Skip to main content

PlayStation VR2’s best launch game isn’t the one you we’re expecting

With the PlayStation VR2 out now, all eyes are on Horizon Call of the Mountain. The action-adventure title is Sony’s first big exclusive for the platform, acting as its tentpole launch title. While it’s a must-buy for anyone picking up the device on day one, it’s more successful as a strong technical showcase for the headset rather than as a fun game that stands on its own. If you’re looking for the latter, you’ll want to check out PSVR2’s real hidden weapon: Fantavision 202X.

『FANTAVISION 202X』 - ゲームプレイトレーラー

Developed and published by Cosmo Machia, Fantavision 202X is a completely left-field sequel to an obscure PlayStation 2 launch game. Like the original, it’s a unique fireworks game that plays like a cross between Missile Command and a match-three puzzler. There was nothing like it when it first released in 2000, and frankly, there still isn’t in 2023. That makes the new version feel as fresh, creative, and weird as ever.

What stands out most about Fantavision 202X, though, is how much it’s quietly enhanced by VR. Cosmo Machia has taken a somewhat average puzzle game and made the best version of it without changing much at all. It’s a prime example of what kinds of games thrive in VR, standing in bright contrast to more ambitious projects that have struggled to replicate a full-on console experience in a headset.

Never break the chain

Fantavision 202X isn’t so much an evolution of its predecessor as it is a VR remake. It’s a level-based puzzle game where players have to match colorful flares as they shoot up into the night sky and detonate them to create a fireworks display. Match three flares of the same color up, press a button to set them off, and watch them light up a city skyline. That’s just the basic rules, though. Advanced strategies require players to create massive flare chains by looping a new color with neutral “wild” flares and items. Explosions will set off flares of the same color too, so there’s a lot of extra strategy in when to detonate, as that can keep a chain going.

Fireworks explode in Fantavision 202X.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s the definition of an “easy to learn, hard to master” game. When I first played the PS2 version, I understood the basic matching system, but couldn’t fully grasp its “daisy chain” system. The sequel includes a set of very clear tutorials that have significantly improved my skill. There’s an immense satisfaction that comes from getting a combo over 100 or detonating an enormous chain that lights up the entire screen. I’ve already found myself chasing its Platinum trophy as I work toward its various milestones.

The new version is almost identical to the original, from its eight-stage single-player setup to its virtually unchanged gameplay. Even its simple visuals are a bit of a throwback to the PS2 era. Fantavision 202X can be played without a headset, but you’d get pretty much the exact same experience that way as you would simply playing the original on PlayStation Plus. Its $30 price tag seems a little high considering how slim the package is.

However, it’s a completely different experience in VR. When playing on a TV, flares are connected by moving the joysticks around, which always felt a little stilted in the original. Controls are much more natural with PSVR2, as players can freely move their hands with the Sense controllers to highlight colors. That tactile element is enough to entirely change the psychology of the core Fantavision experience. When I’m in my flow state, I feel like a conductor crafting a visual symphony with my own hands.

Fireworks explode around robots in Fantavision 202X.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While the visuals aren’t terribly detailed, that’s another area where the tech is a natural fit. Each stage takes place over a skyline that the camera slowly moves through on rails. Early levels take players on a guided tour over a city, but levels quickly get a little weirder as the fireworks show moves to outer space. VR makes those spaces much more immersive, as I actually feel like I’m flying through the night rather than following a camera panning through a background.

And of course, the firework display itself turns into a spectacle in 2D space. When I trigger a Starmine bonus round, colorful explosions shoot out right in front of my eyes. I can see individual strands zipping past me, putting me in the actual center of the show. That level of depth was never possible on a flat TV, but the experience is much more dynamic here; it feels like Fantavision was always meant to be a VR game.

Right game, right tech

With its sparse feature set, Fantavision 202X is a modest package. However, it’s a shining example of what kinds of games truly work in VR. The arcade nature of it makes it easy to play in short sessions, as it doesn’t demand that players stay strapped into a tight headset too long. Gameplay is easy to execute with motion controls, and its slow-moving levels won’t leave you running for a barf bag. It’s an ideal VR game in just about every way.

Fireworks explode in outer space in Fantavision 202X.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Contrast that with Horizon Call of the Mountain, which tries to cram a full-on PlayStation game into a headset. It’s a fun experience, but one that can be sloppy at times. Its tactile climbing is a highlight, focusing on natural hand movements, but its more complicated systems can be a headache. Its fast-paced combat is especially a struggle, as messy controller tracking can make it difficult to dodge, swap weapons, craft ammo, and more on the fly. During most of my playthrough, I was thinking more about the tech than the world I was in as I had to constantly tweak my calibration settings to get it right. When I’m playing Fantavision 202X, I’m not thinking about the tech at all.

