Fantasy Strike Review: The New Kid In Town

Introducing a new fighting game on the market can literally be a gamble since there has to be an original hook to bring people in. Bandai Namco had that instantly with Dragon Ball FighterZ, mainly because it had both an anime and hardcore fighting fan base to lean upon. However, others failed, such as Fight of Gods on the Nintendo Switch, which didn’t have an overly original idea or following. With that in mind, does Fantasy Strike have what it takes? Let’s find out.

Fantasy StrikeA gameplay system that adapts to everyone’s skill level is also key for a fighting games longevity. That means appealing to both players that can jump in and have fun as well as being accessible to professionals. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, for example, has this in spades, with many characters offering appeal, and more to come.

That seems to stacks the odds against Fantasy Strike right off the bat. The new title from Sirlin Games has a rather general execution compared to SoulCalibur VI or Tekken 7, with a who’s who of characters that will have players saying, “Wait, who?”. However, there’s experience behind this which could pay off in the long term, depending on who gives the game a chance. Based on its adaptable fighting system, it does deserves one.

 

Some Experience To the Table

Sirlin Games should be a name that stands out for some fighting veterans. It’s headed up by David Sirlin, who lent his expertise to Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix as lead designer. He knows a thing or two about the mechanics that make a good fighting game, so he decided to apply that to his own product. Now, of course, there’s more to just saying, “I need to make my own fighting game,” so he put together a team to bring his vision to life. While it may not be the boldest thing to come to the genre, the execution is neat, plus it’s pretty reasonably priced.

At the start of the game you’re walked through a tutorial that gives you an idea of the basics. You can skip it if you decide to learn as you go but trust us when we suggest not to because you’ll actually learn a thing or two. There’s a five-step system that you’ll go through where you’ll learn about specials, jumping (yes, there’s an actual jump button this time around, instead of using the joystick – magic!), using supers and more.

The damage meter is also explained here. This isn’t just a general health meter that dwindles away every time you take a hit. There’s actually block damage where, if you’re hit three times, you feel the pain. You can also lose a portion of this meter if you use a special in some cases, depending on where you land it. The more points you lose, the more likely you could be to lose the match against someone hitting you in just the right spot. So definitely a lot to learn.

Fortunately, Sirlin himself walks you through each step, and it’s never over-complicated. In fact, the tutorial system is laid out beautifully and walks you through everything, so there’s never any frustration. Sure, some of the steps could bear a little repeating at times, and some characters aren’t as well-balanced as the suave Grave the wind warrior (your default fighter at the start), but you’ll learn enough that you can jump in and see what you can get done.

So along with that jump button, and some other functions, there are a few things you’ll want to know about.

First up is combos. You have to earn them here, but there are some neat juggles you can take advantage of, as well as some air-to-ground moves that you can land if you time your hits properly. You can practice these at any time in your modes, if you feel like you want to master some of your characters first.

Then there’s the Yomi Counter. This is kind of neat, as you’ll sometimes be able to take down an opponent by doing…nothing? Yep, if an opponent tries to hit you and the timing is just right, you’ll automatically launch into this and nail them to the wall. It’s sweet, but again, practice makes perfect.

Overall, the gameplay’s pretty good even though you’ll need to make the most out of it in the game’s modes, and they can be rather mixed depending which way you go.

Fantasy Strike

Here’s How the Modes Fare

Fantasy Strike is obviously a game that fares best with friends. You can play against others locally in versus match-ups, and that’s the right way to go about it. Once you and your buddies learn the mechanics, you’ll have a great time in matches, and can even see how the data matches up in practice, if you feel like getting technical. It’s a neat little feature if you’re interested in measuring, kind of how Sirlin was when he put the game together.

There’s also online play, but considering this is an indie game (not a AAA title like Tekken 7), the performance can be somewhat mixed. It’s pretty functional for the most part, but there were a couple matches on the PlayStation 4 that led to a bit of lag. Obviously the team at Sirlin Games are hard at work on maintaining proper performance, so we won’t knock this area too much. On the Nintendo Switch, it’s a bit lesser in performance, so the PS4 is the winner out of the two versions.

With single player content you can practice to your heart’s content against opponents and try out the Story mode with various characters. There are a few pretty good characters, like a time-obsessed guy that who possesses the ability to stop seconds, and a gambling obsessed panda that will stop at nothing to get his precious jackpot. They’re not the greatest characters out there, but they do offer a decent amount of variety. Their back stories, on the other hand, aren’t the most in-depth.

The stories are short and to the point so you’ll likely get to know everything you need to within a couple of hours, if you can handle the game’s somewhat uneven AI. One minute you’re able to dominate a match with ease, the next your computer opponent whips you without breaking a sweat. I really wish the team would make up its mind on whether it wants to break you or actually give you a break. Even on the easy setting, it can be mildly frustrating.

