- Developer: Mistwalker Corporation
- Publisher: Mistwalker Corporation
- Release Date: 02/04/2021
- Price: Included in Apple Arcade
Introducing: FANTASIAN Review
I eagerly jumped at the chance to review FANTASIAN. I’ve long been a fan of Mistwalker. Lost Odyssey is one the most memorable RPGs and still sits in my top ten all-time favorites. I’ve surfed it up in Party Wave more times than I can count. I have action figures from Blue Dragon. And the first video I ever uploaded to YouTube was gameplay of Terra Battle.
As much as I love Mistwalker, I was saddened that FANTASIAN was billed as an Apple Arcade exclusive. I have morphed as a gamer away from playing on the “mobile” platform. I love handheld but not at the expense of losing a physical controller. Since the Nintendo Switch came out, I haven’t played a game on my phone. Ultimately I decided that FANTASIAN looked too good to pass up over a mental block of my own creation. I activated Apple Arcade and embarked on a beautiful journey.
Several Ways to Play
Before I get into the meat of my FANTASIAN review, I want to cover a few ways I played this classic-inspired RPG. The first thing I tested was mirroring my phone screen to my television. It didn’t require any third-party software and was easy to do directly from my iPhone 8 Plus. Once FANTASIAN was gorgeously displayed on the big screen, I easily paired my Xbox One controller to my phone. With a few simple steps, I was playing FANTASIAN in near console-like glory. The only downside I experienced when playing like this was after a few hours of non-stop gaming, FANTASIAN started to slow down and input from the controller lagged. Shutting everything down and rebooting solved the problem but I wasn’t surprised with all the wireless components at work.
The second way I played was on my MacBook Pro. This was my preferred way to play as I still got a larger screen and the mouse felt intuitive and smooth. It was easy to take screen captures and synced automatically with my phone so I never lost progress.
Finally was on my iPhone itself. I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy FANTASIAN on my phone. I’ll admit, there were some occasions of “miss-taps” where the screen would move while I tried to tap a new spot to move. Since the screen would move, I ended up backtracking or sending my party to a location I didn’t intend. In reality, that’s a very minor inconvenience and only happened a few times. The touch controls actually worked really well. Using touch was surprisingly easy and I played on my phone more than on the TV.
A Dusty Dreary World
They say lightning never strikes twice. But for Mistwalker and Hironobu Sakaguchi-san, it strikes repeatedly. The story in FANTASIAN is magical and endearing. The use of memories to paint the picture is a powerful tool that the Mistwalker team are well versed in handling. To this day I still reflect on the memories of Kaim in Lost Odyssey. FANTASIAN has a similar effect and relies heavily on memories to narrate the story. It’s an epic tale of a world succumbing to otherworldly forces and an unlikely group of travelers who have to learn about their past to save the future.
Main protagonist, Leo, awakens in a dingy factory surrounded by loud machinery and robots. Not too surprising, Leo has lost his memories and has to count on two friendly robots to lead him to safety. Not long after, Leo is warped back to the human realm and sets out to regain his past. A vision of a girl keeps him going until he is finally reacquainted with her. Together they set off to find their destiny and stop the encroaching “mecha infestation”. They meet a wide range of characters and visit beautiful and scary locales. The story had some twists and surprises that caught me off guard. It’s safe to say, I was hooked. I loved the character development and the overarching narrative. FANTASIAN was masterfully told.
FANTASIAN is a turn-based RPG with an area of effect combat. Some may recognize this style from Chrono Trigger where you can attack enemies in a line or grouping depending on the skill used. Magic attacks can be curved to avoid frontline foes and target enemies in the back. It was a pleasant deviation from traditional combat and added a unique layer of strategy.
The combat was fluid and enjoyable. Battles are random and I never tired of getting into a brawl. One thing that was absent from the combat system was the ability to guard. The reason I call that out is there were times I didn’t want a character to attack so I could wait for Leo to pilfer an item. The lack of a guard command often meant I had to waste MP on an unnecessary heal or buff. For the majority of the game, the battles were rather easy. I rarely felt pressure that I would fail and rarely lost my whole party. It was still an enjoyable experience, it just felt more casual and less daunting.
FANTASIAN doesn’t waste any time. Everything you’re doing has meaning. Side-quests aren’t so abundant that you get distracted. There are a lot of hidden items spread throughout and even a few Easter eggs. A few things have been added to make playing on a phone easier. If you go to the area map, you can click on points of interest to automatically run there. No more tap-tap-tapping every few steps to get back to the save crystal.
Speaking of save crystals, this is one thing that felt like a step back in terms of modern gaming. You can only save at designated points. Even on the world map sections (which isn’t very often), you’re unable to save your game. At least I couldn’t find another way. This was the biggest detractor I found during my review of FANTASIAN. For a game designed to be played on a mobile device I expected a better save mechanic.
FANTASIAN is graphically stunning. I’ve been watching the development of this game since it was announced and was a fan of the art style early on. In fact, FANTASIAN is listed as a Diorama Adventure RPG. Each of the locations has been handcrafted by Japanese “Tokusatsu”, which deals in live-action special effects. The backgrounds are quite literally dioramas and provide an incredibly detailed stage for the digital characters to play on. The digital artwork is equally impressive and made me want to play on bigger screens than my phone.
The music in FANTASIAN transported me back to all my favorite RPGs. Each track fits the surrounding world so well. There’s an impressive soundtrack to back up an already incredible experience. Of course with Nobuo Uematsu-san at the helm, it’s bound to be a success. But the music in FANTASIAN is so much more than that. Heart and soul bleed into each track and elevate the experience. It’s a soundtrack that I’ll remember fondly for years to come.
When I set out to review FANTASIAN, I didn’t expect the game to be as emotionally powerful as it was. At different times it reminded me of games and even movies that were a big part of my youth. Nostalgia aside, it has a wonderful story with a fantastic cast of characters. The world is mesmerising and the diorama backdrops are impressive. Not to mention entertaining gameplay with fluid combat. If you have an Apple device but have avoided FANTASIAN because it’s not on a traditional console, you should push that qualm aside and immerse yourself in this masterfully crafted world from Mistwalker.
- Memorable Story and Characters
- Engaging Combat
- Legendary Soundtrack
- Gorgeous Art Style
- Limited Save Points