Sweet As Syrup: Final Fantasy Explorers Review

What does it take to explore? A sense of adventure? A taste for the unknown? An unquenchable urge to spend 20 minutes in a desert killing robots in order to gain precious loot? Well, with Final Fantasy Explorers it requires a bit of all three. This game is a fun Monster Hunter clone that is unfortunately tainted by an excessive need to grind against a very limited amount of boss monsters. Despite its shortcomings, is Explorers still worthy of your time and money? Let’s find out!

Need To Know Information

Final Fantasy Explorers was originally released for the 3DS in the winter of 2014. After about 15 months, it was brought stateside so the dwellers of North America may enjoy it. The game is a spinoff of the long-running Final Fantasy series, that comprises over 100 different games at this point. The game was developed by Racjin, the guys behind Snowboard Kids and that forgotten Bomberman 64 game we never got here in America. The game itself is heavily inspired by Monster Hunter. This isn’t Square Enix’s first attempt at a Monster Hunter game either, they did Lord Or Arcana several years ago and it got mixed reactions from critics. Hopefully, this time they ironed out all the kinks!

Plot

The plot for this game is fairly bare-bones. You are an explorer, a young hero who has journeyed to this land in search of adventure and sweet loot. Upon your first outing, you come face-to-face with one of the most powerful dragons in the land: Bahamut. Why were you out there fighting the king of all dragons? I dunno, the game doesn’t really seem to explain it. You escape and meet up with a kind woman who points you to a nearby town asks you to do quests.

Final-Fantasy-Explorers-17
Can’t tell if that was a miss or a hit. (Image property of Square Enix)

Upon arriving in town, the kind mayor Cid tells you of this ongoing mission to collect crystals. This involves you going into the wilderness and defeating the 12 powerful monsters known as Eidolons. On top of this, you will encounter other Eidolons who are even more powerful than they. It is up to you to slay these powerful cretins and save the kingdom from running out of power… Or something. I don’t know, the plot seemed loose at best and a bit hard to follow.

Gameplay

The gameplay is pretty good. The game uses a hack-and-slash combat system. You attack pressing the X button but can use various skills by pressing R and L. Various skills and abilities can be purchased and then matched to the trigger buttons. There are many skills you can use this game and a lot of them are unlocked by experimenting with the game’s 21 classes. Yes, there are 21 classes in this game.

The variety of classes is extremely refreshing. From the powerful jumping Dragoon to the gravity-warping Time Mage, there is a lot here to toy around with. Better yet, you can take abilities from certain classes and use them with other classes. Want to use Dark Knight sword abilities as a Warrior? You can do that! Want to use Time Mage powers as a Red Mage? You can do that! Want to wield a pair of knuckles with any class other than Monk? Sorry, can’t do that.

Still, the immense variety with classes and abilities is great. You can also “mutate” your abilities and make them much stronger as a result. You can add a multitude of effects to your abilities.Each ability can be mutated only 16 times, but you are definitely going to get some overpowered skills after only a bit of tinkering. Like I mentioned before, the game is about fighting bosses. However, there isn’t a large variety of them when compared to other games in the Monster Hunting genre like Soul Sacrifice or Freedom Wars. Soul Sacrifice had an immensely large amount of bosses and each one of them had a unique and well-written lore entry in the bestiary. In Explorers the monsters just exist for plot and gameplay reasons. They don’t feel like a living part of the world like something you’d usually get in these games. There was a part where I went into a random desolate battlefield and Odin was just standing there, who I proceeded to fight. While the areas do match the bosses, they just don’t gel well enough for their environment to make sense.

The combat of the game itself is simplistic yet fun. You have access to combos, basic attacks and the aforementioned abilities. There are also Crystal Surges which basically act as limit breaks. Using these, you not only boost your attack power and abilities but can also mutate your abilities. Unfortunately, the game does not explain what the surges do before you actually activate them. There is also Trances, which allow you to either call upon the power of an Eidolon and use it in battle or transform into a classic Final Fantasy character. Unfortunately, the selection of characters to change into isn’t as robust as the amount of classes you can unlock. There are only 11 classic Final Fantasy characters to turn into and you can’t even become any characters from the first three games in the series.

