REVIEW: ‘Fantasy Strike’ Brings a New Energy to an Old Genre (PS4)

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Fantasy Strike

Fighting games are a delicate genre of game to make. They provides instant action, but also commands the player to learn a variety of combinations and button inputs. The speed at which these inputs need to be made require an unerring accuracy, and in some games, learning these combinations can be a challenge. While some games have worked hard to be more accessible, they still can be daunting to newcomers. Fantasy Strike from Sirlin Games seeks to change that with a fighting game that caters to not one, but to all types of players.

I first saw Fantasy Strike at Pax South 2017 in San Antonio, Texas and learned that it is a game with high ambition and style, hoping to introduce a great fighting system to both experienced fighting veterans and those new to the genre. After four years of hard work, Fantasy Strike accomplishes its objectives, albeit, with a few rough patches that keep the game from greatness. 

Fantasy Strike takes place in a fictional land inspired by Asian myths and lore. A great evil has been threatening the land and a small formation of fighters gather to discover what is happening. Players will choose between one of 10 characters, each completely different from the other, with unique fighting styles, attributes, and special attacks. 

The first thing that strikes players is the charming and wonderfully crafted visuals of Fantasy Strike. The team was incredibly diverse and varied in their portrayal of this world, with each character bursting on screen in color and substance. Each fighter has a different physical expression, from an artist that uses her colored paintbrush for attacks to a gentleman that uses his watch to slow down time. There is an extraordinary eclectic visual style to Fantasy Strike that is special and refreshingly distinct in today’s gaming arena.

Seeing each character visually was as exciting and new, as it was mesmerizing to witness their visual and particle effects burst on screen. The only regret is that there are only 10 characters to choose from, but that doesn’t take away from the existing characters of Fantasy Strike, neither does it harm the overall game. 

While visually stunning, Fantasy Strike is a fighter. The general basics are present, from small combos to jumping, blocking, grappling, and using a special attack. A tutorial that begins upon the startup of the game helps players orient themselves to the fighting mechanics.  However, each character in Fantasy Strike has a significantly different fighting style that is exclusive to them. Across the 10 characters displayed, each character performs wildly different from the next. This is where Fantasy Strike excels but also falls short in some regards. 

Characters are divided into several categories. Zoners have attacks that control their zone, such as Grave the samurai warrior. Rundowns are extremely swift and quick, with light attacks, such as Setsuki. Grapplers rely on getting close and grappling their opponent, such as Rook. One unique character, DeGrey uses frame traps to attack their opponent, meaning they get players into a certain position and then exploit it. Another character, Lum, exclusively uses the wildcard fighting style, making his offensive attacks completely unconventional.

With these categories established, each character performs differently. Grave uses a combination of hand-to-hand combat, a wind spell, and his katana, to attack. Aragarg, an amphibious creature does not use a sword but can punch with his long tentacles, keeping the opponent out of reach of a grapple. Each character also contains a special attack, with a meter that builds over time. Midori, for example, can use the meter to temporarily transform into an anthropomorphic dragon, while Geiger can use this time stop powers to freeze time and attack the enemy from behind. 

Fantasy Strike strikes a fine balance between fast, but patient. Disciplined but opportunistic. Fantasy Strike isn’t the type of game where you mash the buttons and hope for the best, but instead, a game where you think about which button to press, and switch tactics decisively. Patience can be rewarding, but so can being aggressive. The overall fighting experience is completely dependent on your character.  Having played various fighters, Fantasy Strike is most certainly a different but rewarding experience, compared to the kinetic energy of Super Smash Bros and the combo-heavy inputs of Injustice: Gods Among Us. Each move and impact looks and sounds great. Being able to outwit outsmart your opponent with a unique fighting ability is remarkable and thrilling.

Fantasy Strike

Combined with the games visual and audio presentation, Fantasy Strike is a strong fighting experience. Each round one is a decisive victory and a small impactful reward that set itself apart from other fighters. The gameplay is unmistakably tight and will keep players coming back for that ” one more time” level of gameplay. 

Regrettably, there are firm shortcomings to Fantasy Strike. First is the balancing of characters, as well as the AI. Balancing is difficult, as you want to give each character a competent composure to fight and town, but I couldn’t help but feel but encounter balancing issues in my time with Fantasy Strike, particularly with Argagarg the amphibian warrior. 

When playing in single-player mode, there is no adjustable difficulty. It is one base difficulty throughout the game, meaning that players will have to really fight and learn the feel of the game right away. The AI is relentless, especially for newcomers. Newcomers may want to consider some time in the practice mode to truly get a feel for the game. 

During this time, I noticed the AI would spam attacks unfairly to secure victory. In one instance, Rook, the grappler, knocked me down. He then proceeded to walk over to me, stand on top of me, then spam the grappler move until I got up. Naturally, the grapple is inescapable. I also fought for multiple rounds, and eventually achieved victory, but each time he defeated me, he spammed that attack. It was very frustrating but nowhere near as frustrating as Midori, the dragon character.

This character was impossible and with an overwhelming degree of attacks, and his dragon transformation, I was unable to defeat him. He slammed the grapple attack repeatedly. While I would win a few rounds, he would win the overall match. I tried absolutely everything for three hours and was unable to beat Midori. To make matters worse, some grapples were “jumpable” but the game doesn’t explicitly go out of its way to explain how to escape a jumpable grapple, and every attempt I made to escape one was met with failure.

Since Fantasy Strike prides itself on accessibility, it is suggested that a difficulty adjustment be placed into the game and the jumpable grapple be refined. As it stands, single players may have a hard time. This alone might sully an otherwise solid experience. Additionally, some characters seem to have significantly better abilities than others. Grave can pull out a katana, but as he does so, he is invulnerable to damage during the initiation of the attack, meaning the player can engage in close-range contact but is helpless to the attack. The AI spammed this particular attack as well.

Overall, I couldn’t help but feel there could have been better balancing with some characters, perhaps giving all characters a weapon of sorts with this particular invulnerability. It just didn’t seem fair with AI. Playing this with another player may be significantly different, but I felt that at times, I was at a constant disadvantage, with only a small advantage. 

However, these shortcomings should not discourage you from playing Fantasy Strike. In addition to an arcade mode, you can slug it out in a daily challenge mode, a team fighting mode, and versus mode for local and online fighting. There’s plenty to do and to participate in for experienced players and those new to the genre. 

You can tell Fantasy Strike is a labor of love from passionate fighter enthusiasts. The characters are vibrant and extraordinarily created. The fighting systems and unique styles of each character are extremely strong. The only thing holding Fantasy Strike back are the loose threads of difficult AI and character balancing. Fantasy Strike marks the foundation for a new era in fighting games, where players big and small can participate in a friendly round of fighting.

Fantasy Strike is a colorful, strong, and passionately built. This is one main event that shouldn’t be missed. Fantasy Strike is available on Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. 


Fantasy Strike
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL; DR

Combined with the games visual and audio presentation, Fantasy Strike is a strong fighting experience. Each round one is a decisive victory and a small impactful reward that set itself apart from other fighters. The gameplay is unmistakably tight and will keep players coming back for that ” one more time” level of gameplay. 

3 Comments on “REVIEW: ‘Fantasy Strike’ Brings a New Energy to an Old Genre (PS4)”

  1. Hmm. Also “Naturally, the grapple is inescapable” .. is it though?
    Also you don’t even seemed to have played the Tutorial yet, which explains how to deal with every type of attack and throw… :/

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