A dozen lives to lead in a visually stunning world awaits players in Fantasy Life. But while its union between life simulation and RPG is a marriage made in Reveria for some, others may find the simple storyline diminutive and the variation between jobs a little thin.
From the developers behind the logic-prevailing world of Professor Layton and the sports-filled space of Inazuma Eleven, Level-5 brings the previously Japan-only title Fantasy Life to western players for the first time. In a text-rich environment, players can choose up to twelve lives in the vast land of Reveria and exude their prowess in weaponry and magic battles, crafting or healing. But just like reality, it takes time to master your new life as Hunter, Magician, Blacksmith, or Tailor, as well as the other eight lives available in the game, so players will never find themselves at a loss for new objectives.
After customising an avatar, players will be dropped into the beautifully lush world of Reveria, bulging at the seams with Level-5’s trademark charm both in characters and the surrounding scenery. But it’s not until you meet a talking butterfly named Flutter that this seemingly peaceful land will shortly feed itself unknowingly into the jaws of annihilation. A strange phenomenon has corrupted the tame beasts roaming Castele, Port Puerto, and Al Maajik, sending them into a wild craze and attacking humans at will. Charged with saving the land from the plummeting Doom Stones by King Erik of Castele, you’ll buddy up with Flutter to reforge past alliances, fulfilling her Bliss requirements along the way.
Fantasy Life’s main storyline can be completed in around ten hours, chiefly due to its half-baked RPG format with no need for levelling up or grinding. However, it’s no detriment to the storyline which provokes emotion and stimulates character attachment in its seven-part drama. But just when you believe there’s more to come with its comical approach to doomsday, it sits placidly in novella terrain. Though perfect for children or newcomers, it misses its mark among seasoned RPG players.
Those who crank up their 3D slider are rewarded justly when travelling around Reveria. While Castele and Port Puerto are prosperous in allure with historical features, azure oceans and sandy-washed beaches, it’s Al Maajik which truly fascinates the eye. Amidst the desert haze, magic carpet houses, hovering furniture, magical lamps, and rainbow-coloured portals dance across the town as a miniature pop-out Agrabah from Disney’s Aladdin. Since the game’s textures and lighting are perfectly encapsulated within the 3DS screen, tearing your gaze away to read text is solely an afterthought. And coupled with Fantasy Life’s music, it’s a perfect bubble to keep yourself contained within.
With a choice of twelve lives, savvy players should choose three lives for an efficient run. Pick up your sword and shield as a Paladin and venture into the Grassy Plains or caves, then grab your pickaxe as a Miner to chip away at those precious ores, and finally bring those materials to a Blacksmith bench and craft glorious weapons. The game’s ease of switching between lives at various Guild Offices around Reveria is one of the best features in the game, but the many life specific quests received means you’ll be endlessly looping between X, Y and Z for completion, resulting in slightly stale gameplay.
While crafting is largely the same in each life – whether as an Alchemist, Blacksmith, or Cook – and simply requires mashing the A button in quick succession, holding A down, and gently tapping A at the correct moment, beast-slaying requires a little more thought. Enemies can either be defeated by quickly tapping the A button with your equipped weapon, or players can use a range of special attacks and supercharge them to unleash ultimate damage. And with a variety of weapons on offer, buying different items with the in-game currency or “dosh” will certainly provide hours of enjoyment.
For those who choose to kick back and relax in Fantasy Life and let non-player characters join them on any given quest, unfortunate coding within the game will render them more troublesome than they are worth. Other than physically popping out from behind your avatar, NPCs will also stick like glue to walls and corners if too great a distance is travelled, while your avatar can seamlessly walk through them as if they were merely ghostly apparitions. The game also suffers from mild frame rate drops, particularly in the vicinity of large enemies, following NPCs, and trailing bounties. It’s jarring and ultimately brings players out of the gorgeous world when we desperately want to be drawn in.
Though Fantasy Life faces a few pitfalls with occasional NPC slip-ups and repetitive gameplay, its visually worth its weight in Al Maajik gold. If only the game’s well-paced and superbly crafted storyline was just a little longer, Fantasy Life would saddle up and race off into the sunset with a fist full of dosh and a near perfect score.