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  1. In the realm of the completely unexpected, a new localization announcement appears! Final Fantasy Explorers, the blend of Monster Hunter and Final Fantasy, is coming West early next year! It“ll hit the United States on January 26th, 2016, then Europe on January 29th, 2016. Square-Enix have remained utterly silent regarding the game“s fate outside of Japan until now. Reception had been mild, and there was certainly nothing at E3. Seems “never say never” is indeed a sentiment that can be embraced when it comes to Square-Enix. The game“s story details a world on the brink of war over its reserves of crystals. Players (in co-operative, Monster Hunter-styled gameplay unique to the series, so far) have to band together in search of crystals, defeating monsters and hopefully discovering the Grand Crystal along the way. And hey, if the announcement trailer below isn“t enough for you, I actually spoke at length about the Japanese demo of the game a long way back. Will you be giving Final Fantasy Explorers a try next year? Be sure to let us know!
  2. By now, many of you have heard of Final Fantasy Explorers. This Japan-only (for now) game seems to be heavily focused upon multiplayer elements, the job system that Final Fantasy has become known for, and—as one would imagine—exploring. I decided to put my Japanese 3DS to use by downloading the (free) Final Fantasy Explorers Light demo, which apparently features the first few bits of story (allowing players to fight the first two boss monsters), multiplayer (local and online), and the ability to transfer everything you've earned in the demo to the final game. While I would love to write up a massive piece detailing the entire demo, where I confidently proclaim I“ve made it! and go on for days about how epic fighting the monsters felt... I am completely overwhelmed by the amount of text in this game. Suffice to say it is not import-friendly in the least, and if I were writing an import review my advice would simply be to run away, avoid, and wait for the game to make its way to the West. I“m confident we“ll see rumblings. Eventually. So, what did I manage to do? I“ve created/designed my character. I“ve gone through the game“s first few tutorial quests, which featured me wandering around aimlessly for hours to accomplish objectives that should take minutes. Haha. I“ve freely explored the game“s world without the confines of quests, and I“ve managed to unlock jobs, which is where my journey ends for now because holy crap. Character Creation Don“t expect the most customizable character ever, unfortunately. This process began simply enough: you enter a name, then you“re able to pick whether your character is male or female. Your character“s voice can be selected from one of ten options. Frequency cannot be adjusted, so you“re stuck with preset values, as far as that goes. Then you can go on to select your character“s face from five options, and their hair from one of ten options. Skin color is determined by a full hue (e.g. hundreds of possibilities) of dark brown to porcelain white. Male faces go from childlike to adult, and feature the typical “scar hunter” look for those who desire that. Female faces don“t feature a battle-torn option, but there are “grizzled”-looking options! The ten male hair options aren't as varied as I“d like, to be honest. You can go short, short and spikey, really spikey, kind of androgynous, or really androgynous (like a Sephiroth clone), and that“s kind of it. But hey, both hair and eye-clolor are fully customizable via red, blue and green hues to determine exact color(s). One last thing: the equipment you collect does change the look of your character. So cool armor means a cool-looking dude or lady! The Village And here we have a Quest counter, something I can“t access, a weapon shop (accessible after completing the tutorial quests), an item shop (also accessible after the tutorial quests), a Mog that runs some sort of shop I can“t access, and a building at the top of the hill the mog shop is on that has no discerning characteristics. There“s also a giant crystal at the center of the village that, after completing the tutorial quests, features a massive amount of what appear to be abilities. I counted twenty-three. You can spend “CP” earned on quests to unlock these abilities, buuut, I have no idea what they do. Just take a look at how much text there is here. Can you blame me for throwing my hands up and going, “NOPE!”? The Field/Outside World When I wandered around aimlessly during the first three quests of the game, I managed to explore a great deal of places. The first quest, which I did complete easily, just involved me slaying ten monsters on an open field. But the second quest (whose objective was completely unclear to me) had me wandering around an open field, sandy beach, lava-cave, dark forest, and a seemingly watery area with a giant crystal structure in the middle of it. Doing a little research leads me to believe the lava cave will lead to Ifrit, and one of these paths will take me to Shiva--both of whom I will eventually fight. The environments are certainly pleasing to the eye, but if I“m being honest...it seems like a bunch of wide-open space with nothing really occupying it. Enemies don“t show up on the game“s map and seem few and sporadically generated. But they offer a good mix of variety. Hard to kill an enemy via close-quarters combat when you have another one chucking bombs at you and setting you on fire, after all. The Quests Seems like this game is going to be heavily focused on quests. It reminds me of Phantasy Star Online. You have the option to freely explore the world if you wish, but I“m thinking the way to advance the story is going to be to take on these quests via the quest board and accomplish them. Each quest only allows players to access certain parts of the world (other areas are blocked off via a purple barrier) to achieve their objective. Quest number one: slay monsters. Quest number two (which took me a long time to figure out): fight enemies using your Combat Abilities (hold L, then press the corresponding button on the little menu that pops up) until a meter builds up--then after the meter builds up, press L+R+button to unleash a sort of “Limit Break” thing. And quest number three: use your Limit Break thing to defeat an enemy. After doing those three things--the massive crystal and shops are open to me. Looks like I“m doing something right. Jobs Well. Um. I think I've found the way to change my job, and it's via a menu versus a spot in town. Changing jobs sheds you of all your equipment. One seems focused on high HP and low AP (so melee combat), one sticks you in the middle and allows you to equip bows (so...archer?), and one features very high AP and very low HP (some sort of mage class). If I go further into this game, e.g. if you guys are interested, I might detail what I'm able to do as each job class. But for now... So what the heck is this game?? It“s the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. It feels more like a Phantasy Star Online clone to me than a Monster Hunter one, as many early footage/concepts would have you believe. Combatting normal foes is easy--combatting bosses, from what I“ve read, seems to pose a decent challenge. You should probably start to get hype for this game if you yearn for “the old PSO/Diablo days”. This game seems like more of that. Nothing too extraordinary, but should scratch a similar itch to something like Fantasy Life with less Nintendo charm and more... well, Square-Enix charm. Check out the official site (in Japanese) here. I may keep updating this as I very slowly and cautiously unlock more in the demo. The game comes out in Japan part way through December, but there“s no way I“m importing this one without a basic understanding of Japanese. Haha. Are you anticipating Final Fantasy Explorers at all? Let us know in the comments below!