Fantasy Life

Fantasy Life is an action role-playing game for the Nintendo 3DS. This is game that takes a somewhat different approach to an otherwise standard RPG along with free flowing combat. I’d rather not spoil the story for you because it’s a large part of the game, as is the case with most RPGs, but I’ll try and give you what I remember of the starting plot from when I started it up all those hours ago. Basically, you start the game, make your character, and then meet up with a suspicious talking butterfly that seems to be in a bit of a spot. Through helping her, you end up getting tangled in a larger story that unfolds as you wind up taking requests from the king in order to investigate these mysterious meteorites that are crashing from the sky and causing creatures to become evil. What’s going on? Just who is this talking butterfly? How did you get mixed up in all of this? Well, you’ll have to play to find out, at which point you’ll decide what your very first Life will be.

A Life in this game is basically like a class in other games. Each Life has its own set of strengths and weaknesses for the tasks in the game, but each one tends to specialize in one specific type of task as well. At the start you only need to pick one for the sake of moving the story along, but you can switch between them all at any point by going to one of the guild offices in the game. Since these different Lives are a big part of how you’ll play the game, I’d like to explain all twelve of them a bit so you have an idea of what you’re in for. I’d basically separate them into three types of Lives. There are combat Lives, gathering Lives, and crafting Lives. Let’s start with the combat Lives. The paladin is the obvious choice for beginners, focusing on the use of longswords and shields, sporting good offense as well as defense, and devoting themselves to the good of the kingdom. The mercenary is more about swinging around greatswords with great strength and fighting for whatever they see fit. They’re both rather similar and really only require mashing the attack button in various ways to get the job done. The hunter uses a bow and a variety of different arrows to assault the enemy from afar. They like to carefully stalk their prey and attack intelligently from a safe distance. The wizard will also fight from a distance, but their focus is more on using the correct elemental magic and spell effects to keep their enemies down and themselves up. These two are somewhat similar in that you can switch their attacks up between different types and tend to be better at staying away in general.

Next up, we have the gathering Lives which are quite simple. The miner can mine ore deposits for precious ores and rare gems. The woodcutter, as you may expect, cuts down trees for their logs, nuts, and other goodies. They both pretty much just do very simple, focused jobs. The angler is a little different. The angler catches fish from all over. Small fish, big fish, common fish, and rare fish are all for the catching. This requires a small minigame where you need to snag the fish on the line, reel it in, and carefully know when to pull and when to relax in order to keep the line from snapping. However, all three of these Lives are about getting materials for other Lives and quests. So let’s get to the biggest pool of these Lives; the creation Lives.

The blacksmith turns ores into ingots to create metal weapons, armor, and tools. The carpenter uses logs to make wood, furniture, and a few miscellaneous items. The tailor uses hides and fabrics to create lightweight clothing. The alchemist uses plants and special ingredients to make potions, bombs, and strange accessories. The cook can cook up all kinds of dishes using fruits, veggies, eggs, and meats. These all use the same minigame to create things, consisting of three sections to switch between as the timer ticks down. You select your craft, provided you have the ingredients, and the game begins. One section has you tapping A as fast as possible until the meter fills. One section has you hold A until the meter fills. And the other section has you tapping A whenever the circle moving side to side is directly over the A symbol. You will get a small preview of the upcoming events so you can plan your next move accordingly. As you complete sections of these short tasks the meter on top will show you your completion percentage. Doing these tasks quickly and accurately will give you better quality items in result. While each of these Lives uses the same minigame with slightly different orientations of the three action spots, the only one that’s notably different is the tailor, which instead sports a rapid A spot and two rhythm A spots. The new rhythm spot is slightly faster.

That more or less covers the basics of each Life, and picking different Lives will allow you to interact with different NPCs on another level than the simple stranger you would be otherwise. As far as the more general gameplay, you go from place to place exploring the world as it slowly becomes more accessible to you through the plot advancement. You can kill monsters, gather materials, talk to people, and there are a large variety of quests for you to take on. Of course there’s always the main story, but beyond that you can talk to various NPCs with markers above their heads that indicate they have a request for you. They may ask for any number of things, be it a simple fetch quest, placing a bounty on some certain enemy, or even making some high level craft. All of these have their own rewards, of course. You might get some of the game’s currency, dosh. I guess it’s called that since gold is a material in the game. You might also get some nice materials in return for your services. However, you’ll always get some experience points. You can have thirty requests active at a time, with the ability to cancel them as you see fit, but you can also decline requests entirely if you please. There are tons of things to do that will push you to try out new Lives, but maybe you’re not the experimental type and want to just focus on one Life. That’s cool. There are plenty of Life quests as well, which will focus more on doing the things only that Life can do. After doing enough of these Life quests you can turn them in to your Life master and, if you have enough points, rank up to the next rank of that Life. Upping your rank will give you more options for Life-related tasks, new abilities, a bit of new dialogue with relevant NPCs around the entire game, and even more Life quests to work towards. The rank caps at legendary.

