Fantasy Life is a relatively new concept for Level-5, who are of the Professor Layton series fame. Fantasy Life is a game where you choose a “Life”, chosen from a crafting, gathering or combat job, and you can then play through the game. However, in difference to many other games with a job system, you can switch your chosen Life almost at will. This made for a rather interesting experience…
Story (potential spoilers from this point onwards)
The story is fairly bland, with it being geared towards younger players, so there’s very little in the way of plot twists and darkness, which is shame considering this is an RPG and that I know Level-5 can do much better than this, considering previous games that they’ve been behind.
The basic premise of the story is there appears to be something bad happening to your land, with Doom Stones falling from the sky, causing monsters to go insane and attack everything. Naturally, there is a bit more to story than this, and it is up to you to find out exactly what’s going on.
The story is broken down into about a dozen chapters, with the completion of each chapter progressing the story a little more, and opening up new areas for you to explore. I will confess, this did annoy me slightly, as I dislike being restrained in my explorations by the story, but I got used to it eventually. I also felt the chapters became a little bit repetitive in the end, which also irritated me a bit, but in the end the plot managed to just about straighten itself out. I was disappointed there was no big climax to the end, however.
Nobuo Uematsu was the composer for this game, him of the Final Fantasy series fame, so it was expected that this game was always going to have a good OST. Much of the music is quite light-hearted, and fits the atmosphere for the areas very well.
A lot of the event music is also very well composed, and much of it is quite memorable. A lot of it reminds me of the Golden Sun OST at times, which was quite pleasant.
Although the game has very cutesy-styled graphics, I like them. You do get to customize your player character when you create them, and this is reflected in the way the character looks, almost as though it’s a Mii. When you equip your character with different equipment, these changes are also reflected on the character model, so you can further change your character’s appearance in game.
Most of the areas in the game look decent – there’s a lot of depth in some of them, and backgrounds look beautiful, especially the forested areas and the mountain that you have climb. There is also an awful lot going on graphically in the towns and villages, with lots of buildings and characters there for you to talk to, but it’s done well, and there is very little to no lagging, which is much appreciated, as some games like to lag if there’s too much on the screen.
One complaint I would have with the graphics is that of the models used for the enemy monsters. Although I know they fit in with the graphical style for the game, the monsters you fight don’t look particularly menacing. It’s a shame, because I would have liked to have been able to fight monsters which look a bit mean, not ones that I feel sorry for having to fight against them.
Much like Dragon Quest IX on the DS, this game has a massive multiplayer capability, and almost feels like an MMO game at times. You can go over local Wi-Fi to play in a Co-Op mode with other people, or are you can go online and join up with people to take part in trials or to complete quests.
There is also a lot of scope online for trading items, which makes finding items for crafting a lot better. Although the single player mode for this game is solid, multiplayer is also a very good addition.
On the whole, there isn’t much challenge to the game, especially once you master the combat system and its odd targeting that it has going on. Most of the challenge from this game comes from making sure you distribute stats properly, and being able to find the right items from drops. Some of the rare drops will drive you mad in trying to get them! Although it’s more of an artificial challenge in a way, especially as the main story portion of the game was pretty easy, I found collecting all the items for crafting and completing all the quests to be the main challenge that this game had to offer me.
The game itself plays as a standard ARPG, whereby you have to hack and slash your enemies into submission. There is a targeting system for this which can get slightly annoying, as when you draw your weapon to go into combat, your character auto-selects a target, which can be annoying if it’s not the one you wanted to initially target. However, if there’s more than one enemy on screen, you can use the Y button to switch between targets, or hold down the Y button in order to skip the targeting altogether. Although it’s initially a slight pain, you quickly get used to it.
The controls using the circle pad to move and L and R buttons to adjust the camera are very basic, but they work fine. I found that the auto-positioning of the camera as done by the game was fine, and I rarely had to adjust the camera. The touch screen controls for things like the menus and for clicking through text were quite interactive I felt, and they were a joy to use (coming from me, who’s not fond of the touch screen!).
