During NYCC this year, Square Enix had a couple kiosks reserved for the 3DS exclusive title Final Fantasy Explorers. After acquiring said kiosk quite easily, I was quite pleased with the JRPG from Square Enix.
As the demo started, my character was able to choose between a few classes to change to and naturally I chose the awesome Dragoon job class.
Normally class changing strips your hero of all their equipment and requires you to then re-equip a new set of armor and weapons, but the demo pre-set everything for me.
Afterward, I immediately embarked on a mission to defeat Ifrit in his dungeon; it was pleasantly reminiscent of Final Fantasy VIII‘s first dungeon with the exact same summon, right down to the time limit (although this isn’t the SeeD exam qualifier and you can’t choose your own time limit).
Environments and dungeons on the whole are rather average-looking, with the lack of significant details and unique features working against the title. However, I will admit that the adorable characters nearly made up for this issue.
I dispatched classic Final Fantasy monsters along the way and picked up my spoils from their corpses while my party members, monsters, assisted and keep me healed at all times.
Navigation was easy through the massive fire cave thanks to the simple yet detailed map at the corner of the screen. Controls are also intuitive and a new player can expect to learn the art of combat within the first minutes of playing.
In Explorers, your main party consists of monsters that you can capture after defeating them. If you prefer human companions instead, then local and online multiplayer is just for you.
The latter feature lets you connect with other real life players and team up to take on dungeons and boss fights and is the only way to have party members that are non-monster.
Going back to the monster allies in the single-player game, each one has a ranking between one to three. The rank number determines power as well as how much “room” that ally will take up in your party (there are three slots for allies).
Rank One types take up one slot, Rank Two takes up two slots and Rank Three uses up all three slots. However, the third ranked monsters are the strongest so it can be worth the lack of party members.
Combat itself is simple but fulfilling: it uses an action RPG-oriented battle system in which you fight foes on the same map you travel in, and can move freely during combat. It’s quite similar to Monster Hunter in that vein, but with the difficulty turned down to one.
Finally my party encountered Ifrit in the deepest part of the cave and the boss battle began. The battle managed to strike a rarely accomplished balance between challenging and fun as I ran, dodged and attacks the enemy uses a variety of skills.
A wonderful surprise awaited me when I hit the “Transform” button on the touchscreen: my character turned into Squall Leonheart, a fitting one considering the similarities to a certain first dungeon in his own game that were pointed out earlier.
By playing as as transformed hero, skills had no Stamina cost which greatly increases damage dealt over time due to skills having no cooldown period. Of course you can still take damage, so charging in blindly even in this state is unwise.
Luckily for me my party members did an admirable job fighting alongside me and keeping me healed, but even those valiant efforts weren’t a match for the sheer damaging dealing might of Ifrit and my character fell in battle.
This leads into a nifty little feature that the game offers in case you’re stupid enough to die in a mission like myself: an option to revive your hero at the cost of three minutes of your mission’s time limit. A way to save yourself if you make a crucial mistake during combat but has an effective safeguard from overuse.
Finally the summon fell and I collected my reward, feeling accomplished from my hard-earned victory. The only foreseeable issue I could find is the possibility of combat becoming repetitive, especially if the game ending up lacking more variety in battle mechanics and enemy AI.
Despite this, Final Fantasy: Explorers seems to be a fun little slice of fanservice that caters to longtime fans of the franchise wanting to take a pleasant trip down memory lane.