Fantasy Life

By Jorge Figueiredo - December 2nd, 2014

All images are 2D versions – obviously.

Playing Level-5’s Fantasy Life for the Nintendo 3DS (co-developed by Brownie Brown and h.a.n.d.) is like participating in a living, breathing version of a storybook tale – with a role-playing twist. Sure, in many tales the focus of the plot is on a valiant knight or a courageous sorceress – but what about those who provide the food by fishing? What about those who mine the ore, or collect the wood from the forests? Fantasy Life let’s you find the heroic in the everyday – by allowing you to take on one of twelve different ways of life. If you have a lot of patience and flexibility, you will enjoy this game. However, if you are looking for a cohesive experience, this might not be the title you’re looking for.

Players begin the game by customizing their character (so many options!), and choosing their first “Life”. This character begins their adventures renting a small attic room in Castele, one of the areas located in the world of Reveria. After befriending a very friendly butterfly, the main character takes care of some administrative bits before embarking on their adventure in whatever Life they have chosen, fulfilling tasks associated with that particular career path. Of course, all is not so simple, and players will soon find themselves in the middle of an epic adventure. Saying any more beyond that would be spoiler territory (though the story is not a wholly unfamiliar one, in a general adventure plot sense); suffice to say, though, that for those who like to fulfill goals, the adventure will almost always end up taking a back seat to the impressive task list.

Lots of customization options available.

This task list is actually made up of two different types of goals. First of all, there are goals set by the resident Life Master of your field. This person acts as your mentor and assigns tasks relevant to your profession. Fulfilling these tasks earns you “Stars”, which are like experience points. Climbing the experience ladder is what helps you gain levels; and gaining levels is what gets you skill points to make your character more effective. As you gain levels, you also gain access to new areas and profession-specific skills; these open up more opportunities for advancement – in other words, its a great feedback loop.

The other tasks are given to you by the residents of Reveria, and are quite varied. Accepting and completing these tasks will usually get you “Dosh”, the local currency, which you can use to buy new equipment and consumable items (as well as attain better lodgings). Some of the jobs on this list can also coincide with another form of currency called “Bliss”, which is actually regulated by your butterfly friend. Bliss is all about positivity, and accumulating these will get you bonus items that come in handy on your adventures (such as a larger backpack, in which to carry more items, rather than having to constantly run back to town to sell or store things (at your apartment) to make room.

What is interesting about these small quests given to you by the townspeople is that some of them are easier to complete by other professions than your own. For instance, someone might desire some fresh-cut pine; this can be bought, or attained from someone else after fulfilling a different quest (if you’re lucky) – but its far easier to gather if you are currently a woodcutter, or have been a woodcutter in a previous Life. This is where the game becomes very interesting.

The cut-scenes are very pretty.

Since you can change your chosen Life at any given time, you can actually do quite well for yourself by changing your Life at least a few times. Some forward-thinking and a little bit of professional grinding for experience and levels might actually save you a little bit of time later on down the line. For instance, imagine being able to create and improve your own armor (Blacksmith), which you can then use to keep yourself safer in battles (Paladin). It’s a really cool concept. Sure, there are some unique skills that can only be used in your current Life; however, other general Life skills are never a burden, and combinations of these skills make for some interesting synergies.

Herein lies both the main strength and weakness of the game. While you are able to pursue all of these interesting jobs, they can be something of a distraction from the plot. Unless you have an exceptional amount of focus, or if you simply want to taste as many different Lives as possible, then you’ll be fine. However, if you are looking to complete the main adventure in a timely manner, then this game might frustrate you a little. Every class has its own unique quirks in terms of controls for tasks, amounting to basic mini-games or button-mashing to get the job done. Perhaps this is challenging when you’re first starting off in a profession – but it seems to stagnate after a while, and almost urges the player to take on a new Life to alleviate boredom.

It’s a shame that the game seems to drag the player all over the place, as the production value is really very good. The graphics are very well thought-out and beautiful (in 2D or in 3D), as are the designs for each area. Music and audio are also nicely produced, and fit well with the overall theme of the game. As nice as the production is, though, it definitely ends up feeling a lot like a grind rather than an adventure, and can become a little boring as time goes on.

You’ll need to put a fair amount of work into this game to get all of the tasks done.

In many ways, Fantasy Life reminds me of my experience with The Sims for the PC. What started out as a cool concept ends up becoming tedious because there is no real focus, which results in an unraveling of the experience – and the campaign story isn’t strong enough to pull in all of the loose threads. I think that Fantasy Life tries to be too much to too many. Games like Animal Crossing or even Tomodachi Life draw the user in with a clever concept, and then keep them hooked with familiarity. Fantasy Life just tends to meander around, not really knowing what it is. That’s not to say that everyone will not enjoy the game. After spending some time away from Fantasy Life and approaching it as a task-based game (and ignoring the narrative), I find that it is more fun, as I can spend a small amount of time (say, 30-60 minutes) tackling tasks and netting myself Dosh and Bliss, which I can use to buy new things and unlock more tasks.

Long story short: if you have the patience to grind, and the flexibility to change your roles to suit your quests, then you may find value in Fantasy Life. Tons of quests and a well-produced world will keep you hooked for a long time. However, if you don’t take kindly to a game with a constantly-shifting focus (or a lost one), then this may not be for you. It is also important to note that while this game is most likely suitable for children, they may abandon it due to the massive amount of reading involved – mostly because they will run out of playtime after a few in-game conversations.

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