Play how you want
During a hands-on Nintendo event, I was given the option to play a number of upcoming games -- naturally, I gravitated towards Fantasy Life, which I've been waiting a few years to see in action overseas. Developed by the famous Level-5, Fantasy Life dropped in 2012 in Japan (and sold very well), and we've been asking for a localization ever since. Now we're getting it, as the game is set to drop on October 24.
The concept of Fantasy is dead-simple: you have 12 "lives" (jobs, essentially) to choose from, which derive from three principles -- combat, gathering, and creation. Although there is a core storyline that you can technically "beat," all 12 jobs have their own sub-story, and every job can fight in combat. In other words, it doesn't feel nearly as limiting as other simulators, so you can play the way you want to rather than shackle yourself to a certain archetype.
What you're really going to get in terms of the meat of the game (outside of maxing out all 12 jobs) is player choice. Although I only got a taste of what's to come, there are enough options to choose from to the point where you should theoretically have a completely different path from all your friends.
You can't change lives on the fly (which can get annoying if you have all 12 active), but there's an instant teleport option to bring you back to the appropriate location to switch. While this system does feel like a bit of a time sink, the fact that every job can viably fight most enemies and gather up materials anyway is a nice touch.
Job-wise, you can choose between the Paladin, Mercenary, Hunter, Wizard, Cook, Angler, Woodcutter, Miner, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Tailor, and Alchemist. Paladin was my personal favorite, and I enjoyed the synergy between it and the Blacksmith job, which let me forge my own weapons and armor. The neat thing though is that the Blacksmith could also level-up his skill in the same weapons and wield a sword as needed.
Combat is a relatively simple affair, but that makes it just as easy to get out and start slicing things for materials to bring back to town and synthesize. Actual item creation takes place in the form of a fun mini-game, which you can make easier (or faster) by way of special class abilities that you can enact at any moment. It's all very easy to pick up.
Even though I didn't get to play it for long, it's clear that Fantasy Life is a huge game. Odds are you'll spend over a hundred hours maxing out every job, not to mention the side distractions like multiplayer, customization, and room decoration. I can't wait to try the full version for myself later this year.