Fighting games have been known to have a rather…. strange barrier of entry for the genre. Some see it as too simple and others as exceedingly difficult, and the general skill ceiling for fighting games greatly vary as well. It’s all generally variable from player to player.
That’s where Fantasy Strike comes in. Fantasy Strike looks to be the easy-to-enter game for the fighting game genre with very simple controls, very simple gameplay, and crossplay between PlayStation 4, Steam, and Nintendo Switch. So, how well does it accomplish that job? Well, that’s what we’re here to discuss.
(Author’s Note: the version played for the Fantasy Strike review is the Steam version).
Upon booting the game for the first time, you’re directed to the tutorial, where it teaches you about how the game plays and its controls. More experienced fighting game players will probably be not too pleased to find out that most movement options are gone.
As a matter of fact, a lot of things were dumbed down to be much more accessible. Dashes are gone, double jumps are mostly gone, and airdashes are mostly gone, for starters, so movement’s basically dead. Then comes the way throws work and how attacks are input. Throwing works significantly different as well. You don’t need to time a button press to tech. By pressing nothing at all, you trigger a Yomi Counter, which counters the throw and grants you a full super meter. It rewards doing nothing at all.
Attacks are also incredibly simplified, as well. Pressing X (default game controls) is a basic attack, represented by A in-game. Y is represented as B, and controls a character’s special moves. The B button is represented as C attacks, and most C attacks are invincible. The A button on your controller jumps. This type of simplification is reminiscent of Super Smash Bros., as all characters except three do not require traditional inputs for specials.
Health also works differently. Instead of an arbitrary health value (like 1,000 in Street Fighter V), all characters have multiple chunks of life that take up a health bar. Blocking three hits causes chip damage, and taking a hit will subtract one unit. Chip kills do in fact exist.
All of these factors combine to create both a simple but methodical experience when it comes to the actual fighting, akin to Samurai Shodown. However, not everything is to be praised or recognized as a trait similar to other games in the genre.
Of Course, It’s Freemium
Fantasy Strike is free to play. Yeah, that’s nice. But a lot of content is locked off behind either a DLC purchase or a monthly membership, which is… concerning. The pricing structure for this game is just… bad. Let’s break down what is actually free and what is paid content. Players trying the game for free have access to all characters, Player Match, Ranked Match, and Training Mode. Players can pay 20 dollars to access the Core Pack. The Core Pack allows players access to the following modes and features:
- Arcade Mode
- Two-player offline Versus
- Four different variations of Survival
- Boss Rush
- The ability to send invites to private matches
To think that inviting a friend to a match is locked behind $20 paid content is absolutely baffling. Why should players have to pay extra to play a free game with their friends? It makes zero sense whatsoever. This game does something that Tetris 99 does, in which local versus is locked behind a paywall. It makes as little sense there as it does here. A 100-dollar version of the Core Pack exists as well, which has
- All of the above features
- 13,500 Gems
- An exclusive costume for Lum (one of the playable characters)
- A year of Fantasy+
- An exclusive KO effect
They could have completely gutted the Gems purchase and made this pack $40 cheaper, and it’d be the same amount of content. But as it stands, this pricing scheme seems ridiculous.
Fantasy+ and The In-Game Store
It gets better, though. There’s also Fantasy+, which is a monthly service that players can pay for. Entailed in the Fantasy+ membership is shown below:
Get this; Fantasy+ is paid for in premium currency, and that currency can be purchased with real money. God, this is becoming more of a mess already. The Gems are used to purchase Fantasy+, for starters. They can ALSO be used to purchase costumes and colors for characters because of course, you can. It’s very strange that they release this free-to-play fighting game with basic features locked behind paywalls, and then continue onward with a premium membership and have microtransactions all over the place.
Like, what is the team at Sirlin Games doing? I don’t understand why players should have to pay to have access to match replays. Even more so for wanting to invite friends or play most of the game offline. There’s a name change feature as well, but that’s whatever, as Street Fighter V does it the exact same way Fantasy Strike does (being, the first name change is free, but future changes are $10).
I wouldn’t mind this mess as much if it allowed you tabs to get character-specific cosmetics (like Guilty Gear Xrd and Street Fighter V does). But nope, you have the Fortnite-styled store rotating items daily and weekly, so if you missed something, tough luck.
We were gonna talk about this eventually, because it’s important in its own right. So, let’s ask the question of the day; “How is the online play for Fantasy Strike?” The answer is a weird one, so let’s break it down.
Online play has its usual Casual Match and Ranked Match playlists, where you pick a character and queue in to play others across the world. Matches can be played with anyone on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam. It’s honestly a rather strange mix of being really good and being outright terrible. It creates a super case-by-case dependent experience, probably more so than other games in the genre.
When it plays well, it plays really well and most of the inputs (or lack thereof in this case) are read accurately. When it’s laggy, there’re delays all over the place, input delays, and some stuttering in some matches I’ve played. It’s strange to say that there’s notes of both delay-based netcode and rollback netcode in one game, but here I find myself writing such.
In comparison to other fighting games’ netcode and experience online… it takes a middle ground, because it’s not super terrible, but not super astounding, either. A neat touch is the ping indicator, which shows the real-time network delay (a feature Mortal Kombat 11 and its predecessor did). Note: ping is not shown by default. Aside from that, it’s a relatively barebones experience online, as well, and doesn’t have any of the nuances its competition has (online practice, 3-player + lobbies, spectating matches, etc.). The online’s mostly okay at best when it comes to the overall picture.
So, we’ve discussed all this info about Fantasy Strike and how it does things differently. While it most certainly does things differently, there are things I agree and disagree with. For starters, I’m mostly fine with the idea to dumb down the complexity of the fighting game genre. Where I disagree on that standpoint is with how some things are handled, especially crouch blocking and Yomi Counters.
Personally, I feel that Yomi Counters should not reward a full super meter for sitting there and doing literally nothing to trigger a counter. Low attacks also would have been nice to implement, as they could have told players how to defend against those things when they move to more complex titles. In my opinion, teaching players to not crouch block is a bad habit (and a lot of match losses) waiting to happen.
Online’s pretty average for this game, to be honest. Nothing super spectacular to make it stand out from the rest of the pack, sans crossplay being enabled across all of its released platforms (sorry, Xbox players). Also, a rather atrocious pricing scheme and locked content walls are rather jarring ways to take players out of the experience.
Overall, I would recommend this title as a light experiment to get players to get into the genre, and nothing more. Afterward, I’d probably direct them to Guilty Gear or BlazBlue, as their tutorials are incredibly detailed on the way their games work. As a whole, this game leaves a lot to be desired, but its heart and intentions are most certainly in the right places.
What did you think of our Fantasy Strike review? Do you want to try the game? How do you like playing it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
While it has good ideas that are geared towards teaching people new to fighting games, an abysmal store structure and odd locked features keep this from being as good as it could be.
- Simple to pick up and play
- Tutorials are clear and easy to understand
- Online has crossplay with all three of its supported platforms
- Gameplay is different enough to make it stand out
- Store pricing is abysmal
- Most offline features being locked behind a paywall is strange
- Fantasy+ does not need to exist but it does
- Yomi Counters give too much of a reward for doing nothing