Platforms: iOS (Reviewed on) Apple Arcade
Release Date: April 1, 2021
I’ve been following Fantasian for a while. For those unfamiliar, the game comes from creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, tthe legendary mind behind almost every great RPG of the last several decades including the vast majority of Final Fantasy games to Super Mario RPG to Xenogears to the criminally underrated Brave Fencer Musashi.
If an RPG is coming out by him, I’m going to pay attention to it — especially if he was inspired to do it while playing Final Fantasy 6, my second favorite Final Fantasy game (after 9).
The other thing that made me interested in the game was the environments. Hironobu Sakaguchi was kind in the era of having characters running around previously rendered backgrounds, which often resulted in your character looking like they were running through a weird model city. Now though, games look a lot more realistic so he found a way to capture the model feel without making the backgrounds suffer.
The environments were built from the ground up. Literally. The backgrounds in this game are literal real-world dioramas photographed from multiple angles so your characters are running around on real dirt on real surfaces.
This has some serious pros and cons. One thing I didn’t like is that in many of the cities, which are gorgeous at first glance, you’ll occasionally have moments where the cameras zooms in and the scene gets a little grainy. Here’s an example from one of the first towns where I noticed this.
But it’s also amazing in little moments like entering a shop or home. Shops are almost always amazing to witness. Look at all the little details.
I mean that’s amazing. That little tiny glass jar with shells in it? The orb? I don’t know what any of that is supposed to be but it’s cool as hell and Iove it.
Where the game suffers though, is the story. If you’ve played Final Fantasy this feels like a greatest hit collection. Your main character is a thief, much like the protagonist from Final Fantasy 6 but also a tough amnesiac with a pension for black clothing, like the protagonist from Final Fantasy 7. Why did he lose his memory? Because, as a robot says, “magical particals from the explosion may have affected your nervous system.” Sure.
The main love interest in the game is painfully obvious. She is also identical to Aerith from Final Fantasy. She has the same taste in clothing colors and boots. She finds you for the first time passed out in a field of flowers. She even fights with a staff and focuses heavily on magic and healing.
It doesn’t help that the game features a villain who looks exactly like Sephiroth. Also, instead of Materia, there’s Mechteria, a mechanical equivalent of the same damn thing.
My favorite nod is the Cinderella Tri-Stars. They’re rival treasure hunters to the main character, and outside of the fact that they introduce themselves almost exactly like Team Rocket they are exactly like the LeBlanc Syndicate of Final Fantasy X-2 (a game I love a lot). It’s literally a trio that is lead by a beautiful woman who is assisted by a skinny dramatic man who attacks from a range and a stocky guy who shields the team. While a complete duplication, I absolutely loved seeing them honored.
The battle system is definitely a throw back as well. It’s a turn-based battle system with a timer bar that was made popular in the Grandia games allowing you to see upcoming turns. Not a lot was added to make this new other than touch screen controls with one minor change.
You can put spin on your magic spells. No joke. If you’re going to cast a magic spell, instead of selecting an enemy or having it shoot forward in a line, moving it off to the side will allow it to travel in a tight arc which might nail more enemies.
This mechanic feels really good but gets old fairly quick as many enemies seem to show up specifically to allow you to hit a bunch at once.
The biggest nod to Final Fantasy 6 was the game’s two-act structuring. Much like in FF6, you spend hours with a set group of people on your team but after a story point deep in the game, the game goes a lot more open world where you freely switch between whatever characters you want. It felt like a complete homage and really helped freshen the game up as it started to get a little stale.
All-in-all, as the game exists as a love letter to the older Final Fantasy games, it lets you know exactly how you’re going to feel about it. If you’ve wanted a game like the SNES Final Fantasy games, you’re absolutely going to get into this.
If not? No worries. It’s an easy sell as it’s one of the games free on Apple Arcade. So, if you have Apple Arcade, enjoy. It’s free and you can play it on your phone, tablet, or in my case, my Macbook using a mouse.