Hands-on Preview: Fantasy Strike

A fighting game that values accessibility over technical precision.

Hands-on Preview: Fantasy Strike

Developer Sirlin Games
Publisher Sirlin Games

Many fighting games advertise themselves as being accessible, but few truly live up to that promise. Sure, they might feature a few simple to pick up characters but the technical prowess needed to pull off some moves and combos always leaves a barrier to entry. Made by a former pro gamer and current game developers, Fantasy Strike looks to change all that, delivering a game with no barrier for entry but a richness to combat that will foster pro gaming. To achieve this, Sirlin and his dev team have pared down the fighting mechanics to their basics – not as simple as something like Divekick or Nidhogg but straightforward nonetheless.

Playable on either a keyboard or controller with no real advantage given to either, Fantasy Strike only features eight inputs or buttons; left, right, jump, basic attack, special move 1, special move 2, throw and super move. Directional inputs combined with an attack change the nature of an attack. Back and a basic attack will execute a sweep while forward and basic attack will execute some kind of distance closing attack like a flying knee. All super moves are a single button press once the meter is filled through taking and dishing out damage. There is no duck button so players don’t need to worry about high-low mixups and timing blocks either. On top of that the game features what the developers call a Yomi Counter. This is an automatic throw reversal doing damage to the initiator of the throw, but rather than being tied to a button it’s instead tied to a totally passive stance, meaning that if you can anticipate an opponent is about to throw you, by doing nothing you come out on top. 

Characters are broken into categories that define their play style. Zoners work best at a distance playing keep-away with ranged attacks. Rushdown characters are best at making hit and run attacks and comboing fast moves. Grapplers are close in combatants specialising in slow but high damage moves. Rather than having a nondescript health bar, each character instead has a number of health pips mostly based around their class. Each hit with a basic or special move will do one pip of damage for most characters, special moves do two pips of damage for the most part, and a blocked special does half a pip of chip damage. Some characters are capable of slow two pip damage moves depending on the class. Seeing how much health an opponent has can influence your approach from the outset.

Fantasy Strike was initially looking to fund through a Fig campaign but failed to receive the $500,000 asked for in funding but development is still going strong. The game is now available for Early Access on Steam and was scheduled to release sometime next year if all went well with Fig. Whether or not the game will achieve its purpose of being an accessible fighting game with pro gamer appeal remains to be seen, but even if it eventually falls short, the idea is sound and it’s great to see someone actually living up to the accessibility promise. 

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