Way back in 2014, Level 5–developer of many popular Nintendo-based titles like Professor Layton–released Fantasy Life on the Nintendo 3DS. This quirky life sim slash RPG was very popular, but the franchise became quiet afterwards.
However, recently in July 2018, a free-to-play mobile adaptation–Fantasy Life Online–was officially launched in Japan. As fans of previous Nintendo-related mobile titles, we couldn’t resist the chance to give it a whirl!
This mobile version adapts the core gameplay of the original Fantasy Life, stream-lining it for mobile devices. Originally it was billed as a Fantasy Life sequel and was known as “Fantasy Life 2: The Two Moons and the Gods’ Village”. But the developers wisely changed the name following the presumably lukewarm reception.
Note: Before we properly begin, we should stress that an English version of Fantasy Life Online is not currently planned (to our knowledge). Hopefully there is one. But if not, this article might be interesting for fans of the original Fantasy Life who are keen to know what’s different.
In the past, Nintendo-related mobile offerings have been greatly simplified versions of the original, like how Fire Emblem Heroes has much smaller maps or how Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has divided the town into many smaller landmarks. But Fantasy Life Online takes a different approach by trying to copy the original’s gameplay as much as possible.
What’s different is the integration of free-to-play mechanics, such as timers, premium items and gacha-based summons. But don’t worry as none of the premium features are necessary for progression, although they do make things a lot easier. Ironically, the original game was basically a paid MMO, so these features feel right at home in Fantasy Life Online.
When first starting the game, you’re asked to create your avatar–the character that represents you in the game. You can choose between two genders and there are multiple options for body sizes, facial features, hair, eyes, voices etc. In fact, most of these options are present in the first game, although we counted a lot more hair and eye colour than before (around 79).
Afterwards, you must select one of the 12 Life roles to begin with–essentially jobs or classes. There are 4 battle-focused Lives (Paladin, Mercenary, Hunter and Magician), which are recommended for beginners. Then there are 3 gathering Lives (Angler, Miner and Woodcutter) for intermediate players. Finally there are 5 crafting Lives (Cook, Tailor, Alchemist, Carpenter and Blacksmith) for experts.
You can change between any of the 12 Lives at any time, except during boss battles, so it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. To begin with though, it might be ideal to choose a battle Life so you can efficiently fight monsters. Later, it’s a very, very good idea to swap between multiple Lives, since many Lives compliment the others.
For instance, you can explore and defeat monsters as a Magician. Then once the coast is clear, you can switch to Woodcutter and safely cut down trees for wood. Back home, you can become a Carpenter and craft better wands using the wood you obtained earlier. This in turn allows you to explore more dangerous areas as a Magician!
Just like in the original, each Life has its own progression route. To begin with, you’ll be a Novice, then you can slowly work you way up the ranks, by earning Stars from completing Star Missions. These are sidequests such as defeating X monsters in a battle Life, gathering X in a gathering Life, crafting X in a crafting Life, etc.
Once you’ve earned enough Stars, you can advance to the promotion exam, which is a special mission that tests whether you can progress to the next rank. You don’t need to complete all the Star Missions to rank up. Also, a neat thing is that you can do Star Missions out of order, although you won’t earn the Stars until you’re the correct rank.
The higher your Life rank, the better your abilities. Currently, it’s possible to advance as far as Expert, which is the 4th (real) rank. However, the original Fantasy Life went up to the 7th rank–Legend–and finally the 9th rank–God/Creator–with the DLC. So there’s still a long road to go before you can truly become a Life Master!
Unlike the original, your stat (HP, Attack, etc.) progression is no longer universal and is instead tied to your Life progression. So if you’re a Level 50 Magician and change to a Hunter, you’ll start back at Level 1 again and won’t have the luxury of higher HP or Attack stats. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective.
Running parallel to your Life progression is the main story. This is a fully fleshed out experience that takes place in the same world as the previous game: Reveria. In fact, nearly all the locations are identical and many of the characters are the same, although there are some new ones. So there’s still Princess Laura and your mysterious companion, Yuelia, for example.
This time, Reveria is invaded by shadowy monsters that emerge from black holes, and you’re enlisted as an emissary of the Gods to gather legendary heroes to fight back the darkness. Although the game was first envisioned as a sequel, it’s more of a retelling than anything, as none of the game’s characters recognise each other from the first adventure.
The main story is divided into multiple chapters (of which 4 are currently available), each with several stages and story sequences. To begin a stage or story sequence, you need to consume God Power, which is essentially your stamina. God Power slowly recharges with time or you can pay Life Gems–the premium currency–to instantly restore it.
