Game News The father of Final Fantasy (Hironobu Sakaguchi) only talks to us about Fantasian, his new game. So far, Fantasian has been a pretty mysterious project. Other than the fact that this J-RPG is being released on Apple Arcade and that Hironobu Sakaguchi is responsible, we had very little information about it. Before releasing a trailer and new graphics, we had a brief chat with one of the greatest Japanese RPG designers. In particular, if we now have a clearer idea of what Fantasian is, this meeting has enabled us to see that the father of Final Fantasy’s next project is the result of bold choices.
A unique artistic direction
More than 150 dioramas were built to create the Fantasian universe. If the reactions to this Fantasian’s visual style have been varied and diverse, it cannot be denied that he has a certain personality. Instead of using 3D models created from scratch to evolve the protagonists, Mistwalker’s latest title uses dioramas. In total, more than 150 artists have modeled as many models that make up the universe of the game. As soon as these reduced models are created, they are digitized with the help of cameras using the photogrammetry technique. Some elements of these photos are then projected onto the 3D models to serve as textures. The result is an extremely realistic representation that gives the impression that the heroes develop directly in the dioramas. It is a radical artistic decision that can be shared and whose appreciation is based primarily on the sensitivity of each individual. However, one quickly wonders what motivates this choice. According to Sakaguchi, Fantasian was adorned with this aesthetic primarily for the sake of originality and identity. Sakaguchi: There are several reasons for this. The biggest thing is that we are constantly looking for new visual means of expression. This technique therefore satisfied that need. History and themes are also responsible. Although the characters face challenges and obstacles, the themes are very heartwarming. I think there is a unique charm and warmth that only comes from handcrafted dioramas. Given that Fantasian is released on Apple Arcade, many will experience the game on a touchscreen, on their iPhone or iPad. I think there’s a real synergy between touch controls and handcrafted dioramas. Obviously, this technique has several limitations. First, according to Sakaguchi, the level design must be upstream and finely calibrated. If the designer changes his mind about the layout of the place and wants to create a new path afterwards, this is not possible. All of these blocks must be carefully put together, taking into account the previous ones, so that they fit together perfectly. In addition, some technical challenges also need to be considered. Sakaguchi: We originally wanted to scan all environments with a 3D scanner, but this process was not suitable for our project and it was tedious. Some companies fly drones over cities to model them. We finally decided to emulate this technique and take 200 to 300 photos per diorama to reconstruct the models in the game. So there have been some attempts to find a process that would fit this project.
A pure J-RPG?
Fantasian isn’t just a technical or artistic challenge, however. Behind an original aesthetic, a traditional J-RPG seems to be taking shape, be it in its structure or in its promises. In this adventure, Leo, a partially amnesiac hero, discovers a world corrupted by a mechanical infection that is devouring humanity. The areas and dimensions of this universe are therefore determined by machines. This first step is classic, but the whole thing comes with some original ideas that we were able to discover in the trailer released tonight. Some spells can target multiple targets at the same time. For example, you can move the arc that marks the trajectory of the projectile to make it cross all enemy lines. We also asked Sakaguchi-san what fantasy gameplay he preferred. Sakaguchi: The Dimengeon System (Editor’s Note: Dimensional Contraction and Dungeon) because it allows the player to teleport enemies they come across to another dimension. He can then go and face them all at once if he wants. It is a “quality of life” mechanic that allows the player to control the rhythm of the game a little more than usual. The immense Nobuo Uematsu is the musical composition of Fantasian. Obviously, this is excellent news for anyone sensitive to the work of the man who masterfully accompanied the greatest moments of the Final Fantasy saga. This isn’t the first time the two developers have worked together as both worked on Square Enix’s flagship franchise for a long time. Their longstanding relationship seems to have had a positive impact on their work on this project and made communication easier. Sakaguchi: We have been working together for 35 years now. I think we have an implicit understanding and a lot of trust in each other. I obviously share the script, concept arts, and dioramas with him when they’re done. He can see what the world looks like and what emotions it brings with it. We talked about the story and the deep topics that I want to share with the players early on in development. Once that base is established, the confidence I have in Uematsu-san assures me that he understands what I am looking for, although there are still many unknowns as to the scope of this project and its universe. We now see the title of Sakaguchi wants to take us. The many dioramas that the creator has in mind whet the appetite for exploration, while his Dimengeon system promises an excellent way to underline the adventure itself. If the proposition is to be classic, the presence of big figures in the industry and its distinct visual identity are fascinating, and we can’t wait to see more. By Aubin_Gregoire, journalist jeuxvideo.com MP