My ears perk up any time I hear Level-5 mentioned. This versatile studio is known for the Professor Layton and Inazuma Eleven series, but oft-forgotten as co-developer of Dragon Quest VIII, IX, and Ni no Kuni.
It's an RPG Grand Master as far as I'm concerned, and I've been waiting for this Fantasy Life since playing a demo of the original version a few years back.
Fantasy Life's main hook is its Life system, comprising 12 different jobs split up into three different camps, each with their own Master who'll guide you and assign quests to get on with.
Workin' 9 to 5
The paladin, mercenary, hunter, and magician combat jobs come first and foremost, as you'll have to be battling one way or another throughout the game. Enemies drop loot based on your luck, and bigger baddies drop bounties to escort back to bounty clerks for cash and rare items.
The three gathering jobs - miner, woodcutter, and angler - have you make the most of your surroundings in the field. Getting critical hits in the former two professions nets you more wood or ore to take home, while angling boils down to luck and patience.
Perhaps most important are the manufacturing jobs, specifically blacksmith, carpenter, and tailor. In these three Lives you'll put together raw materials you've looted, bought, or gathered to create high quality armour, tools, and weapons.
What a way to make a livin'
What'll make or break Fantasy Life is whether you're happy to work with the mini games these jobs force upon you. They involve either button mashing or timed button presses, but are easily perfected with enough practise.
Many of the items you require for manufacturing can be bought from shops after a while, cutting out the necessity of gathering the necessary components, but that'll cut your financial margin considerably if your focus is on making money.
The battle system is a little clunky but easy enough to work with. After attacking an enemy you'll lock on to them, but from that point onwards it can be a pain to readjust your focus to another baddie.
There's a better life
The real fun is in recruiting a party of two other NPCs who'll complement your play style. I focused on playing as a mercenary, so I always tried to bring along a magic user and bow-wielding hunter to assist me.
You will unlock more companions to join your party as you progress through each faction, but in the end your choice of favourite compatriots will probably boil down to their visual design.
If you have a couple of close friends, flatmates, or a partner with a 3DS and another copy of the game, then Fantasy Life will get much more interesting thanks to the built-in co-op mode.
Sharing your best gear with a lower-level pal feels just as rewarding as any of the big MMORPGs, especially when it means you can have your friend help you take down some of the particularly difficult boss enemies and clear out perfect mining spots.
It's a rich man's game
If you don't have anyone to play with, Fantasy Life feels very much like a one-player MMORPG. This is fine if you enjoy grinding to kit yourself out with the best equipment and taking on an inordinate number of fetch quests from NPCs.
There is some kind of story here that involves Doom Stones falling from the sky, and you'll need to follow your butterfly pal's lead if you want to open up new areas around Fantasy Life's huge map.
I wasn't particularly interested in the story l, but each new area you venture into opens up a world of new possibilities for foraging, battling, and levelling up all your skills.
Following Flutter the butterfly's advice means you earn bliss, which can be used to unlock pets to assist you in battle, new shop inventory, and even mounts for travelling around the world faster.
It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it
There's no need to feel stuck in one particular job, and you're free to work through them at your own pace, or skip them entirely.
Skills you learn as you make your way through each job's ranks are carried over to other Lives, and you can complete quests regardless of your current faction.
If you're feeling generous, you can share your most finely crafted item with StreetPassers, who'll populate the city of Castele and share items with you too.Fantasy Life plays very similarly to an MMORPG, and requires a similar level of time investment to really pay off. I thoroughly recommended it if you have a friend or two to play with, or you live for the RPG grind.