One of the weakest parts is the part the game likes to advertise most and that is its exploration. You can “explore” the open-world, which is true. However, you can only explore sections of the map you have access to. You do this by completing many quests, which require you going over the few limited map locations you already have access to. This unfortunately renders the world devoid of true exploration, since you always traipse over the same environments over and over again. It doesn’t help that you are also fighting the same monsters over and over again, which causes a constantly feeling of Deja Vu to loom over the player.

On the plus side, the game’s armor and weapon crafting is a lot of fun I find. There are tons of weapon and armor sets to collect, a fair amount of which are from preexisting games. Wanna dress up like Onion Knight or Vaan? Well, now you can! You can even use weapons from previous characters like wielding Kane’s lance or Squall’s gunblade. You can equip class specific armor, which I thought was awesome. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to acquire this armor until near end-game, which wasn’t that awesome. By the time my Dark Knight looked like how he should, I was nearly done the game. All the farming I went though to get my “Warrior Of Eternal Darkness and Shadows” AKA Jim to look like a beast felt wasted. It’s like this for all classes (Except maybe Freelancer) which is kind of a shame. This is more just a nitpick than anything else as the game has plenty more cool-looking armor and weapon sets to choose from.

The materials needed to craft armor wasn’t all that hard to obtain either. Sure, there was a bit of farming but not to the level of competing games like Toukiden or God Eater. One of the few times I actually had to grind a lot in the game was when I wanted to make Sephiroth’s outfit for myself. I needed 10 Jenova Cells, but to do so I had to kill Shiva 10 times. This was long and tedious, but felt so good once I was decked out like my favorite one-winged angel. Other than that, there wasn’t too many moments in the game where I was constantly grinding for better items.

One major complaint I have about the game is the difficulty level. The game is a bit on the easy side, especially in the early levels. There are several simple quests that only require you to collect 20 of any item or travel to just travel to another part of the island. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but couple that with several of the early bosses being a bit too easy and you have a game that kind of feels like a slow crawl in difficulty. It isn’t until the later levels where the game itself ups its difficulty scale.

Last thing I want to discuss is multiplayer. The game features online multiplayer which I think helps add to the game. It is fun to go online with friends or even wirelessly with ad-hoc and slay some monsters. If you solo the game in single player (Like I did) then you may find yourself getting bored sooner. It is best you try to vary it up by going online to do missions with friends.

Visual Stimuli

This is a kids game first and foremost, so it’s only natural that it has cutesy graphics. All the characters have big heads and adorable designs, which gave the game a very adorable charm. Bosses were well-designed enough, with special notice being given to the strangely beautiful Dryad boss. Ifrit also looks pretty sweet and Shiva looks how you’d expect her to look. Special note also goes to the Final Fantasy cameos featured in the game. Cloud looks like he is supposed as does Lightning, they also possess the battle music from their respective games. It’s not just the returning music that is great, but the entire soundtrack. The game features an entire new composer, replacing Nobuo Uematsu, the key compose of most Final Fantasy games. The game definitely has a good soundtrack, but unfortunately the songs get a little grading due to the amount of times you’ll be listening to them.

The game features minimal voice acting, but all of the voice actors who played the Final Fantasy heroes in the past return to voice the returning characters. The game has some pretty nice looking backgrounds at time, but some of them just end up feeling a little bland due to the constant use of corridor dungeons in this game. All in all, production values are pretty good on this game. They could use a bit of work, but they are solid enough for what the game is.

In Summation

The game is repetitive and lacks polish in some areas, but I still got some fun out of it. The multiplayer is solid and the large amount of classes adds for a great source of variety. The game has a lackluster story though and at times it feels like a drudge to get to the end of the game. The environments are repetitive, but the amount of weapons and armor you can craft makes up for it. This game has some problems, but I still got a ton of fun out of it. That’s why I can proudly say that this game is as sweet as syrup. And if I had to give it a score, it would be 7/10. Hope you guys enjoy reading this and if you’re interested, be sure to give this game a shot.

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