Final Fantasy Explorers impressions for 3DS

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Medium: Cartridge
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes
ESRB: E10+

I don’t feel like I’ve put enough time into Final Fantasy Explorers to give it a proper review just yet, but with the game launching this week it’s probably worth putting my thoughts down for those that are thinking about picking it up. Honestly, I’m not too enthused by Final Fantasy Explorers as of yet, and barring some sort of significant change later in the game, I’m not expecting my opinion to change much.

So what is Final Fantasy Explorers? Essentially it’s a Monster Hunter clone, but it feels more akin to Ragnarok Odyssey than MH so far. You control a customized hero and take on various quests from a central hub, which also gives you access to a crafter, item shop, and a few other NPC’s to interact with. Your overall world map expands into new zones as you take on new quests, featuring large, open areas with enemies battled in real-time, using basic one button attacks in conjunction with special skills and magic.

final fantasy explorers 001Defeated monsters earn you items, which are generally good only for upgrading your existing gear or crafting new weapons, shields, and other pieces of armor. Most of the popular Final Fantasy job classes are present, and you can switch between jobs at any time. This gives you access to job/weapon specific skills to use, which allow for buffs, debuffs, and a variety of other effects. I’m certainly not down on the customization that’s on offer here, you can really outfit your character with a number of abilities early on, which are further enhanced by the weird skill mutation mechanic. This adds modifiers to existing skill types that can level up with more use, and isn’t explained very well but adds a fair amount to the game.

Multiplayer is a major focus in Final Fantasy Explorers, enough so that it doesn’t feel very viable to play this game by yourself at all. There’s a series of quests early in the game that pit you against classic Eidolons like Shiva and Ifrit. These fights will be incredibly hard for solo players early on, and the game stresses that you tackle these quests with other players. Thankfully matchmaking is simple enough, and the game supports online and offline co-op. This is probably the most surprising thing for me, it was very easy to get into a group of four even prior to launch, with very little downtime between searching for open rooms and joining active sessions. Overall I’m fairly impressed with the online component, and ideally that’ll hold up when the game launches tomorrow.

final fantasy explorers 002So what isn’t good? Well, while the 4-player co-op is a nice feature, Final Fantasy Explorers can’t handle much onscreen action before the framerate takes a serious dive. We’re talking single digit numbers here, enough so that the game slows to a crawl during any of the aforementioned Eidolon battles. The framerate is consistently poor, and this is on a “New” 3DS model as well.

Fighting normal mobs is also remarkably boring, which is unfortunate considering how much of it you’ll do early on. While there’s only three quests branded as tutorials, a lot of the 1 and 2 star quests you encounter boil down to killing a certain number of enemies or collecting items. This isn’t unusual for the genre, but combat is far too easy against normal foes, especially compared to the spike in difficulty the Eidolon battles present. It takes a few hours before Final Fantasy Explorers presents any sort of real challenge, which may be just enough time for the average player to lose interest in the experience.

final fantasy explorers 003Also, while Final Fantasy Explorers does offer an upgrade and crafting system,  your options in the early game are pretty poor and underwhelming. Pretty much every defeated enemy will drop an item, most of which can be used to upgrade various stats on armor and weapons. But these upgrades are super incremental, rarely offering up more than a single point which feels largely inconsequential. Adding five points to accuracy or attack power shows no real significant difference while in combat, and it can take a fairly large number of items just to get those five points. This makes the overall progression with gear feel very, very tedious, with little incentive to get back out to the world and wipe out mobs of generic enemies over and over again. Even boss fights offer substandard rewards, which is doubly disappointing.

So yeah, Final Fantasy Explorers isn’t exactly rocking my world at the moment. I’m hoping that if I stick with it, and get into the higher star quests, that something will turn itself around. But if the early game is any indication of what’s to come, I’d honestly suggest holding off on picking this up on day one. Expect a more full-fledged review shortly.

Final Fantasy Explorers – Nintendo 3DS (Video Game)

Manufacturer:  Square Enix
ESRB Rating: 

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