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Confused, Confusing, And Unfinished

I'm not entirely sure what standard to judge Fantasia on. If it's meant to be a complete game, it fails miserably. If it's meant to be a demo, it fails, if possible, even harder. This feels like someone just made a work in progress available for download at a literally random point in development. This feels like something made by a teenager just learning their way around game dev. I wish I could offer that person helpful advice, but Fantasia is so wildly unfocused that even that is difficult.

Story
An absolute mess. This game was doing things wrong from the title screen, but that'll need to wait for the Sounds section.

I do not know or understand what world this game takes place in or who the characters are. This abstraction went from intriguing to frustrating very quickly.


The game starts with this scrolling parallax of a commercial airliner flying through a thunder storm while lightning repeatedly strikes a puff of smoke on the ground that seems to be following it.

This lead me to believe that we were in some kind of modern world in turmoil type thing, which would have been cool even if it's not what the gamepage lead me to believe. Then we join the "hero" in his room. The cabinet I investigate...


"...and my furniture is way taller than me! And my face was made in a character generator! Waaaahhhhh I've got no reason to live!"

The second cabinet grants me sweatpants that I don't actually get in my inventory and can't equip. It will grant me infinite of these sweatpants, presumably a bug, but that's handily neutralized by the bug of me not actually getting the sweat pants. A lot of the game's "programming" is like this.

Anyway, so I go downstairs after seeing a 747 and listening to the protagonist complain about not having a Nintendo Switch, all indicators that we're in the real world and the present, but it turns out we're actually in generic fantasy land. I talk to my..."mother" who is a) in a radically different sprite style from me, more on that later and b) a dark elf. Muddling matters further, all of the interiors in this village use the Japanese-style tileset, adding more confusion as to when and where we are. At one point Buddha was mentioned and between that and the Nintendo Switch, this game felt really confused about what world it was set in. Mom gives me a "world chart" which I unfold, causing me to pan awkwardly around a rather large and impressive world map. And sends me off to do whatever.

So, I wandered this world and more generic medieval fantasy stuff--raiding goblins, menacing forest dwarves, legions of the undead--get mentioned. So I find myself asking, what was up with the 747 and the reference to a Nintendo Switch if we're in generic jRPG fantasy land? No answers are forthcoming.

Now, character development and dialogue. This screenshot is pretty representative of how Fantasia handles its "characters":


Paul here asked me this out of a clear blue sky when I met him and did not have another line of dialogue during the rest of my time with this game.

Action
So, first off, before I even get in a battle, I notice some major problems. Nathan is equipped with RTP Database equipment and I'm guessing his Sage class also matches the one in the default database. Paul, who's a warrior, started with no equipment at all, and in spite of it being a wildly, manically open world sandbox, I never found any I could buy for him.

If this game is meant to be a sandbox, what it's missing is the linear, sort of tutorial-ish segment in the beginning, a la The Elder Scrolls or Fallout, that shows you how to play the game. This game just plunks you onto a gigantic worldmap with no guidance on what to do at all. To make matters much worse, before I fought my first battle, I found an airship that would let me navigate the entire enormous world map. Not really picking up on any pressing quests close to home (there was mention of goblin raids on my hometown, but no instructions on where to find the goblins: there were dwarves in a nearby forest, but I had no motivation to mess with them) I took off for a tour of the world in my fancy balloon.

Now, starting with the airship or getting the airship right away in a JRPG is not a problem in itself. In fact, if handled right, it could be great. But giving the player no guidance on what they're supposed to be doing is bad, but letting them bypass all forests, mountains, and lakes compounds the problem. At this point I was trying to break the game or at least get a feel for how much of it was actually there. To Fantasia's credit, all of the distant places on the World Map that I visited were actually there and able to be entered, although I did not come close to exploring the whole map: there were plenty of dungeons just in the portion that I saw, in various stages of completion probably, but with both of my characters having no skills and one of them having no equipment, I didn't feel motivated to crawl random dungeons. (At one point I entered a shop in a town emblazoned with a sword and shield, the universal symbol of "weapon and armor shop" in a JRPG, and found to my frustration that they sold only potions, leaving my out-of-nowhere insta Paladin nekkid and unarmed.)

Instead I went due west to the snow continent (it was also snowing in my hometown; Davenport has a fetish for the snow weather effect, but then again so do I) and the Leonard Town and its graveyard there. Santa Claus (seriously, Santa Claus?) gave me some bad intel about the graveyard:


Santa here is full of it. I went to that graveyard and there was nuffink but two succubus girls that wouldn't talk to me.

