Fantasy Life is one of the most anticipated port games in the 3DS’ lifespan, featuring the magic of the Level-5 team in Japan, and the famed Studio Ghibli-inspired animations you’ve seen in their other offerings like the Professor Layton games. It took a couple of years to reach us, but the wait is finally over, and it’s time to make Fantasy Life yours.
Fantasy Life is Developed by Level-5 and published in North America by Nintendo
Release date: October 24th, 2014
Rated: E 10+
Genre: RPG / Life Sim
Console: Nintendo 3DS
Get a Life!
The premise of Fantasy Life is simple: You are an unknown who has moved into the town of Castele, and must select a “life” to lead. With 12 different life choices in all (ranging from combat classes like Paladin to civilian ones like tailor or cook,) you start out as a novice bent on excelling in your field to the fullest capabilities. You report to the guild office to claim your life license, and off you go. If you’re concerned you might be picking the wrong one, or may reconsider – Don’t worry. You can change your life at any time, and the skills you obtain from one life can carry into the next. Be sure to pay attention to the game in this regard, as it will always tell you everything you need to know about the game with no need for an instruction manual otherwise.
In order to level up your life, you’re given a series of tasks. Completing these tasks (for example, the Paladin might be told to slay a certain monster while the miner may be told to mine a certain ore) results in a cache of stars being earned. You check in with your life’s resident “master” who will then accumulate the goals you’ve met and level you up appropriately. Your goal originally will be to become considered an expert in your field, but ranks do exist past that, and specific gear will only be available to some of the higher levels past.
The Sky is Crying and it isn’t Stevie Ray Vaughan this time
However, while you do attempt to live your life out, the land of Riveria is under siege by a series of mysterious doomstones falling which threaten the life and livelihood of the entire land (Castele is just one small part of it.) You meet a butterfly early on who recruits you as her help and guide, and that will also begin your main quest. The main quest is done over the course of a number of chapters, broken up by rest and recap days. The butterfly will be your guide to the main quest, as well as helping you understand and navigate the land of Riveria.
Throughout the main storyline, you’ll also have certain requests from the butterfly. You must complete these requests to progress in the storyline itself. These can be as small as meeting and checking in on people to visiting landmarks. The butterfly is a really social creature, and she likes meeting new people and maintaining friendships. It’s your job to keep her satisfied.
Then there’s a third element which crosses across the various areas of Riveria. You’ll meet people from time to time who want you to run errands and do them favours. It could be as simple as picking dandelion puffs or beating a number of monsters (which you will probably encounter anyway) to finding rare materials or items. Each bears a specific reward if you check in with them after you’re done. Unlike Animal Crossing, the risk/reward system for these tasks is balanced better. You won’t receive a $20 reward for spending $10,000 in materials, for example. These tasks actually entice you to take up new lives, since inevitably, some of these items will be hard to find, and you’ll have better luck just crafting them yourself and claiming the reward.
You could be playing this game for a long time
Let me stop here by saying this game will take you literally dozens and could take hundreds of hours of gameplay to find everything, master every life and do every quest. Part of the charm in this game is that like the Animal Crossings of the world, there’s no wrong way to play it, and you basically do what you want to do. Maybe I should catch myself a bit here and say there actually IS a wrong way to play – You can’t level your life up properly without playing the main quest and unlocking all the different areas in the game, and in turn can’t learn all the skills your life carries. So, if you choose to just run around Castele without exploring the world outside, the game will get pretty boring in a hurry.
As you progress and meet more and more people, however, this is where things will come to your advantage for later on. You’ll have the ability to invite people into your party and help you with some of those dungeon crawls later on. Note, however, that inviting people into your party can only be done on the days you aren’t tending to the main story. If you’re doing the main story, you’re flying solo. Well, the butterfly will be with you, but what’s she going to do – flap angrily? Like any RPG, enemies will drop random loot, extra XP, healing capsules or all of the above. Battles are done on the fly as you’re walking, reminiscent of the spirit of Secret of Mana. There are two types of enemies out on the plains – Standard baddies and mini-bosses or leaders. When you defeat the latter, they show up in a crate and you can take over to the local guild office (or any bounty officer that’s anywhere) and take them in for a reward. Be careful though – You can actually destroy the crated enemy by hitting it too many times. This goes for both yourself and any foes around you, who will attack the crate if you just leave it there. As you level your character up, you will also have skill points you can designate.
