A Challenger Approaches

HIGH Coming back from sudden death to win four fights in a row.

LOW The tutorial’s confusing commands don’t match the buttons.

WTF Lum, the gambling panda.

Fantasy Strike was created to appeal to both the fighting game tournament crowd and newcomers alike. The concept? Focusing on thoughtful strategy rather than complex button execution.

Players begin with a tutorial to acclimate them to a slightly different style of combat. There aren’t complex move lists like those found in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. Instead, players only need to press a few attack buttons while moving left, right, or jumping. Moves can be strung into simple combos, but the opposing player is able to counter many moves if timed correctly. This approach to fighting design is most welcome, and I found that I didn’t have to think much about what buttons to press. However, it also resulted in more waiting than I’m used to in a fighter.

Instead of mounting a first strike, it’s almost always more beneficial to wait for the opponent to move and then counterattack. Of course, defense can be a valid strategy in any fighter, but there’s little motive to pounce first in Fantasy Strike. Nearly every time I did, the opponent would counter without taking a hit. It’s a different feel than most games in the genre, but not necessarily a bad thing.

All ten combatants are available from the start, allowing players to quickly determine which fighter fits their style without having to worry about unlocking a huge roster. The cast is small, but the characters offer a variety of play styles from traditional combatants to grapplers, and my personal favorite, the wild cards with chaotic fighting styles. A slightly larger selection would have been appreciated, but the ten on hand each offered a unique experience.

Once players feel comfortable with their favorite character, a standard arcade mode awaits – beat an opponent, move on to the next round, repeat a few more times, then fight a boss to claim victory with a little story peppered in at the beginning and end. Fantasy Strike also features local duels, daily challenges, and a boss rush for those who don’t want to go online.

As for the online, I was able to find matches quickly and never had lag. There are numerous matchmaking options including finding players of similar skill or fighting more challenging opponents. It’s slightly unfortunate that players must create an in-game account to play online, but they can easily use a dummy email and be battling others in no time.

While the combat and online aspects are solid, one of the most confusing aspects of Fantasy Strike occurs during the tutorial. Instead of using onscreen cues that match the controller’s face buttons, the tutorial refers to attacks by their in-game name. For example, the tutorial told me to attack using the A button, but in the game, A stands for ‘attack’. In reality, the button was mapped to the Switch’s Y button. Fortunately, all attack and block buttons can be remapped, but this was quite confusing.

I also found Fantasy Strike‘s final boss, a human that can morph into a dragon, a little too powerful even for a boss battle. His moves were easy to read but not to counter, and a miss on my part would result in taking multi-hit damage. For a game that emphasizes strategy, I often felt like luck was the biggest factor whenever I claimed victory against him. A minor issue, but one that dampens the experience.

Overall, Fantasy Strike takes a leap and tries to create a deep fighter that’s also accessible. It’s successful, but I don’t see it dethroning any of the heavyweight fighters anytime soon.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by and published by Sirlin Games. It is currently available on Switch, PS4, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the singleplayer mode, and the arcade mode was completed three times. Less than one hour of play was spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Violence. This is a fighting game, but a relatively tame one. Players will punch, kick, and perform other attacks on their opponents, but there’s not a drop of blood to be found anywhere.   

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The stories for each character are fully subtitled. There are character comments during the fight introduction screen that are not subtitled, but these do not impact gameplay. There are no noticeable sound cues during combat. It is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable. All attack and block buttons can be remapped, but the directional controls cannot be changed.

Brian Theisen
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