Fantasy Life i: The Girl Who Steals Time feels like deja vu
While it wasn't as groundbreaking as Level-5's other title we had a chance to play during Tokyo Game Show, Fantasy Life i: The Girl Who Steals Time is shaping up to be an adorable follow-up to the Nintendo 3DS classic, and we're excited to see more... though mostly because what we did play was mostly present in the original game.
First things first; if you've played the original Fantasy Life, you largely know what to expect. Our demo session consisted of us completing trials as various Lifes in order to gather materials for a festival; gathering corn from defeating vegetable enemies as a Paladin, gathering wood and jewels with Woodcutter and Miner respectively, catching a specific fish with the fisher, and cooking up a mean Paella as a chef.
Notably; all the Lifes that we had a chance to test during our demo were returning from the first game. That's fine, though, as I feel it was probably a smart decision to re-acquaint players with the franchise, and we know that new Lifes will be present in the full release. What really mattered was how the game itself felt to play; and it felt good. While clearly it's not pushing any boundaries on the Switch's hardware, the game looked nice and sharp, played smoothly, and the overall art style feels like a proper evolution for the series.
Everything else regarding the game, however, still remains a question. Fantasy Life i's main hook regards a new story mode spanning across two different eras, 1000 years apart - however our session only dealt with preparing a festival, presumably in the past, with not a trace of the larger narrative. A decent choice for a show floor demo, but along with the lack of new Lifes on display - we do have to wonder exactly how long it will take for us to get our hands-on with some of the game that showcases how this sequel is truly building upon the original's foundation.
As far as minigames are concerned; the same concern repeats itself. Fishing and Cooking both use the same minigames as the 3DS original, so we're left wondering how those jobs might evolve later in the game - as it stands, while Fantasy Life i's showing at TGS 2023 makes the game feel almost like an HD remaster than a proper sequel. What we played was fun, but it's hard not to wish that we could've had a look at something truly new for the title, outside of scant interactions with the game's new character, Rem.
Townbuilding, understandably, remains absent. Nor did we have a chance to interact with any of the game's Strangelings. Yet, even going by what Level-5 has listed for the game on the title's official site, we know that there's plenty new to be found in the game; we just weren't afforded the opportunity to check it out for ourselves with the game's TGS demo. It's not that we were disappointed with what we managed to play, but rather confused - we're definitely excited for a chance to see more. The foundations are there for a great follow-up, we just wish we had more to share about how the game has built on those foundations.