You know how some fighting games are full of intricate mechanics that demand you learn the ins-and-outs of everything? Well, Fantasy Strike isn’t anything like that. Instead, the controls are simple and each move requires just one button press, the health bar is broken down into five segments with each landed attack taking one away, whilst all of the character’s abilities can be learnt in just one battle. Despite this simplicity, there is definite room for strategy – there’s just also room for button mashing and dumb-luck to win too. You know what, though? It all comes together to make for a fun, albeit simple, fighting experience.
Fantasy Strike’s controls are kept simple throughout. If you want to pull off standard attacks such as punches and kicks, you’ve just got to press the Y button. Special attacks such as throwing projectiles, hitting long range moves, or even teleporting are assigned to the X and Y button – each character has different special attacks so it’ll take some figuring out as to what each button does initially, but at least you won’t have to learn any intricate button combinations to try everything out. Throws are assigned to the right shoulder-button and you can also pull off a powerful special attack with the left shoulder-button providing your special meter is full.
These are the sort of manoeuvres you’d expect to find in just about any fighting game so they should feel fine to most players, but there are some omissions in Fantasy Strike that feel unusual. For one, there’s no running or crouching – the lack of crouching felt particularly strange, especially after coming from Mortal Kombat 11 recently, though it’s something you will get used to. Jumping is done with the B button too, which felt a little unusual given that it’s normal assigned to up on the d-pad or analogue stick. At least blocking is straight-forward, with the player simply having to hold back in order to nullify incoming attacks. That’s not your only defensive manoeuvre: you can also reverse throws, but rather than having to time it perfectly you just have to press NOTHING… peculiar design choice, right? It all works well together in-game though and there’s a decent tutorial in-place that’ll teach you the ins and outs of everything if you get confused at all.
It all makes for a very accessible fighting experience that’s fun to just pick up and play, but this does have its flaws. For one, the health bar system that sees players only having to land five clean attacks to win can make some fights end pretty quickly, especially with some character’s special attacks that are easy to exploit. In some ways, the speed in which battles can end can be a good thing, especially with how limited character’s move sets are – however, it can also make battles feel a little too random in design and lacking real strategy, which can get repetitive fast.
Being repetitive is something that curses Fantasy Strike in other areas too, with most fights following the same process even if you are trying to be strategic. The limited health means there’s less of an emphasis on learning intricate combos or hitting those specials at the perfect time, but rather just landing clean shots. It means there’s less demand for finesse, meaning everyone’s got a puncher’s chance at victory. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it might deter hardcore fighting fans who’ve spent hours mastering the intricacies of games like Street Fighter, Tekken, or Mortal Kombat.
Those who do appreciate the finer details of fighters will be glad to see that characters of Fantasy Strike are actually broken down into different types: Zoners, Rushdown, Grapplers and Wildcards. It makes it clear which characters are best utilised for different fighting styles, whilst the in-game tutorial explains them in depth so that you may actually learn a few things if you’re a newbie to the genre. The cast itself is a colourful and fun bunch too – you have traditional fighters like Grave, Jaina, and DeGrey who look like they could have come out of any old fighting game, but the rock-giant Rook, Lum the panda, and the stretchy-limbed fish-creature (that’s the best way to describe him) Argagarg show that there’s some creative folk to choose from too. Each character is also given a rating that lets you know how difficult they are to use, which again increases the accessibility of Fantasy Strike as a whole.
Gamers who’re looking to play alone will be able to enjoy Fantasy Strike’s traditional Arcade Mode, Survival Mode where you take on an onslaught of enemies, and the Boss Rush mode where different modifiers are applied to both characters as they fight in increasingly difficult circumstances. Boss Rush can actually be quite addictive, especially with the unpredictable nature of the modifiers, but the other modes don’t really offer enough to keep you playing for too long.
Multiplayer is a lot of fun though, especially when you match up with players of a similar skill level (which isn’t hard given the simple nature of the game). Interestingly, if you play in ranked matches you take three fighters in that are randomly assigned for each encounter, so there’s a sense of unpredictability as to who you’ll match up with and if there’ll be a clash of styles. I never struggled to find a match online either which is a plus, though that could be owed to the fact that there’s cross-play between multiple platforms. Overall, the multiplayer is just a lot of fun and utilises the game’s simple setup in a way that keeps battles feeling fresh, even if it does lack the depth of a traditional fighting game.
Developer: Sirlin Games
Publisher: Sirlin Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC