two different kinds of magic or just two different skills.
Ace: You start off with this student right after the 10-minute intro scene. He uses magic cards (not the Wizards of the Coast kind) to cut his opponents to death from a good distance. Pressing the circle button allows him to store card charges, in which he can unleash them with the triangle button. Cards stored have colour-coded properties; if the majority of cards stored are red, Ace will do a hi-burst attack that damages any foe within range.
The support deck skill will give Ace a higher chance of storing white cards for his deck open skill, which casts Stop onto enemies, while the Trap Card skill lets Ace lay down the magical equivalent of pipe bombs onto the ground, which can be triggered only by him. While his hit points are average, he's still good for beginners because his standard ranged attack hits pretty well for a midranged weapon.
Deuce: Instead of her other battle-hardy classmates, she uses a flute that summons floating energy balls and all sorts of ranged magic attacks. The downside is that she's not really good in the melee weapons department despite her sole close-combat upgrade. She represents the Bard/Dancer archetype in which she should be kept at the back to support her frontline-tailored companions.
Choice upgrades include Concerto, which casts Protect and Aura, and Crescendo, which buffs up the party's regular attacks. You should also upgrade each of Deuce's flute abilities (Concerto Guard and Serenade Guard) so she doesn't flinch when under fire while using the flute.
Trey: Someone needed to fill up the archer role in a Final Fantasy title, and the quiet and reserved Trey is up to the task. In addition to using his bow and arrows to pick off enemies from afar, he can charge up his shots up to three levels for additional damage. Our personal favourite unlockable skill was Freeze Shot, which makes him shoot out a volley of arrows onto a designated area that stops enemies in their tracks.
Trey can also place traps for opponents on the ground. If they come across it, not only will they have their hit points drained, but they'll be susceptible to kill sight attacks more so than usual. His assortment of skills makes him ideal for advanced users who can misuse his traps, while helping his team from afar.
Cater: This brash young lady wields a gun that shoots out magical bullets. She also moves faster than the rest of the cast. Her upgrades and abilities include charging her magic shots automatically when not firing, using snipe mode to hit her enemies with precise shots, and firing elemental bullets with different properties (that is, fire shots home onto enemies).
We felt that she was a good beginner character since her magic bullets have a lot of options in terms of hindering the majority of foes. Do treat her like you would a typical ranged character: good from afar and midrange, but terrible up-close.
Cinque: The wild card of Class Zero carries a big stick alongside her unpredictable personality. By "stick" we mean "giant hammer mace thing." Her slow attack speed takes some time to get used to in a pool filled with fast hitters, but her upgrades are worth it if you're patient enough. Her Earthquake not only dishes out the pain onto surrounding enemies, but also inflicts Stun, which makes them vulnerable for a few seconds. Her Mace Hurricane attack lets her do a full sweep attack that knocks back the enemy while she's moving.
Her normal attacks can be buffed up using the Full Swing enhancement, provided you hold down the attack button when striking. She can activate Revenge Blast, which makes her deal more damage with critical properties if her hit points are low. As it stands, though, we do not recommend using her at the early stages of the game unless you're willing to spend time learning her attack animation patterns.
Sice: This quiet white-haired girl carries a large scythe as her weapon of choice. Her strikes allow her to move across parts of the battlefield pretty quickly, making her a good hit-and-run character with a decent attack rating. By killing enemies, she can absorb hatred that powers up the scythe's damage and also strengthens her Dark Nebula projectile attack.
Her upgrades include adding a stop effect to her Dark Nebula spell, casting an area-of-effect Dark Zone spell that expends her accumulated hatred, and summoning a Black Hole, which brings nearby enemies to a spot that can help set up future scythe and Dark Nebula attacks. She can also cancel from casting spells with a melee attack in case she sees an enemy in hot pursuit. If you need a character with a good balance of attack and magic spells, Sice is your girl.
Seven: Players who like to use Ivy in the SoulCalibur series may want to take a gander at Seven. Armed with a whip sword, she can tag enemies with her special move Catch to pull herself close to her target while unleashing a two-hit spin attack. Upgrading Catch allows her to stun her target with a jolt of electricity, making them possibly vulnerable for future attacks.
When fighting against elemental-powered monsters, she can change up her whip sword's properties with different elements to exploit their weaknesses. In addition, you can unlock Bondage Whip, which makes whip sword spikes pop up from the ground and has a high chance to cast Stop onto its targets. While she's not as tough to use as Cinque, her attack patterns required us to adjust our melee tactics accordingly.
Eight: Filling in the monk archetype of the series is Eight, who uses his fists to do most of the talking on the battlefield. Even though he doesn't have the best range when compared to the rest of the melee-focused cast, he still has a few tricks up his sleeves. For one, he hits and moves pretty fast while also being able to chain a lot of his attacks without using his ability gauge via his Kata skills.
