Final Fantasy Explorers for the Nintendo 3DS places you into a world where you can team up with three of your friends to undertake quests and battle against the mighty Eidolons. Along the way you can gain access to many of the popular jobs from the Final Fantasy series as well as receive a bit of fan service in the form of weapons, costumes, and the abillity to transform into heroes of legend.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes up the latest handheld entry in the Final Fantasy series.
The heart of Final Fantasy Explorers is the quest system. You’ll talk to an NPC at the counter in the hub town of Libertas to take on new quests either to collect special items, or to help progress the story. Some of these quests will have you tackling the mighty Eidolons such as Ifrit or Shiva, while some are giving you more simple tasks like going out and killing a handful of dragons or traveling to a certain area.
While there are many quests to undertake, they can become repetitive quickly, with only occasional changes in areas and monsters to mix things up. As if the lack of quest variety didn’t hurt the game enough, you’ll often find yourself repeating many quests, especially those against boss type enemies in the hopes of obtaining certain items that can be used to forge new equipment.
There’s also a bit of an end game for Explorers as well, offering even harder quests after the completion of the story. These quests, while offering some new enemies to face, don’t give much in the way of story and the only reason to take these enemies on is to farm them for materials just like many of the other quests. The poor drop rates of some of these items produces a grind that feels more fitting for an MMO style game, which in a way, the game tries to replicate, though on a much smaller scale.
A bigger issue I ran into is the number of monsters that are loaded into an area when undertaking specific quests. One quest for example tasks you with defeating 10 dragons. When you go out into the world, you’ll find that due to the quest, dragons are inhabiting many of the areas. Dragons are larger enemies, and if you start to take on several of them at once, having them all on screen can drop the frame rate by a noticeable amount. Pair this with 3 more players over a wi-fi connection and the frame rate can really suffer.
Final Fantasy Explorers features the series’ job system, with 21 jobs in the game. At the start of your adventure, you unlock a small number of jobs that you can switch too. As you progress through more quests, more of these jobs will be unlocked.
One of the issues I had with the system however, was the rate at which the jobs unlocked. At the beginning you get a good handful of jobs that you can use. As you progress however, the rate that you unlock jobs feels a bit staggered, requiring you to fulfill hidden requirements or be past a certain point in the story in order to access additional jobs. This can be especially frustrating for long time fans of the series that are looking to play as a specific job, only to not have it accessible until much later in the game.
That having been said, each job will feel different enough to make you want to try something other than what you might consider your “main” job. If you get bored with one job, it’s easy enough to switch over to a different one to see what it has to offer. For those wanting to gear up several different jobs, the game has a system in place to save your sets, which includes your equipment and abilities- making switching over to a different job easy.
Combat and Ability Mutations
When out in the field, an explorer can have up to 8 different abilities. These are mapped to one of the shoulder buttons and A,B,X,Y. Targeting enemies requires a single press of the R button before utilizing your abilities to take them down. Something players will want to pay attention to on larger enemies such as the Eidolons, is that you can target multiple parts of the enemy. Attacking specific areas on an enemy could yield special items.
Additionally, Final Fantasy Explorers is compatible with the Circle Pad Pro (and thus the analog nub on the New Nintendo 3DS) which can help greatly with the camera controls.
One of the unique features players can see while in combat is the mutation system. While battling your way through monsters, you can unlock a special mode known as Crystal Surge. This lets you select from a handful of different bonuses that can be applied to your abilities. When using your abilities with Crystal Surge active, the abilities can be mutated, having traits attached to them. As an example, you might use a Earth Affinity Crystal Surge- the attacks you use while CS is active, have a chance at getting an earth element mutation added to them.
These mutated abilities that you learn can be viewed in town, letting you see the different mutations you’ve acquired and allowing you to purchase the one that fits your play style with points that are awarded from quests. Enhancing abilities with mutations is essential to strengthen your character. Being able to add traits such as Regen or Haste to an ability can greatly improve your character. An ability can be mutated many times, allowing you to have several traits on it, or further enhance the ones you already have. You could have an ability grant Haste while also increasing your critical hit rating, and if you were to mutate them further with the appropriate Crystal Surges, you could have Haste 2 etc.
When trying out any of the other jobs the game has to offer, the first step for players is going to be going out and getting mutations to further strengthen that job. This can take some time, especially if there are specific mutations you’re hoping to attach to your moves. There is absolutely a lot of room for min/maxing here for the hardcore player.
Trance and Monsters
While battling enemies on the field, players can charge up their Trance meter. Once charged, Trance will allow players to take on the form of a legendary hero from the Final Fantasy series, or be able to use the power of an Eidolon they captured previously. Triggering Trance can also play a strategic value during combat as using it will also replenish your health and ability points.
Final Fantasy Explorers is designed around the idea of adventuring with three other players during your quests. To aid players that decide to stay offline during their questing, the game allows you to create monsters using special drops from enemies. In fact, after creating a certain number of these monsters, you can unlock the Beast Master job which comes with an ability that makes finding the monster creating items easier.
Different monsters will have access to different abilities so it’s up to the player to find a companion (or companions) that better suits their style of play.
One of the important features of Final Fantasy Explorers is the ability to play with up to three other players either local, or online while undertaking quests.
When joining an online game, you can host or a join a room, setting various preferences to find a group of players with the same goals as you. Communication in online games uses 40 pre-made messages that can be accessed via the touch screen. These messages can also be edited, though there are only room for 16 characters.
Online play is fairly straight forward, you can join or start a room, one of the players will select a quest, the others can then also choose to undertake that quest and then everyone heads out together to complete it. I found my time spent with other players online more enjoyable than playing the game by myself. However, it’s definitely possible to complete the game without ever going online.
Final Fantasy Explorers gives players an opportunity to play as their favorite jobs from the series while also serving up a bit of fanservice. The ability to play as a Dragoon dressed as Squall while also being able to transform into Yuna during combat is definitely an experience for the long time fans of the series. However, the quest system which lies at the heart of the game can become boring after awhile, with the story elements they provide being equally boring. The wide variety of jobs coupled with ability mutations leaves room for a lot of experimenting but the lack of quest variety and the amount of grinding required to obtain rare items means that you may not have much enjoyment in doing so.
Square Enix provided us with a copy of this game for review purposes.