There are also other ways to upgrade yourself in the game. You have skills that you can level up. These can be related to a variety of things from specific crafting, like smithing weapons or building furniture, to the use of certain weapons, like daggers or longswords. Even something as simple as running can be leveled up the more you do it. So if you just do something a lot then it will most likely become easier and easier for you to do. Many of these can actually be done when you’re in any of your Lives, but most skills will level faster when used in the one specific Life they are designed for. Getting a skill leveled up will allow you to do more with it or simply make the related task easier. For example, getting your dagger skill up will increase your damage with daggers and allow you to use even more, better dagger types. As for the running, you can do this at any point during them. You just hold down a button when moving and you’ll start to run. However, running will deplete your SP, which I think stands for stamina power but it basically works like an all-purpose MP gauge. It will regenerate over time and can be refilled faster with items. Leveling up your dashing skill will decrease the depletion rate of your SP when you run. Each of these skills has a level cap of fifteen. Of course, there’s still the more standard form of leveling. Through whatever method you choose to gain your experience points, once you get enough you will level up. You maximum level caps at ninety-nine. Leveling up allows you to distribute a few points to your base stats. You’ve got strength, vitality, intelligence, focus, dexterity, and luck. Each one affects your performance in different ways, as well as helps certain Lives. For example, dexterity boosts the bow skill, dagger skill, and the sewing skill all at the same time. Each of these stats has a cap of fifty.

The one other way you can upgrade is by completing bliss quests. These are sometimes connected to the story but also many of them are just other things you may or may not happen to do, such as spending specific amounts of time in the game or hitting certain landmark levels and much more. Getting enough bliss points and turning them in can give you some optional bonus unlocks that can help you out a lot in the game or just give you some more fun miscellaneous stuff. It’s up to you. Oh, and as far as the combat goes, you mostly just do the general hacking and slashing. You want to be up close and personal as those stronger fighters and stay at a safe distance as the ranged ones. Often times you’ll have to take down large foes to open up some otherwise blocked paths to some goodies. There’s a bit more to it once you get to the trickier enemies, but it’s nothing you can’t figure out. So whether you’re fighting, gathering, crafting, or a mixture of all of the above, there’s going to be plenty for you to do in Fantasy Life.

That’s a lot to take in. There’s certainly a lot going on. Did I like any of it? Well, sure. There’s plenty I liked and respected in the design of the game. The way you can level up skills is really cool because it rewards you for doing a bunch of different things. The leveling system also helps play into this idea of circular playing. Basically, whenever you put points into one of your stats, it will help out multiple Lives. So even if you build towards one Life, you’ll end up building your character as a natural candidate for another. This is also furthered by the usefulness of classes to one another. You might be a mighty paladin, but it wouldn’t hurt to be a blacksmith for a bit to get some high quality gear to help you out. And of course, those ores don’t grow on trees, so maybe being a miner for a while wouldn’t kill you either. It’s all very subtly encouraging you to try new things without ever forcing it. And I like that too. You can go through the whole game pretty much without killing anything. If you just want to hang out and cook all day, go for it. Just want to be a carpenter and make some rad furnishings for your house? Go right ahead. Do what you want. Many materials and items can simply be bought in various shops throughout the game, so you’re really able to do quite a bit without ever even needing to switch it up. The experience is where this game really shines. I mean, sure, it has a very colorful and cartoony style that’s nice to add some charm, and the characters are surprisingly deep and well written for NPCs, but it’s just the way the game happens that makes it so enticing. You can do whatever you want, or not. You might come across a crazy monster, a nice ore deposit, a rare tree… or maybe you don’t find much of consequence. Random generation of things like trees, ore deposits, and other harvestable resources just adds to this feeling of the world around you being alive. Some enemies only spawn in the day or at night. NPCs move around depending on day or night as well. There’s even a period just before night that makes everything just look like it’s in the sunset. It’s a small touch that didn’t even need to be there, but it is. Some of the music can be catchy too. And there aren’t tons of cutscenes, but there ARE a few animated ones that happen at certain special moments to give them a bit more impact. Who knows, you might even find yourself attached to these characters. There’s just so much going for it as a game you just pick up and play for fun. It really is well done. However, I tried to be a bit of a completionist about it and… well… I ran into some complaints.

