Fantasy Life was an ambitious game from the creators of Ni no Kuni and Dark Cloud. Level-5 set out to essentially make a single player MMO where your character could choose what life you would play and master. Fantasy Life is a RPG much like Dragon Quest, Recettear and an MMO all wrapped into one game. The player has the choice between 12 Life classes which include Alchemist, Angler, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Cook, Hunter, Magician, Mercenary, Miner, Paladin, Tailor and Woodcutter. Each class has different ranks in which you complete tasks or quests to level up with the max level being Legend in the base game and God/Creator in the Origin Island DLC.
In terms of combat, there are no surprise spawns of enemies. The enemies that you can see, are what you can fight. The combat is simple in that you don’t have to memorize a lot of combos. For most classes there is only 1 or 2 attack options with the exception of the mage which chooses what magical power to use before/during attacks. Your character only has HP and SP in which all your special attacks use SP. Mage is at a huge disadvantage, especially in the early parts of the game, because all of their attacks (even the basic ones) use SP. From what I can tell the SP regeneration rate doesn’t change based on your “life”. You can get Armor that does improve the regen rate, but it does not go pass 100 points. What helps make this game even more casual when it comes to the combat is that the life cures (which revive you) are easy to procure. More than likely you won’t need them anyway as the combat is pretty easy. If you are in trouble you can simply run away and the creatures/enemies will only chase you so far before giving up. Really helpful to escape those sticky situations
There are other things to do besides combat in the open world such as gathering materials and performing side quests for NPCs and for your classes. When you gather materials you can bring them back to one of the main cities where there are a lot of NPCs and all of your crafting stations. The crafting is really intuitive and major part of the game. However they can be repetitive despite it having an auto craft option. Each crafting station has 3 separate activities for you to perform in order to craft a item. These make you perform various button combinations and actions which are tapping, holding down or getting your timing correct with a button. A good example of what you might have to do during the crafting would be like the Cooking Mama games without the touch screen. A big downside to the game however is that you must walk between cities and won’t be able to fast travel until you can afford the very expensive vacation homes.
The story is pretty simple and really non-existent. You are a young whippersnapper that finally gets to decide on your life/class. Your character is invited to go to the King in order to get their life. The only other “story” that exists is the butterfly quests which were simply placed in there for the Bliss which unlocks pretty much just cosmetic and small items. The story is really only there to move you along to different areas and isn’t much. The class quests usually have more involved in them than the main story which is unfortunate. This game is really just one big singleplayer MMO.
Now despite the story being a little weak, the world is vast. There are several major cities and a lot of areas to explore. There are a lot of fetch quests (which can be unfortunate depending on your preference), gathering/harvesting, dungeons and many other items. After 100+ hours, I still have a lot of content remaining. Even more thanks to the $10 DLC.
The presentation for Fantasy Life is as good as you are going to be able to get a handheld game. There is a lot of detail and quality in all aspects of the game from the cities all the way down to creatures/characters themselves. As is the case with a lot of JRPG’s, Fantasy Life is very colorful and vibrant. It really can accentuate every detail in individual art assets. Very few assets themselves get lost in the same color as say the background. Level-5 definitely went with a full color palette to design this game.
The soundtrack is composed by longtime Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu and though it isn’t his best work it is still a fine job and really helps you distinguish different areas you are in and events that may be happening (battle, crafting, etc.). What can get a bit annoying however is the constant yelps by your character in combat. As would be the case with most combat based RPGs, you will have to attack a lot. Where some RPGs do a better job of hiding the yelps, Fantasy Life really seems to make that the forefront sound in combat. At one point I was able to drown it out however you could still hear it every once in a while. Other than that the sound was solid but nothing spectacular.
Overall this game is a great JRPG to come on the 3DS and probably one of the better ones in recent years. There is a lot of content, albeit a little repetitive, which can give you a lot of time value. On the topic of replay/time value; since Fantasy Life allows you to also specialize in all 12 life classes you can master each and every one of them. This allows the player to have 100+ hours of gameplay without even doing all the little side quests. The graphics are nice, detailed and very aesthetically pleasing but the audio/soundtrack is lacking in something that really takes it over the edge presentation wise.