|Dev: Square Enix|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: January 26, 2016|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes|
Taking up arms with a trio a friends or strangers is by far the most ideal way to tackle the wilderness. With a quartet of complementary job classes, even nasty missions such as taking down ten dragons can be a breeze. The only downside is that the framerate slows to a crawl with a full team crammed into tight combat zones with giant monsters roaming around. Also, despite it being more pleasurable taking on missions cooperatively, the “co-op” aspect is rather superfluous in the strategic sense. With virtually every mission requirement delegated to defeating monsters, every player can simply focus on spamming their own abilities rather than working in tandem, and the monsters will easily fall.
Taking care of those abilities, however, is a deep and rewarding system. Using abilities in combat builds Resonance, which eventually allows you to trigger a Crystal Surge, a powerful state that can give subsequently used abilities a chance to mutate with specific buffs. These mutations can then be permanently fused to the ability by spending CP (crystal points) back in town. Many different upgrades can be attached to a single ability, and each specific buff can also stack in intensity. With each class sporting a variety of unique abilities, as well as exclusive weapons that can also be forged and upgraded with collected materials, plenty of hours can be dipped into creating a truly epic array of heroes.
It’s unfortunate, then, that the island world you explore is not as exciting. The zones are either moderate sized arenas or a series of randomly generated short and narrow pathways connecting the arenas. Yet traveling from one location to another with very few shortcuts can be a tedious endeavor. The island features beaches, meadows, mountains, magma filled caverns, and various other landscapes, but none of them show any notable detailing, and are rather bland on the eyes. I’m also shocked that a game of this nature fails to incorporate the system’s 3D functionality. With Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, the 3D effect is a great tool to gauge the distance between yourself and the monsters, and grants a tactical edge in the real-time combat. This is surprisingly absent in Final Fantasy Explorers, a game exclusive to the 3DS, which I can only imagine did not get incorporated due to Square Enix wanting to push the game out the door quickly rather than investing extra resources to add it in. Disappointing.
Thankfully, one hallmark of Square Enix games remains praiseworthy here, and that is the music. Apart from the battle victory fanfare, the score is completely original, though everything immediately fits into the Final Fantasy musical compendium. Heavy on synthesized strings and woodwind instruments, it mixes beautifully with the environments and distress of each situation. Voices are limited to grunts and sighs, but at least the sound effects are as varied as the abilities and weapon strikes they are paired with.
Monster Hunter is a unique action-RPG series that has benefited by not having many comparable games encroach on its turf. Final Fantasy Explorers is a blatant attempt to seize some of that territory by tapping into the extensive lore of its franchise. It certainly succeeds in providing a forum for building personalized heroes to show off in cooperative missions, and has enough content to supply hundreds of hours to those interested. It doesn't, however, have the strategic girth, the environmental depth and detail, nor the quirky and engaging story and characters that Capcom has perfected with its series.
Date: January 26, 2016