Review: Final Fantasy Explorers (3DS)

Is the first Final Fantasy on 3DS worth your time, or does it fall short of the franchise’s rich pedigree?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 02/23/2016 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Gameplay is simple but fun; lots of gear to craft; abilities are fun to use and customize; strong online and local multiplayer; tons of Final Fantasy fan-service
Poison Mushroom for...
Formulaic gameplay; might feel watered down to some players in comparison to other, similar games; no 3D graphics output

Final Fantasy Explorers is Monster Hunter-lite. There’s really no better way of summing the game up than that, especially considering it’s clear where Explorers’ design team (shamelessly) drew its inspiration from. What separates Explorers from Capcom’s series, however, is a healthy dose of Final Fantasy fan-service that’s done quite well, and more easily-accessible gameplay than Monster Hunter, which even at its best is quite dense and layered. Sadly, despite these advantages, Explorers is a middling effort that apes its source material but never comes anywhere near equaling or surpassing it.

Explorers starts players off by creating their own customer avatar. The suite of tools is pretty pedestrian; male or female, eye color, skin color, and a handful of different hairstyles to choose from comprise the bulk of the options available, but there’s not much to separate the player avatar creation in Explorers from countless other, similar games that have come and gone. I was pleased that avatars could be altered at any point after that during the course of the adventure, but the actual variety of features available left me underwhelmed. From there, the game introduces its central hub area of Libertas, where all quests and missions originate from.

Like the player creation mode, Libertas is similarly standard and unsurprising. The area is home to everything one would expect from a monster hunting game of this ilk; merchants for gear, weapons, items, as well as a desk to take on missions. More interesting, however, is the center of town, where a large crystal sits. It’s from this crystal that players can power-up their avatar with new abilities to use in battle. There’s a considerable amount of freedom to customize what abilities an avatar has thanks to the ever-familiar Final Fantasy Jobs system, which is tantamount to character classes in other games.

Once out on a mission, Explorers starts to assert itself as a more worthwhile experience. Combat is fun, fast, and smooth, with the three classes of monsters to tackle out in the field (small, large, Eidolon) allowing players to fool around with all the awesome powers that they’ve mapped to their avatar. The Eidolon beasts aren’t as regular in their appearances, as they act as “bosses” when they do appear, but the challenge of taking them down is much higher and, thus, more satisfying. I found the balance of foes to be very pleasing, and hacking and slashing my way through all of them was a joy.

Click the image for a full overview of the Job system!

For those who love online and local multiplayer, it’s worth noting that Explorers has a very easy to use social system; no matter how a person connects, the action is fairly smooth and hiccup free (note: not perfect, but solid). Some quests are easier to complete with a live, human helper, which makes connecting advantageous for those trying to see everything the game has to offer. For those who are less sociable when playing their games (like me!), there’s the option to team instead with monster allies by utilizing something called Atmaliths. These items are dropped randomly in battles and can be used to create monster friends, each of which has its own host of abilities and can be leveled up. The game doesn’t allow players to bring three hyper-strong creatures into battle at once, requiring some thought be put into the monster party that’s formed; I thought this was a fair way to balance out offline play, but some folks might wish things were less restrictive.

Explorers’ biggest selling point is arguably its copious amounts of fan service in the form of various Final Fantasy characters who make an appearance throughout the game. There are quite a few who appear, including Cloud and Lightning, just to name a couple, and there are two ways to see them. One is to transform into the characters mid-battle in something called a Trance attack; this ability unlocks pretty early in the game, so there isn’t a long wait to start seeing Final Fantasy alumni. The other way to see them is by forging each character’s signature gear and customizing the avatar to look like the Final Fantasy stalwart in question. Since the avatar can be made to look pretty dead-on to each Final Fantasy character, it’s a satisfying trade-off (though really, why you can’t just be these characters is a bit… odd).

While I’ve already touched on the fun-yet-standard gameplay of Explorers, one area of the game that I found disappointingly lackluster was zero support for 3D graphical output. It’s 2016, Square, how does a high-profile 3DS game get released this late into the system’s life cycle without such a basic feature? Thankfully, other than the lack of 3D (which, admittedly, is an omission many out there who won’t care about), the game does look great, with some nice lighting and character models. The animation is also very fluid and lively, and combined with the stirring score (who doesn’t love the Final Fantasy victory fanfare?), Explorers is top notch in terms of production values.

There’s no denying that Monster Hunter is leagues above the quality of Explorers, but for what it is, this inaugural Final Fantasy spin on the Capcom formula is a satisfying play. Formulaic doesn’t necessarily mean bad, especially when the formula in question is as fun as this and so solidly executed. Had Square not played it so safe, Explorers would be a much better game than it is; as it stands, I’d definitely recommend this one for those who feel the Monster Hunter series is a bit too inaccessible and/or those who love Final Fantasy, but for everyone else, they might be safe to pass on this one in favor of greener pastures elsewhere.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!