I never thought this day would arrive, but, yeah, I’m totally playing Fantasy Life. It’s not some fever dream; I’m actually running around Castele, raising skills, unlocking Bliss, gaining Dosh, earning XP, doing quests, and having a really grand, relaxing time. As of this writing, I’ve logged just about 12 hours in the game, which is akin to maybe gaining your first dragon shout in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’m not exaggerating.
If you are wondering why I would open on such disbelief and/or are new to Grinding Down…well, Fantasy Life is a game I’ve been pining after and trumpeting for a good long while now. Let’s see, let’s see–boy, am I thankful for the “search” function on this ol’ blog of mine. I first wrote about it in August 2009, back when it was originally geared for the Nintendo DS and was all about them sprites. After that, not much word surfaced until July 2012, when the game took a big visual shift to be more accessible for the Nintendo 3DS. And then time marched on some more, though gamers in Japan got to see it released while everyone else waited with collectively held breaths. With zero to even zero-er fanfare, a North American release was announced during this year’s E3 after Nintendo finished announcing all the things they felt were cooler and more worthy of air time than a multi-job cartoony life sim. Well, let’s put all that behind us, because the game is out, the game is mine, and the game is good.
For those that really ate up Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, you’ll immediately notice a lot in common here. Let’s first touch upon the story, or rather the overarching story. See, each Life has its own set of main characters, problems, and resolutions, but the main path is different. One day, the ever-peaceful Reveria is shaken when a meteorite falls into your character’s house, setting off a chain of events foretold in an ancient prophecy involving the land’s goddess and the moon Lunares. Castele’s King Erik asks the main player to investigate these strange occurrences, and he or she is joined in this quest by Flutter, a strange glowing butterfly that has the ability to speak. Later on, you learn that the butterfly is really the daughter of Celestia, the goddess of Reveria, and she fell from heaven to help people. Not exactly Stella–but it does sound a little familiar, yes?
At the beginning of Fantasy Life, you get to customize your character a bit and then must select what Life you’d like to start on. I picked Alchemist as I’ve always been a big fan of alchemy pots in previous Level-5 games, and I wanted to see how addicting it would be here. There are twelve Life types in total. The Alchemist is a mix of gathering items and some light combat out in the field, though I actually can’t remember many story details from the early Alchemist-only quests. After eleven hours of this, I finally decided to switch over to a new Life–you can freely switch between Lives when not on a main path mission and learn universal skills–but I made the mistake of picking Cook, a Life that is perhaps too similar to Alchemist to feel different. I mean, they both use the very same mini-game for creating items. I suspect I’ll try for a Woodsman or Paladin next to get out into the wild more.
So far, at least for Alchemists, combat is real simple. You have a three-hit combo by mashing the attack button, but no dodge or twirl away from danger like in Disney Magical Castle‘s dungeons, which often leads to getting stuck in the combo animation and taking a few hits from enemies. I found it works well enough to hit twice, back off, and repeat, though it doesn’t make for exciting combat. However, many quests are of the MMORPG ilk, meaning kill X wolves or X bandit leaders, and your list will eventually fill fast just like that miscellaneous quests tab in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that you have to get out there and kick some monster butt. In addition to these side quests, you also have Life challenges to complete and Bliss objectives to move the story forward. There is always something to do or work towards in Fantasy Life.
Great news–the writing is funny. Very amusing, but then again, just about everyone in the game is speaking my language. Even when it isn’t diving into puns like a fiend, it handles everything else lightly, but still in an entertaining fashion. Even the quiet moments that Flutter has to herself are soft and poignant, with a pinch of fun. I’m not deeply invested in the world or its characters yet, but just about everything they say is interesting. Oh, and animals talk and say the silliest of things, so make sure you speak to each and every cow, chicken, and cat you come across.
I don’t doubt I’ll be back to write more about Fantasy Life, but probably not until I’ve tried out a few more Lives and figured out which is my true calling. Alchemy is good fun, but I need a little more adventuring under my belt.