There is always something pleasing about watching cooking, even if it means not committing to the actual act of cooking itself. From the intense flamboyance of the Iron Chef franchise to the wholesomeness of The Great British Bake Off, there is something entertaining—and even relaxing—about seeing food made within unconventional situations, taking food beyond the basics of sustaining ourselves.

Content Warning: This piece contains a mention of an eating disorder. 

Food Fantasy

Elex Wireless
iOS, Android
July 20, 2018

Although we are often told not to play with our food growing up, video games have rebelled and taken that concept to elevated heights. Cooking Mama encourages efficiency, while Final Fantasy XV and the Monster Hunter titles encourage eating. Battle Chef Brigade contextualizes the cooking competition structure in a fantastical world. But Food Fantasy, on the other hand, is a game where you fight with your food—literally.

Food Fantasy takes place in a world that distinguishes souls as their own species. Through a convoluted creation mythos, the main story is prefaced with an epic, ongoing war between the God of Beginnings and the evil he has accidentally spawned in the form of Fallen Angels. As mortalkind stands no chance against these Fallen Angels, the Magic Academy was created to research what more could be done. The Academy discovered that dormant souls resided in food, and they were able to unlock and awaken their potential. These conceived “Food Souls” were not only sentient, but they also had magical abilities. With new allies honed for battle, the Food Souls were instilled into the survival of the war.

A screenshot of Bulimia and another Food Fantasy character. Bulimia is saying "Hoo.......Hoohoohoohoo......." Food Fantasy, ELEX, Elex Wireless, 2018.

The Food Souls are all sorts of dishes, anthropomorphized and stylized in a range of anime archetypes. These companions can range from the cold-hearted red lobster to the cute tiramisu. Enemies also have manifestations of illness and unsavory conditions, like a personification of bulimia. Some people may recall a similar premise in Fighting Foodons (Kakutō Ryōri Densetsu Bisutoro Reshipi), a manga and later-adapted anime series by Naoto Tsushima, where foods are cooked and used in cartoonish, monster-battling scenarios.

Unlike a dueling monster and exploration system à la Pokémon, Food Fantasy plays more like Fate/Grand Order and other gacha-based (capsule toy) games.

A screenshot of combat in Food Fantasy. Four smaller characters are attacking a larger, more grotesque creature. Food Fantasy, ELEX, Elex Wireless, 2018.

Combat is turn-based, and players have limited control over their Food Souls in these battles by tapping to time based prompts. Players can unlock more food companions naturally by progression of the game. Ingredients are collected and Food Souls can be literally cooked based on the list of recipes currently available. Players are also encouraged to roll for random draws and lots of miscellaneous companions. They can either choose to upgrade these new companions or fuse them to produce other ones.

Food Fantasy also incorporates a small, rudimentary restaurant management sim as appropriate per its cuisine and cooking-oriented themes. Players have to manage and give tasks to employees in this side hustle, as they meanwhile have to account for their inventory of ingredients between what is necessary for combat and actual cooking.

Food Fantasy’s gameplay fits the standard of a lot of gacha titles. The story progresses as players complete chapters and win battles while they expand their roster of cute characters. With strong visuals and full voice acting, the game is certainly polished and confident in its premise.

However, as impressively presented as Food Fantasy is, it is not mechanically unique. Concept-wise, anthropomorphization of odd objects and the fantastical power of cooking and food has been explored in other games outside of the gacha genre. In a currently saturated market of gacha mobile games, it is difficult for titles to find something that makes them shine outside of depending on their potentially addictive qualities.

A screenshot of the restaurant simulation in Food Fantasy. Three tables are on the screen already seated with happy patrons. The bottom interface has buttons titled Task, Prep, Staff, Intel, and Decorate. Food Fantasy, ELEX, Elex Wireless, 2018.

Food Fantasy’s biggest strength certainly comes through its presentation and absurd gimmick. Like a competitive food show, it took all the right, odd components to cook up and serve something edible. But being edible does not necessarily mean it can cater to all tastes. Food Fantasy has a formulaic structure that will be digestible for those already familiar with the gacha genre. If you’re hungry enough, it might just be the right game to fulfill your appetite.