Final Fantasy Explorers is out for the 3DS and is coined as Final Fantasy meets Monster Hunter. I’m not entirely convinced that is the case. While the games have their similarities I think the differences are enormous.
Abilities and Stats
Final Fantasy Explorers has the standard equipment slots for weapons, hats, armour (torso and legs), and accessories. These are all kind of expected and the ones with the bigger numbers attached increase your stats and there are lots of stats. Where Final Fantasy Explorers differentiates itself is through utilising a Job System, Skills and Mutations. These mechanics give players in Final Fantasy Explorers an enormous breadth in how they play. You could be an archer that also know how to use black magic, for example. Mutations expand these two systems even further by attaching very specific bonuses to skills e.g. a sword attack with a fire element attached or the slow debuff. All skills are purchased with a currency collected through defeating enemies and completing missions.
Monster Hunter, however, has none of that. Instead, abilities are all tied to the equipment players are currently carrying. Players can set specific load outs and save them for later use, but Monster Hunter does not have a Dragoon – instead your character can just equip a gunlance. The abilities include increased fire resistance, better gathering or straight up damage resistance. Importantly though you can only have a few of these at once as they are tied directly to your equipment, so choose carefully.
As you can already tell these games might appear the same, but they take two hugely different approaches to the use of abilities. Honestly, while the Final Fantasy Explorers take on it has more choice it is almost too much. I prefer Monster Hunter’s almost nonchalance of “Hey, do you want to be a chap with twin blades and lobster armour? Go for it”. Final Fantasy Explorers shows you all the stats you have for everything throughout the game, “That hat gives plus 10 magic defence and can be upgraded to give you 50 magic defence”. Monster Hunter has the exact opposite of this. This gives you very few stats and the ones it does show don’t always make sense at first. This gives the entire game a wonderful sense of exploration, not just travelling across the world, but also of how things in the world impact your character.
I briefly mentioned Final Fantasy Explorers’ equipment, but what I didn’t mention was how you can also upgrade the lot of them. Everything can have its stats improved by upgrading it with monster drops or gather items in the field. That sword you are enjoying swinging around, for example, can be made amazing if you are willing to collect X amount of this item and the same goes for armour.
Similarly, in Monster Hunter, you can upgrade your armour by finding special spheres. However, unlike Final Fantasy Explorers weapons are not just upgraded in power will also choose what weapon they become next. This all happens in a hidden weapon tree with that greatsword you started the game with changing into an entirely different type of greatsword.
The major difference in how these two systems work is that in Monster Hunter each time you collect an item to upgrade a weapon, it is great because you are not working to make its attack higher, but for it to transform into an entirely new weapon. Or you might have collected a lot of a specific type of scale and can now make an armour set stylised after that monster. Armour upgrading takes a real back seat in Monster Hunter for reasons that will become more obvious when I discuss the combat. In Final Fantasy Explorers I often found that I would spend a lot of time pouring items into a piece of equipment only for a better one to appear in the shop after I’d done a few missions.
Forget how different the other aspects of the game are, this is where you decide which side of the gaming fence you are on. Monster Hunter’s combat feels very dangerous. No matter which monster you are battling there is always the very real sense that if you make mistakes then you will die. This is partly down to how little armour matters in comparison to weapons. Just take a second to think about it. You are only one person in some clothes holding a pointy weapon and you want to fight a dragon the size of a double-decker bus. If that thing hits you it doesn’t matter that your armour is +4, that is going to hurt. This is where dodging the learning monster pattern becomes paramount.
Whereas in Final Fantasy Explorers because it has such an emphasis on stats and abilities players lose a lot of that sense of danger. If you come with equipment that isn’t good enough then monsters are going to clean you out in a few swings, but if you take some time to pour some extra numbers into your armour then that damage will be significantly reduced.
Final Fantasy Explorers’ emphasis on skills actually ends up making battles less flexible. Sure you can unleash a flurry of sword slashing or a barrage of arrows from the sky, but can you roll? Can you jump off that small hill and get a cheeky critical hit? Nope. I frequently found that the choice of things to do in a fight was dictated by the abilities I had to access to right at that moment rather than reacting to the monster I was battling. Final Fantasy Explorers forgets that you are fighting massive, dangerous creatures in favour of stats, skills and numbers.
Final Fantasy Explorers is more comparable to Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles meets an action MMO instead of Monster Hunter. It lacks the grandeur of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, but that might be fine for you. You might prefer to have your battles more stat driven that player skills based. I, however, do not.
This article was originally published on http://www.gamertime.co.uk but unfortunately, that site no longer exists, so I’ve republished it here.