The biggest complaint I have is probably just how this game turned into a standard RPG. I started off a bit overwhelmed but excited to see all the different things the game had to offer. Instead of giving me lots of different things to do, it gave me a small variety of very repetitive things to do. The crafting all uses the same minigame regardless of which Life it’s for or what you’re making. And making things in the different Lives really boils down to doing the same thing with different ingredients. And even within each Life, it largely feels like you’re just using certain ingredients to make a craft, and then you use the next level of basically the same kind of ingredient to make a better level of the same kind of craft. It feels like it’s just upping the numbers with only the slightest bit of cartoonish style to try and cover it up. The combat is a similar story. There’s an okay variety of enemies, but later in the game you basically just keep seeing palette swapped, stat boosted versions of ones you’ve already seen. They also fight in a nearly identical fashion, which makes them boring to fight over and over again. The only significant changes happen when some of them use elemental attacks, as each of those tends to act a little differently between variants. It’s something, but it’s not really enough. I’d let it slide on the minor enemies, but even the big bad enemies, the toughest ones you’ll fight in the game, are victims of the age old palette swap trick. It’s very sad because all of this repetitive number scaling just takes a lot of the magic out of the game. The story is nice, and really that’s the thing that will keep you going, but I got very annoyed at how much these characters insisted on talking when I got to a new area. I want to explore and do stuff here! Shut up already! Tell it to me AFTER I’m ready to move on. Maye that one is just me, but it got annoying. I actually ended up skipping a lot of the NPC dialogue for my Life quests since they were not going to impact the main story anyway. These characters are interesting, and I like that, but they like to hear themselves talk a little too much for my taste. And trust me, the magic of random spawns and drops will drive you insane if you’re trying to do everything. And I did try that.

I ended up calling it quits once I finished all the side quests I could find, finished the main story, and became legend rank in every Life… which took me about one hundred and eighty hours. To sum it up, there’s a LOT of playtime to be had, but not any replay value when you can basically do it all in one go anyway. I didn’t have enough time in multiplayer to really say much on it. From what I did experience, there didn’t seem to be tons for you to do together in the game. You’re not locked to the same screen or anything, so you can both just run off and do your own thing. There’s not much direct interaction so… unless you’re both going out to fight a big monster together, you might as well just hang out in the same room or on Skype or something and talk to each other while you play your own games. It’d be about the same. There’s also this add-on content you can get. I only read up on it because I’m not getting it. You get a new area, new enemies, new pets, new items, new side quests, new story quests, new Life quests to go with new Life ranks, increased skill caps to twenty, increased stat caps to one hundred I believe, increased level cap to two hundred, an ally relationship leveling something-or-other, and new character customization options. So… there’s a lot there for the price of eight bucks. If you really enjoyed the game and didn’t find it to get tedious mid to late game, then it’s probably a really great deal. The thing that bothers me about it is what it is. See, it’s not called DLC because it’s not downloadable content. Though, it’s not really add-on content like it says either. Really, what we have here is a case of DLKey. You’re paying eight bucks to download a key that unlocks the extra content that’s already completely finished and on the cartridge. This is worse than day one DLC because it’s all already there! Though, regardless, it could still be worth it for you if you’re interested and don’t mind the shitty business going on. Just be aware that players with the DLKey cannot play with those that do not have the DLKey. I think you can disable it in the menu somewhere but… I don’t know how that works with certain files or anything. I can’t say much about it personally, but be aware that it exists. Also, I heard they were planning on making a sequel exclusively for mobile devices. That seems odd since the planned title has a 2 in it and the only people that played the first are 3DS owners. That might disinterest a lot of people because you don’t really want to jump into the middle of an RPG series and… well not every 3DS owner that played the first will want to play the sequel on a mobile device. It just seems odd all around. Maybe drop the 2 in the title and just give it the subtitle instead. That should fix the main advertising problem anyway. But that’s all starting to get off track.

If you’re super into the idea, you might want to spend around twenty-five bucks for it, but for most I’d say that it’s probably only worth about twenty bucks or less. That’s just my personal recommendation on it. When it comes down to it, Fantasy Life is a pretty neat action RPG that lets you have fun the way that you want to. Have fun with it. Don’t ruin the magic by trying to do it all. Just do what’s fun until you’re not having fun and then move on to something else. The less time you spend obsessing on numbers and completion, the more time you’ll spend enjoying the world around you. It’s the kind of game you’ll want to really get invested in. Let yourself disappear into it and just let it happen. That’s the most enjoyable way to play. Don’t expect the most groundbreaking or deep mechanics. Just enjoy it for what it is, because life is just a fantasy. Can you live this Fantasy Life?

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