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Monster Hunter players will recognize the format. The staging area is some random town with a giant crystal in it. There’s a shop, a quest giver, some moogles that give you special stuff when you meet conditions, and a few mostly-irrelevant NPCs to tell you about some especially important thing you have to do or kill.
You receive quests and sub-quests from an NPC at the counter alongside an "assignments" desk where you can send your monster pets or SpotPassers to complete missions for rewards (palicos? hunters for hire?).
To start on a quest you exit the town and enter a map area. Areas are unlocked as you complete quests or explore unblocked areas. After a few tutorials you’ll gain access to an airship that will take you deeper into the world without having to walk. Usually your quest objective will show on the map as a flashing red dot so there’s not too much thought required to complete the mission.
There's no character level or experience to gain. You mark your progress by EL (equipment level?) which is based on your gear and abilities. Abilities are where it gets interesting. You get 8 ability slots  (L+A/B/X/Y and R+A/B/X/Y) that are somewhat limited by your available Load (more powerful abilities take up more load). As you use your abilities, you gain crystal resonance which allows you to use crystal moves (?) with special effects (L+R+A/B/X/Y). These effects can be applied to your existing abilities (called mutations) permanently by spending CP (crystal points?) at the ability crystal. Adding additional effects will essentially level up that ability. For example, you learn Cure and you can add additional HP recovery attributes to it to increase it's power. Adding attribute mutations will increment the ability level.. Cure 1, Cure 2, etc. You can also give your custom abilities their own names. Like if you want to level up a bow skill to do additional fire and critical damage for defeating Shiva (the ice boss) and have a another for doing poison damage at extended range for general play.
Gear can be crafted or upgraded using monster drops. Monster companions can be created using monster essence (?). There's also a special Trance meter that allows you to call upon the power of bosses you've encased in magicite or heroes such as Cloud. Once you're trance meter is full, and you've unlocked the Trance, you can trigger the special trance mode.. Cloud’s Omnistrike!
Joining quests is pretty annoying. You tap the person's name in your list, then select join quest.. then walk over to the exit to set yourself as ready to depart. None of which the game tells you. I imagine there are quite a few people confused with their first time in multiplayer.
There is no 3D on this 3DS game. The cutscenes for the eidolons are pretty cool but otherwise the game is pretty generic. You do get to customize your character in the beginning with a limited preset of options and new equipment will change your appearance.
That's pretty much it. It's certainly an interesting game for Final Fantasy fans but not impressive in any way. If you don't mind exploring and you enjoy grinding for drops to build gear.. this is definitely a way to spend your time doing it.

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