Level-5 have made something of a name for themselves over the years with beloved series such as Professor Layton, Inazuma Eleven and now Yo-Kai Watch. None of these have ever particularly caught my interest however. Instead it was Fantasy Life of theirs that grabbed my attention.
I originally thought this game was something of a mix between Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon and Rune Factory – I couldn’t have been more wrong. Fantasy Life is more than the sum of those parts. It offers you a potentially endless journey through the game’s vibrant world and its twelve selectable “lives”. This is an RPG first, life-sim second, with a linear plot to go along with the game’s open world and life choices.
It doesn’t matter what life you choose in terms of the plot, but I would suggest one that allows you to use swords and shields, as latter-game enemies can be fairly strong. Each life comes with its own stat perks, skills and equipment sets along with dozens of unique quests. It is fun swapping between the lives whenever it takes your fancy, made even better by the fact that skills and certain perks carry over. You can reach a maximum level in each life, but climbing up the levels will take time effort, and even swapping between jobs.
For my play-through of the game, I started out as a carpenter, but to get the materials I required to pass later quests, I had to change to a woodcutter, and then a miner. It’s neat that each life can complement the last. You can only go so far in your life without changing to another in assistance. You can change life at practically any time, going back to an old life an option, too. The quests might be unique for each life, but not all lives are as unique as others.
Lives such as the angler, paladin, miner, woodcutter and mercenary among others give you quests out in the world, whereas lives such as carpenter, blacksmith and cook give you quests inside, employing the same mini-games for each. It’s disappointing that such lives show little variation. Indeed, despite all the options and smart life management present in the game, Fantasy Life struggles to spice things up throughout, no matter your pace of play.
You’ll find yourself going through the same plot structure time and time again. While the plot itself is quite solid, the happy-go-lucky atmosphere and repeated structure of going to a new place, making friends with everyone, and then going home to bed can become relatively tiresome. Everything is stupidly happy throughout, with a soundtrack filled with a little too many major notes playing over the whole affair. It’s not hugely memorable I’m afraid.
Despite this, I found myself enjoying my time with Fantasy Life. The world is a lovely place to explore filled with many colourful characters and a lot to get on with. Yes, the soundtrack and overall theme of the game might be a little too happy for my tastes, but the art, world and characters are charming. Combat, too, is charming. It’s not the most complicated stuff, but as you get further into the game, it opens itself to you a bit more along with the world. There are a lot of areas in the world that are only accessible after you finish the story too. The map isn’t the most detailed unfortunately. It’s tricky to know exactly where you need to go to fulfil life quests as well as side-quests.
It’s a simple game, too. Some might find it too simple. This, along with the issue of the map, the too cutesy soundtrack and slightly repetitive plot structure are noteworthy. These issues aren’t game-breaking, but they are enough to drag Fantasy Life down a little. The positives far outweigh the negatives. It’s fun throughout, smart with life stacking, it looks brilliant and there is enough content in Fantasy Life to last you hundreds of hours. I’d say you all go out there and start planning your lives.
Flawed, yes, but Fantasy Life’s blend of life sim and RPG is addictive, pretty and charming. What you get out of the game is what you put into it. Want to just laze about, taking in the sights? You can. Want to fight dragons? No problem. Want to be a master carpenter? Sorted. Just don’t be put off by the cutesy presentation.