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Over the past week, I’ve ignored an unsettling amount of my actual life in order to play copious quantities of Fantasy Life, the new 3DS RPG from the masterminds at Level-5. If you’re looking for a colorful and lighthearted romp with hooks that sink in uncomfortably deep, then you might want to give this one a gander.
Here’s the thing about Fantasy Life: It’s a tough game to review quickly. I’m not one of those people who thinks you need to complete all 120 hours of an epic RPG in order to give it a fair shake in the review column but, at 20-something hours into Fantasy Life, I’m literally only scratching the surface of what this game has to offer. No, seriously, I’ve only just begun chapter two in the game’s campaign. Chapter two…Twenty hours.
So why is it taking me so long to play? Because I have a serious problem and Fantasy Life is like a drug dealer who happens to live right next door, instantly available and in possession of all the things that keep me coming back for more.
So, my options were simple. I could either be a good reviewer and haul ass through the campaign in order to get something out in a more timely fashion, or I could play the game as it was intended, at my own pace, and continue to enjoy the hell out of it. To be clear, I was not provided with a review copy of Fantasy Life, so (under no pressure to put a review online as quickly as possible) my desire to assess my experience so far comes purely from the fact that I don’t feel like enough people are talking about one of the best titles to hit the 3DS this year.
In Fantasy Life, the crux of the game lies in the Life system. For those of you familiar with pretty much any RPG on the planet, think of it as a class system that lets you swap between being a paladin, tailor, miner, angler, archer, mage, etc. There are 12 Life options in total, including four combat choices and eight gathering/crafting jobs. The great thing about Fantasy Life is that it’s genuinely built to be played however you see fit. You can spend your entire “Life” being a tailor and even skip out on all of the combat in the game, or you can bounce around willy-nilly, fighting monsters one minute and then crafting a cabinet the next.
Fantasy Life takes that Life system one step further, as the fruits of your labor are actually rewarded by the best gear and items in the game. Say you wanted to be a better mercenary, for instance. Instead of buying all of your gear, why not make it yourself? First, take on a Life as a miner and dig up all of the ore you’ll need to craft sweet suits of armor. Next, maybe you’ll decide to become a blacksmith in order to craft said gear yourself. After that, why not become a woodcutter in order to harvest timber, and then become a carpenter to craft even better weapons and, like, a really nice chair?
Because of the freedom of job choices and the ridiculous number of items you can gather in the game, I’ve found myself spinning in neutral at the very beginning of the campaign’s second chapter. I decided to try out each of the Lives in order to optimize my gathering/crafting options as I move further into the game. The game can absolutely be completed with a single Life and, apparently, would only take about a dozen hours to get through. My problem is that I have a nasty habit of wanting all of the things, and so I’ve barely touched the story in order to become a master of every damn Life I can get my hands on.
But that’s another one of Fantasy Life’s strong suits; you can play it however you want and proceed just fine. I’m a bit obsessive, and so the game provides me with more than enough mini-games and side missions to keep me glued to my 3DS. If that ever gets old, then I can just commit to one Life and sprint on to the finish.
Along with a catchy soundtrack and, no joke, some of the best writing I’ve seen in a game in quite some time, every aspect of Fantasy Life oozes charm. It’s clearly geared at being accessible to younger players, but I’ve enjoyed quite a few chuckles along the way. And all of those bright colors and adorable characters serves as a nice counterbalance to the gritty realism I can find elsewhere.
On top of all of that, Fantasy Life also sports online multiplayer, a rare treat for a 3DS game. You can simply open up a chat menu and talk to your friends while you each enjoy your own game, or you can open the gate and invite your friends in to play at your side, tackling quests, crafting and fighting as a group.
In short, Fantasy Life has been a lovely little treat of a game, and it’s one I expect to keep me busy for quite some time. And that doesn’t even include the post-game DLC that, from what I understand, hikes up the difficulty and piles on even more content for players to plow through.
It’s a little bit Harvest Moon with a little bit of Animal Crossing and Zelda thrown in for good measure. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, then you owe it to yourself to take Fantasy Life for a spin. Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve spent quite enough time in the real world for one day. Back to virtual fishing!