Hironobu Sakaguchi and Nobuo Uematsu, among the authors of the first Final Fantasy, are back together (perhaps for the last time) to give us a timeless JRPG.
It was the now distant 1997, when the producer Hironobu Sakaguchi and the composer Nobuo Uematsu were among the minds behind Final Fantasy VII (if you want to learn more, here is our review of Apple Arcade), one of the milestones in videogame history. It is therefore normal, for all JRPG fans, to have jumped for joy, once they discovered that this incredible duo would have signed a new partnership (perhaps, for the last time), under the aegis of Apple. The new intellectual property of the team Mistwalker responds to the name of Fantasian: it is a first-class work, imbued with magic and wonder, just like the role-playing games of yesteryear.
Released exclusively on Apple Arcade, the JRPG, fruit of the artistic union of Sakaguchi and Uematsu, is, however, only the first part of a more extensive story; waiting to understand how the plot will end, with a second chapter coming in 2021, we discover, through our review, the reasons behind why Fantasian is, in our opinion, an unforgettable experience.
A simple story, but one that goes straight to the heart
From the game menu, it is impossible not to perceive all the love that the Japanese producer has for the worlds he gives life to: in fact, we are immediately greeted by a sweet and delicate atmosphere, made even more dreamy by a truly delicious musical theme. The fairytale touch, however, seems to wear off quickly. After starting a new game, we are in fact catapulted into a dark and gloomy dimension, in which the protagonist Leo wakes up, devoid of any memory of his past. The one in which we regain our senses is a universe where machines are terrible enemies to fight: without even understanding the reasons, Leo must start making his way between one opponent and another, to be able to save his life. A valid help to orient ourselves in an unknown place is provided to us by a nice little robot, who is tackling a mission with us about which we know nothing. Concluded the first part of the challenges, and defeated a ruthless boss, we are transported inside a portal, towards a reality more similar to the one we had known, in the first moments of the adventure.
From this moment on, Leo’s long journey really begins: the path to recover his memory will lead him to explore suggestive places, as well as rich in history and secrets. Along the way it will also be accompanied by the sweet, but determined Kina (whose name means “destiny“), in turn willing to rediscover herself. Our protagonists will then join other characters, who will help the two heroes to shed light on their past, and to understand the nature of the conflicting realities that make up the world of Fantasian.
As you may have guessed from the premises, this is certainly not a particularly innovative prologue, and not even the unfolding of the plot offers who knows what unexpected moments. The intent of Mistwalker, in any case, is certainly not to upset the players with surprising implications: the team, on the other hand, often seems quoting, deconstructing, and making fun of the derivative essence of his work, at times almost encroaching on the metanarrative. What convinces us, on the other hand, is not the story itself, but the way in which the events are staged. The plot of the first part ends at its peak, leaving us with bated breath and making us foresee a rather complex future for the protagonists of the game.
Sakaguchi’s work shines in a careful and brilliant narrative management, sober and composed, characterized by a tight and at the same time wide-ranging writing, accomplices well-defined characters, and which make it very easy to identify the player. The events have a purely linear development, and it is in the communicative clarity that Fantasian plays its best cards: the crystalline genuineness of the emotions it transmits, favors the empathy of those who immerse themselves in the adventure, and this simplicity represents one of the most sensational of this first half of the experience.
A JRPG with style
Moving on to the game mechanics, Mistwalker’s work is – as already widely reiterated – a classic JRPG, which alternates moments of exploration with a fixed camera along the map, and various battles against men and creatures of all kinds, in a continuously growing in complexity and epicity. Overall, Fantasian’s playful framework is common to that of many other exponents of the genre: if we exclude some sporadic well-thought-out environmental enigma, the quests all take place according to a precise order and scheme, which leave little room for freedom. action. Between one main mission and the other, we will also find secondary assignments which, although they are not present in large numbers, still offer some small entertainment, to temporarily distance us from the primary objective.
If the structure of exploration and advancement does not differ from that of other similar role-playing games, the fights instead propose some variations to the canonical formula, able to adequately embellish the gameplay. The battles take place in turns, and like any self-respecting RPG, it is possible to attack, use skill magical (consuming MP), and exploit a curative or offensive object.
The first novelty, which greatly facilitates the conduct of the fights, concerns the trajectories of launching the shots: the direction curves of the spell they are totally manipulable, and this allows us to hit multiple enemies on the ground at the same time. Each of the protagonists has, in addition, skills “multi-target“, which clearly simplify the duels, which sometimes also take place with handpieces made up of dozens of creatures.
The introduction of the Dimengeon system: we are talking about a portable device that, once activated, can momentarily contain the monsters that populate the environments, but only if they belong to species already encountered previously. Through this mechanism, we will be able to transport our enemies to another dimension, so as to dedicate ourselves to exploration without too many obstacles. In doing so, the game leaves users the freedom to choose whether to face one challenge after another, or whether to defeat all opponents in one great battle.
However, it must be specified that the Dimengeon has a maximum capacity of 30 enemies: our advice is never to reach the limit before fighting against creatures, since getting rid of such large hordes can lead to rapid depletion of HP and MP. In this regard, every time a member of our party moves up a level, both health and magic are healed, thus saving us the use of potions and various objects, which deserve to be sipped for the most difficult situations of the adventure.
Finally, there are other small additions that we prefer not to anticipate (especially because they are unlocked in the advanced stages): just know that they are precautions capable of giving even more versatility to the combat system, allowing each player to battle with their own style of play. Without upsetting the balance of the genre of belonging, in essence, Fantasian outlines the profile of a JRPG characterized by a classic and modern solidity at the same time, well thought out and conceived with absolute awareness of what are the high school role mechanics.
Art and poetry
Beyond a playful framework of absolute value, the true soul of Fantasian shines in the technical and artistic sector, the result of the painstaking work of Sakaguchi and Uematsu. The atmospheres represent, on the other hand, the concretization of the inspiration of a director with an undisputed and commendable talent.
The game environments were created from a few dioramas royals, who have been photographed, post-products and manipulated to accommodate the characters who live there. The aesthetic appeal and the magnificent digital rendering of this technique compensate in an absolutely intelligent way to a budget that is certainly not very large, and give the whole an aspect as peculiar as it is fascinating. The use of the static camera then allowed a greater refinement of the details of the environments, as demonstrated by the various animated elements that we can observe in every place, and which contribute to giving life to a living and pulsating world.
From a resolution point of view, for systems that are compatible with 4K, it is also possible to play the title in 2160p, giving way to Fantasian’s awesome realm to express itself to its fullest potential. Furthermore, through the options of the main menu, free choice is also left regarding the framerate: you can in fact opt for the stable 30 fps and without drops, or for the 60 fps which are however, at times, a little fluctuating.
In conclusion, we cannot exempt ourselves from speaking briefly about the soundtrack. Nobuo Uematsu composed a soundtrack of a superfine level, in which each theme has its own soul: the music dedicated to the individual characters transmit to us, even more than the dialogues, the traits of their personality, and the impression is that of being constantly enveloped by a small sound miracle.
FantasianIPhone Analyzed VersionFantasian is a declaration of love for both the JRPG genre and the community of RPG fans. The fantasy epic, available exclusively on Apple Arcade, is an absolute jewel that has nothing to envy to the great works of the past: an exciting and magical, long-lived and rewarding adventure, born from the same skilled hands that forged Final Fantasy. For our part, after more than twenty hours spent in the wonderful world of Fantasian, we cannot help but await, with trepidation, the second part of this extraordinary journey, which, perhaps, will represent the heartfelt farewell to the career of a visionary author. like Sakaguchi.