Fearless Fantasy was released some time ago on the PC, but seems to have found itself a natural home on mobile devices. Developed by Tinybuild and featuring revamped graphics and gameplay tweaks, the most recent rendition of this game appears to be the definitive version.
An interesting fusion of JRPG and Rhythm game, Fearless fantasy is a button mashing festival of well timed presses and frantic attention. It encourages the player not to blink, pausing between each player’s phase in an emulation of turn based combat but requiring 100% attendance when battles are live. In part it succeeds on streamlining the experience of a JRPG into a part real-time and part story led experience by cutting exploration and focusing on a linear experience.
Graphically the title as a mad-cap ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel to it that feel like it’s a Final Fantasy title as seen through the lens of Tim Burton. Its 2D style isn’t as polished as games such as ‘Odin Sphere’ (which is currently in the running for a HD remake and holds the title of best looking 2D title ever), but it does create a visually interesting style. The game revels in its off-beat design and pulls out some very well designed monsters and characters, although the video cutscenes between key events choose instead to take on a pencil on paper minimalist style that feels a little sloppy in comparison. The UI is more by the numbers with simple semi-transparent boxes appearing for menus. Icons for special moves and attacks drive the bulk of the user interface however and sometimes these don’t adequately represent what they do at a glance, requiring that the player read all of the descriptive text to better understand what’s going to happen. Overall the graphics alone will probably sell this title to most people who are looking for a refreshing break from the anime-inspired glut of RPGs on the mobile market.
Sound design is a mixed bag. Musically the game is uninspired, missing out on the opportunity to throw up some insane mixes or tunes to match the visuals and instead leaning more heavily on genre standards. Sound effects are clean and crisp but also somewhat basic. Voiced cutscenes and story segments however are top notch and keep the game feeling like it’s vibrant and alive. The only down side to sound for this title is that it overrides your phone’s mute setting in order to play, meaning that you will have to manually set the volume to zero to play in silence.
The plot of the game feels a little cliche at first but quickly opens up when you get to know the characters a little better through their interactions. The focus is tight, giving the player a party of three to get to know. The dark knight with a hidden heart of gold, the muscle and the princess fleeing her kingdom are all genre standards by now but the game gives them an infectious energy, and the added knowledge that the big bad has an invincible monster at his disposal who needs to be slain before anything can be done about him puts a focus onto events as they happen. Scenes play out in a fast paced and punchy fashion and the dialogue is well written, allowing for each of them to find their voice. With so few characters to engage with however the story’s linear flow feels entirely geared toward getting to know them and pushing them on their way with as much force as possible. Replaying earlier areas repeats plot sequences, so the story can be enjoyed at any point even after a break in play of several months.
Gameplay is where this title shines. Streamling the concept of an RPG down to story sequences and battles spread across a map and several waves of enemies per section, it has a frenetic energy to it. Outside of combat you can level characters by splitting points between the key stats for each character and upping their capacity to use their special abilities. Purchasing newer and better equipment is kept at a slower crawl by capping what can be brought and when in the games story, meaning that checking back in the games single shop frequently is also a necessity as new gear greatly expands on the attack damage dealt (and coincidentally also alters a character’s battle animations slightly). Tapping any area on the map will allow you to take the battles there on in order and at a low, medium or high level of difficulty. Combat is turn based, with each turn activating a number of different prompts that must be input into your touch device at exactly the right time to cause or avoid damage. It’s frantic and often quite gripping, although an added bonus is that status effects feel truly debilitating rather than a mild inconvenience like in other RPGs. Being blinded means not being able to see prompts for when its optimal to input your touches, making the game much harder. Enemy healers are also a big pain, and heavier attacks require you pull off more complicated finger acrobatics in order to use them properly. Story elements play out before, after and during battles as a series of visual prompts on screen and spoken dialogue. Cutscenes are also thrown into the mix to add greater leaps to the tale. It’s not too long a title to play through, but the difficulty really ramps up on the higher levels.
Overall Fearless Fantasy is a good game. It’s well executed and features some genuinely well thought out elements. In places it shines and in others it feels a little too streamlined. Thowing in some player choices and forks in the story would add replay-ability, whilst having more areas to explore would open the game up somewhat. Similarly the inability to mute the sound is a problem that doesn’t make a great deal of sense, although the sound is decently implemented. The art style won’t be for everybody, especially in the video sequences, but for those who want to try something completely different it’s a sure-fire purchase.