The story itself is whimsical as ever and there’s lot of talking, which can be a blessing or a curse. Back on the 3DS, the lengthy dialogue was bearable since you would expect to play for prolonged periods. But on mobile devices, the long-winded banter can drag slightly. Thankfully there is a Skip button for those who want to jump straight into the gameplay!
Speaking of the gameplay, although Level 5 has done their best to transfer everything over, it can be a little hit and miss. In simple terms, the main gameplay is divided between exploration, battles, gathering and crafting. The first two are applicable to all Lives, while the latter two are unique to gathering and crafting Lives.
Previously when exploring Reveria, you used the 3DS’s Circle Pad to precisely move your character and you had several face buttons to attack, dash, use skills etc. But now you have to drag on the screen to move your character and tap/hold the screen to perform actions. As such, controlling your character can be a little awkward initially.
Normally, the mobile controls are fine when you’re somewhere peaceful or the enemies are weak, but when facing strong foes, it can be difficult to do the things you want. Level 5 know this and there’s an option to attack automatically, so all you have to do is move and charge up your attacks. But even that can be troublesome.
You see, the screen is fairly small, so you’re limited to how much space you have for dragging your character. On top of that, the UI is busy, so you have even less usable space–and it’s all too easy to click on an UI button by accident. Also, since you have to play in Portrait mode, moving left and right is harder than moving up and down.
Furthermore, many of the locations are literally copy and pasted from the first Fantasy Life. Which is lovely in practice, as thanks to the graphical capabilities of modern mobile devices, the world of Reveria has never looked prettier. But the downside is that these locations can be overly complex or narrow–and hard to navigate without precise controls.
Outside of battles, the controls are bit better, since there’s less to focus on. Even still, they’re not quite optimal. When gathering wood or minerals, you’re encouraged to circle around the gathering spot to locate the sweet spot, which makes it easier to gather. To do so, you need to move your character by dragging the screen, which doesn’t feel natural.
Crafting is even simpler in theory, as you’re tasked with holding the screen, mashing the screen or rhythmically tapping the screen to complete your product. However, you need to keep moving between 3 adjacently connected work spaces by swiping the screen–and this motion doesn’t really feel good. But luckily there’s an option to make your character automatically move.
Besides the main story, you can use God Power to freely explore the world map, where you can defeat monsters and/or gather resources at your own leisure. This is useful for leveling your Lives whenever you get stuck. At the very beginning, the game is very easy, but as you progress through the story and your Lives, things get difficult pretty quickly…
Right now, 6 field areas can be accessed during the story and/or exploration: East Grassy Plains, Haniwa Cave, Elderwood, Mt Snowpeak, West Grassy Plains and Waterfall Cave. Additional locations will be available via updates. As we alluded, these locations are almost 1:1 copies, although some of the enemy and resource locations may be slightly different.
However, it seems like the towns won’t be accessible. For instance, Castele, the very first area in the original game, is completely missing although people talk about it. In its place is a market near the far end of the East Grassy Plains. This was likely done to stream-line the experience, as there’s something new that replaces the need for towns.
When playing solo, you can have up to 3 partner characters following you, who will pitch in during battles, or–if applicable–gathering or crafting. Unlike the previous game, you can now switch to a partner character and directly control them! You can get new partners by playing through the story, progressing through Lives or by summoning (we’ll talk about this later).
Partners are a god-send if you’re playing in a gathering or crafting Life, since your combat abilities in those Lives are sub-par. During a fight, you can either switch directly to a partner who’s in a battle Life and defeat the monsters that way, or let your partner do their thing. However, if you’re not in a battle Life, you earn less experience from monsters.
Like before, you can equip your character with all kinds of gear to improve their battle prowess or gathering/crafting proficiency. You can also do the same for your partners, which is new. A very welcome change is you can equip separate items for your appearance and actual stats. So you can wear fancy-looking but weak clothes, but still retain your high stats!
What’s really cool is that you can play online with up to three other human players, exploring the world or participating in boss raids. Each player controls one character, although they can choose one partner that they can swap between. Communication is done via your device’s keyboard, but that can be slow, so there are preset phrases, emoticons and stamps etc.
In our experience, the online multiplayer was a lot of fun and reminiscent of the original game’s multiplayer. You can either choose to join a room that’s already been set up or host a room yourself by using God Power. The host can set up rules, like friends only, and leave a welcome message (like “high level players only” or “come and relax”).
