Developer: Mistwalker Corp
Release Date: April 2, 2021
Reviewed On: iOS
Publisher: Mistwalker Corp
The JRPGs that I’ve enjoyed from the past have always had a strong focus on presentation and world-building, which I tend to enjoy more when compared to western RPGs. Right when I thought we’d really surpassed classic systems for more modern gameplay features, Mistwalker, led by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, managed to completely flip conventional ideas of art in Fantasian.
I’ve never been so intrigued to play a game based on visuals alone, especially its environments. The developer used a visual technique that involved creating more than 150 dioramas (just like those you made in middle school) that were photographed and incorporated into the game.
It’s quite fascinating to think that the beautiful worlds you’re running around in-game are literally handmade. The characters appear to fit perfectly with this art direction making me forget the backgrounds were real dioramas. Such as one moment where you fight a giant mecha leviathan on a sand cruise ship, and all the meticulous little details of the ship were handmade is mindboggling.
As impressive as the visuals are, the story can’t seem to keep up in this first half. Fantasian puts you in the shoes of Leo, a boy who looks like he could be related to 2B and 9S of NieR: Automata. He lost his memory and has to piece different parts of his life together while saving the world. It’s typical JRPG tropes where you have the main best girl, tsundere love interest, and other fun and cute characters who team up across a possible end-of-world mission.
There are nothing truly groundbreaking or additional twists in terms of storytelling. I found myself more interested in exploring the environment than even progressing the story at times. It blends elements of what you know about triple-A JRPGs today while bringing a sense of old-school titles visually.
I did enjoy how the memories were treated using cut scenes that give deep insight into each character. I think my only real complaint is the “voices” of each character that have this weird robotic rambling when they talk, but it’s all the same sound. They could have altered the pitch slightly for the characters to give them a bit more personality.
If you’ve played any RPG in the past 20 years, you’ll find Fantasian offers your typical JRPG turn-based combat system with a few fun twists. Each character has different abilities that can be manipulated to curve and pierce through multiple enemies. For example, Kina’s holy spell can curve and hit each enemy in its path.
It makes for interesting boss fights as well. One boss, in particular, was at least 100 flying fish causing havoc in the engine room of a cruise ship. Thanks to the AOE capabilities of each character, you can strategically whittle away at this boss without having to hit each fish one by one. It makes fighting bosses less mindless, so you don’t have to hit the same button over and over again repeatedly.
I was thrilled to see the Dimengeon feature. By activating it, you can skip many random battles of enemies you’ve already seen as they’re stored in the archive. You can also activate it whenever you want to fight all the enemies at once to receive experience and items. However, they can still be challenging if you have way too many enemies saved up. There is a limit of 30 monsters, though. So make sure to plan accordingly with items and spells before hopping in. It definitely alleviated grinding levels in later parts of the adventure.
Throughout the game, there are plenty of save points and easy-to-navigate areas. But with how detailed each part of the world is, it’s easy to miss some secret locations. If you think you can enter an area in real life, you more than likely can walk in that direction to see if there’s anything you can interact with. There are also a few options that can customize your experience to help with navigation.
Fantasian is a love letter to old-school RPGs, with clear ties to classic systems that fans love but with added accessibility for newcomers. Its story could use a bit more creative twist to differentiate itself, but as this colorful cast remembers their past, longtime fans of the genre might recall adventures long since forgotten. In its turn-based nature, the battle system manages to feel fresh through unique abilities, which make this a must-play for anyone craving a classic JRPG experience. longtime fans will recall adventure long since forgotten
Fantasian ends on a cliffhanger, which has us waiting on part 2, which we’ll be sure to share our thoughts on when it releases.
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