Nintendad

[Review] Fantasy Strike – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Sirlin Games
  • Publisher: Sirlin Games
  • Release Date: 25/07/2019
  • Price: $29.99 / £28.99
  • Review code provided by Sirlin Games

Let’s Get Ready to Battle

Once upon a time, Street Fighter II was the king of the arcade. Everyone was playing SFII and almost every competent game developer tried to cash in on the success of this brawler. Thus, the fighter game boom of the 90’s was born. SFII wasn’t the first fighting game, but it was a mold breaker. So many copies and clones appeared, either offering something new to the genre or just outright mirroring Street Fighter to a T. By the early 2000s, the boom was over and fighting games fell out of the limelight. It wasn’t until 2008 with SFIV, did mainstream gamers start to care about them again. Now 11 years removed, we are still in full swing of a secondary fighting game boom! Fantasy Strike, from Sirlin Games hopes to bring something both new and old to the table. Does it deserve your hard-earned quarters, or does it whiff the attack completely?

David Sirlin from the aforementioned Sirlin Games previously worked as a designer for Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. With his pedigree, who could be better positioned to bring a new fighting game for a different generation than someone who helped to work on one of the best-looking versions of SFII? Fantasy Strike is based on Sirlin’s card fighting game Yomi and works to bring more story and a different type of experience to this established world.

The story is presented in the game’s arcade mode through voiced scenes depicted with beautifully drawn art stills. This isn’t your normal affair, as this tale is more focused with social issues in the mythical Flagstone area. I found the story to be a bit convoluted to begin with, as it threw many characters at me and expected me to have a deep knowledge of their troubles. After completing the game with all 10 characters, I have a much better grasp of the story, but it left me with more questions than answers.

My first question pertains to the game’s final boss. Throughout the events of the game, Quince, the leader of Flagstone is presented as the end all be all nemesis to every character in the game. Yet, we fight an old master, who trained two of the characters in the game, instead of Quince. My only reasoning behind this is that Sirlin games is hoping to either do a sequel or have DLC characters. My second question is where are all the evil characters? We are presented not one, but many different evil foes and none of them appear in game. You don’t actually fight any “bad guys” in the game. Every character that is selectable would fit into the category of a good guy, even if they are a bit rough around the edges.

Go For Broke

Fantasy Strike is billed as a fighting game that anyone can pick up and play. It has very simple controls, consisting of attack, jump, special 1, special 2, super and throw. For a fighting game, that is about as simple as it gets, with the exception of Divekick. Fantasy Strike’s complexity is born in its simplicity. All moves are very easy to do, so literally anyone can perform all the techniques. Think of it as a more simplified control scheme of Smash Brothers. Timing becomes key for this game, as learning to read your opponent and knowing what they are capable of matters more than being able to perform complex combo strings.

Now we must get down to the nitty gritty and talk about the modes in Fantasy Strike. Fighting games live and die off their multiplayer experience and I can say without a doubt, I loved my time playing both local matches and online matches. I invited a friend over who doesn’t have that much experience with fighting games, but after an hour of playing, he was sold. The matches always felt fair and the characters feel really well balanced for competitive play. At the time of the review, the servers for Fantasy Strike are performing tremendously well. Whether I was playing causal matches or a ranked tournament, it felt like my opponent was in the room with me, playing on the same Switch.

Sadly, the same cannot be said about the game’s single player content, especially the arcade mode. While completing it with all ten of the characters, all I could think about was how it is frustratingly difficult, cheap and unfun. It caught me off guard, how cheap the computer felt. It reminded me of early SNK or Mortal Kombat games. This isn’t coming from someone who doesn’t play fighting games, I would consider myself an enthusiast.

To describe it better, to effectively beat the computer, you don’t need to worry about skill, but finding ways you can cheese the computer. I found that using tactics that I used on real players were ineffective, but finding which moves to spam over and over until the computer gives up the W. The biggest offender would have to be the final boss, Midori. Almost all of his moves had the highest priority, which means if you use a super move on him, he could throw you, even if he should be hit. There were multiple times in which he miraculously got his move through my special or super. I have no intentions of playing the arcade mode again, which is something I normally love in fighting games.

The other single player modes available still suffer from the cheapness of arcade, but not to the same extent. Survival mode pits you against a set number of characters with lower health, one after another until reaching a boss fight. These fights were more fascinating as they were “shadow” versions of characters. Rounding out the single player modes are single fight, daily challenge (which is spinoff of survival, in which you try to get a high score for bragging rights) and boss rush. Boss rush was more enjoyable than the other modes. The game would offer powered up versions of standard characters, with buffs such as extreme health, Olympic jumper, and so on. Again, this mode is all about trying to get the best score, which is nice, but the computer is still cheap.

Wind Fist Technique

The overall graphical style of Fantasy Strike was very bright and colorful. Each character looked unique and had a very distinct appearance from one another. For a game with a limited number of characters, I feel great care was put in to make sure each combatant stood out from the next. Some characters did look goofy, such as the gambling panda Lum and the water shaman Argagarg, while others looked more like standard fighting game tropes, Grave and Geiger come to mind. The background stages were very diverse, but not very active. As mentioned previously, the story scenes are presented with comic book style still images that are done extremely well. The art looked very reminiscent of Udon Entertainment’s work on HD Remix.

The music in Fantasy Strike was diverse and helped to get the fists flying in each stage. Having an energetic soundtrack is important for fighting games, at least in my opinion. Grave’s stage stood out as a really rocking track and Lum’s felt playful and exotic, which was fitting for a casino stage with Asian influence. What wasn’t a hit was the voice acting. The story segments of the game had many different characters, all narrated. Some were not bad, especially for a smaller game, while others felt forced.

Running Interference

For the most part the game ran like clockwork, but there were times when the game had hiccups. Certain super moves caused the game to stutter. This wasn’t noticeable at first, but depending on the match ups, this slowdown was more apparent. With these few exceptions, the game did keep a solid frame rate while playing both docked and handheld.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, I am not sure if I have ever played a more polarizing fighting game. On one hand the game features a superbly crafted online multiplayer experience that some of the big-name competitors could learn from. Then in the other hand is a single player experience that had me raging, it felt like two completely different games at times. If Fantasy Strike was a multiplayer only game, I would find it much easier to recommend, as this can be such an enjoyable party game. The single player experience, in the end, just pulls the rest of the package down in quality.

Pros

  • Easy to Pick Up and Play
  • Fantastic Online Play
  • Great Art Style

Cons

  • Stupidly Frustrating & Cheap CPU
  • Subpar Voice Acting
  • Convoluted Story

Verdict

Fantasy Strike is a delightful multiplayer game that is held back by its cheap single player offerings.

3/5

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