3DS Game Re:Re:Reviews - Fantasy Life

12:27 PM

Welcome to what's hopefully to become somewhat long running series. Here I'm planning to write some reviews of some games I've enjoyed on the 3DS as the system turns 5 years old. A lot of these games will be pretty old, some from the system's early line up, and some released last month. It's not a comprehensive list of what's good on the 3DS, but rather a list of games I've played, liked and think that people who haven't tried them really should give these a shot. I'm aiming for a 1 game every other day schedule so hopefully I can keep that up for a good week or two.

Today, we look at a game you probably won't have played or even heard of. Here's Level-5's Fantasy Life.

Fantasy Life was released October 4th, 2014 (North America) and developed by Level-5. It was published by Nintendo for North America and Europe.

Fantasy Life is probably a title most would expect on a list of recommended games for the 3DS. It received mixed critical reviews, and while it came out with a fair amount of fan-fair, the buzz around the game died down pretty quickly. As much as it's liked, among Level-5's output, it unfortunately ends up being an “also ran” game, out performed by the likes of Professor Layton and Youkai Watch.

Fantasy Life has a similar charm to Animal Crossing in it's goofy characters and oddly calm world. As an RPG, it's definitely more guided than Animal Crossing is, but the fun to be had is largely up to how you want to have fun. Outside of the story missions, it's really about how you explore and interact with the world. Are you going to go on the classic heroic adventure as a Mercenary, hacking and slashing your way through the game, or are you going to take the more novel route, saving the world as a craftsman, like a Carpenter?

One of the best and unique aspects of Fantasy Life is it's job system or “Life” as it's known as in game. There are three Life categories: Combat, Crafting and Gathering. All of them are viable ways to play the game. Craftsmen level up by making things, while gathering classes level up by gathering the resources the class is based around. Anglers fish, Miners pick away at ores, while Lumberjacks fell trees out in the fields. The best way to play the game is by mixing and matching these classes – Craftsmen really benefit from the ability to gather up the relevant resources as Gatherer classes, while Combat classes do best when using crafted weapons, which are far superior to the store bought stuff. It's in this symbiotic class system where the job system shines. As each class is a perfectly viable way to play the game, you could complete the story entirely as one of the Craftsmen classes, saving the world from impending doom as a Chef, one dish at a time.

The story for the game is pretty generic JRPG material but the characters are just so fun and goofy that I'd forgive some of the weaker story beats that revolve around them. You're saving the world, but there really aren't any bad guys in the story. The big, dark, evil sorcerer in the neighbouring kingdom? Nope, just a goofy story made up between the kings of your country and theirs. A dark goddess trying to win the world? Never mind, she's just trying to fix things too. It's just a happy, sweet time in this world, where everything bad comes with a silly spoonful of sugar. The DLC adds another area, while also putting one very sweet bow to tie up the the loose ends left by the main story. The DLC ending really is “true” ending of the game in that it's much more satisfying, both in story and emotionally, but isn't necessary for a full experience. The main game's ending is perfectly fine, but the DLC means more Fantasy Life.

Another thing that I didn't get super into, but thought was really neat, were the houses. You can buy different houses throughout the game in each of the different cities. They serve as save points and quick travel points. Carpenters can build both decorative and functional furniture for houses – beds, storage chests, closets etc. You could essentially go all Animal Crossing on your houses and really personalize and decorate your house.

Multiplayer is a great way for gathering or crafting classes to get extra experience and hard to get items deep in the fields. Party up with some combat classes and have them take out the monsters while you plunder the land of resources. Unfortunately, the combat isn't quite deep enough to require specific tactics outside of “kill anything that's aggressive”. Still, playing with other people makes running around in the fields a fun and relaxing time.

It's not all rainbows and lollipops with Fantasy Life, however. It suffers from a common problem in that it's UI is clunky, particularly in crafting. There's no way to view the recipes outside of the crafting stations, making it a real chore to figure out what you need for that sword or table. Having the crafting recipes up on a separate device, or in the 3DS browser is probably the best way to keep tabs on items you need.
Combat is pretty simple, with (if memory serves me correct) 2 weapon combos, a charged attack and combat skills. It's definitely got some finesse to it, especially once you're up against higher level enemies, but for the most part, you generally don't need to be fighting smart to do well. My favourite part of combat is when defeating “boss enemies” (enemies in quotation marks as this also applies to “boss ore veins”, “boss trees” and “boss fish”) they turn into hauling items. If you want the loot and money for defeating them, you'll have to lug them back to town and turn them into the guild office for your reward.

For all the game's polish, the Guild Offices feel oddly incomplete. Only the main town, Castele, has the multiplayer desk staffed, whereas the same desk in other cities are unmanned. It'd be nice if those were filled to make things easier on people needing missions in other regions of the world. It'd be nice if there were a reason given for the lack of staffing at the other offices because it just feels odd to always see the vacant desk.

Another potential problem, and one that popped up a lot in reviews of the game, is that it can feel like a check list. It's simple gameplay doesn't always lend itself to fun, occasionally becoming a repetitive slog of busy work, like gathering up items for townsfolk or crafting items for people. Once you've seen the story through and all that's left are the towns people's requests, the game loses a lot of it's shine without the forward momentum of the story.

Overall, Fantasy Life is a fun and charming time of a game. Blending some aspects of Animal Crossing, RPGs and Level-5's always fun games, it's a that's great for almost everybody. My biggest disappointment with the game is that the sequel is a smart phone exclusive. It's due to be released sometime this year, and I don't think we'll see it outside of Japan. 

You Might Also Like