Fantasy Life: Where Casual Play Takes a Beating
Creative powerhouse and Japanese publisher Level-5, developers of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King and of the popular Yo-kai Watch series, have recently released Fantasy Life for the Nintendo 3DS. It's a roleplaying game that attempts to meld the crafting spirit of Runescape with a pinch of Animal Crossing.
Here’s a list of some of the game’s perks, the roses, along with some of the downfalls, the thorns.
Fantasy Life does a great job of allowing players to explore the world of Reveria on foot or on horse. You can explore deserts, tropical beaches, an ancient ruin, damp caverns, fire caves, and there is a DLC magical tall tower equipped with tougher creatures for players who have already beaten the original game.
While traversing the land, Woodcutters can acquire unusual types of wood which allows them, as Carpenters, to create furniture. Players can design their own recovery room where they can also fast travel to, store quest items, place furniture, windows, change the wallpaper and keep raw materials safe. Each village has one of these rooms, but they are only available for a high price.
Players can play the game with NPCs for allies, or with others using the Nintendo 3DS' online features. Each character can be fully customized, and because of the crafting feature of the game, costumes can be vary drastically modified. In some RPGs a player can only be one class but in this game players can eventually tackle each career to get the most out of their money.
Monsters, Armor, and Skins, Oh my!
Even though at times creatures seem casual, larger monsters are no joke and will wreck a beginning player’s world. Armor upgrades definitively serve as a motivating factor to survive and help the longevity of adventuring; armor has a wide selection of skins that, when the player wears them, all look very appealing -- both graphically, and aesthetically. It is kind of entertaining to mix and match outfits depending on what tasks the player is trying to accomplish.
After a player completes the Hero rank for each career, King Erik rewards them with a unique item or armor, which serves an excellent incentive to achieve higher ranks for each career. Level 5 truly has succeeded in providing a variety of rewards for completing each careers challenge or sub quest.
Simple Simon Dungeons
Reveria is a vast open landscape full of encounters and NPCs, yet the game’s dungeons lack depth, direction, and splendor that other JRPG titles such as Wild Arms and Final Fantasy series have to offer. In Fantasy Life there are no locked doors -- except for one area in the Ancient ruins to be fair -- zero hidden traps, or secret devices that help bring an epic dungeon to life.
The story itself is very campy in that one of the kingdoms is threatening to use stink bombs. While this overall appeals to a youthful audience, and has very little effect on Reveria -- except that certain locations are blocked off until specific chapters are completed -- the world would seem much more immersive if villages changed appearance depending on the chapter.
Tedious Crafting System
Crafting enters the world of annoyance. What should be a fun event driven game becomes a taunting game about pressing the A-button when a circle lines up in the center, to a rapid pressing of the button, to a game about simply holding the A-button down.
After working on or accomplishing a task in the real world, the last thing a player wants to do is follow this mini-game every time they decide to craft something new; eventually players unlock the ability to speed up the process but crafting takes an extensive amount of time for the tiniest of uninteresting challenges.
While a Blacksmith can create powerful, menacing looking hammers, the player cannot use them in combat nor develop fighting techniques based around the individual career. Woodcutters cannot fight with axes, Miners cannot slice enemies with sharp pickaxes, Cooks cannot fight with fancy frying pans, and Tailors cannot weave traps with their fabric needles or use them like rapiers in a piercing fashion. The game is designed and anticipates players becoming Paladins, Hunters, Magicians, and Mercenaries to develop combat skills and techniques.
Even though a Tailor can craft a Tuxedo that says in description, “a classy look for more formal gatherings. Suitable even for an audience with the king.” The wearing of the Tux has no effect on the surrounding NPCs behaviors or attitudes, including that of King Erik.
Casual gamers will enjoy this whimsical romp of an RPG while the hardcore audience will be turned off by the overall campy plot. Crafting has a lot to offer but there’s always room to provide the ability to customize individual weapons by allowing changes to the hilt, size of the blade, or adding gems to the actual appearance besides just the stats. With some minor tweaks to the world, Level 5 could have easily made Fantasy Life stronger for both groups -- casual, and hardcore players.
According to Gematsu.com, Level 5 is working on another graphically beautiful social RPG called Snack World, in which players will be able to play on either 3DS (July 2017), iOS, and Android platforms (April 2017) and is being referred to by bloggers as "higher-casual fantasy." Like the Amiibo technology, Snack World will utilize an electronic toy called Fairy Electronics.
Hopefully Snack World will fill the gap by adding unique combat moves, introduce more challenging dungeons, utilize the plot and incorporate in-game mechanics that affect the behaviors of the surrounding NPCs.