Hironobu Sakaguchi’s influence can be felt throughout Fantasian, Mistwalker’s latest JRPG and Apple Arcade exclusive. He not only produced it, but was one of its writers. Now that the first part of the adventure is available for the service’s subcribers, Siliconera had an opportunity to ask him about the game, what people might expect from its second part, and what will happen to the dioramas made for its environments.
Jenni Lada, Siliconera: How influential was Apple as a partner, what with Fantasian being an Apple Arcade exclusive?
Hironobu Sakaguchi, Mistwalker: As far as the creative side goes, Apple left it up to us one hundred percent of the way. They didn’t have any particular demands as far as that goes.
Apple Arcade has some requirements that we had to meet. For example, the game had to run on iPhones, iPads, AppleTV, and Mac computers. But creatively, it’s all Mistwalker.
Many people draw obvious parallels between some gameplay elements and narrative decisions between Fantasian and Final Fantasy. How did other games you’ve worked on, like The Last Story and Lost Odyssey, influence its design?
Sakaguchi: Fantasian is a culmination of ideas that sprang out of me; it comes from something inside me that’s as natural as breathing. I think that’s why it has a similar feel to Final Fantasy.
It wasn’t specifically influenced by any past works of mine, but again, since it came from that natural place inside me, it shares some of their flavor.
How did the platform shape your design decisions? For example, since you knew people would likely be playing on a portable device, how did you adjust gameplay?
Sakaguchi: Naturally, we had to take mobile devices into serious consideration when deciding on things like font sizes and UI placement. We worked very hard to make sure you get a comfortable, fun experience, no matter the size or resolution of your display.
As people go through Fantasian, they’re gradually restoring Leo’s memory. How did you come up with the story concept, and what do you hope people take away from it?
Sakaguchi: Memory loss is a story device I haven’t used very much before. But in a way, it’s a very orthodox way to get players to empathize with a character and a new sense of place.
Fantasian’s story delves into the theme of Order and Chaos, which is a bit abstract and conceptual. I decided to use Leo’s memory loss as the foundation from which players can go on to naturally engage with that theme.
In the Fantasian universe, there are many different dimensions with different origins and
goals that come into conflict with each other. I wanted the story to develop in such a way that there are parallels to some conflicts in modern society.
In the world of Fantasian, human emotions are gathered and used as an energy source. That means that eventually, Leo and his allies find their feelings take on tremendous importance. I want Fantasian to leave some warmth behind in your heart as you go on towards the ending.
How did you come up with the Dimengeon system, and can we expect it to grow or shift at all in the second part of the game?
Sakaguchi: Early on in development, I was testing out character movement. I placed a pin near a far-away treasure chest that was at a different height from the character and watched how he moved.
The point of this test was just to make sure that the programming worked, but I enjoyed watching the character move through various areas and angle changes along the way to that distant treasure chest. I thought it’d be a shame if random encounters interrupted that movement too much. That was what led to the Dimengeon system.
Afterwards came more improvements, like upper limits for trapped monsters and unique Dimengeon gimmicks, to give Dimengeon battles a special sense of excitement.
The Dimengeon will still be around in part two!
Fantasian ends up being a game where party members really end up playing to their strengths to be useful. (For example Taunt and Quick can prove invaluable.) How much did roles influence personalities and vice versa? And what are some of your favorite “combos” that you’d recommend people have party members use?
Sakaguchi: Each character was given skills that show off their personality.
In part two, you’ll be able to freely swap characters in and out of your party, even in the middle of combat. I hope you’ll take advantage of this ability to find the best ways to take on each enemy you face.
Things in the first portion of Fantasian are a bit linear and your parties are predetermined. Exactly how much more freedom can people expect in the second half?
Sakaguchi: In part two, Fantasian changes to a more quest-based design that offers a lot of freedom. It’ll be up to you to decide which quests to finish first — and even which to finish at all, since you won’t need to complete all of them to reach the ending.
At one point in the first part of Fantasian, people have to make an important decision. Spoilers aside, how influential will it be when the second part arrives?
Sakaguchi: Hmm? Do you mean a certain unrepentant thief you meet in prison? He’ll pop up in a city somewhere in part two…
What is going to happen with all of the dioramas once Fantasian is done? Could people expect to see them in museum exhibits?
Sakaguchi: We’re planning to keep them in storage for about another year. Unfortunately, they’re fragile. They can’t hold up under a lot of heat and they break easily when moved around. After the year is up, we’ll keep a few of them, but I’m afraid most of them will be destroyed.
We don’t have any plans to show them off in museums at the moment, but I’d definitely be interested if we have the chance.
Fantasian part one is available now on Apple iOS devices via Apple Arcade. Part two will launch in 2021.