I do wish there was more content to go with that, but for the most part, Fantasy Strike has a pretty good package, especially if you’ve got friends over for some fighting fun. Definitely take the local multiplayer route if you can. It certainly beats struggling with online match-ups or, worse yet, trying to deal with an unpredictable AI. You can set up tournaments too, with brackets and all, which is a good time in itself.

Fantasy Strike

A Decent Presentation For a First Time Try

Sirlin Games’ first time out of the gate with Fantasy Strike won’t topple the likes of SoulCalibur VI or other fighters on the market, but it does a good job for a debut effort, and reminds us of classic fighting games from the late PS2 and early PS3 era.

The character animations are a bit stiff at times, but their design can also be appealing, especially the female combatants. The master, Midori, who has a tendency to transform into a dragon on command and back again (why can’t we do that?!) is pretty cool, even if he is more of a bully than we expected. Hey, stop slamming us into the ground, will ya?

The backdrops show a great deal of imagination and include a casino (where that gambling panda, Lum, no doubt likes to dwell) and a beautiful city with a waterfall flowing in the distance. It reminded me of the classic Street Fighter IV backgrounds of old, where Sirlin probably drew a little bit of inspiration.

The game also features some solid frame readouts and some great dramatic replays. Again, it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it does capture the motif of the classic fighting style, and that’s just what the team at Sirlin Games was going for.

As for audio, it’s just okay. The voice acting is definitely on the cheese side, although some characters can pull it off, like the guy that can’t get enough of time, Geiger. The music’s not bad either, though there aren’t any tunes that really stand out. Again, it’s a first time effort and you can tell in some places that it is. That being said it’s not bad, but it doesn’t exactly overwhelm either.

In the end, Fantasy Strike doesn’t have the flair of other AAA games, but it does set a neat little reminder of the classic age of fighters from years ago. For some fans, that’ll be more than enough.

Plus, the game does go for $30. You don’t get a huge helping of fighters for that price, but you do get enough to justify it. Besides, when’s the last time you played as a fish warrior that could summon his buddies from small sea puddles to attack you? Go get ‘em, Argagarg! (No, really, that’s his name. Go look it up.)

Fantasy Strike

Gameplay: 7.5/10

There are some adaptable features for newcomers and pros alike, and they’re pretty neat, especially the inclusion of a “jump” button (something you don’t see in games like this). The AI however, can be off in single player, which can be frustrating. Fortunately, practice mode can help you adapt to these systems, and soon you’ll learn what it’s all about. Overall, it plays just fine, but be prepared to do a bit of learning.

Innovation: 7.5/10

There’s not much here that goes beyond the call of fighting games, but the Yomi Counter system is pretty awesome and the adaptability of a block meter instead of the usual health meter is pretty radical. It really forces you to be a little more strategic than you usually are with fighting games. All the more reason to practice, pupils.

Learning Curve: 8.0/10

There’s a lot to soak in with Fantasy Strike. True, amateurs can pick up most of its mechanics and have a good time with it, but the more you adapt to its systems, the better you’ll get at it. I think that’s exactly what Sirlin and his team are counting on. They’ve built a fighting game that rewards you depending on how much you’re willing to put into it, and that’s exactly how it feels. It can be a great experience if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

Graphics: 7.0/10

For the most part, pretty general. The character design is neat, but also a little bland in spots, with some being slightly generic. The animation is detailed, the backdrops look great, and the frame readout feature is awesome for those that want to get technical.

Sound: 6.5/10

Not bad, for the most part, but nothing that goes above and beyond. The music offers some fun background noise, but doesn’t stand out and the character voices have their moments. In Story Mode some of them also tend to annoy, so be warned.

Value for Money: 7.5/10

For $30 you get a pretty good fighting game. Online matches can be off and on depending on when you try to connect, and there’s a decent amount of single player content even though the AI can be a strain at times. However the local multiplayer is a gas, and the characters can be fun to master, even if the balance is off in some places. Overall, Fantasy Strike has a great deal of value, provided you give it a chance.

Fantasy Strike

Overall: 7.5/10

While some folks will still prefer to tread AAA territory when it comes to their fighting games, Sirlin and his team have done a pretty good job with their debut effort. Fantasy Strike has a decent offering of characters, a gameplay system that offers value for those that get into it, adaptable controls for newcomers and pros alike, fun local multiplayer options, a decent smattering of single player content, and a nostalgic presentation to back it all up. It’s good stuff, even if can’t quite live up to Fantasylevel. That’s okay, sometimes you need something good to settle down and have fun with.

Pros

+ Great gameplay options, especially the Yomi Counter and block meter

+ A solid offering of characters, as few of them as there are

+ Local multiplayer is a lot of fun

+ The tutorial is well crafted, and you can learn a lot in the game’s Practice mode

Cons

– AI behavior can be off and on in single player modes

– Online matches can be questionable in performance

– More combatants wouldn’t be a bad thing

– The sound could use a little more variety

(A review code was provided by the publisher.)

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