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Apple spotlighted the best developers on its platforms with the 2021 App Store Awards, and gaming was a huge part of it with the likes of “Toca Life World” taking the honor of iPhone App of the Year and “Among Us!” earning a Trend of the Year honor. Video games are such a big deal that the medium has its own awards category.
“In 2021, apps played a more essential role in our lives than ever before,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a streamed announcement. “They helped keep us moving forward in a year that continued to challenge us in so many ways, as a global community and in our own lives. Apps helped us form deeper connections with one another, express our creativity, and engage with new people, experiences and cultures.”
When it comes to games, these titles took the top accolades:
iPhone Game of the Year: “League of Legends: Wild Rift” from Riot GamesiPad Game of the Year: “Marvel Future Revolution” from Netmarble CorporationMac Game of the Year:“Myst” from CyanApple TV Game of the Year: “Space Marshals 3” from PixelbiteApple Arcade Game of the Year: “Fantasian” from Mistwalker
“Fantasian” is the most notable project on the list for two reasons. The first is that it’s directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the hugely influential “Final Fantasy” series. His work shaped the genre as consoles grew more powerful across the generations, and his impact has been second to none. That’s why fans should pay attention to this game because it could be the final one.
“I approached this project as my last potential project and it’s worthy of that,” he said.
The second reason that “Fantasian” stands out is that Sakaguchi took a different approach to its creation. The developer worked with sprites at first and made the transition to polygons with “Final Fantasy VII.” For this Apple Arcade game, he went old school and used dioramas as part of the design to create the environments that would be home to computer-generated characters. It’s a combination of the analog and digital.
Sakaguchi said the dioramas remind him of working with sprites. He said back in the day of cathode ray tube TVs, the display technology made the work feel more round as the game info was broadcast on the screen and the images blended together. That contrasted working with polygons, which felt more angular and sharper, he said. The process of using dioramas and crafting the sets and accessories felt more akin to working with sprites.
Looking at the game, “Fantasian” is indeed distinct and players can appreciate the work of more than 150 different artists on 200 environments. The detail is so exacting players can see the keys on a piano that was made in miniature.
Recently, Sakaguchi’s studio, Mistwalker, released the second part of “Fantasian.” That essentially completes the game. He said there’s another update coming in December, but the project out now is the one he envisioned albeit with retuned bosses.
“I wanted the player to get the satisfaction of finally defeating the last boss,” he said. Even if players feel like “Fantasian” is harder toward the end, Sakaguchi said players should stick with it. “I encourage the players to not give up.”
NEW GAME FAMILIAR FACESAnother App Store Award winner was “Marvel Future Revolution,” a game that combines the appeal of the superhero genre with the massive multiplayer online role playing game. Think of it is the comic book version of last year’s App Store winner “Genshin Impact.”
In the game, players control one of eight heroes and they take the protagonist through a campaign on Primary Earth. It’s a planet that has been through the Convergence where different universes mold into a central point. That’s how players will encounter a diverse world with sections ruled by Hydra and one where Tony Stark is in control of a city. Other zones are part of universes where Asgardians take refugee on Earth and, similarly, Xandar survivors settle on the planet. It’s a diverse world to explore.
The appeal of “Marvel Future Revolution” lies in its visuals that, of course, pop on iPad, but its draw is also found in the idea that players get to craft their own superhero using gear they obtain through their adventures. Joe Lee, production head at Netmarble, said players have 400 million customization options.
That number is going to go up as Netmarble adds Magik to the hero roster. Like “Genshin Impact,” “Marvel Future Hero” is a game that is expected to grow and get bigger over time.
Although it may not be as well-known as the other accolade-winners, “Space Marshals 3” is a title that’s deserving of praise. The Apple TV Game of the Year winner by Pixelbite is the third entry to the top-down twin-stick action series.
What makes this franchise different from its peers is the emphasis on stealth instead of nonstop shooting. Players control the protagonist, Burton, through several story-driven missions, in which he’s often outnumbered and players will have to sneak by foes or eliminate them quietly by distracting them or hiding in the bushes.
It’s a more tactical approach, and one that looks great on the big screen. Co-founder Mattias Olsson said he was taken back by the honor. “We’re really excited,” he said. “We were completely surprised by getting recognized for this. It’s really great.”
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