Exclusive to Apple Arcade, Hironobu Sakaguchi introduces Fantasian, a turn-based JRPG set to the backdrop of unique dioramas. Sakaguchi, best known as the creator of Final Fantasy, brought along Nobuo Uematsu to really solidify the feel of a Final Fantasy game with epic music. If you enjoyed turn-based JRPGs like the first ten or so Final Fantasy games, you will feel at home in the world of Fantasian, but it might be a little too familiar for some.
Fantasian: Where it shines
|Minimum Requirements||iOS 13.0 or later|
|Game Size||4.6 GB|
|Play Time||50 hours|
|Launch Price||Included in Apple Arcade|
First and foremost, Fantasian is a work of art, both in the visuals and the music. This game was clearly a labor of love for the developers. Especially stunning are the handcrafted dioramas that make up each setting in the game. While the characters and monsters are rendered in modern, anime-inspired CG, the towns, forests, and other places featured throughout the world are meticulously designed, physical dioramas, unlike anything I've seen in a video game before.
The score for Fantasian is exactly what one would expect from the legendary Nobuo Uematsu. Each piece invokes the magic and mystery of the Final Fantasy work he is best known for while still feeling original. I am already a big fan of Apple Arcade, but it would be worth the subscription just to enjoy the music of Fantasian. I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack on Apple Music or Spotify, even if you don't pick up the game.
Fantasian is a treat for both eyes and ears.
Fantasian's gameplay also really stands out. Much as I enjoy the active combat systems that have taken the place of the turn-based systems featured in the classics, there is something to be said for a game that gives the time to strategize. However, don't make the mistake of assuming this turn-based style isn't as smooth or immersive as more modern active combat. Battles are still exhilarating and engaging.
Fantasian was developed exclusively for Apple Arcade. While it does have controller support, I found that one of these didn't make much of a difference since the touchscreen controls are excellent and intuitive.
I also have to highlight the Dimengion. This new game mechanic allows up to 30 random encounters to be stored and battled all at once. Given how much grinding is necessary to progress through most JRPGs, the Dimengeon really streamlines play instead of trudging through the same handful of enemies over and over and over again. I'd love to see other JRPGs employ a similar mechanic in the future.
Fantasian: Where it falls short
If I had never played the first several Final Fantasy games, I would have virtually no complaints about Fantasian. It's gorgeous and immersive, plays smooth, and the story is comparable to that of the aforementioned games. However, I've been playing these games for more than three decades, so it's impossible not to compare the stories. Unfortunately, Fantasian's story feels like it was built from the scraps of Sakaguchi's previous work.
The protagonist is an amnesiac who finds himself in the company of an orphaned young woman with mysterious ties to nature and a goddess and a haughty princess who has her own ties to the said goddess. While not exactly the Cloud-Aerith-Tifa triangle of Final Fantasy VII, it comes a little too close. The additional playable characters are similar to the genre's staples, and the story is reminiscent of Final Fantasy IV and Xenoblade Chronicles.
While not exactly the Cloud-Aerith-Tifa triangle of Final Fantasy VII, it comes a little too close.
Please don't misunderstand, it's still an excellent story, and the characters are compelling. After all, the same themes and archetypes made so many games in this genre so successful.
The only other complaint I have about Fantasian is also one of its selling points: Apple Arcade. I love that the service provides access to hundreds of games for one low monthly fee, with no microtransactions or in-app purchases, but many of the games featured in the service cannot be played anywhere else.
All Apple Arcade games have mobile exclusivity, but some games like Exit the Gungeon or Cozy Grove can still be purchased on other platforms. While Fantasian plays just fine on mobile, even having an iPhone 12 Pro Max, I found myself wishing I had a bigger screen to really appreciate the beauty of this game. I also couldn't share the game with friends or family who don't have an iPhone or iPad.
Fantasian: Should you play it?
Despite my complaints, I really enjoyed playing Fantasian. It might be a little too similar to Final Fantasy I-X, Xenoblade Chronicles, and other classic JRPGs, but those stories are great. Nostalgia can be a compelling feature for players like myself, while it provides a lovely, enjoyable experience for those new to the genre. Also, though Fantasian is now complete, the ending is definitely wide open for a potential sequel.
If you have access to Apple Arcade and enjoy JRPGs, I definitely recommend picking up Fantasian.
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