On paper, Fantasy Life seems like a dream game. Developed by Level-5, it features an open world in which your character can explore and make a living in a number of ways, with a bit of Animal Crossing style home ownership thrown in for good measure. With such a mixture, can it be more than just a jack of all trades?
As with most games of this genre, it starts with you creating a character. There’s a large array of customisation options on offer – with voices, eyes, faces, hairstyles all changeable. There’s something for pretty much everyone, without it ever feeling overwhelming. From there the story starts and you are introduced to the main characters.
The hook of Fantasy Life, however, is choosing a ‘Life’. There are twelve to choose from, ranging from a humble Cook, up to a Paladin or Magician. Your Life will dictate how you tackle the game. A Paladin, for example, specialises in combat so will receive a boost in that area and will be focused on battling enemies throughout the story. Other lives may be able to wield weapons too, but not as competently. Every Life has a master that you have to report to. This master will set you challenges, and upon completion you will rank up in that specific Life and gain additional bonuses. I spent most of my time as a magician, therefore was always off battling creatures in order to gain the approval of my master.
Rather than leaving it there, Fantasy Life allows you to change to a different Life at any time, each with its own set of challenges. So, for example, you could start life as a miner, levelling up so you can mine rarer and more precious materials scattered throughout the realm. You could then switch to a blacksmith, and forge equipment using resources gathered as a miner. Using these weapons efficiently would require a fighter, and that’s where the paladin comes in. Handily, all progress made in one Life transfers over when you switch to another, so you’ll end up as some kind of ultimate character with a multitude of skills.
Then there’s Bliss. Throughout the game one of the main characters, Flutter, will issue a number of requests. Completing these will not only progress the story, but add to how blissful your character is. Reaching certain levels unlocks special bonuses, such as owning a pet or being able to ride a horse.
When not placating Flutter, and trying to please your master, you’ll be accepting quests from the people of the various regions, which will gain you Dosh (the game’s currency) and various special items. Whilst never hugely exciting, these quests are at least varied enough to stop boredom setting in. Those hungry for loot will be pleased to know the game has its fair share. From food to textiles, everything can be sold or put towards making something better. There are also better weapons and armour to purchase, each having an effect on your overall stats.
Each of the regions in the game also has a house that you can purchase, allowing you to instantly warp there from the map screen. Your house can be customised to your liking, with Dosh earned being spent on various furnishings and wallpaper. It’s a nice touch, although the houses are a touch pricey – there’s obviously no recession going on!
Fantasy Life contains four main areas, each broken down into smaller bits. It’s a decent sized chunk of land to explore, with each region having its own unique style, although it’s not all available from the off. While the second 3DS screen will generally point you in the right direction, the overall map is a little bit naff, with little in the way of interaction.
If a good story is what you’re after, Fantasy Life goes some way to scratching that itch. The realm is under threat from Doom Stones falling from the sky. These rocks are surrounded by a dark energy, which makes normally peaceful creatures erupt into a violent rage. These stones are just the start of a much larger problem. It’s an enjoyable enough yarn, made even better by the cast of genuinely likeable characters. Several times I found myself grinning at the end of a cutscene and rooting for everyone to succeed.
It’s a big game, too. If you rush through the main story you’re looking at about 13-14 hours of play. To do that though would be to miss the entire point; Fantasy Life is something to take your time with. Experimenting with all the different lives and tackling all the quests is a mammoth task. There are even a couple of online options to add to an already impressive feature list. Link Mode will allow people playing the game at the same time to interact and take part in activities such as exchanging messages. More important, however, is the inclusion of online co-op, allowing a party of three to form up and tackle missions, or explore.
The only real negative I have, and it’s hardly a game-breaker, is that the overall presentation never really shines. It doesn’t look bad – far from it – but it feels like the region/character designs could have been taken from any other 3DS adventure game from the last few years. Maybe it’s just a limitation of the 3DS hardware?
I am extremely impressed with Fantasy Life. There are so many elements to the game, but it manages them well to create an immersive, enjoyable experience with a lot of content to play with. If you’re looking for a time-sink, then this is the game for you.