A Final Fantasy monster hunting experience on the 3DS.
While Final Fantasy fans are waiting eagerly for Final Fantasy XV and the new Final Fantasy VII, Square Enix has offered up a slightly different experience on the 3DS to keep them busy. Final Fantasy Explorers is not your average JRPG, rather taking on the form of an action RPG in a similar style to the hugely popular Monster Hunter series. There may be an abundance of fan service in Final Fantasy Explorers, but will that be enough to interest those who have never warmed to the Monster Hunter grind?
Final Fantasy Explorers makes full use of its Final Fantasy setting, a world were explorers hunt for crystals to benefit the world. Finding these crystals is the purpose of the new explorer in town, predictably under the control of the player, and doing so will involve heading out into the wilderness around the hub town and defeating recognizable monsters from the Final Fantasy series by the bucket load. There really is not much by way of narrative in Explorers, with all of the emphasis being on taking missions, usually to defeat a set number of particular monsters, and improving your explorer to allow access to more areas and yet more difficult monsters.
It may sound a little bland when described like that, at its most simple, but anyone who has played any of the other similar games will know that there is a certain amount of depth to be found in hunting monsters and preparing to hunt yet more monsters. Final Fantasy Explorers manages to pack most of its depth into the character customization. Plenty of job types from the Final Fantasy series make an appearance, allowing the player access to different abilities and the use of different equipment. Crafting will give the player incentive to keep gathering materials out in the wild, and provide further way to improve their character, and further into the game, the player can even employ monsters to become allies and help them on their quest. With the huge number of different abilities available through the various options, and plenty of ways to combine and tweak those abilities, players can easily find a playstyle that suits them.
The huge amount of customization stands in contrast to the relatively simple gameplay once the player leaves the town and heads off to overcome whichever monsters happen to be on their radar next. Button mashing seems to serve the player well for the most part, although things get a bit more interesting when you fill the resonance meter and can then use Crystal Surges to perform some truly exciting combos which can easily change the tide of battle. A highlight for Final Fantasy fans will be the chance to transform into well known characters from the series, such as Lightning or Cloud.
Explorers is a game about grinding through, and players will often find themselves taking on quests that are perhaps a little too similar to the quests they have just completed. However, all of that grinding serves a purpose in preparing the player to take on the massive Eidolons, boss type monsters that will take time and patience to take down.
Of course, the other big draw of Explorers is the co-op gameplay. Players can team up with up to three other players, both locally and online, for some monster hunting, sorry, exploring action. More players does increase the difficulty, which is no bad thing, and playing with other real people, even with limited communication, is where the most fun can be had.
The Final Fantasy fans will be expecting something impressive when it comes to the visuals, as the games have a long tradition of being particularly beautiful. In this respect, Explorers is a bit of a disappointment with low quality visuals and even some framerate issues.
Final Fantasy Explorers is a bit of a mixed bag. The fan service is impressive and may just be enough to pull in the Final Fantasy hardcore. But those who are partial to this style of action RPG will likely find that the simplistic systems will just not hit their monster hunting spot. That being said, those who found Monster Hunter too complex may well find Explorers to be just the ticket. The visuals are not great, and the game does become repetitive fairly quickly, but there is a huge amount of customization and playing with others to take down mighty monsters is where the game really shines.