Final Fantasy Explorers sends adventures on quests to kill or capture some of the most iconic monsters in Final Fantasy lore. Explorers is Square Enix’s attempt to capitalize on the massive success that is the Monster Hunter series. While not a direct replica of Capcom’s smash hit franchise if you are familiar with Monster Hunter you will instantly recognize a number of similarities in Explorers.
Each numbered entry in the main Final Fantasy series for the past 20 years has fearlessly pushed the JRPG franchise in a new direction. One thing they have all had in common, however, is a strong main protagonist and a compelling central story. Explorers tosses the notion that a JRPG has to be story heavy on its ear. This game is squarely focused on the combat. Story is a distant third.
You begin your exploration as a recruit that has newly arrived on a recently discovered island that is home to a mother lode of crystals. Crystals are Final Fantasy Explorers equivalent of petroleum. It’s a limited resource that wars get fought over. On this island there is a central hub town. Don’t worry about the town’s name because it is not important. In fact the story and the premise can all be tossed out. This game really revolves around one thing. Killing monsters so you can become more powerful so you can kill more powerful monsters. Period.
It’s how you become more powerful that makes this game compelling. You become more powerful in interesting ways. The first of which is by completing missions and leveling up. As you complete missions you will open up additional jobs. You will start the game as a Freelancer but Knight, and White Mage will quickly become available. From there you can branch of into Thief, Time Mage, Dark Knight, Machinist, etc. There are 21 jobs pulled from Final Fantasy history that will become available. To go along with the different jobs a character can also learn over 300 different abilities. Some of these abilities can be mutated as they are used in the field in combination with other abilities. While most of the mutations are worthless, some prove to be exceptionally powerful. Having over 300 different abilities makes for a lot of different abilities combinations. Certain classes can use more than one weapon type and each weapon will support different abilities. Based upon the abilities you will want to select different gear to wear to optimize your stats. There is a lot here for players that like to min/max their build. However if you do not like to deal with all of this small minutia you do not have to worry about it. When this is all thrown at you at once it can seem overwhelming but the game does a nice job of slowly piecemealing the information out to players over the course of different quests. While you will need to learn what a Crystal Surge is you will never have to learn how to mutate an abilities. Also players aren’t gimped if they aren’t mutating abilities and making sure they have the best in slot weapons from the very beginning.
Where the game really shines is local and coop multiplayer modes. Up to 4 players can be in a party at the same time and different jobs take on different roles. If players are out hunting for items to craft better gear they probably won’t be too worried about making sure they have a tank, healer, and two damage classes, or one damager and a buff class. However if they are out hunting powerful Eidolons such as Ifrit, or Dryad, they will want to have a balanced group. Some of the most difficult encounters in the game will push players to have a well-organized group. If other players are not available those slots can be filled with monsters the player has bread. Monsters can be raised and combined to create more powerful creatures. Some of them can act as tanks, or damage dealers, while others focus on supporting the player and the party. While monsters aren’t as good as having other players in your group they do come in handy if you are in a pinch for other players.
The combat controls in the game flow well but there are two minor disappointments. The first of which is the camera. If you run into walls or bump into corners the camera can end up at some awkward angles. On the 3DS the camera control is on the D pad while the player movement is with the circle. This makes it almost impossible to move you character and control the camera at the same time. If you have a New Nintendo 3DS XL or the Circle Pad Pro the camera will be controlled with the nub/circle pad pro. This makes the camera much more user friendly. The second annoyance is that the game is designed for the 3DS yet it does not have any 3D features. Fully realizing the characters in 3D could go a long way to make those characters pop instead of looking like slightly muddled messes at times. What are supposed to be spikes coming off of armor can end up looking like little squiggly lines. It’s hard to tell if a character is supposed to be a thief with studded armor or a wookie. It would also be nice to control the camera in town. Since you can’t you are left looking at certain NPCs from terrible angles.
In Final Fantasy Explorers your mission, if you choose to accept it, will be to travel to exotic locations, meet interesting monsters, and kill them. (Sometimes capture them, but mostly kill them). You’ll be able to take along any combination of 3 friends, monsters, or strangers via the internet to get the job done. With 12 Eidolons to capture, 21 jobs to unlock, and 10 different historic characters to collect there is more than enough Final Fantasy fan service offered up in Explorers to ensure that it successfully married the best of monster hunter style action RPGs and the Final Fantasy franchise.
Our review was done with a copy provided by Square Enix NA's public relations team.
Gameplay: 9 | Game revolves around accepting quests to go hunt down iconic monsters from the last 29 years of Final Fantasy. Capture Eidolons then channel them and perform their attack. Or you can channel some of the more popular characters such as Squall, and Lightning.
Visuals and Sound: 7 | In third person mode the characters look like the artists tried too hard to add details that end up becoming a jumbled mess. What should be spikes protruding off of armor look like squiggly lines. Maybe it is fur lined armor? It is also disappointing that the game lacks any 3D support when it was released for the 3DS.
Polish: 8 | Control schemes can be difficult when trying to map over 8 different abilities to 3DS that need to all be available at the same time. The UI is clean. The controls are very manageable. The quests have also been translated well from their native Japanese.
Longevity: 9 | Each player can learn up to 21 different jobs. There are over twice as many monsters to capture and breed, Eidolons to encase, and classic characters to collect. With local on online coop there is a lot to offer to keep a player going.
Value: 8 | $39.99 is the going rate for a 3DS title. With the wealth of content this title has to offer it is a great value at this price.
FINAL SCORE: 8.2
- Iconic Final Fantasy Jobs
- Online and Local Coop
- No 3D options
- Awkward Camera