I am not ashamed to admit that I'm terrible at fighting games outside of the Super Smash Bros. series. Despite this, the genre constantly attracts my attention. I'll often sit and watch competitive matches or even try out different fighting games for myself. Fantasy Strike is one game I wanted to try because of its premise. By design, it's a fighting game with amazing accessibility for all skill levels. It even supports all manners of control schemes, including a guitar controller. With simplified combos and mechanics, Fantasy Strike promises much in approachability but fails to deliver meaningful content in every way.
Fantasy Strike comes to us from Sirlin Games. If you're unfamiliar with the name, fighting game veteran David Sirlin heads the studio. His work includes Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. I know him for developing Kongai, which is an old card game hosted on Kongregate. Sirlin is a great designer, and it reflects in the unique moves of every character in Fantasy Strike. Remember, this game aims for accessibility, so every combo is relatively simple to pull off. Characters cannot crouch. They can jump, and can perform special attacks by hitting one button. Likewise, you can unleash grabs and specials with by hitting one button a well, so even the most novice players can perform more complex moves.
The Characters and Moves of Fantasy Strike
Special attacks and grabs are relatively standard to the genre. One of Fantasy Strike's most innovative ideas, however, is the Yomi Counter. In Fantasy Strike, right before an opponent grabs your character, you can let go of all buttons to perform a counterattack. The counterattack nulls any damage inflicted upon you and damages the enemy. It's an interesting way to incentivize the reading of an opponent's moves.
Characters themselves have very clever mechanics. The fish-like Argagarg is a zoner who can poison opponents. If the opponent hits Argagarg while under the effects of his toxin, it is removed and can no longer be damaged. Therefore, Argagarg's move set revolves around pushing opponents away and protecting himself while the enemy's health whittles away. Geiger, on the other hand, is a clockmaker who can throw gears at his opponents. If he moves forward, a gauge at the bottom of the screen diminishes, rendering him unable to throw the gear. Walking backward does not drain his gauge, so you must pay attention to positioning and timing while keeping opponents at a distance.
Unfortunately, while there are interesting moves for every character, Fantasy Strike is lacking in visual design. Everyone seems so generic. Lum is an anthropomorphic panda, which is an overused trope in my book. Grave is your generic Ryu-like character that looks like an ordinary samurai. Really, the only interesting member from the 10 on Fantasy Strike's roster is DeGrey. He a pompous, crime-fighting lawyer with a ghostly companion that aids him in battle.
Graphically, Fantasy Strike offers bland character models and generic stages. Backgrounds are uninspired, one-dimensional set pieces that get tiring after the first few matches. Conversely, Fantasy Strike's soundtrack features several excellent, adrenaline-pumping songs. The songs make up for an otherwise lacking artistic direction and also makes the single-player a bit more bearable to play.
Single-Player in Fantasy Strike
If character move sets are Fantasy Strike's saving grace, then single-player is where it falls flat. The offerings appear substantial at first, but each game mode from Fantasy Strike provides an underwhelming amount of gameplay. As a whole, matches in Fantasy Strike are quick. Characters have hit points, and some attacks do more damage than others. I enjoyed the brevity of each match, as I find games such as Street Fighter last too long for my taste. A trade-off to fast matches is that Fantasy Strike's single-player modes end up feeling far too short, even if these modes aren't very good.
In Arcade Mode, you go through a gauntlet of battles, with cutscenes appearing at the beginning and end of the mode. Cutscenes are generic, uninspired, and extremely brief. Furthermore, the voice acting contains some truly bad performances. Characters' lines also sound as if they are recorded on different microphones. If you can get past the terrible voice acting, the story exposition is still far too brief. There is no context to the cutscenes, so Fantasy Strike thrusts you into the lore without any sort of explanation or meaning. A cutscene after every battle would create a more comprehensive experience. In other words, if you are looking for a fighting game with any sort of interesting story, you can look elsewhere.
