‘Fantasian’ is a gem among new, exciting Apple Arcade offerings (VIDEO)

The dioramas used in ‘Fantasian’ elevate the graphics to a new level. — Picture courtesy of Mistwalker Corporation
The dioramas used in ‘Fantasian’ elevate the graphics to a new level. — Picture courtesy of Mistwalker Corporation

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PETALING JAYA, April 9 — Apple’s gaming subscription service Arcade had an exciting launch but a rather tepid reception. That might change with the arrival of a slew of new games added to the Arcade catalogue.

A particularly notable addition is Fantasian, by American-Japanese studio Mistwalker. 

The roleplaying game has notable names behind it — Mistwalker founder Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the Final Fantasy series and his frequent collaborator Nobuo Uematsu composing the score.

Fans of Final Fantasy will recognise hallmarks of the series as well as little Easter Eggs such as previous characters reimagined.

A visual feast

While there is a lot that is familiar, there are still new tweaks to discover but the biggest star here is the new approach to the visual design. 

Instead of relying on 2D or 3D rendering, the scenery and backdrops of the game were rendered in physical, miniature dioramas that are gorgeous in their intricacy.

Over 150 dioramas were created by special effects masters who have worked on sets for works such as Ultraman and the Godzilla films.

The whole game is beautiful — beyond the textures and minute details in the buildings and natural settings, there are also over 200 hand-drawn illustrations by veteran game artist Manabu Kusunoki.

Enjoying the journey

As far as stories or plot goes, like most JRPGs and the Final Fantasy series in general, Fantasian is fairly linear with the end goal being (of course) saving the world and maybe a princess or two on the way.

Not that it’s a bad thing at all if you’re a fan of JRPGs. 

What Mistwalker has done is tweak certain mechanics — instead of being forced to fight random battles while travelling, you can instead “defer” them. 

How is it done? A novel solution; the game creates a pocket dungeon where you can fight all the monsters you avoided earlier when it’s more convenient or to grind yourself up a level or two.

Game characters also have a lot more abilities to choose from, allowing for a depth of strategy beyond just “hit the monster until it dies.” 

There’s also a cool tweak to attacking where you can hit multiple mobs by mapping out your attack’s path, like aiming a slingshot. 

Having played most of the Final Fantasy games, to me Fantasian is a refreshing ode to nostalgia while still adding new things to the JRPG mix.

Fantasian offers enough difficulty to be challenging without getting too frustrating, while also serving up unique visuals and excellent music. If there’s one title to get people at least getting a trial Arcade subscription, it would be Fantasian.

Much to see and do

As engrossing as it is, Fantasian is not finished as yet — currently only the first part is on Arcade with the second part due later this year.

To keep you playing, Apple has included two new categories in Arcade — Timeless Classics and App Store Greats.

Timeless Classics is for titles that are more traditional or classic boardgame-like — these include Really Bad ChessBackgammonSudoku Simple and that old favourite, Solitaire.

App Store Greats are for popular titles that were previously sold on the App Store but now can be played as part of an Arcade subscription, no additional purchase necessary.

Long-time App Store game collectors would recognise old favourites such as Fruit Ninja ClassicChamelon RunThrees! as well as Monument Valley.

New and fresh

There were several other new titles that arrived on Arcade, including NBA 2K21 Arcade EditionStar Trek: Legends and The Oregon Trail.

I was more engrossed with the casual charm of Cozy Grove, a life-sim that is part mystery story, part missing object puzzle. It’s a game about slowly uncovering what happened on a haunted island and its ghostly residents but minus horror elements, instead the player does daily tasks to uncover the island’s beginnings. 

The game also recently launched on the Nintendo Switch platform but made its earlier debut on Arcade and I’d recommend it if you’d like a game that rewards you over time, while not letting you spend too many hours a day on it.

You can check out all these titles and more on the App Store via an Arcade subscription which has a free one-month trial and after that you’ll be charged RM19.90 a month.

I found it better value to just get an Apple One subscription which costs the same but also includes Apple Music, TV+ as well as 50GB of storage.

You can watch the trailer for Fantasian below:

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