Fantasy Life is an action RPG from publisher Arc System Works, the minds behind the hardcore Guilty Gear fighting series. Instead of bringing us the fast-paced, metal music infused fighting action that everyone loves, Arc System Works brings us to a world where humans and animal like creatures known as Decoders battle each other for survival in a fantasy world. The game borrows a lot of interesting aspects from other titles like Monster Hunter, Diablo, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Yet, the overall experience of the game does not come together as well as one may expect. The concept for this action RPG experience is great at first, but instead becomes a monotonous haul through a boring story and repetitive gameplay.
When you first start up Fantasy Hero, the game is very similar to other Monster Hunter clone games, only with four main heroes to choose from. You get to choose from a selection of color schemes to give your hero a somewhat unique look, but the customization never fully goes beyond this and is limited to only a select few color schemes. Each of the four heroes has diverse play styles that coincide with their character personalities. You have the fighter, the magician, the ranger, and the tank much like other RPG titles. Regardless of which character you decide to play as, most of the goals and approaches to each mission are generally the same.
The main story focuses on the battle between the invading Decoders and the humans fending them off. There are some twists and turns as you play through the story, with each hero having a distinct personality among each other. The plot though isn’t as strong as one may expect, despite the premise being a good starting point. Most of the cutscenes are done in-game and come off very bland and boring. So much so that you may find yourself skipping them entirely, as they are long and bring the action to a hard stop. These drawn out sections really damper the entire experience. An RPG with a story that makes you bored and uninterested in the events occurring is a real shame, especially when the core concept is essentially good.
The gameplay of Fantasy Hero is not enough to detract from the game’s shortcomings. You select missions from a bulletin board similar to a Monster Hunter game, and then set out to different environments to accomplish missions. You can speak to different shops in the hub to upgrade weapons, buy items, and set up an offline multiplayer session. The hub is small and feels like its missing many of the other interesting spots that made Monster Hunter’s hub so diverse and interesting. You may not be spending a whole lot of time in the hub area, but it would have been nice to have other things that benefit my character, such as making items or doing extra tasks to boost abilities.
When on a mission the game plays similar to many other dungeon crawlers in the top-down perspective. You attack and jump with the face buttons, with special abilities mapped to the L-button and a face button. You can customize the layout of your abilities, but you may not use them as much as you might expect. The mission objectives change up between Story Missions and Side Missions, but they are the same throughout and not unique to the character you choose to play with. The game quickly becomes a monotonous run of button mashing the attack button and running around the map to your objective. Playing as different characters does change things up a bit, but ultimately ends up turning into the same routine. Run around, mash the attack button, complete your objective, and that’s about it.
Multiplayer is pretty much non-existent. You have the option to play the game through Ad-hoc with up to three other players, but good luck finding others to play with. With no online play, there is very little reason to continue playing Fantasy Hero once you’ve finished the main story. This is the kind of game that would ideally work best online with other players, much like other games Fantasy Hero is drawing inspiration from. At the same time, playing this kind of game with others online can make the story experience so much better, and help overshadow many of the faults of the game itself.
Even if you are a fan of Arc System Works, Fantasy Hero is a mediocre dungeon crawler that simply doesn’t get a lot of things right. The premise of the story is a good foundation that is never fully realized because of all the game’s shortcomings. The gameplay becomes repetitive and boring very quickly, the cutscenes drag on for far too long, and the environments and enemies in game are bland. The lack of online play is a shame because if could have been the saving grace for many of the other issues the game suffers from. This is one story you may not want to sign up for.
This review was based off a digital copy of Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy for the PlayStation Vita provided by Arc System Works.