Final Fantasy Explorers Review

Final Fantasy Explorers Review

Exploring Claimed Territory

With Marlboros and Chocobos, Time Mages and Dragoons, Hi-Potions and Phoenix Downs, on the surface Final Fantasy Explorers appears to be another chapter in Square Enix’s venerable franchise. However, after taking your first few steps and completing the tutorial missions it becomes plainly obvious that the gameplay design is derived almost entirely from the Monster Hunter playbook. It’s near impossible not to draw comparisons to Capcom’s mammoth creature slayer that has garnered huge Western profits, so I won’t. I will instead showcase where Final Fantasy Explorers stumbles in its doppelganger attempt, and where it shines.

One huge staple that has been stripped away is the story. Final Fantasy games are by far one of the greatest venues to find epic tales woven around enticing and memorable characters. Here, the backdrop portrayed is grandiose, with nations on the brink of a global resource war over the precious crystals that fuel the entire planet. A remote island has yielded rumors of a Grand Crystal, thus calling forth Explorers from across the globe to claim it and be showered with wealth and fame. Yet for all that backstory bluster, your meagerly customized character lacks any personality, and acts solely as a vessel for you to send out on missions and tango with monsters. In the port town of Liberatas, the townsfolk and visitors do little more than provide tidbits and useless banter. There is no emotional commitment to cleansing the island of its monstrous denizens, just the lust to make yourself more powerful and forge new weapons.

In this respect, however, Final Fantasy Explorers does manage to dangle a succulent looking carrot in front of you, keeping that string just long enough that you keep reaching out to grasp for more resources to purchase useful goods, forge better equipment, and bolster abilities to overpowered proportions. There are plenty of ways to make your socially meager character a force to be reckoned with. The vast selection of job classes to choose from allows you to fashion a tank, healer, support, or damage dealer, with the ability to swap between saved presets quickly and easily. Sadly, you are restricted to just a few to start, and it will require dozens of hours and many missions to unlock the entire roster. Also, support and healer classes are difficult choices to begin with, as you are flying solo without much in your repertoire to stand tall against wandering enemies.

Fortunately, maneuvering around the three-dimensional world is made simpler through intuitive camera controls. Locking onto and switching between targets, snapping the camera to behind your back, and manually controlling it via the control pad or secondary analog stick (Circle Pad Pro or “nubbin” on the New 3DS), are all well designed and smoothly integrated. The menu screens, though vast, are nicely compartmentalized with plenty of filters to sort through your growing inventory of equipment and skills. Liberatas is a compact town with all the shops and amenities a mere few seconds’ jog away. With all the time you could take customizing your character, swapping between shops and getting back to hunting is never a lengthy chore.

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.

Though the characters are shaped with ever-changing detail, the rest of the world is bland with flat textures. The game at least has some nice environmental and combat animations. 4.3 Control
Camera controls and sifting through menus are both pleasantly easy affairs. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is all synthesized, but the orchestrations are all well crafted. There are a multitude of sound effects, though nothing that audibly impresses. 3.5 Play Value
There is easily over a hundred hours of content, but simply isn’t enough strategic variety to captivate most players for that long. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • 4-Player Adventure – Band together with up to four players to form strategies and take on challenging dungeons and powerful bosses via the Nintendo 3DS local wireless connection or online.
  • Over 20 Jobs to Explore and Master – Players can play as their favorite FINAL FANTASY roles, from series classics including Dragoon, Bard and Black Mage, to the highly specialized Samurai, Time Mage and Dark Knight.
  • Trance Mode – Wield the power of eidolons, such as Ifrit and Bahamut, and transform into legendary FINAL FANTASY characters, including Cloud, Squall and Lightning.
  • Classic FINAL FANTASY Monsters – Recruit, level up, and fight alongside classic monsters from the series.
  • Over 100 Hours of Gameplay – With over 200 quests, over 20 jobs and endless party configurations to discover, players have a myriad of ways to enjoy the game.

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