Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final fantasy series, returns to the world of epic RPGs with Fantastic, an Apple Arcade exclusive launched today. It is worth celebrating. After spending the last decade exploring the world of mobile gaming with his studio Mistwalker, Fantastic is Sakaguchi’s first narrative RPG since the 2011 Wii title The last story. And it doesn’t look like any RPG – the backgrounds are captured from handcrafted miniature sets, giving it a diorama-like aesthetic.
Add to that a unique combat system, which allows you to build up a backlog of enemies to fight all at once, and Fantastic has the potential to transcend the label of “mobile RPG”. At the very least, he’s a long way from the Mistwalker shutter. Battle of Terra and Terra Wars games on smartphones, and more like what Sakaguchi console fans expect. (It even has music from Final fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu!) While the studio never quite peaked in Sakaguchi’s time with Square, 2007 Lost odyssey on Xbox 360 and The last story were both reminders that he can still create a compelling RPG.
Aside from the diorama effect, Fantastic appears to be an otherwise traditional RPG. You play as Leo, an amnesiac boy who seeks to reclaim his memories in a world ruled by machines. Naturally, you’ll end up delving into a bigger mystery: why the world is overrun with mechanical infection. As an Apple Arcade title, you will be able to play it on iPhone, iPad, Mac and even Apple TV, tracking your progress on all devices.
As for his preferred platform for playing the game, Sakaguchi says he mostly plays on his Mac with a studio monitor, so he can closely inspect the 4K textures in the game. evidently a lot of attention to detail, especially in the diorama and the handcrafted nature, ”said Sakaguchi.
And while he admits he would be happy to see others play the game at its highest resolution, he’s also intrigued by the touchscreen interfaces, as it’s almost as if players are directly touching the backs- hand-built plans. “There’s a lot of that human touch, so I think it’s very synergistic,” he said. In this regard, he recommends playing on a big screen iPad. (This is how I plan to spend most of my time with the game.)
Fantasian The “Dimengeons” system, an alternate dimension where you can save enemy encounters for a later date, came about almost by accident. While testing the game on a touchscreen, Sakaguchi tells us that he asked a character to attempt to reach a treasure chest in a distant region. He watched them go through multiple areas, transition between screens and finally found it to be a rewarding way to explore the game environments. “So instead of this being interrupted by random encounters, we wanted to give players the opportunity, if they wanted, to focus on exploring and discovering the game, ”he said.
While you’ll start out with being able to store up to 30 enemies, Sakaguchi says you can eventually hold up to 40 or 50 enemies. Of course, you’ll face an uphill battle if you’re undernourished and choose to take on a lot of baddies at once, so this is a bet players will need to consider. To help in particularly hectic fights, there is also a “gadget” system that gives the player bonuses, such as increased attack power or extra character turns.
Unfortunately, not all RPGs can be like the trigger of a stopwatch and allows you to completely avoid certain enemy encounters. But the Dimengeon system seems like a useful compromise, especially if you only have a few minutes to play and prefer to explore the world rather than get bogged down in unnecessary fights.
For a typical play-through, Sakaguchi says you can expect both parts of Fantastic to take about 20 hours each to complete. (The first part kicks off today, the second will arrive a bit later.) If you’re the type of gamer who likes to explore every nook and cranny, you can even hit 30 hours of gameplay. You can also expect a slight change in playstyle, with the first part focusing on storytelling and core characters, while the second will focus on questing.
“The player has a lot of freedom to approach what areas and what quests they want to do,” Sakaguchi said. “We thought it would help the players catch their breath after establishing the characters and approach the second half with a fresher spirit.”
As we neared the end of our discussion, I couldn’t help but ask Sakaguchi to remake some of Mistwalker’s previous RPGs, especially The last story, which is only playable on a Wii or Wii U. He has already said that he is not interested in doing this work himself, so I asked if he would be open to a third party studio that would tackle it instead. “Even if we were to outsource something like that to another studio,” he says, “I think at the very end I would like to make sure I check everything. I think it would be inevitable. I have to check everything you know my name is going to be there. “
He also noted that the amount of power required for a remake was almost the same as that of a new game today. This is especially true for The last story, which was developed in SD for the Wii, and is expected to have its assets upgraded to HD or 4K. “As a personal preference, I would like to put this energy and spirit into creating something new and original,” Sakaguchi said.
As someone who appreciated the aesthetics of Final Fantasy: Spirits Within – a critical and commercial flop that cost Square $ 94 million – I also wondered if Sakaguchi would ever be interested in exploring new narrative avenues, perhaps with a streaming series. “I think there are a lot of exciting possibilities with the new streaming industry, other than just a direct port of a storytelling experience,” he said. “We might be able to almost edit the story in real time by looking at user comments.”
Its description almost looks like Black mirror: Bandersnatch and Netflix’s other storytelling experiences, but as it went on it got even more unique: “I think there might be a scenario where the developers can almost act like a gamemaster and then post content to see how viewers react … then you’re broadcasting almost from the gamemaster’s point of view, which is a whole new style of media.
When asked if he would be interested in exploring a project like this, Sakaguchi laughed and simply replied, “I think it’s going to be a lot of work.