Do you like Final Fantasy? How about Monster Hunter? Final Fantasy Explorers marries the two together as you get the similar, deep action RPG experience of the latter with all the charm and nostalgia of the former. Explorers takes place on one island as your custom made character searches for the “Grand Crystal,” which has enough energy to power all of Amostra. The gameplay loop is similar, yet predictable. You start by accepting a quest and making preparations in the town of Libertas, boarding an airship to your destination, defeat the enemies your mission requires of you, and come back to Libertas to reap your rewards, craft new items and learn new skills.
Unlike previous Final Fantasy games, Explorers heavily emphasizes online cooperative multiplayer. Using the job system, a party of four can coordinate skills and take down very difficult missions that may be too difficult for many solo players. Every mission can be completed with a friend, and that is part of the joy. This is the least lonely Final Fantasy game outside of A Realm Reborn.
The Nintendo 3DS isn’t the most accessible of video game platforms, but Final Fantasy Explorers does little to remedy that. There are no control remapping options outside of choosing your abilities, but even then you just choose where each skill goes in a predetermined slot. Skills and magic are used by holding either the L button or R button and pressing one of the face buttons. Without pressing the shoulder buttons, the face buttons are still used to sprint and auto attack. Being an action game, there is a bit of button mashing involved, as well as precision and timing based elements in battle. Enemies will often mark a spot on the ground that requires you to quickly move out of in a limited amount of time. Juggling skills, movement, and the awful camera requires a lot of button presses and coordination. There are no difficulty levels when starting the game, but each mission has its own dedicated difficulty number, and thankfully the game is fairly forgiving up until the “end” of the story.
Controlling the camera is a constant struggle. If you have a “New” Nintendo 3DS or the Circle Pad Pro attachment, the camera can be controlled with the second circle pad, but otherwise it is controlled with the D-pad. There are camera sensitivity options, but character movement and camera movement act independently, meaning if you decide to turn around and run in the opposite direction, you will be running directly into the camera until you readjust it yourself. Quickly tapping the L button puts the camera behind you, but only works correctly if you’re standing still. If you’re running towards the camera and tap the L button, your character will actually make a quick U-turn and start running the other direction, still into the camera. Being an action game where positioning matters in combat, holding the camera’s hand just seems like an unnecessary chore. Holding a button or an option to “lock” the camera behind you would have been helpful.
Final Fantasy Explorers doesn’t include any sound that “needs” to be heard. As such, there are no voice acting or ambient noises that require subtitles. Playing with no sound is perfectly capable. In addition, there are also two volume options, one for music and one for sound effects, in case the player needs to adjust the sound further.
Another downside of the Nintendo 3DS as a platform, the screen can sometimes seem blurry and cramped when too much is going on at once. It is extremely difficult to see too far into the distance, so most of your time out of combat will probably be spent looking at the mini map making sure you’re going in the right direction. The mini map has a few colorblind issues, however. Your character is indicated on the map by a red marker, which can sometimes get lost in the green background of the map. During combat there are very few issues, however. Thankfully menus are bright and easy to read throughout the game, because you’ll be spending lots of time navigating them to customize your character, forge new gear and set up your monsters.
Dozens of hours of content, Final Fantasy nostalgia in full force, excellent job system.
Some frame rate dips, camera issues, lack of control options, the “story” has no depth.