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Final Fantasy Type-0 is the bloodiest, darkest game in the series yet

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I don't remember the last Final Fantasy game I played that featured blood as prominently as Final Fantasy Type-0.

Type-0 — originally named Final Fantasy Agito 13 — is, at its core, a game about sending children to war. The game was released for PlayStation Portable in Japan in 2011 and never brought stateside, leaving English-speaking Final Fantasy fans in the dust. At E3 earlier this year, Square Enix announced that the game would be localized and ported to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, giving international players a crack at taking Class Zero — the game's cast of magic and weapon-wielding soldiers — into battle.

Square Enix has been very open about how developers strove to make a more mature Final Fantasy experience. But as I play, I immediately notice the explosion of blood that follows absorbing a fallen enemy's powers. Their corpse floats into the air, you press a button and, in absorbing their power, they burst in a spurt of blood.

As I run up stone stairways, I notice blood smears on the ground. I turn a corner to join my comrades in battle, and I walk through blood splatters. I don't remember a Final Fantasy game with this much visible blood.

This visual maturity extends to the combat. During my hands-on time with the game, I was reminded of the fast-paced, open nature of Kingdom Hearts games and the discouraging difficulty of Final Fantasy 12 bosses. Type-0 takes real-time combat, dials the speed up to 11 and then throws in handfuls of enemies that frustrate, infuriate and require some serious patience to kill. I became annoyed very quickly — I hadn't been this angry since fighting Barthandelus in Final Fantasy 13.

Type-0 lets you switch seamlessly between three playable characters, which can be selected before each mission from a pool of 14 playable heroes. Switching on the fly in combat is instantaneous and feels powerful, as you can immediately jump into magic and physical attacks, so long as you have enough magic points. In my party, I had a powerful magic user, a physical heavy-hitter and a hero with better ranged attacks, which helped me take down a variety of enemies with different strengths.

Enemies seem more powerful than previous series' installments, often needing a dozen hits to taken them down. Some enemies also have the ability to sneak more attacks in on you before you can react, requiring at least a dozen health-restoring potions on hand.

But that feeling of frustration quickly faded as I realized what Type-0 is: It's the game for the mature Final Fantasy fan. The game that people like me, who played the original Final Fantasy as a tiny, wide-eyed child, have been waiting for. The series has matured with us, for better and for worse, but Type-0 is the only one I am currently comfortable calling the most mature.

Final Fantasy 7 had its moments, as did Final Fantasy 10 and Lightning Returns. But Type-0 takes the fanciful Final Fantasy obsession with crystals and magical creatures and warps it into something dark and somewhat terrifying.

Final Fantasy Type-0 will launch on March 17, 2015, for PS4 and Xbox One.