Monster Hunter is basically a game where you hunt giant monsters that may or may not be a threat to your townsfolk. It has a very simple premise with a poor story, but it’s the scale of your fights with these titanic foes, as well as the strategies used to best them, that draws the player to go further. And with an expansive world and difficulty spike that goes with your progression, especially since you can craft armor and weapons from the world and monsters themselves, it gives you a process of evolution with your character and yourself not usually seen in many games. So…
…You see where I’m going with this schtick? I mean, you read the title. So you must know!
Monster Hunter has grown to become one of the best selling and reviewed series in the World, so its no surprise that other IPs would want to emulate the same style. Enter Final Fantasy Explorers, the latest to take to the craze of hunting monsters. The catch is you’re in this style of game as your own create-a-character in the realm of Final Fantasy, equipping weapons, armor, and fighting enemies taken from that universe. And considering Final Fantasy already has a huge fanbase, how wrong can the game get?
In this game, you play as a male/woman adventurer, called an “explorer,” as you harness crystals to “explore” the world……..that’s it.
….no really. You’ll forget about the story more for the fact that its really non-existent. There’s this Grand Crystal you have to get to, and the only way to get there is kill more monsters (again, “explore”), in this one island. Supposedly, the island is in risk of losing the source of everything they do, the crystals. (inb4 *insert Steven Universe theme song here*) Yet it’s because humans are using the crystals that it’s the reason they’re being threatened. Its an interesting premise, but it’ll get forgotten easily since there’s no real characters to indulge this with nor any real sense of development or deep entwined lore to follow. With Monster Hunter, you don’t really need the story because the scope of the game itself lets you make your own story outside of the game. But if you’re going to put story in a game, especially one that has a huge history in making complex stories and expands on them, at least put some extra effort to have the player give a damn about the world they’re in.
When you start up a new game, you’re put the task of creating your avatar, whether it be boy or girl, young or not-so young. It’s not as expansive, but it gets the job done well enough for me to take the time. After making your character, you’re treated to a trailer about the game. A trailer. The only means of getting you into the game’s lore. A trailer. Like the trailer that purposefully tries to convince the consumer to buy the game. A trailer. In the game. No real means of getting or expanding upon the story of the game or what you’re about to get into.
Although not the actual one in-game, most gameplay in this trailer is already shown in the in-game one.
Pushing that aside, the presentation of Final Fantasy Explorers starts relatively ok, where after a few missions you can start to dig into what your character can do and how you can expand on that with the Job classes and Ability mechanics, both which I’ll get into later. The world itself looks like your typical Final Fantasy fair; NPCs themselves have individual details to themselves, even though they go nowhere. As for the enemies in the game, they look ok as well, as they’re given details from past games of the series. But the eidolons, which are what was considered summons in FF are considered foes here by that name, look and feel great to fight against.
Unfortunately the island you run around in isn’t all that expansive. By Monster Hunter standards, its pretty small and gets repetitive real quick when continuing the missions. To add to that, the map is at times confusing given the terrain you’re in. For example, you’ll land yourself in a cave where you happen to find an opening to a new path. But surprise, it’s part of the background and is not meant to be accessed. Even worse are the visuals for the places you’ll visit, which are unimaginative and have no real defining features to them. Its not displeasing, its just…there.
I can easily say that there’s one very strong point and many weak points when it comes to the gameplay in Final Fantasy Explorers. For one, the Ability mechanics is its strongest point in the game, and easily the reason why I’m even still playing the game. In the game, your character can be assigned a Job class, ranging from an attacking Damager like the Monk, defensive Tank like the Knight, Healer and Booster classes like the White Mage and Time Mage respectively, with 21 jobs in total to unlock via missions and hidden tasks. Then there are the Abilities, which are dictated majorly on the weapon you wield. Although some don’t vary (there’s at least 3 different types of Meteor spell with a different name slapped on), they each hold their own individual property, making each move different. What’s more, there are Ability Mutations you can discover and then purchase as Custom Abilities.
Discovering these Ability Mutations means taking your avatar into the field of battle. For example, you’d have Abilities tacked to the L and/or R buttons, and if you use them enough times eventually you can choose to trigger a Crystal Surge, which can effect the character or at times a specific terrain. Using a Crystal Surge to effect the character can activate the chance to gain mutations for the Ability as tailored by the Surge. And those mutations can be stacked, be it for more damage, a higher chance at a stat boost or debuff, or the ability to link to each other smoother for a better combo. This is the ONLY reason why I sunk 100 hours into the game.
Everything else is boring. The terrain never really changes from flat to slightly above ground, so it holds no reason to make strategy against foes. You start really, really strong, making the player unsure if this is even worth playing if there’s no challenge. And even with the harder options you can unlock, the missions can easily get stale over time. The eidolons don’t really chase you nor run off like in the Monster Hunter games, opting to stay in their little area while you can go off screen and fully recover before going back in and dishing out the next few blows. In a game where evolving your character is key to getting better, the game is way too lenient when it should actually challenge the player into going forward. Also there’s no real repercussion to dying. When you die, you can choose to use an item to bring yourself back to life or waste 3-5 minutes to do so, which isn’t as much of a problem when no harder options are played. What’s worse is that you’ll likely do the same mission over and over again even after you rank up. Eidolons themselves don’t really change aside from gaining an enhanced move and stats when their mission appears on a new rank.
Did I mention you can at times transform into your favorite FF character? Cuz that’s a thing.
I can go on saying there are newer missions from the Japanese DLC that you can unlock later after beating the game, but it doesn’t change much about what you can and have already done in the game. It’s a dull excuse of a cash grab, yet somehow got to me due to the Ability Mutations and how they’re used to evolve your character(s) and Job Class(es). Even if it spoke to the inner number fetishist within (seriously, if you played in a room with other high-ranked MapleStory gamers you’d get the joke), I can’t give this any real good recommendation. The island is small and confusing, exploring gets old quick, gameplay is hit or miss with originality and ease, dying is overrated. Even if it weren’t Monster Hunter-inspired, it doesn’t do much to keep the player interested. If you can find a group of people to play this, at least multiplayer is some fun instead of taking on the tasks alone. And if I had to give a reason to trying the game, I’d say its honestly just for the Ability mechanics alone. Although it’ll take time, it was worth it for me to put in the time. For everything else, just plainly skip Final Fantasy Explorers.