I heard another rumor from someone in the same town that an evil vampire was doing evil stuff in his evil vampire castle. So, my immediate thought was: I have sequence-broken hard here, this is probably like a level 30 quest and I'm going to get obliterated. Newwwwwp. All the fights I ran into the in the vampire castle were enemies (with weird names like demon-04) that went down in one or two punches. The dungeon had some neat, basic dungeon gameplay: avoiding spikey floors, solving simple puzzles (including the obligatory push three objects puzzle). I got to the point where a grim reaper was rapidly orbiting a staircase, and I thought "oh, a visible encounter, must be like a miniboss or something". I put myself directly in the reaper's path and BAM, OUT OF NOWHERE, instant death.

At that point I decided to stop playing. See, "the grim reaper sprite will cause you to immediately die" is something you have to communicate to the player at the BEGINNING of the dungeon.

Sights
Let me get the good stuff out of the way first. I thought that most of the maps I saw were decent to good, and I'd be happy to use them in one of my own games. The worldmap was intended to be epic and sprawling and it succeeded. I'm not sure if they were rips or what, but I saw some new graphics for towns, cities, castles, shrines, and ruins on the world map that were really neat looking. (The World-Chart item I got was badly in need of a you-are-here symbol.)

Okay. Now onto the bad stuff.

Like myself back in 2002, this game uses a plethora of sprite styles that do not even slightly come close to meshing well. I saw VX Ace style sprites, Mack/FSM style tall sprites, and what I assume were RMMV sprites sharing rooms even in the first town. At first I thought the creator was doing something KIND of clever, using the VX Ace sprites for children and the tall sprites for adults, but...NEWP:


What's wrong with your HEADDDDDDDD?

Nope, we're just using character sets indiscriminately regardless of style, folks. I gotta say it looks weird as hell. To make matters worse, Davenport seems to have the habit of playing great big battle animations on the screen at odd, sometimes totally inappropriate times.

There were other visual glitches--the world map has a very distinct end where it just cuts into blackness along the north end which I thought was awkward, and at one point a motorbike politely turned around to face me in conversation:


Oh hai bike!

Sounds
This category really does not do the game many favors:

  • Right off the bat, the title screen is the most generic RTP title screen possible, but the music for it is incongruously dark, intense, and foreboding.
  • The music when I gained control of Nathan in his house was again, incongruously dark, intense, and foreboding.
  • The world map music is lifted directly from the world map music of a popular and beloved JRPG, which I don't think is prudent.
  • I actually enjoyed the airship music, it felt pleasantly appropriate.
  • The sound when I stepped on the raising and lowering spikes in the vampire dungeon was a metallic ping when it should have been kind of an ouchy fleshrippy sound. But this I admit is a nitpick.


Final Thoughts
In spite of the low score I've given it, I think the potential probably exists for Fantasia to become a decent-to-good traditional fantasy JRPG: there's a lot of raw material here and a ton of maps it would be a shame to abandon. I think the major issues are a) pick a sprite style and stick to it and b) give the player more guidance on where to go in the beginning and why he's doing it, and hold back the airship at least until the player has some idea of where he'd want to fly it to.

ADDENDUM: WINTER CAMPUS 2018 DEMO

So I saw there was another download called "Winter Campus 2018" and figured I'd check that out in case it was more polished or more cohesive than what I'd originally played. Turns out it at least FEELS like a demo for a completely different game. You're a kid named Eric, you get on a Hogwarts-esque train to a surprisingly un-Hogwarts like academy of math and the sciences (what?) and then wander around talking to people and examining things.


Yes I can see that, but what is your point?

The train ride was neat but there's the same fundamental issue as I encountered in the "main game". You don't get any instruction or hints on where to go, nothing to get the player involved or invested in the action. I mean, I was actively seeking out guidance. I figured it was some kind of school simulator so I sought out the dean and asked specifically about enrollment, thinking that I could set up my schedule of classes. The dean replied with something along the lines of "enrollment sure is neat alright!" and sent me on my way, clueless as to how to proceed. Then I went through a door on the first floor and...


This was why I quit playing this time around.

Posts

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I apologize for the inconvenience.
I cannot make further edits to fix this game
as it is in encrypted form.
Compression of game data removed all the rtp
from the initial folder.
AceOfAces
Engineering to infinity!
1795
author=Davenport
I cannot make further edits to fix this game as it is in encrypted form.

Yeesh. What a cruel way for a game to die. If I read this correctly, you lost the project folder as well (or do you still have the folder?). Well... hopefully, you'll rebuild it someday (whenever you are ready). Maybe a lot better than the current versions.
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