Before cutting into the newest spin-off game of the Final Fantasy franchise, let’s take a look at its obvious inspiration, Monster Hunter.
Capcom’s Monster Hunter is about hunting monsters (surprise, surprise) with different weapon types and using pieces of those monsters to make better equipment to in turn kill bigger monsters.
The games are usually set in closed areas, connected together to make themed maps. Its biggest appeals are its brutal difficulty, precise controls with specific functions and monsters with complex animations and behaviors. It’s insanely popular in Japan and has picked up quite a fan base worldwide with its latest titles.
Final Fantasy Explorers takes Monster Hunter formula and adds in the iconic themes and creatures of Final Fantasy. Even though it’s clearly riding on that sort of copycat design, it’s a solid idea, in theory.
In execution, Final Fantasy Explorers is a bland, forgettable experience.
Explorers sets up a fairly interesting premise: Eidolons, powerful beings who usually appear as summons in other games, are running rampant; it’s up to the Explorers to take care of them. To do this, Explorers adopt a class, assign abilities and craft gear. Each class has specific strengths and weaknesses, such as the Black Mage being able to lay out tons of damage with magic, while the Knight can soak up damage and keeping aggression away from other players. The Job System in Explorers is just as fun as it has been in previous Final Fantasy games.
Each job’s abilities are attained through beating missions, adding plenty of skills to outfit a player. This ability system is one of the few features keeping this entry afloat. Learning rotations of spells, as well as knowing which abilities are effective for each situation is interesting, especially in multiplayer.
The controls, while clunky at times, allow players to have eight abilities equipped at once, cycling through them with the shoulder buttons. The targeting system can get confusing at times, but usually does okay with staying focused on the target.
One of the greatest features of Monster Hunter is its crushing difficulty, making team work absolutely necessary. Explorers suffers from no difficulty at all. I found myself running through the first eight Eidolons in my first session. I even tried switching classes and not seeking out materials for better equipment, but succeeded even when I knew little about the class. It doesn’t help that dying has no harsh repercussions. One can either self revive with a Phoenix Pinion item, or just lose five minutes on the mission’s timer.
Throwing everything you have at a boss and dying just to replenish stamina is a game-breaking strategy. Most bosses will fall to this without any troubles. Don’t worry, most missions are set with fifty minute timers. That’s about nine or ten lives per mission.
Visually, Final Fantasy Explorers has some solid ideas behind it. The Eidolon monsters are wicked, often using unique designs to the established molds of the iconic monsters. Classic Final Fantasy monsters also look pretty cool, but overall the game lacks variety in creatures. The environment is also lacking with no discerning features to make it stand out. It’s made up of bland fields that are far too open, dotted with lame enemies that die in a single hit. Even giving the player monster buddies to recruit in the single player is worthless, as they get in the way of the camera and usually don’t get to see any action anyways.
Even multiplayer can’t save this one. Sharing terrible experiences with friends can be memorable, like watching awful movies for the laughs. Yet, being in a group adds nothing to Explorers. It lacks challenge, good design and variety, all things that make is inspiration, Monster Hunter, great.
To really show Explorers lacks polish, players can wear outfits and wield weapons of classic Final Fantasy characters. Swing Cloud’s Buster Sword, wear Yuna’s short shorts, spend hours grinding for those parts in a sparse field, questioning your existence. I’m surprised this feature wasn’t locked behind a pay wall.
It’s like Square Enix noticed its quickly emptying wallets, saw the popularity of Monster Hunter, and then looked to the ridiculously expensive Final Fantasy XV and thought, “Monster Hunter is selling well, lets make that, but with Chocobos and Bahamut. Brilliant!”
Final Fantasy Explorers continues the trend of forgettable games and lost opportunity. This game could’ve been a solid multiplayer experience, but just lacks polish. After enduring this, Type-0 and XIII, Final Fantasy XV better be the best game I’ve ever played.
Until then, I’ll keep going through Final Fantasy IX on my Vita. Wake me up when XV comes out, Giga Bytes.