Review: Fantasy Life for Nintendo 3DS
It’s my life, it’s now or never…
Many a role playing game tends to find itself steeped in world of fantasy. You probably know how things go by now: A warrior or a young child finds out they have a destiny greater than they had ever imagined, as they must gather up the power necessary to save the world from yadda yadda.
For being based on a type of tabletop game that allows you to create your own character to be anything you want to be, the scope of protagonists in the video games which bear the name of the genre can seem kind of limiting by comparison. The sad truth is that for all that these fantastic worlds have built up before you, your role in them is actually rather limiting, and once you’ve succeeded in doing the hero thing, your part is generally done for the most part.
This is where Fantasy Life manages to stand apart from many of its contemporaries while also calling back to the origins of RPGs in others.
You begin the game by taking part in some light customization of your character, though nothing so drastic as being a troll or a night elf or anything of that sort. Male or female, clothing, hair, etc.
From there is where things begin to get interesting, as you choose what your “Life” will be. In Fantasy Life, “Life” basically refers to your profession, of which there are a dozen to choose: Alchemist, angler (fisherman), blacksmith, carpenter, cook, hunter, magician, mercenary, miner, paladin, tailor, and woodcutter. As such, you can choose what you want to do in this world, whether it be taking up a more traditional role (such as paladin or mercenary), or something else entirely.
I personally opted to take up the role of a cook. Each Life has its own characters to meet, skills to master, and tasks to perform. As a cook, gathering up ingredients is key, as is learning numerous recipes in which to use them. A small but popular bistro on the west side of town has caught the attention of the king, and it is there that you begin the life of a cook as an apprentice. Soon, you’re visited by the king’s own royal chef, who seems to take up a friendly rivalry with you.
While preparing food in the kitchen, you must move your character from one part of the preparation area to the next as prompted, following the motions shown above your head at each station. You might need to perform one action to stir, or another to chop ingredients, all in the pursuit of the next culinary delight.
But though the Life of a cook is a good one, perhaps you can’t help but notice what you’re missing out on in the process. Going around to find ingredients, you may spot some rather shiny rocks with jewels sticking out of them.
Fortunately, you’re not locked into any one Life over the course of the game. Whenever you like (so long as certain story points aren’t in play), you can go to the guild and change your Life to something which might be better-suited to the task at hand.
Those shiny rocks? A cook may not be able to do anything with them, but a miner can! So hit the guild and pick a new profession, and you’ll be learning the ropes in no time. For miners, they basically circle the rocks in question with their pickaxe, looking for one particularly vulnerable spot to do damage before swinging away.
The result is closer to twelve different RPGs than just one, as you meet new characters in each Life, gain new skills, and take on new quests and side-quests. You can stick to the narrow path of one Life, but learning more opens up so many possibilities.
Better still, skills you have in one life can benefit you in another. For instance, the jewels you dig up as a miner can be sold for money that you can use to buy ingredients for special dishes to be prepared as a cook, and if you choose not to sell those dishes, you can use them yourself to restore your health in combat.
Combat? Yes, indeed; as you might have guessed, some Lives– such as paladins and mercenaries– are more combat-oriented than those focusing on gathering or crafting. That said, even a cook or a miner may need to set foot out of town and have to deal with monsters in the wild, though their methods and tools are arguably less elegant at dealing with the local fauna. The almost Z-targeting-like focus of your character’s real-time attack on an enemy can be cumbersome at times, so while using a small dagger is less than ideal, there is something to be said for taking them out from a distance with a hunter’s bow.
What’s more, though each Life has its own tale to tell, there is also a greater narrative taking place throughout the game, regardless of the Life you’ve chosen. It is in these instances in particular that having access to other forms of combat can be beneficial, but as noted, you can still maintain your other Lives at the same time. As a result, you get the benefit of engaging in a simpler life while also being able to take part in a great quest.
Plus, you don’t have to work alone. Online and local multiplayer are available, allowing up to three people to adventure together, joining up in your world or theirs. This is handy for taking on larger monsters, or if you just want to exchange items. You can also make friends through StreetPass, with other players’ characters showing up in your town as Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) that you can speak with in order to increase “Friendship” and even gain items.
In addition to the perks which come with the jobs, fulfilling various tasks great and small also rewards you with a measure of “Bliss.” This is a sort of experience scale which works more towards your personal being, rather than professional. For instance, stores might carry more items, you can have more room to carry things, or my personal favorite: The ability to adopt pets who follow you almost anywhere and act as party members. So now I have a cat who follows me around and even attacks enemies when I’m in the wilderness.
That’s just one of the little charms you get to experience in the realm of Reveria. Though there is no time limit placed upon your activities in the game, there is a day/night cycle which (unlike some games) is not too hasty, allowing you to take part in what you like at more of a time of your choosing. Or you can just hang out in your room and arrange furniture to your liking, not unlike in Animal Crossing.
Beyond that, charm is something this game just reeks of. It comes from LEVEL-5, the same company behind the amazing Professor Layton games, and from that there is a similar feel of sorts. Though things pick up here and there, much of it is rather laid back and simply endearing in a way that’s somewhat reminiscent of the people and places Layton has taken to.
Ever since I first beat The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past many years ago and got to see a peaceful land of Hyrule during its ending, I’ve always wanted to take part in something like that, even though that game would never allow it. The closest thing I can think of has been Animal Crossing, but even that is at a bit of a stretch. Fantasy Life, I think, more closely approaches the ideal I wanted to be a part of.
Fantasy Life is a great game with lots of things to do, all in a mellower scope than your Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, or even Mario & Luigi style games. If you’ve ever wanted to take part in a fantasy setting without just being “the guy who fixes everything with his sword”, then this is definitely one to check out.
A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.