Release date: January 26, 2016
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher Square Enix
Final Fantasy has always been a beloved RPG by people around the globe with a rich and deep history that spans nearly three decades. Whether it be a mainline title or a spinoff delving into a genre other than the standard adventure JRPG, the series has managed to connect with millions since its inception, and still thrives to this day. Final Fantasy attempts to push the boundaries and mold several gaming styles and genres together with each new iteration, whether mainline or spinoff, but sometimes these attempts don’t go over so well — enter Final Fantasy Explorers.
Final Fantasy Explorers takes a new route for the Final Fantasy franchise and aims to get the demographic of Monster Hunter players, as well as those that have been interested in the hunting genre but may have felt too intimidated or overwhelmed by the depth and history of Monster Hunter and games alike such as God Eater and Toukiden. Despite the effulgent worlds and memorable design that these titles have given with each iteration, Final Fantasy Explorers has none of that here to offer, leaving you with the most watered down, barren, dilapidated world you could possibly be in. If it wasn’t for the appearances of Final Fantasy alumni like Cloud and Yuna, and the occasional references to crystals (which certainly isn’t exclusive to Final Fantasy), you’d have no clue this was a Final Fantasy game. The fact that it even dawns the name is offensive in some ways given what the series means to so many people.
There are a healthy amount of classes to choose from without becoming too much to take in, but these classes don’t go very far in terms of feeling like what you’ve made belongs to you. Given the lack of true intricacy when it comes to classes, weapons, attire, etc., it’s easy to find yourself looking like someone else online or even locally if you have someone around you that’s playing a similar class. No matter which class you choose, you can be guaranteed to have unintuitive controls that hinder the experience exponentially.
If you have a New 3DS, luckily you can turn on the function for the Circle Pad Pro (this accessory is compatible with older systems) helping to navigate the camera in a way that’s a bit more comfortable, rather than using the d-pad or auto-correcting by tapping the L button. Those without a New 3DS or Circle Pad Pro that played Monster Hunter could still use the touchscreen to navigate the camera, and though it wasn’t perfect, you could still move and look around freely in a semi-comfortable manner, unlike in Final Fantasy Explorers where you’ll have to decide to use your thumb for either the camera or character movement, unless you decide to use both your hands on one side of the 3DS. Given that the Circle Pad Pro function isn’t turned on by default like it is in Monster Hunter if it detected the capability to do so, I played my first few hours unbeknownst to me that the option was deeply hidden in the settings rather than notifying me at any point of the game via a tutorial or automatic detection. This caused me to constantly have to tap the L button to shoot back behind my character so I could see what was in front of me, even if there’s nothing to look forward to.
On top of the ghost town-like levels and clunky controls, the graphics are uninspired and a bit of an eye sore. Textures are atrocious, colors are washed, and it almost feels like a prototype. The 3DS is capable of so much more, and seeing something like this from the likes of a developer and publisher like Square Enix – especially in a Final Fantasy game on top of that – is unacceptable. After a while I felt like I was going blind from how blurry and poorly crafted everything was. If that wasn’t enough, the UI is all over the place, and whenever you gain any sort of buff or you play with others and they do something that requires attention from other participants, huge log text in a semi transparent box pops up on the lower left of the screen, taking up a third of the screen and making it even harder to see anything.
To add to the list of things that don’t feel even remotely Final Fantasy related, the music is banal and uneventful. Games of this genre typically have epic scores to captivate players and exude adventure and wonder, but all Final Fantasy Explorers does is make me once again believe I’m playing a watered-down version of every other game in this genre. The audio is overly compressed and all other sounds sound like a 64kbps recording that was done from a broken speaker. It hurts to listen to, it hurts to look at, and it hurts to play. If there was ever a game that wanted you to hunt monsters and do boring repetitive quests at its most rudimentary form, this would be it.
Final Fantasy Explorers will do good to welcome players that want to start fresh into the monster hunting action RPG genre without worrying about numbers, depth, or fear from and of other players and in some ways convoluted mechanics, but those that are experienced gamers and competent of the genre will be smart to stay away from this one. The uninspired music, barren worlds, lack of story, and overall sub-par experience may even leave new players with a sour taste in its mouth, but some will stay because of its name. Either way, Final Fantasy Explorers is an overall tumultuous experience that has no sense of direction or purpose in what it’s trying to achieve, other than seemingly make players go blind, hurt their hands, and damage the Final Fantasy brand.
Final Fantasy Explorers is not meant for hardcore Final Fantasy fans and/or Monster Hunter enthusiasts. As a huge fan of both Final Fantasy and Monster Hunter, it’s a gigantic disappointment. When you know how to ride a bike through rough terrain and can circumnavigate dangerous obstacles, then why would you go back to using training wheels?