Fighting games have been a part of the gaming community for the last 30 years, although the community is niche and some would say small compared to other genres. Different types of fighting games, from street fighters, side-scrollers, to Tekken’s 3D-style arena, even some honorable mentions like Power Stone’s open arena and Smash Bros.’s 2.5D arena, fighting games have stayed the same and have grown all at the same time. It’s truly fascinating that fighting games have been thriving for this long and are still so universally loved.
A huge problem with fighting games is how intimidating they can be. Watching a game that may appeal to you and seeing another player rip someone to shreds can keep players away. Stepping up and playing one and then seeing the command list and not knowing what any of it means is an easy way to get discouraged. The huge learning gap in fighting games is a big reason why they aren’t as popular as other genres. Most people, including myself, that are good at fighting games are people mainly born between 1985 and 1995, during the times of arcades and the end of the Dreamcast era. Fighting games were few and far between when we got to the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and Xbox generation. Yeah sure, there were a good amount but nowhere near as many games as there were from 1991 to 2005.
Fighting games kind of died for a while, trickling out a few good ones and many ignorable ones but overall the genre was on its way out. Then it started to come back around the time of Tekken 6, Soulcalibur IV, and Street Fighter IV. People were reinvesting themselves with them but many new players pointed out “hey this is hard and intimidating and everyone kicks my butt.” With the power of Kickstarter, the developer and publisher Sirlin Games have created a fighting game called Fantasy Strike. Fantasy Strike is trying to be simplistic and at the same time tactical with the way the game is built. I am here to review this amazing game for its ups and downs but overall inform you so that you can discern whether you want to buy this game or not.
Starting the game
When Fantasy Strike first starts the game puts you straight into the tutorial (and trust me as a guy that hates and skips any tutorial’s in any game, you need it). The game starts out simple letting you know you can punch on the ground and in the sky. The objective is to pop balloons to get used to the movement controls. After popping the balloons set in the sky and on the ground you are able to advance further in the tutorial advance. Through this tutorial, they show you all of the attacks you can do on the ground and that they have alternate versions when you jump as well, same with the special attack, which can be done with the press of a button. A funny side note when you complete an objective during the tutorial, the trainer (who happens to be Midori) asks you to hit him to start the next lesson. I’m not sure why but I get great pleasure from throwing him after he tells you to hit him. His reaction is priceless.
Some characters have buttons you can hold down, so be sure to try this with everyone. Now here’s the odd thing that sets this game apart from other fighters: you can’t crouch and you have no quarter-circle attacks at all (that means no down forward attacks, like hadouken in Street Fighter). This game only uses forward and back for all of its attacks. Now I know anyone reading this if you have played SNK Tag Team Heroines then yes that game is the same way but Sirlin Games made Fantasy Strike long before SNK’s fighter was released. Fantasy Strike was out on PC back in 2016 as an early access game and SNK Tag Team Heroines released in September of 2018
Getting people into fighting games and making things less complicated but still keeping it fun was the first priority of Sirlin Games and man, did it deliver. Arcade Mode is like any other fighting game, but there are cutscenes in the game. No spoilers here, the character I chose to start with is named Setsuki from the rushdown class. She is a ninja student; her story starts with her in class, training. The character Rook enters her school to announce that he’s starting a tournament called Fantasy Strike. After defeating Setsuki’s teacher, she states she wants to enter the tournament. Every character has a starting cutscene with their own story so any player can quickly learn about their character’s personality and why they are in the tourney to begin with.
Look and Feel
Fantasy Strike is visually pleasing and the controls feel tight and responsive. If you are someone that plays fighting games a lot it can take a bit to get used to the fact that pushing and holding down on the control stick or D-pad doesn’t make the character crouch at all. Also, something odd about Fantasy Strike is that it has a jump button mapped out. This bothered me to no end, but luckily, you can go to the options menu and change the controls to have Up on the control stick and D-pad to jump instead of the B button on the controller. My controls were Up to jump, Y for a weak attack, X for a strong attack, A for special attack, and LZ for my ultimate.
There aren’t very many bad things to note about the game. One of the usual complaints of any fighting-game player is always lack of story (I still have no idea why people expect a story in a fighting game, let alone a good story) and the lack of characters. There are 10 playable characters, 11 if you can count transformations. A good thing is that the characters are categorized by their playstyle: four zoners (meaning they can defend and attack from a distance), two rush down (they fight fast with swift combos and must be up close), two grapplers, and lastly two wild cards.
Here’s my problem though. The character Midori is in the grappler category and honestly, he’s not one. Midori by himself is not even close to a grappler, he’s more of a rush down. But Midori can transform into a dragon and in his dragon form, he has a whole new set of attacks. Now, Madori’s dragon form is a grappler. I just feel like this should have been categorized differently. Lastly, Degrey is in the wild card category and that is also, in my opinion, wrong. Unless this game is stating that a wild card can catch you off guard they’ve got the wrong guy. Degrey is predictable and would work best in the zoner category.
Players just starting out with fighting games and people that want to get into fighting games, but don’t know where to start, would love this game. It is easy to pick up and play, but moderately difficult to master. Every character has a certain amount of strategy and skill that can be applied to them. Degrey can use his ghost partner to take hits from projectiles, leaving him protected,and he can also have the ghost trap opponents so he can deal blows or use his special.
The countless battles my friends and I had, we tried new things all the time and the fights were never stale. Although the game has only 10 characters, it would be nice to see 16 characters instead so each category can have the same amount of playable characters. Fantasy Strike also has lots of offline game modes. When playing solo, players can enjoy the Arcade Mode, Survival, Boss Rush, and single matches against the computer. If you are online in solo mode, you can also play some daily challenges. With local multiplayer, you can verse a friend in a solo match or a team match. Team match is how my friends and I played. Select three characters and the game creates a winner/loser ladder.
Fantasy Strike is a very fun fighting game and definitely delivers on its purpose to make an easily accessible fighting game. Despite the lack of characters, this game roster is fantastic. Not a single character can be played like the next. If you are looking for a fighting game to get into or you just need a new one in your library, I highly recommend this game. Being someone that loves fighting games and plays them on a daily basis, I believe everyone should give this a try. Fantasy Strike is available on Mac, Windows via Steam, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4. No word on an Xbox One release, but we will keep you all posted if any news comes up about a future port.
This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher for Nintendo Switch.
If you are looking for a fighting game to get into or you just need a new one in your library I highly recommend Fantasy Strike. Being someone that loves fighting games and plays them on a daily basis, I believe everyone should give this a try.
Owner and leader of the Sick Critic YouTube Channel