Brand new to Fantasy Life Online is the ability to manage your own little village, in the hub world of Namona. Here, you’re given a large plot of land that you can gradually develop and fill with all manners of buildings and landmarks. In turn, your village can help you during your quest–an obvious example would be building item and equipment shops.
As you might expect, it takes time to construct buildings. Not only that, but the land has been neglected for a long time and is dotted with rocks and overgrown trees. So you need to flatten parts of the land, which again takes time. But in true free-to-play fashion, you can speed things up by using premium items. Or you can just patiently wait!
As with many things in the original Fantasy Life, the village feature seems a bit under-cooked. While Fantasy Life was a splendid game, it had a habit of doing a lot of things, but never really excelling in many. Another example is your house, which works just like in the original. So it’s a baby version of an Animal Crossing house with very limited furniture choice.
The other new addition is the ability to summon for new partner characters and items by using Life Gems. We touched on Life Gems previously–they are premium currency that you can purchase with real money or you can earn some for free by going through the main story, each of the 12 Lives or via log-in bonuses etc. So basically like Orbs or Leaf Tickets, etc.
Because you can now directly control your partners, this makes summoning for a partner character quite desirable, since some of them are pretty dang strong! You don’t need to summon, as you can get partners via the story or your Life choices. but it does help immensely. If possible, it’s advisable to summon every now and then.
How summoning works is that you can either pay for a single summon or an 11-chain summon. Naturally there’s a discount if you do the 11-chain summon. Also, each day, you can do a single summon for a heavily discounted price, but only using paid (and not free) Life Gems. You can also use special Coins (obtained by buying item packs or other means) to summon.
Similar to other gacha-based games like Fire Emblem Heroes, each time you summon, there is a chance of receiving a 3-star (rare), 4-star (star rare) or 5-star (master rare) character/item. Unlike Heroes though, the rates are more akin to traditional gacha games. In other words, the 5-star rate is very low–and the chance of getting the thing you want astronomically low.
For example, the total chance of a 5-star summon is 3%. Which is half of Heroes‘s, if you combine the focus and non-focus rates. Then there are over a dozen 5-star characters and a similar number of 5-star items. So the chance of getting a particular character or item can be as low as 0.035 to 0.070%. Yikes, good luck with that…
To make things easier, Fantasy Life Online does have rate-up characters and items, which have a boosted rate during a certain time frame. However, even still, the boosted rate for a 5-star character is 0.5%. So you’d need to summon around 200 times for a decent chance of getting said character. Still, as most mobile players would tell you, that’s par for the course.
Alternatively, you can use Coins to summon with a better chance. The best Coins give you either a guaranteed 5-star character or a 5-star item. These are only available in item packs that have a limited availability. The first item pack is only available once and includes one 5-star character Coin. Meanwhile, there is a monthly item pack that has one of each Coin.
As with similar games, it’s possible to get duplicates when summoning. Duplicate characters can be used to “awaken” characters, making them stronger. Meanwhile, duplicate items can be exchanged for Star points, which can be used to buy premium items. All in all, that’s a pretty fair way of handling things; it means summoning is usually never wasteful.
Finally, because it’s a mobile game, Fantasy Life Online is frequently updated with new features and events. At the time of writing, a new “Tower of Gods” mode has been added, where you must defeat foes within a time limit. The official newsletter also promises new fields to explore in the coming months. Regardless, it’s going to be exciting to see how the game looks like a year or two down the line!
Anyway, there’s a lot more to talk about, but we’ve been talking for quite a long time already, so now’s probably a good place to stop!
So far, we’ve been playing Fantasy Life Online for around a month and we’re quite happy with the game. Level 5 has done a fantastic job of porting the full Fantasy Life experience to mobiles. Not to mention the fact that the game is completely free, in theory anyway. At the least, we haven’t spent a penny and we’ve got enough Life Gems for around six 11-chain summons.
Our only major complaint is the less-than-optimal controls, but to be honest there’s not much you can really do about that. Although it would awesome if it was ported to a device with proper controls, like the Nintendo Switch *cough, cough*. The game can also be extremely grindy, especially as you progress further on, but what free-to-play mobile game isn’t?
To finish off, if you don’t have a 3DS–or you’re a big Fantasy Life fan–and you can read Japanese, Fantasy Life Online would receive a strong recommendation from us! Who knows, maybe a miracle will happen and Level 5 decides to translate the game into English. Until then, we can only dream…