Over the past few years, fighting games have shifted to be more accessible to everyone. Auto combos and more simple controls have made their way into the biggest fighting titles. However one of the most common complaints still heard to this day is that “fighting games are too complicated.” But what if they didn’t have to be? Instead sit somewhere in the middle, where fighting game purists can dig and really explore, while more casual fight fans can pick it up quick and have a good time. This is exactly what Fantasy Strike tries to offer, but it whiffs hard like a desperation super.

Simple isn’t better

Fantasy Strike has long been in development from Sirlin Games, including a FIG campaign in 2017 that failed to reach its $500,000 goal. With minds like David Sirlin, the lead designer of Super Street Fighter II HD Remix, Fantasy Strike has the legacy behind it but falls short on creating a compelling fighting game.

The selling point of Fantasy Strike is its no-frills controls. There are no complex motions, no quarter circles, no three-sixties, just three main attack buttons.

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The “A” button is for normal striking attacks. These attacks can also be modified by holding a direction and are great tools for poking and starting combos. Both the “B” and “C” buttons are for special attacks. All it takes to throw a fireball or deliver a spinning pile driver is the press of a button. This gives any button masher a fuzzy feeling, but of course, it’s not about being able to pull off the special move, but when to use it.

Movement is also simplified. Characters can walk side to side and jump, that’s it. No dashing on the ground or in the air, unless a character’s special move includes it. Players also don’t have to worry about their toes, because there is no crouching in Fantasy Strike. This alleviates the potential possibilities of a high low mix-up and just makes defending a bit easier. However, this also means that some characters will have to work extra hard to create offense and certain match-ups feel heavily weighted to one side.

Going against tradition

Probably the most interesting mechanic Fantasy Strike introduces is the Yomi counter. This is the art of pressing nothing. If your opponent goes for a standard throw it can be countered by letting go of the controller. Not only will you deal damage, but it also grants full super meter. It’s incredibly satisfying to hard read your opponent and deliver a Yomi counter.

Fantasy Strike also handles health bars in a very different way. While the health bars look the same, the damage is dealt out in chunks. Each attack deals one chunk of damage. String together a few of them and some characters will be at fifty percent of their health bar. This leads to some matches snowballing extremely quickly and is most likely the reason the default it first to five matches.

Characters also have different amounts of life corresponding to their classes. While the classes don’t mean anything really, it’s a simple way to understand the play style of a fighter. Not all “zoner” characters are stuck to throwing projectiles, but for new people, it gives them at least some idea before picking them.

Something Familiar

It’s one thing for the gameplay to be simple and straightforward. This also carries over the characters and overall look of the game. Character models and designs range from bland to “so bad, it’s good.” When my red-bearded traditionally dressed Kung-Fu master turned into a giant green dragon with that same red beard, I couldn’t help but laugh audibly.

Fantasy Strike doesn’t look bad by any means; it just lacks a true identity of its own. Most of the characters seem to be based on already existing fighting games. The “Ryu” character has a super uppercut and throws a cloud of electricity all to similar to a hadoken. The ninja apprentice shares an extremely close move set to Ibuki from Street Fighter. The grappler Rook may have trained under Zangief because his spinning pile driver seems to have the exact same technique.

Fighting games have been borrowing ideas and moves for decades, so this isn’t a unique situation for Fantasy Strike. As someone who has put hundreds of hours into fighting games, certain animations really stand out and it just feels a little icky. This isn’t the first criticism of Fantasy Strike’s animations and I don’t think any ill intentions were made, however, I think it is noteworthy to point out.

No Frills

Fantasy Strike packs in a few different modes for its small price tag of $29.99. The arcade mode is what most expect from a traditional fighting game, with one small cuts scene in the beginning and another once the final boss has been beaten.

Beyond that, there are two different modes of single-player worth noting. Boss rush adds elements of a rogue-like. After each successful match players can choose a perk that will increase their fighters’ moves or health. As you progress each boss will get zanier and more dangerous. It’s a neat distraction and probably the most fun I had with the game.

The other noteworthy mode is the daily challenge, which is a gauntlet of fights without health regeneration. Once completed there is a fun stat that lets you know how well you performed against others who tried the challenge. It’s fun for exactly a day. I saw no reason to try it again since it was always the same challenge.

Online matches offer both a casual and ranked mode. I didn’t have too much trouble finding matches but often I fought the same players a few times in a row. It also ran quite well, I experienced very little lag and thanks to the GGPO netplay most matches were smooth. The ranked mode is a little different. Players will choose a team of three different characters and are pitted against each other in a single-elimination bracket. Each match begins with a random character being selected for each player and the goal is to win one game with all of your selected team. This forces players to try different fighters and can be interesting to test out certain match-ups.

Final Round

Fantasy Strike offers a muddied experience, with mediocre fighting mechanics and a bland visual style. It tries to be welcoming to newcomers with simple controls and some decent video style tutorials, but I don’t think the time spent inside Fantasy Strike is worth it. With a plethora of fighting games to choose from, there is no one thing it does to make me want to choose it over the others. Even people who are scared to jump headfirst into a fighting game should look elsewhere.

For all the people who want to get into the fighting genre, but are scared of over-complicated controls and ideas, I’d say to look for a game that appeals to you visually and looks fun. That may be the case for some with Fantasy Strike, but I don’t think it will be for many.

Easy to pick up
Boss rush mode
Solid online play
Bland character design
Controls can feel too simple
Lifeless combo system

Review Summary

Fantasy Strike attempts to bring simple controls to a complex genre. Where the controls succeed, the rest of the game falls flat. Uninteresting characters and combos make Fantasy Strike feel like a game from a different era.

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