Fantasy Life (3DS) Review
Fantasy Life is a bit of a weird game to attempt to explain to somebody. It’s part Animal Crossing, and part classic Final Fantasy. But it never really attempts to reach either heights of those franchises at any point throughout its, well, “life”. And it’s hard to recommend to fans of either since it’s such a middling experience. It truly is the encompassing of the saying “jack of all trades, master of none” – it’s not necessarily a bad game but the core concepts all feel kind of half baked.
I’m generally pretty forgiving of lacklustre narratives as long as the game is interesting to play, but unfortunately Fantasy Life definitely seems to put its story last. Similar to Majora’s Mask, Fantasy Life takes place in a world that’s on the edge of apocalypse – with all kinds of things literally falling from the sky and infecting life forms to make them behave badly. The player will join a talking butterfly named Flutter to help travel the lands by purifying these creatures and reforge alliances with neighbouring cities and towns. It’s a very airy story with little to no depth that really should’ve either been flesh out more or not been included at all.
The Animal Crossing elements of Fantasy Life really shine through with the game’s general premise – to just live your life. With an extensive job system, players can easily spend the day pillaging the waters for fish, furnishing their homes or even hunting for beasts to collect bounties. While the main storyline will have you collecting ancient treasures from across the lands, there’s heaps to do no matter which approach you take. Perhaps owing to its ambiguous target audience, Fantasy Life is a really gentle game that never really puts too much stress on the player. It’s great for the casual audience, but those who play role playing games with a bit more involvement will be ultimately disappointed.
Similarly, the combat system is limited to a handful of standard attacks along with a basic, by-the-numbers elemental system. As with the overall gameplay and tone of the game, it’s all very light and requires little to no learning to play effectively – which wouldn’t be a huge problem if the experience didn’t last upwards of twenty hours. It’s simple too shallow to get players interested for a long time nor does it have the interesting narrative to carry players through dull moments from a gameplay perspective.
The big attraction of Fantasy Life is easily its job system. There’s roughly twelve to pick from and mastering each one requires the player to complete certain missions – changing between them as they see fit. Choosing the Paladin, for example, requires players to go and venture into locations to slay enemies. Miners have to pick away at, well, mines to garner precious metals. For those who prefer a more breezy approach, there are jobs like tailor which sees the player making all kinds of clothing or even certain time based mini games.
The most positive aspect about Fantasy Life is easily how addictive these mini-games and job mission quests can be. I never really felt like I was too far away from the next rank in all of them and there were times where I found myself playing these missions more so than the actual main story itself. It’s addictive and compulsive, and it’s quite possibly the best part about playing Fantasy Life.
When you’re not working towards a promotion (of sorts), you’ll be carrying out Bliss missions which are increase your characters happiness. At first glance, these missions are numerous and plenty but they are filler at its most pure form – consisting nothing more than visiting areas, fetching objects or, you guessed it, defeating a certain amount of enemies. It would be fair enough if the game marked these missions appropriately so you could avoid them if they weren’t your thing, but the game doesn’t. It’s quite frankly, painful, to be roped into an ironically named Bliss mission when you think you’re just going into a standard side quest.
The game itself will easily take most players roughly ten to fifteen hours to breeze through, but those who want to get to the absolute top of each job ranking system will easily be able to extend this to twenty, or even double that depending on their play style. The game also has co-operative modes of play, which definitely alleviates some of the problems with repetition but otherwise it’s questionable how much of this content player will want to willingly experience for so long, given how little depth there is to it all.
Fantasy Life does do a good job at pulling you into the game world. The visuals are especially colourful and vibrant, with the standouts being the azure blue oceans and beaches. Other areas are more reminiscent of Disney-era exotic locales, with some even sporting magic carpets and lamps. It sounds terribly cliché, but it works rather well given the tone and atmosphere of Fantasy Life. Even better, everything pops rather well in 3D when playing on a 3DS, I seriously had trouble keeping my eyes off the locales just to read the text in the game.
Fantasy Life has a lot of flaws and a lot of flaws that I am willing to overlook, but even when trying my best to do so it’s still disappointingly shallow. It’s takes the customisability and mundane of Animal Crossing and melds it with the job shifting and combat of Final Fantasy but fails to reach the heights either of those games. It’s a strange game, and while its simplicity is definitely going to make sure it appeals to a wide audience, it’s also going to be its biggest hurdle in appealing to those who usually play these games to a great degree. Despite this, I had some fun with Fantasy Life, particularly with the job system, but there’s more padding than worthwhile content here and that’s ultimately disappointing.