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My Fantasy Strike impressions -- easy to jump into but is surprisingly rich with depth

Fun for all skill levels

Posted by Justin 'AdaptiveTrigger' Gordon • October 20, 2017 at 4:52 p.m. PDT • Comments: 43

Fantasy Strike has been available on Early Access for Steam for $19.99. This has given me an opportunity to try it out for myself.

To be honest, I'm not really sure what I thought about the game before I started playing. How does a fighting game with simplistic mechanics and controls match up to well established franchises in the genre?

You might be surprised to hear that Fantasy Strike does not sacrifice depth in return for its simplicity. While it is very easy to pick up the game and just start playing, mastery will require more finesse on the part of the player.

While they still feel very different, the game has a number of parallels to the Super Smash Bros. series. Special moves only require a single button press (with a single direction) and jumping is mapped to a button too -- though if you're like me, you'll utilize the option to map it to the up direction instead.

There is no crouch option. Initially, I had it in my mind to write that it needed to be added. Since then, I've come to appreciate the unique meta that develops because this basic function does not exist.

Still, you and your opponent are confined to a flat plain with invisible walls on both sides. At its base level, it is still a traditional fighting game.

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Like the Street Fighter series, for example, you hold back to block. This means that crossing your opponent functions as a mix up in this game.

Considering that characters are unable to crouch, you've probably already figured out that there are no overheads or low attacks. You really only have to worry about cross-ups and throws (including command throws).

This doesn't mean that the game lacks options for opening up opponents. In fact, I'd say that many fighters in this game have insanely good abilities for opening up defensive opponents.

Grabbing is mapped to one button. While these are actually high risk, low reward, these are extremely important to incorporate into your game.

The reason I mention these to be "high risk" is because if your throw is "yomi countered," then you'll take one point of damage instead. More importantly, your opponent's super meter will be completely filled up as well.

Your throw will be yomi countered if they aren't moving and are pressing nothing. In other words, making them think you are going for a grab but instead attack with normals can lead to huge damage possibilities.

Health pools are generally pretty low in this game, but that's the point. The lowest amount of health a character have is five units while the maximum is eight units.

Rounds are extremely short. Things can snowball out of control even more so than Street Fighter 5. To balance this, however, a player must win four times to take a single match -- it's best out of 7 rounds.

There is no "quick get up option" so knockdowns are extremely important. While your super meter is constantly filling up automatically, it won't actually do so while you are knocked down.

So how do the combatants play? Well, characters are actually grouped together based on play style labels.

These classes are zoning, rushdown, grappler, and wild. This actually would've been useful to me in some other fighting games when I kept trying to play characters in a way that simply didn't work.

Zoning - Grave, Geiger, and Jaina

These characters are very strong at playing footsies, particularly with their projectiles. While all fighters have their share of frame traps, they are especially important to these three.

Compared to the rest of the cast, they probably have the weakest 50/50s. This doesn't make the zoners weaker as they are still very good at playing keep away.

All three of them are also armed with invincible reversals. This allows them to get out of bad situations, but become punishable if blocked.

Grave is the closest thing to a shoto character in this game. It's very useful to special cancel his normal attacks while poking.

If he can score a knockdown, he can create beneficial wind which empower his projectiles. He is completely unstoppable while the wind is blowing, but it only lasts for about two or three shots.

Geiger works like Guile from the Street Fighter series. You don't have to hold back to get a charge. Instead, as long as you aren't holding forward, you are gaining a charge as indicated by his gear meter.

He has a strong mixture of defense and offense in his toolkit. He has the standard "throw a projectile then follow closely behind it" strategy that you'd expect.

Jaina is an archer. She can throw projectiles at three different trajectories which is the most in the game. Once she scores a knockdown on the opponent, she can potentially create an unblockable scenario, though the damage inflicted doesn't make it broken.

Her reversal is particularly risky as it (apparently) causes her to take a point of damage whenever she uses it. This will never kill her, but this is extremely risky to use.

Rushdown - Valerie and Setsuki

These are the "glass cannon" characters. They have the lowest amount of health, but have insane offensive options.

A single skirmish with them will result in the round ending most of the time. Valerie is particularly good at footsies while Setsuki has dominating pressure. Both characters are particularly noteworthy for impressive 50/50s.

Valerie is essentially a mix of Fei Long from Street Fighter and Zero from Marvel vs. Capcom. In other words, she has Rekka and a cross-up dive attack.

The third attack of Valerie's Rekka won't actually combo. Instead she has options that force the opponent to guess which side she'll attack from.

Setsuki is what you get when you combine Ibuki and Cammy. Although her air kunai probably works more like Akuma's air fireball since you can't swat it away and it cancels out other projectiles.

This character is particularly good at dealing a large amount of damage through chip damage alone. It's extremely difficult to get out this characters up close pressure.

Grappler - Rook and Midori

While they are very slow, they hit really hard. Their health bars are made up of the most units of health.

They are pretty much everything you'd expect from grapplers. They have unblockable grabs which must be jumped to be avoided (as they are armored in this game, they beat attacks).

Rook is a mix of Zangief and Balrog. If you get knocked down, you're going to be put into a 50/50 situation until you either die or escape. Since Rook's attacks deal more damage than most fighters, you only have so many chances.

Midori is E. Honda with a counter. His super causes him to transform into a dragon.

His super is particularly insane because Midori will stay in his superior form going into the next rounds until the duration ends. While in this form, Midori is essentially the best fighter in the game so it becomes a game of tag until it runs out.

These fighters are particularly hard to fight against initially, but eventually you'll learn how to deal with them. Don't write them off as "overpowered" too quickly.

Wild - DeGrey

DeGrey is difficult to generalize. He is given a toolkit that allows him to counter everyone else's options assuming you can guess correctly.

He does a lot of weaving in and out. He is good at both 50/50s and zoning. It takes a lot of practice to figure out how to actually fight against a skilled Degrey player.

His main role seems to be using his frame traps so that he can score counter hits. He gains additional combo possibilities whenever he can correctly counter opponent options.

Overall, Fantasy Strike has been an extremely enjoyable experience for me. Even though my opinions for the game have already been formed from a little while back, I still find myself playing a session every other night.

If you are new to fighters, this an excellent entry level game to learn the ins and outs of the genre. Despite this, there is enough depth for hardcore veterans to enjoy the game as well.

The key to success is learning how to deal with the opponent's options while fully utilizing yours. Execution barriers do not exist here. It's all about fundamentals.

This game is currently available for Early Access on Steam if you are interested in giving it a try. I highly recommend it.

Even professional NRS fighter players have been dabbling in the game. DawnHibiki has uploaded match footage of a tournament that occurred at SCR 2017 (including footage of a character currently not available in the build I played).

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