There is one major inconvenience here in battle, however, and it’s probably the one thing about the game I didn’t like. You have to put your weapons away to access items, open treasure chests and more. This was a REALLY bad idea. Imagine being stuck in the middle of a high level battle and having to put your weapon away just to access your bag to use potions. It puts you in a tight spot when you get back in the battle.
There’s a co-op multiplayer element in the game which you’ll probably find helpful for some of the higher level bosses you’re sure to encounter. Streetpass is also available, but you have to enable it in the Guild Office. Streetpass enables other Fantasy Lifers to stay in your town temporarily and you can periodically visit with them to raise your friendship level with them. Butterfly approves!
Days turn into nights, but thankfully not in real-time
Perhaps one of the neatest elements of this game is the fact that everybody plays intertwined on the same map, running in the same areas. Depending on how much you want to get out of the game’s experience, you’ll see that it’s beneficial for you to be a miner in certain areas, an angler in others and so on. While the game runs on a day/night clock, thankfully, it isn’t in realtime. Day and Night cycle regularly in the game so you don’t have to worry about whipping out your 3DS in the dead of night just to capture a couple bounties here and there.
(Obscure Simpsons reference upcoming) I admit, I had a bit of a “Lee Carvello’s Putting Challenge” moment when choosing my life. I swore up and down that I’d selected mercenary only to be dropped back to Paladin. Chances are I was distracted at the time, and did in fact select Paladin, but that’s the life I chose to run the story line with. After going through the main quest, I admit I’m a bit puzzled as to how you’d complete it as, say, a fisherman. It looks like anybody can carry dagger skills, but boy, you’re probably going to be behind the 8 ball if you don’t just start as a fighting class. My recommendation would be to play as a fighting class through till you become high level in that life, and then do one of the labor classes afterward with party members afterward who can join you in the dungeons if you’re, say, mining. Take one person who will play tank, and another that can heal well. Regardless of who is in your party, you will probably have the best DPS with this strategy anyway, so you may just want to help clear areas out before you tend to your craft.
As for the main storyline and the story itself, I’m just going to tell you to roll with it. It’s good for what it is, and it will tell you a lot of the story behind what/who exactly the butterfly is there for, but realistically, it’s got problems. There are some plot holes and continuity bits which don’t make a lot of sense, but in the end, it’ll sort of round out. The story line, if you play it while building your first life should take between 12-15 hours. By the end of the main quest, I was a master Paladin, but you probably don’t have to be that high level to beat the game. Leveling up and gaining the experience will do you a lot better when you start to beat the different higher level foes that emerge throughout the main quest, though I admit I didn’t much go out of my way to accomplish them – They all sort of fall in line if you do them in sync with the main quest.
This game basically falls into one of my favourite genres, so I’ve become hopelessly addicted, if only because I got to Hero Paladin before crossing over to miner. Even better, because you carry your skillsets over and all the areas on the map are already opened up, it probably only took about 2 ½ hours for me to get to expert miner. Granted, it’s not the end (and I still can’t mine everything yet,) but it’s a good perspective on how fast you can master new lives. I’ll probably carry this one with me for a while and see if I can get as far as max leveling and picking up the DLC. One piece of DLC (Origin Island) is already out and introduces an extra rank for each life, however, you need to be at least level 50 to get into it.
Gameplay: 4.5 / 5
Graphics: 3.5 / 5
Sound: 4 / 5
Controls: 3.5 / 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5 / 5
Overall Rating: 4.1 / 5 (82%)
Fantasy Life is now available exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS at Best Buy and online at BestBuy.ca