I don’t claim to be an expert or master of Final Fantasy games, but I damn sure love them. With the news of more Final Fantasy games on the horizon, I’ve been itching to get my hands on one. Final Fantasy Explorers is the title that gets this mighty honour and, well, I’ll admit my initial excitement for the title has taken a major hit. The first few hours were fun but then it quickly becomes slow, repetitive and tedious. There’s a decent game in there, but just don’t expect anything too grand or mind-blowing.
Final Fantasy Explorers is a Nintendo 3DS game developed by Square Enix and Racjin. The game focuses on character jobs that some numbered Final Fantasy games have become famed for and combines that with a Monster Hunter-esque like setting. It’s quickly apparent the game is heavily focused around the idea of playing with other people, be it online or locally. This is mostly fine but does become one of the game’s downsides. The game opens on the new island of Amostra, where you are a new Explorer. Explorers come to the town of Libertas in the hopes of hunting crystals, a source of life and civilization, in which Amostra is rather plentiful. That’s essentially it for the plot of the entire game, taking up only a couple of minutes of your time. After this little introduction, you’re left to begin hours of repetitive fighting, hunting, item gathering and questing.
The main premise of the game is to take on quests and subquests, going out into the field completing said tasks and returning to town. This can be fun for a few hours unlocking new areas or features here and there but with no story to speak of. Playing solo can make things rather dull, I can only assume Square Enix’s intention was for people to play online with others and quest together like Monster Hunter. This does bring the enjoyment level up a few notches, it has to be said but then descends back to a dull repetitiveness. Without any kind of story to the game, there’s no real driving force to keep you coming back to the game.
Square Enix has put some great features into the game such as job roles and with over 20 classic Final Fantasy job roles you’ll be spoilt for choice. You only have a handful of jobs available to you at the start but as you progress you’ll unlock more. Each job comes with a selection of unique abilities that can be learnt from the get-go but most will be learnt as you continue to use that job role. When you use abilities during combat you’ll accumulate points that can give you a chance of gaining a Crystal Surge; along with granting temporary stat boosts, you can gain new abilities and mutated versions of ones you already possess. This is one of the highlights of the game as you can create some very unique abilities for yourself, randomly of course, that other people won’t have. Unlike other games, you’re not confined to one job role, with the ability to save presets you can change jobs to fit the situation.
Hunting monsters and item gathering is also a key part of the game, as is its crafting mechanics. There’s a huge variety of weapons and equipment available within the game and unlocking them really adds to the fun. Equipment you wear will have a visual impact on your character and you can even unlock costumes for previous Final Fantasy characters such as Sephiroth. This works in combination with the game’s very basic character creation feature that you can mess with whenever you feel like playing with its very limited options.
Field exploration and combat can be a real pain as the game uses a combination of left stick for movement and d-pad for camera control leaving you to stop moving whenever you need to change camera direction. Thankfully the Circle Pad Pro is supported and this eliminates this problem making the game controls a lot more enjoyable. There is a very basic enemy lock-on feature that will help you out if you don’t have a Circle Pad Pro, but it’s not perfect. Other than that, the action-RPG gameplay is pretty decent, abilities are used in a L or R trigger + A,B,X and Y combination which works well.
Visually, I was surprised when I first booted up the game as it looks rather dated and not like more recent 3DS titles we have seen. That’s not to say the graphics are bad by any means; fields look nice and enemies are decent looking but it feels more like DS visually than 3DS. On that note, the game doesn’t support 3D, something I have no problems with, but an odd decision given the system’s unique selling point. The soundtrack, while very Final Fantasy themed, is largely forgettable. It has some nice tracks that play as you’re exploring out in the field but nothing more than that.
I’m a little disappointment with Final Fantasy Explorers not because it’s a bad game but I feel that it could have been better with the addition of even a tiny bit of story. Lack of plot aside the game actually has some great features like the job system and its crafting, let’s face it who doesn’t want to dress as Sephiroth while kicking ass as a Dark Knight or Dragoon. Multiplayer is clearly where the developers imagined this game to be played and it’s definitely where you’ll have the most fun. Given all the negatives I still have the urge to continue on, there’s a solid basis to the game just not much more than that.