To make matters worse, due to the small roster of Fantasy Strike, you end up fighting mostly the same opponents for each character's Arcade adventure. It always ends with a battle against Midori, a grappler. Midori is where I realized just how busted Fantasy Strike's AI is. There are no difficulty options, so AI's behavior patterns remain the same. For many battles, you deal with opponents that constantly spam attacks. Midori, for instance, does the most damage with his grabs. He literally stands in place spamming grab as fast as Fantasy Strike's mechanics allow. It's easy to Yomi counter since he is so predictable. It's frustrating since there isn't any sort of strategy or true difficulty. Most other opponents also spam attacks in the most obnoxious way, making a possibly fun experience into something simply frustrating.
The Daily Challenge and Survival modes are also relatively similar to one another. For the former, you take on a singular challenge every day (which are just regular old fights) and by the end, the game will show how well you did against the rest of the player population. Survival is self-explanatory: you take on a set number of enemies and try to survive as long as you can. Single match also allows you to fight one enemy but doesn't offer anything different from the rest of the modes.
Multiplayer in Fantasy Strike
Despite my feelings towards single-player, the fighting mechanics of Fantasy Strike are actually fun and easy to get a hang of. This ends up making online a more enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find an online match in Fantasy Strike. I usually perform terribly in any sort of online component in fighting games, but Fantasy Strike gave me a fighting chance, no pun intended. Online performs as good as any AAA title, with no stuttering or lag to speak of. Sirlin Games boasts about Fantasy Strike's stellar netcode, and a solid foundation is reflected in the final product.
For online, you can play casual, ranked, or friend matches. Ranked matches are when things became a little uncanny. Theoretically, to play a ranked match, Fantasy Strike requires eight players to fill up the bracket. When I began a ranked match, I was met with generically-named players such as Grappler, Falcon, and Buffalo. I began to notice how players acted like AI, and I believe my suspicions are confirmed when looking at Fantasy Strike's player count. With so few people playing, the chances of all nine of us playing ranked at the same time seemed to slim. I believe Fantasy Strike fills Ranked with bots so as not to block players out of the mode due to its paltry player population.
Other than that, there is no real incentive to play online unless you have friends willing to try the game with you. You rank up your character's level and your overall player level, but there does not appear to be any reward for doing soon. This is concerning because players' levels and score in Ranked mode are possibly not reflective of their true skill level. Fighting non-human opponents is an entirely different experience than playing against actual people due to the predictability of the AI.
Fantasy Strike Review | Final Thoughts
Fantasy Strike faces an unfortunate dilemma. The single-player component is vacant and uninspired. Multiplayer, on the other hand, is a barren wasteland. The only way I can recommend Fantasy Strike is if you want to learn more about the mechanics of a fighting game so that you can move on to bigger and better titles. Or, if you can grab a friend, it might be worth your time. That is only if you can get past the fact they will likely be one of the few people actually playing Fantasy Strike.
Fantasy Strike offers an appealing premise of accessibility and interesting, innovative mechanics. In many ways, it succeeds in that promise but falters in almost every other aspect. Characters' visual designs are bland and uninspired but have interesting move sets. The lack of player population means you either fight AI online or twiddle your thumbs in empty lobbies. Meanwhile, single-player only provides a few hours of entertainment at best. Fantasy Strike might be fun for a few online matches. In the end, you'll end up yearning for a much better game.
TechRaptor reviewed Fantasy Strike on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.
Fantasy Strike delivers on its promise to make a fighting game easy to pick up and play. It's simple to get the hang of, and characters actually have cool abilities. Still, it's lacking in content, lacking in a player base, and plagued with AI issues.
- Unique Character Abilities
- Decent Soundtrack
- Easy to Pick Up and Play
- Unsubstantial Singeplayer Offerings
- Terrible Voice Acting
- Overall Bland Visuals
- Little to No Online Population