There comes a time in everyone’s life where they must choose a career and begin their life. Choosing a career is often a stressful process, but this is not the case with Fantasy Life, as you assume the role of a eager young villager looking to make a mark on the world. Its up to you whether you choose a heroic life of a paladin, wizard, mercenary, or alchemist, or you can take the blue collar route and choose careers like angler, cook, or miner. As you progress through Fantasy Life and level your jobs you will gain skills that not only benefit the job you currently have, but also you can mesh this skills to compliment other jobs. For example you may start as a miner, gain resources and decide to switch to a blacksmith. You can then decide to switch jobs to a paladin and craft your own armor.
Fantasy Life is essentially the result of putting Animal Crossing, Rune Factory, Bravely Default, Legend of The River King and Harvest Moon into a blender. It takes the elements we love from each game and throws them together in a very well put together package. Gameplay features such as crafting, grinding, leveling, and expanding your assets are all present in the game. Fantasy Life also features a pretty neat character customization that will make your character look as adorable or hilarious as you like.
There is never a dull moment in the village of Reveria, as you’ll have a chance to partake in a variety of quests. Along the way you’ll cross paths and befriend a butterfly (yes, you read that right – a butterfly) named Flutter who assists you on your journey. The village of Reveria and it’s surrounding world is quite immense for a handheld game. There are many kinds of quests to keep you busy in your new life. Challenges are specific quests that are unique to the life you choose. These challenges range from catching certain fish, cooking certain recipes, and crafting all kinds of armor. For completing challenges you earn stars that will eventually increase your life rank. You may switch jobs at any time without losing your rank so if boredom strikes you are encouraged to mix it up. Another set of quests are from your little pal, Flutter. Flutter’s quests are essentially the main storyline of Fantasy Life, and yield plenty of bonuses along the way. By completing Flutter’s quests you will gain Bliss, which can reward with upgrades and perks such as pets, horseback riding, and more storage. There are also various tasks that come from talking to the people of the village. In return they will pay you handsomely and often trade you goods. All of these can be completed at any pace, whether you choose to focus on mastering jobs or blazing through the story, it is completely up to you.
The tasks you perform in Fantasy Life are almost like a mini game. For example an angler will cast a line and wait until the fish bites. An icon will pop up, prompting you to press and hold the A button. If the button is pressed at the right moment this will result in a critical snag, cutting into the fish’s life gauge. As you hold the A button the life gauge will deplete, but you also have to be wary of the tension on your line. Its a careful game of tug of war that is quickly mastered. Once you rise from the ranks you will unlock skills that will practically seem like fishing with dynamite. Another example is the blacksmith life. When smithing you will be in a race against the clock as you alternate between three workstations using the L and R buttons. An icon will appear over each workstation telling you to either tap A rapidly, hold until you fill a gauge, or a timed button press. After a while these mini games can become a little repetitive, but as mentioned before you can switch freely to keep things fresh whenever you like.
Where Fantasy Life really stands out is in the sound and visuals. The in-game graphics are colorful and vivid, comparable to Harvest Moon: A New Beginning or Bravely Default. The cut scenes also feature a unique, cartoonish animation style that looks brilliant on the 3DS. The soundtrack is one of the major highlights, composed by none other than Nobuo Uematsu. If you do not recognize the name, he worked with Square/Square Enix for almost 20 years and has composed music for various classic JRPG’s.
While Fantasy Life is easily one of the best games to come out for the Nintendo 3DS this year, it still has it’s flaws. The combat, much like some of the gathering or crafting, can become almost monotonous, tedious, button tapping. Playing one life for the entirety of the game is a tough task, but chances are you’ll be curious enough to switch up frequently. The storyline doesn’t exactly draw you in, making it hard to progress through the actual plot but instead trying to master all the classes. Fantasy Life has many interesting and unique villagers to interact with, but could have really benefited from adding features to build relationships with non-playable characters. While it has many features from all the best simulation games such as owning pets and renovating your home, it lacks the companionship, marriage, and eventually being a parent.
All in all Fantasy Life is a fantastic blend of the Japanese Role Playing and Simulation genres that guarantees entertainment, as long as you switch things up to get away from repetition. From choosing the heroic life of a paladin or wizard, roaming the forests for monsterous bounties, or choosing to be a humble blacksmith who provides the armor and weaponry, you’ll be hooked for hours on end. If you’re a fan of games like Harvest Moon, Bravely Default, or Rune Factory, be sure to check out Fantasy Life.