Level-5, the company behind the elite DS/3DS Professor Layton series, has stepped into the world of fantasy RPG with the aptly titled Fantasy Life. Parts Final Fantasy, parts Animal Crossing, and a healthy dose of Diablo-like gameplay, Fantasy Life is a game that has a lot to offer gamers on the go. Small nuisances keep this life from being the greatest, but the game offers such an extensive amount of content you’ll have plenty of activities to keep you happy for dozens of hours.
Prior to the game’s release, I read a lot of press about the game being something like Animal Crossing and Final Fantasy. While I see where those previews were coming from, I have to question if those previewers actually played Animal Crossing. There are light home making and relationship building elements here, but nothing as grandiose as New Leaf. Still though, if you like having the ability to purchase multiple homes and decorate them with stylish wallpaper and flooring, then that’s a plus in the sim department.
The heart and soul of Fantasy Life are the different Life options available. Essentially Jobs in other RPGs, a Life determines your basic characteristic and function. There are 12 Life choices including some RPG staples like Wizard, Paladin, and Hunter which all tend to focus on combat, as well as more trade focused Lifes like Blacksmith, Cook, and Fisherman. Each Life has a Life Master who guides your training, and you are free to change your Life whenever you see fit. It might be tempting to run through the entire game as just one master class, but changing up your roles and experiencing the world from a new viewpoint really keeps the game fresh and stretches the game’s legs longer than expected.
At first glance, the game seems sort on content: you pick your first life, you run through some fun quests, you gain new abilities, and you see some of the story. After you’ve done all that, the world gets stale as environments are rehashed and you find yourself running through the same towns over and over again. But once you change your Life you will see the world in a completely new light. Going from an offensive Life like the Wizard to an artisan Life like a Cook is night and day. In other RPGs I’ve played with Job systems at the forefront it isn’t much of a change between jobs besides a visual update and some new attacks, but in Fantasy Life the various Life choices really do give you a new gameplay experience to enjoy.
One of the factors that turned me on to the game aside from the pretty sweet Life system were the visuals. In classic Level-5/Professor Layton style, the characters all have a sort of children’s storybook charm about them. Each Life has distinctive features to accentuate their look: the Cook has a huge pot on his head for God’s sake! I was impressed by the amount of colors used in the game world as well. There are stereotypical locales like forests, deserts, and mountains, but they stand out with great detail and a variety of hues which bring the worlds to life. Also, a night and day system incorporates a visually pleasing morning, afternoon, evening, and nighttime setting to each location. On top of that, certain NPCs, enemies, and quests can only be completed during certain times of day!
A big part of the game for some might be the inclusion of multiplayer. You can link up with other 3DS systems to quest and explore with buddies! If you don’t have someone else to play with, don’t fret! The entire game can be played single player. You can even find and recruit a couple of NPC party members to round out your adventuring crew. It is nice to be able to have some NPC backup at times, but the AI isn’t the greatest. Playing with friends however makes some of the game’s much more difficult enemies manageable. It’s also a treat to see how some of the Lifes blend well together.
My biggest complaint about the game is almost ironic: it feels too restrictive. Fantasy Life touts itself as allowing you to live your Life, change your Life, and enjoy your Life, but at many points you have to complete certain tasks first before moving on. There were a handful of occasions early in the game where I just wanted to go out and complete some new quests, but I had to complete requisite story missions first. It felt jarring. I was forced to complete the storyline despite actually having new quests in my book. The game opens up more later on, but as an initial part of the game it can really turn some gamers off.
Fantasy Life is surely not for everyone. If you have played RPGs like Diablo or even some of the lighter sides of MMO World of Warcraft, you’ll know what to expect from Fantasy Life gameplay-wise. The storyline is lighthearted and fits with the cartoony and fantastical visuals. Though lacking any voice acting, the game still has excellent sound and a catch soundtrack (composed by veteran/legendary game composer Nobuo Uematsu!). With a couple friends to play with, Fantasy Life really opens up and offers a huge amount of variety and gameplay. Even as a solo game, the different Life choices expand the game exponentially.
I’m still not even done with the game, and I don’t expect to be putting it down anytime soon. The biggest payoff for Fantasy Life is the ability to change your Life and experience something new. If you’re looking for a new RPG to keep your 3DS relevant (and you’re currently NOT playing Super Smash Bros.) then Fantasy Life is for you!