I recently bought Final Fantasy Explorers for the 3DS, and noticed a recurring phrase in user reviews of this game:
“This isn’t a true Final Fantasy.”
There is a nugget of truth to this statement, as Final Fantasy Explorers is not your typical Final Fantasy. Indeed, it is more akin to games like Monster Hunter than to the story-heavy RPGs known and loved the world over. But these statements aren’t arguing that it’s unlike most Final Fantasy games, but that it’s not a “true” Final Fantasy, which holds some different implications.
These statements would suggest that there is a standard, uniform style that games bearing the Final Fantasy name should follow. That there are distinct things which separate a “true” Final Fantasy from something just using the name to make some money. But unless your definition of a “true” Final Fantasy is limited to a very small set of games in the franchise, then this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Many games have been released bearing the “Final Fantasy” name and branding, such as Final Fantasy Tactics, a turn-based strategy game set in a wholly original setting, Theatrhythm, a rhythm game featuring Final Fantasy Songs and characters, and All the Bravest, a blatant cash grab masquerading as a video game. Few of the non-numbered games are standard turn-based RPGs, and even fewer have any relation to the main series.
Even among the main numbered games, the differences between entries are numerous and significant. One game might have a more traditional fantasy setting, followed immediately by a sci-fi story set in a largely aquatic world. A traditional turn-based battle system in one game, an MMO in the next. Even games with similar battle systems might dramatically change the game structure, such as adding a job system in one and dropping it in the next. The most recent entry, XV, has dropped any and all pretense of the battle system being turn-based, opting to create a full action-RPG.
Keeping all of this in mind, it’s rather strange to classify any one thing as not a “true” Final Fantasy. One could argue that Explorers being multiplayer-focused excludes it, but Final Fantasy has been no stranger to multiplayer over the years. XI and XIV are full-on MMOs, and Crystal Chronicles managed to blend more traditional RPG elements with a multiplayer focus. Explorers actually shares a lot of similarities with the two DS Crystal Chronicles games, but with more traditional FF elements.
Speaking of traditional Final Fantasy elements, Explorers actually features a number of them, beyond the classic monsters and Eidolons. The job system feels like a more modern, fleshed-out version of the job systems seen in older games like FFIII and FFV, with some unique twists to the gameplay for each. The game also goes out of its way to reimagine how these jobs would work in an action-RPG setting, altering each to make them work.
In a weird sense, Final Fantasy Explorers feels like a purer Final Fantasy experience than many of the more modern entries, translating classic Final Fantasy concepts into a new genre. It is, in that sense, a “truer” Final Fantasy experience than games like FFXIII or FFXV, which abandon traditional FF concepts and follow their own style. Knowing this, it seems odd to accuse Explorers of not being a “true” Final Fantasy, simply because it is similar to Capcom’s Monster Hunter franchise.
FF Explorers is not a perfect game, something I will touch on in another article. But it is nothing if not a “true” Final Fantasy, in style and gameplay.
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