For instance, his wrecker style starts off with a palm attack, followed by either a projectile attack or multi-hit kicks depending on the next input. Upgrading the Kata further allows Eight to cast a pillar of fire, as well as do a quick tackle within the chain attacks. This also means that his chain attacks from his Kata moves require a bit of forward planning as the attacks for each of them are varied in animations and recovery time. It's better to have two magic-users backing him up in a team.
Nine: You also start off the game with this spear-wielding hothead. Taking lessons from Final Fantasy IV's Kain, he can perform Jump to deal big damage to anyone he lands onto with his spear. Unlike most characters' reach, his reach is pretty decent, and he can move forward when attacking.
He also has a ranged attack of sorts: Throw Lancer lets him dish out damage to an enemy within a long range. His unlockable skills include Spiral Lance, which makes him pull enemies closer while doing a chain of attacks; Houkou, which makes enemies close to him freeze in their tracks; and additional buffs to his Jump attack. He may not be the best in using magic, but he has the highest hit points among the rest of the cast, making him an ideal tank for a team.
Jack: The samurai sword-wielding joker hits really hard at the expense of a limited combo skill set. Yes, he can do a three-hit combo with an upgrade, but he's more of a one-hit kill melee character early on in the game. His style is further amplified by his Concentration skill, which powers up the next hit and a counterattack move with a strict timing.
Personally, we just went all-out with a mix of one-hit strikes and dodging while spending his AP on his attack power and a passive skill that lets him do critical attacks from behind. His other unlockable skills impressed us: Issen Toppa reduces a single enemy's defence while Hikiwatashi makes Jack home in on enemies with a quick attack when kill sight flashes. In the hands of an advanced player, he is a must-have in any skirmish against higher-levelled enemies and is living proof that the samurai-type character in any Final Fantasy title is overpowered.
Queen: She is the sword-wielding bookworm you start off with alongside Nine and Ace. Her trademark ability is Cross Judge, which makes her summon a revolving cross aura as she stands still. Any party member who comes close to the aura will gain health back (if you upgrade her ability). Coincidentally, enemies within the aura will have their hit points drained.
You can also tinker around with her other abilities; Energy Bomb makes her shoot out balls of energy that split apart and are hurled onto foes, while Dash makes her rush into enemies quickly to strike them down without their being able to counterattack. Her melee attacks were decent, but we still used her as a support character, particularly when we upgraded her Cross Judge so that it rotates faster and gives back more health to any party members nearby.
King: Another ranged character, King wields two handguns and looks cool doing it. Unlike Cater, he can move around and shoot at the same time. He also prefers blowing things up John Woo-style instead of using magic. After 12 shots, however, he has to reload his guns, which make him momentarily vulnerable. Do keep an eye at the bottom left counter, as it indicates how many bullets he has left before he reloads.
King can use Powered Bullet, which lets out a close-ranged explosive attack in case you're surrounded by enemy soldiers. When in doubt, he can also let loose a kick to push away any enemy in front of him. The unlockable skill Magazine Bomb makes King chuck out a gun magazine that acts as a grenade. His hit points and defence are pretty decent for a ranged character; use him if you need a hard-hitting midranged character.
Machina: One of the newcomers in Class Zero, he wields a pair of drill-shaped rapiers. His attacks are pretty fast, thus making him an ideal character to exploit the kill sight function early on in the game. He can activate Spin Drive, which turns him into a spinning top of doom as long as he has enough AG to consume. Upgrading the move allows him to increase his damage, as well as add in a swift kick as the move finishes.
He can also assume the assault mode stance, where Machina's hit points fill up and he performs rush blade attacks until he gets interrupted by enemies. Upgrading this stance will make him continue assault mode even when he is hurt.
Rem: The other newcomer alongside Machina, she specialises in magic while dual-wielding a pair of daggers. What makes her stand out among the rest is that she's the only one who can raise dead party members during a mission, albeit for a short time. She can also cast a variety of spells that can fill up mana points, be it in an offensive manner (Aspir Venom) or a party-affecting spell (Convert).
Among the magic-savvy cast like Ace and Deuce, she benefits the most from equipping two spells thanks to the aforementioned mana-sponging abilities and the fact that she has the highest stats for mana points and all element magic powers among the cast. We recommend putting her behind two melee characters in a team so that she can exploit her spells from afar for the benefit of the party.
To say that the action RPG has depth is a huge understatement. With the many skills and different play styles of each student, you are sure to find your favourite combination of characters to use in either the story mode or the optional mission lists, which let you replay past missions. Final Fantasy Type-0 may be out now in Asia in Japanese, but an English version has yet to be announced.