Fantasian (Dark Age of JRPGs)

Fantasian (ファンタジアン) - PC88, Sharp X1

Among the early Japanese RPG scene, Xtalsoft’s Mugen no Shinzou series is well known for combining the exploration of Ultima with the combat of Wizardy, a formula that was also used by Enix’s Dragon Quest series for remarkable success. One of their other series, Fantasian, is the inverse: it’s a Wizardry clone that uses Ultima-style combat, particularly the type introduced in the third game onward. 

The other aspect Fantasian is known for is its robust character creation system. Attempting to mimic pen and paper RPGs as closely as possible, you can pick from one of seven races – Human, HalfOrc, HalfElf, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, and Gnome – and then pick their gender. After allocating bonus points to each of the stats, there are then four classes: Warrior, Thief, Monk, and Illusionist, though certain races are better suited for certain classes. Partway through the game, you can also upgrade their classes when you find an item called the Ring of Gald, similar to the Rat Tail from the original Final Fantasy. Promoted classes include Battler, Robber, Clergy and Magician. Some are completely restricted based on gender or race – for example, you can make a female Monk but she will not be able to be promoted to Clergy. The ultimate goal is to conquer all five floors and defeat the demon king Billades.

As you can see, the interface here is quite stark. This is the shop screen, where you can buy stuff for your characters. I made an unwise decision to splurge on a 300 gold sword for my main battler, which left almost nothing else for any of the other characters. In addition to creating characters and buying/selling stuff, there’s also a temple where you can resurrect fallen warriors.

So here’s the dungeon. It uses a wireframes graphics so it’s not much different from Wizardry at all.

And here’s the battle sequences. It’s mostly controlled via the numpad (as is most everything else in the game), as you can move in four directions, cast spells, use items, or shoot whatever projectiles you may have equipped. A curious thing here is that when a character’s turn pops up, they blink for a few moments before passing their turn onto the next character. In other words, you need to make a quick decision of whether to act, or else the game assumes you want to do nothing. These decisions lasted about a second for me, which is most likely due to the emulator configuration I have, or at least I’m guessing – a slower speed might allow for more time to think. There is some tactical element to the combat, as you can use stronger characters to act as meat shields, absorbing enemy attention while weaker characters with bows or magic spells can attack from farther away.

What I never quite figured out is if there was a way to run from battle. In this unlucky encounter, I’m attacked by four bees and three centipedes, with one of my characters already dead. I tried to move them to the back of the screen, but nope – instead they just wipe me out. Note that the game is nice enough to tell you the HP of all of the enemy combatants.

During dungeon exploration you can also set up camp, which is really just the command menu, where you can equip items, cast spells, and so forth. The spells have unique, four character names that don’t directly say what their effect is, which was pretty common for late 80s RPGs.

There was also a sequel called Advanced Fantasian: Quest for the Lost Sanctuary. It takes the basics but expands on pretty much everything, including a much stronger storyline, exploration and story scenes that take place outside of the dungeons, vastly improved graphics, actual music, and a more complex magic system.

Unfortunately, the one disk image I found refuses to load properly, presumably because the character name included in it seems to overload the system, and no user disk is included. There are pictures of it on various sites (including Mobygames) so there must be some way to get it functional. There is a Sharp X1 version though I haven’t looked for it or tried it. Curiously, even though Project EGG offers most of Xtalsoft’s back catalog for sale, including the original Fantasian, Advanced Fantasian is not available for purchase. 

Xtalsoft also advertised Fantasian in a magazine with a few of their other games, using a partially nude model that’s almost definitely underage, which is I guess something they could get away with in the 80s. I’m not posting in full ad here, since I don’t want the site (or myself) to end up on any lists.

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