It seems like Sony wants to find a way to recreate its brand of cinematic action-adventure games in VR, but it still feels a little early for that. While VR has had a lot of success with more involved experiences, we’re still in the Nintendo 64 era of the tech at best. Rather than trying to squeeze a modern game into a headset, Fantavision 202X proves that there’s value in embracing the tech’s current limitations. A return to the PS2 era is exactly the kind of evolution VR was ready for.

Fantavision 202X is available now on PlayStation 5. It can be played with or without PSVR2.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
Humanity is the best PS5 (and PSVR2) game I’ve played so far
Humans jump over a gap in Humanity.

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself mourning the PlayStation brand I grew up with. When I was a kid, PlayStation was an eccentric platform home to the kind of oddball creative swings you now only ever see indie publishers take a chance on. In the PS5 era, though, Sony has doubled down on a cinematic action-adventure formula that feels less safe (though likely way more profitable) by comparison. It’s an understandable pivot, but it leaves me hungry for more diverse experiences on my PS5.

Thankfully, that desire has been satiated with Humanity, a game that’s already nabbing several impressive accolades from me. It’s the best reason to subscribe to PS Plus, the best game currently available on PlayStation VR2, and perhaps the best PS5 console-exclusive period (it’s also available on PC via Steam). The unique puzzler has all the markings of those left-field PlayStation classics I love … except for the fact it wasn’t developed or published by Sony at all.

Read more
PlayStation reveals new features and UI for its PS5 Access Controller
Sony's Project Leonardo controller sits on a table.

Sony revealed new details about its PlayStation 5 accessibility controller, which has been renamed from Project Leonardo to the Access Controller. A new blog post details what comes with the controller and offers a glimpse at the UI interface that players will use to customize it on the PS5.

Sony surprise revealed its "Project Leonardo" at CES earlier this year (Digital Trends named it the best gaming tech of the show). The circular pad features a unique design meant to make it easier for people with disabilities to customize controls to their needs. While it still doesn't have a price or release date, Sony has opened a new website for its newly renamed Access Controller and shared new details on it.

Read more
3 big things I need to see from the next PlayStation Showcase
Peter and Miles from Marvel's Spider-Man 2.

It’s that time of the year again when industry insiders are teasing that a big PlayStation Showcase will happen around June. A third-party focused State of Play happened in 2022, but now Video Games Chronicle’s Andy Robinson and Giant Bomb’s Jeff Grubb are both suggesting that a more first-party oriented "Showcase" could be on the way sometime during the next month, potentially during the week of May 25.
PlayStation has had a rough start to 2023, with console exclusive Forspoken garnering mixed reviews, the PlayStation VR2 impressing critics while underperforming in sales, and The Last of Us Part 1’s PC port being broken at launch. With only Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 confirmed to be on the horizon for 2023, Sony has a lot to prove during its next showcase. There are three specific things I need to see from Sony if that PlayStation Showcase does come to fruition.
Give PSVR2 purpose
The PlayStation VR2 is an impressive piece of virtual reality technology, but it lacks killer apps outside of Horizon: Call of the Mountain. New game releases for the headset have been slow since its February 2022 launch, which is likely why the $550 headset has underperformed. Sony has opted to mainly relegate PSVR2 to State of Plays or PlayStation Blog posts, but it needs to revitalize excitement for the platform by giving some of its games a spotlight in a big PlayStation Showcase.

Hopefully, there’s more on the way in terms of new AAA VR exclusives from first-party studios, as well as much-demanded ports like Half-Life: Alyx. Already announced PSVR2 games like Journey to Foundation and Synapse could also use release dates. A PlayStation Showcase is the perfect time for Sony to put out a clear road map for PSVR2’s future game library, just as the September 2021 PlayStation did for PS5. Give me a reason to strap on that headset yet again.
Flesh out the system’s 2023 exclusives lineup
PS5 needs a strong lineup for this fall as well. With the exception of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, things look pretty barren for PS5 this year after the launch of Final Fantasy XVI. Several previously announced PS5 games still lack concrete release dates and could arrive in the second half of this year. It’d be nice to get a clearer picture of Sony’s PS5 game lineup for the rest of the year; hopefully, it includes titles like Stellar Blade, the Silent Hill 2 remake, Lost Soul Aside, Death Stranding 2, and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.

Read more