Title: Final Fantasy Explorers
Developer: Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
NA Availability: Digital | Retail
EU Availability: Digital | Retail
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The Hunting RPG genre has been a big thing with handhelds lately, though the PS Vita has gotten the most games over the years. The Nintendo 3DS, however, has been the system for Monster Hunter fans as of late, with Monster Hunter 3, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and the recently-announced Monster Hunter Generations. It hasn’t seen many other hunting games, until this past month or so.
Square Enix has gone into the Hunting genre before, publishing a couple games of the Lord of Arcana series on the PSP and PS Vita. They decided to go a little deeper and develop their own Hunting game for the Nintendo 3DS, though. So, here comes coverage for the Hunting RPG that takes place in the Final Fantasy franchises. Here is my official review of Final Fantasy Explorers!
The world of Final Fantasy Explorers surrounds the existence of Crystals, which the population has found to be capable of helping them create technology and furthering their lifestyle. In response to this, a large number of people have been traveling to unknown lands in search of more crystals, calling themselves “Explorers”. These Explorers fight off monsters and powerful beings known as Eidolons in their journey for the Crystals.
The story of Explorers has an interesting premise, but is nearly nonexistent throughout the rest of the game. Once you actually get into the game, it’s more just “We found an Eidolon here, so go fight it” or “Go explore this new area and see what monsters are there”, much like Monster Hunter handles story. It’s got an interesting premise but doesn’t follow through with story throughout the rest of the game nearly on par with what the introduction sheds light on.
Final Fantasy Explorers is a Hunting RPG. Hunting action game with RPG elements. Whatever your personal definition of the genre is. Like Freedom Wars, Monster Hunter, and Toukiden. It is a mission-based game that has you exploring the continent and taking on both monsters and powerful bosses.
The main progression goes through taking Quests as you explore the continent the game takes place on. You have a base of operations as well as a large open-world-style map of locations that you slowly explore and unlock new locations for as you progress through the game. You will be using both, though will mostly be taking on quests and then heading into the map to do said quests.
The base has many different facilities you can use. There is the Guild, where you can take on quests and sub-quests. Shop-type facilities where you can buy items and equipment as well as forging and upgrading your equipment. There’s a shop that lets you take fortunes before going on quests (much like the offering box from Toukiden). There’s also a Moogle Shop that you can purchase from and gain plans for special equipment based on famous Final Fantasy characters, like Sephiroth and Yuna. Finally, there’s a Monster Lab where you can create and modify monsters to join your party as AI characters and a Central Crystal, which is used to spend mission points to learn new abilities.
Exploration is in the form of dungeons that connect to other dungeons. The game takes place on an overall world map that can be progressed in a semi-open-world fashion. Instead of being locked to an arena during a mission, you can freely explore all unlocked areas at will. You can even just embark to the World Map without taking on a quest just to explore for the sake of exploring or not being held down by the smaller timer of a quest (normally around 30 minutes versus 60 minutes for exploring without a quest). Since the world is so huge, you unlock an airship later on so you can start a mission at a specific point instead of running through several dungeons just to get to where the mission takes place.
Combat takes place in a free-roam Action RPG fashion, like all Hunters do. You have special job classes that unlock which you can take on, but those are just tied to what weapons you can equip for physical attacks. Skills can be shared across classes. For example, I can use the Black Mage class, but equip abilities both from the Black Mage and White Mage classes. That way, you can use White Magic for healing and not relying on item stock.
Like most Hunters, there is an Action Point Gauge just below your health gauge that slowly regenerates, but is used whenever you use skills or dash through the field. This is something you have to watch because you suddenly get very slow if this drops down to zero. Aside from waiting, landing physical attacks on enemies will also help regenerate this gauge. If you use a skill-heavy class like a mage, there will be times where you’ll have to resort to running to dodge attacks and using physical attacks to build up enough gauge to start casting spells again.
The final aspect of combat are Crystal Surges and Trances. As you fight enemies, landing hits will build up a Crystal Gauge, which will enable Crystal Surges to temporarily increase your power. This could be an elemental affinity, giving your attacks a certain elemental strength or status ailment or could make you twice your normal size, making it easier to cover long distances. This can also lead to Trances to further increase power and allow you to temporarily borrow the powers of Legendary Final Fantasy heroes, like Cloud Strife.
To enhance this further, you can capture the essence of any of the Eidolons/Summons you fight as bosses and have a chance of gaining their signature abilities as a Crystal Surge, enabling abilities like Hellfire or Diamond Dust.
Aside from this, we should talk about the game’s repetition. Most Hunters have different kinds of mission objectives, like gathering materials, fighting bosses, fighting certain enemies, harvesting materials from enemies, reaching location goals. FFE does this, but it doesn’t have nearly the variety most Hunters do. First of all is that the bosses can get repetitive. You have your boss mission against Ifrit, and then you have another mission to fight Ifrit again that drops only 1 of the item you need 10 of for a certain piece of equipment. So if you want the equipment, you have to fight Ifrit 10 times over and the same for all other Eidolons.
The other part is that almost every mission is killing mobs and that’s it. Go kill 20 enemies. Go kill 5 goblins. Go kill 10 Lamias. Without a whole lot of variety, the game can get repetitive and old pretty fast.
As far as time is concerned, FFE is just a tad bit behind most Hunters. For the majority of the games, about 20 hours is the average timeframe for sticking to Story Missions. That’s about how long the original Toukiden was, and Freedom Wars. FFE I would put around 16-17 hours if you just stick to story missions. It’s close, but not quite at the average. Nothing to worry about, as the side missions can easily double or triple that play time. But something to consider.
Controlling the game is a pretty simple maneuver. Camera Controls are a bit weird if you don’t have a New 3DS, though, because of the claw camera controls. L resets the camera and the D-Pad manually moves it. With a New 3DS, though, the C Stick is used to rotate the camera and the Z buttons can be held down to be able to dash.
The Circle Pad is used to move around the base and the field. L is used to reset the camera and can be held to pull up one of the skill palettes. R can also be held for the alternate skill palette and tapped to lock onto the nearest enemy. A is used to interact with NPCs and B is held to dash. Y can be used for physical attacks and X is used to pull up the menu. Any of the face buttons can be used for appropriate skills when L/R are held down.
I don’t really have any issues with the control scheme. It’s a little odd on the pre-New models, but the Camera reset and lock-on mechanics make it doable.
Visually is where I would knock a point off for this game’s presentation. The game doesn’t look terrible, but it doesn’t look great, either. In all honestly, it looks like an early PSP game. Some of the environments are colorful, but there are a lot of grainy and jagged areas that really shouldn’t be there. I’d put this game on the low-end of graphical games of the Nintendo 3DS.
Performance-wise, it is mostly good. The game’s load times are nice and short, and the frames don’t drop too often. There are some slight drops when running around, but they’re not heavy enough to hurt the game’s performance. The only time when it gets bad is when you have a full party in online co-op. With 2 players, it is fine, but with 3-4 it can drop a fair bit.
Final Fantasy Explorers is a successful mold between Final Fantasy and the Hunter genre. The game certainly isn’t perfect, with a story that doesn’t follow through, very repetitive missions (even for a Hunter), and a visual presentation that ought to have been much more refined. But, for Final Fantasy fans, there’s a lot of fun to be had with all of the series references thrown in.