However, the meat of this game is in the Life system. When you create your character, you get the option of choosing one of twelve Lives, those being roughly split into three different categories, the Gathering Lives, which you use to collect the items used for crafting, the Crafting Lives which can be used to craft various items, such as equipment, consumables and furniture, and the Combat Lives, which are used for fighting against the various enemies in the game, in order to progress and collect more items.
What makes this game different from many other games which have a job system however, is the ease at which you can switch between different Lives – after a short tutorial mission when you switch to a Life for the first time, apart from during the story progression chapters, you can switch your Life to any of the twelve whenever you like. However, there is the feeling that the game doesn’t want you to choose a Life to stay in – a lot of items you can’t obtain (such as the mineral deposits) unless you’ve levelled up one of the gatherer jobs – it’s almost like the game forces you to have a go at all the different jobs. As it stands, I tend to run around as a Mercenary and only change my job when I have to bring in a job-specific bounty quest or similar.
One of the more interesting and at the same time annoying, mechanics in this game is the bounty system. When you are travelling about the world, occasionally you get a bounty as a dropped item from certain enemies or certain large mineral deposits or trees. The game requires you to lug these bounty items behind you and walk them back to a “Bounty Clerk”, which are dotted around the world, and turn in the bounty there. This wouldn’t be so bad, as okay, yes you get money and the chance for some rare dropped items from the clerk, but you can’t run with the bounty back, so it’s quite slow going as far as travelling goes, enemies will attack the bounties, and it looks as though they can only take a couple of hits, and you can only draw your weapon to attack an enemy if you drop your bounty first.
As it happens, I’ve found the best way to manage a bounty return is to weave in and out of enemies and hope for the best that they don’t try and attack it before you get back. There is also a slight annoyance in that certain requests require you to turn bounties in as a certain Life, which often means lugging the bounty all the way back to the major towns so you can change your Life and then hand the bounty in. Ah, and you can only have a maximum of three bounties at any one time, which can get slightly annoying as well. On the whole, the bounty system is okay, it just needs a little bit more polish, I think.
As far as levelling up goes, you get to choose where to distribute your individual stat gains upon each level up, which means you can tailor your stats to your chosen Life – and there is the option a bit later on in the game to change your already chosen stats. This can come in quite handy, although I’ve not had a problem yet with my single random distribution of stats (high in strength, everything else balanced).
There is also a quest system in this game, which seems to account for most of the time I spend playing this game. It seems that all the characters in the game at one time or the other will offer the chance for you to complete a quest for them, for both items and money. These quests seem to be anything, from defeating a certain number of a certain enemy or collecting a certain item. Some of the quests require you to have levelled up the crafting Lives in order to create certain items for the character, which can get slightly annoying, especially if you’re like me and want to be able to complete a quest then and there when you receive it.
You can also get multiple quests off the same characters, with the quests progressing in difficulty as you complete them, which is quite welcome. I have no idea how many quests there are available in this game, but it must surely number in the high hundreds at least.
There is also a day/night system in this game, with each day lasting about ten to fifteen minutes. The over world changes as the day progresses from day to evening to night are very well done and seamless, and it looks quite effective. When the day turns to night, stronger enemy monsters appear, and the likelihood of certain items appearing also seems to change. You can also get different quests from characters available, depending on what the time of day is. Altogether, the day/night system is very well integrated into the game, and I enjoyed the addition of it.
Lastly, there is a DLC available for this game, which to my understanding adds quite a bit of content to the game; however, as I’ve not had a chance to obtain it yet, I will be passing comment on it. Just be aware that it is available.
Due to the very short main story mode of this game, you can complete this game in around 20 hours or so, if you’re just focussing on the story mode. This means there is very much the option to replay this game, whether that’s through choosing a different starting Life and just playing through as that without changing your Life, or if you want to try playing through with different equipment.
What I also like about this game is that it gives you the option of having three different save files for the game – so if you did want to start a new game after completing the first one, you don’t have to lose all the hard work you put into grinding and collecting items. I like that.
Replay Value: 8
A brilliant game which makes grinding great fun. A worthy offering from Level-5.
Written by Karen