You know a game is going to capture your attention and adoration when the opening scene makes you burst into tears.
As with most Final Fantasy games, story is king, and it's done on a pretty epic scale. (Trying to write spoiler-free here, so no plot giveaways intended...) The game centers around a war, in which you control a class of elite cadets -Class Zero. Each Agito Cadet is trained in a different weapon specialisation, but all are equally deadly.
At first, having so many characters at your disposal - and, of course, having to level and outfit them all with the relevant equipment - is a pretty daunting prospect. In reality, despite the game putting a specific emphasis on the need to level them all equally, you'll probably find yourself favouring and performing better with a select few; and sticking with those most of the time. That's not to say there's no need to try and keep them all leveled to a certain extent - whenever a cadet is knocked out in battle, one of the reserves can jump into the fray to take their place, and an under-leveled Cadet could mean the difference between life and death.
Battle itself is where this game comes alive, with its mix of fast paced action and elements of strategy combined. You choose three of the cadets to form a team to take into battle, equipping different spells and abilities dependent on the enemy you'll be facing. Anyone who gets knocked out can be immediately replaced with another cadet from your reserves, so you're rarely left short.
You can also accept the support of other cadets, and they will join you at random intervals throughout the mission to help take down enemies. Using these is entirely optional, but not only are they super handy, it also nets you SPP (that’s Special Power Points...or something), which you can cash in for new items and equipment in the Command Center back at Akademia.
The missions themselves are basic, and come in two different guises - taking over bases and towns in a standard, point A to point B type affair, sprinkled with a few RTS missions (which I didn't take to as well as I could have done, but were nonetheless enjoyable). The only criticism of them, really, is that not only are they short, but they're very linear. This is countered, however, with the appearance of what every Final Fantasy fan yearns for - a lovely, sprawling world map to traverse between towns and dungeons; and also side quests. Simple, yes, and you can only take on one at a time - but they are there, and that's what really makes these games the enriching environments and experiences that they are.
Although not on par with the graphical quality we're anticipating from XV when it's released this year, Type-0 has a lot to offer as a separate game in its own right
Between all of these missions, the cadets are based in Akademia, which is for all intents and purposes a military school producing the sort of deadly students Battle Royale would be proud of. When you finish a mission, you're given a certain time (which varies) until the next one starts, and this timer goes down dependent on your actions and what tasks you choose to undertake in your free time. Talking to and completing quests for people with an '!' above their heads will take two hours off your time, exiting the school to take a stroll around the world map will take off six. There's plenty to do while you're there, as well - different sections of the school reveal plenty of different characters and conversations, and the combat simulator is a good way to gain experience and get used to the different cadet's own weapons and abilities.
By far the best part, though, is the Chocobo Ranch. Chocobos can be used as a form of transport across the map if you want to avoid battles. You can also breed and raise your very own big yellow birds, with different greens and circumstances dictating what sort of bird you'll get out of a mating. It's a nice diversion and reminiscent of the breeding side quest in Final Fantasy VII.
Although not on par with the graphical quality we're anticipating from XV when it's released this year,Type-0 has a lot to offer as a separate game in its own right, and the cut-scenes have been done to a fabulous and beautiful standard. It's fun to play, the story is captivating and engaging, and its not afraid to pull a few punches with your emotions, either. The story could easily become too dark and depressing, but it's equally weighted with the humour and personality of the cadets and other characters. Releasing this was a good move on Square Enix's part, and it's a joy to be able to finally play it.