I have never practiced the martial arts, but the idea appeals to me. I love the concept of going head to head against another fighter; anticipating their moves, countering their strategies and getting inside their head to emerge victorious.
Luckily games like Street Fighter and Guilty gear allow me to experience all of those things without getting beat up in real life.
Fighting games challenge you to overcome your weaknesses and outsmart your opponent. Over the years I’ve gotten so much satisfaction and joy as I hone my skills against opponents. But there’s a catch: fighting games are very difficult to learn. I hope Fantasy Strike can allow everyone to enjoy what this excellent hobby has to offer.
Fighting games are a bit like tennis. I had to practice for several months before I could reliably hit the ball over the net into the opponent’s side. This is the basic competence required to play the game. If you can’t hit it over the net and into the opponent’s area then you can’t play tennis “for real”.
Fighting games also have an obstacle that beginner players must overcome. Complex inputs, precise timing, and combo strings all keep many people from ever experiencing the “real game”.
Fantasy Strike aims to help players get over that initial hump and immediately start playing “for real”. Street Fighter designer David Sirlin created Fantasy Strike as “a fighting game that anyone can play.”
In this regard Fantasy Strike is wildly successful.
If you don’t play fighting games then this game is for you. There are no complex inputs, no long combos, and the entire genre has been cleverly deconstructed to be easy to learn yet still difficult to master.
If you do play Fighting Games than Fantasy Strike offers a middle ground; e.g. if I play Guilty Gear and you play KoF it could take months before we learn each other’s games well enough to play. But Both of us could learn and enjoy Fantasy Strike within a few minutes.
Let’s take a closer look at how Fantasy Strike streamlines a fighting game while preserving what makes it so special.
Simple System, Complex Game
A lot of game systems have been simplified. For example, most fighting games have hundreds or thousands of health points. It makes sense and allows for moves to deal different amounts of damage. But is it really necessary?
During high level play combos are rarely dropped. I play Cammy in street fighter, and every time I land an attack I deal 194 damage (Cr.Mp, Cr.Mp xx Hard Spiral Arrow). So why not just make health into 200 point chunks?
Most Fantasy Strike characters have 6 health. Just six. Doing more than 2 or 3 damage in a combo is rare. Matches are first to 4 wins. Each round goes quick, but most matches last about the same amount of time as a Street Fighter or Guilty Gear match. In the end you have just as much room to make a comeback or lose from bad decisions.
Health is just one of the many things Fantasy Strike improves through simplicity.
Simple Buttons, Complex Moves
Street Fighter is a “6-button fighting game”, even though most players use 8 buttons. We can also count the D-pad as 4 buttons. A quarter-circle (⇓⇘⇒) either works or it doesn’t, not unlike a button press. If we include the different inputs then Street Fighter has nearly 20 buttons! Different combinations and timing of 20+ different buttons result in a very complex game.
Fantasy Strike has 6 buttons. I was afraid that the game would lose much of it’s complexity and strategy if the controls were too simple. However, in a game like Street Fighter not all buttons are created equal.
In many fighting games some moves are better than others, and only a handful see regular tournament play. For example, when I play Cammy I pretty much stick to Mp, Hp, Mk. I might use the Heavies for special moves, but I mostly use those three buttons. I know you CAN use the rest, but I don’t make much use of them.
Why not get rid of them? Because Fantasy Strike has such limited buttons the creators put a lot of time and care into making every move matter. Every move has multiple uses and each one is important to the game. A little complexity is lost, but the strategy is preserved.
The designers of Fantasy Strike stay true to what matters: out-thinking your opponent. Every move has a counter, every strategy has a flaw, and the game balance is solid. After a match you can see what you did wrong, come up with a new game plan and immediately execute it.
When I was playing Street Fighter I kept getting beaten by R. Mika. I went into Training and spent several hours practicing safe combos that I could execute from a further range (Mk xx Heavy Spiral, Cannon Strike timings, etc). It took a lot of time but I eventually learned new tools I could use against Mika.
In Fantasy Strike I was being beaten by Midori’s Dragon form. I spent about 15 minutes in Training trying out a few things before I found a counter. The challenge is not learning new combos and moves, but in choosing how and when to use the moves you already have.
Maybe that seems like a cheap shortcut. “I spend 4 hours a day drilling Guilty Gear combos and I love it. Other people should learn to love it like I do.” But not everyone can afford to invest so much time and energy into a fighting game. Shouldn’t they be able to experience out-thinking and out-playing an opponent?
Street Fighter will always be there
Many people are upset by Fantasy Strike. They feel threatened that it will “dumb down” fighting games, or remove something integral to our fantastic sport.
But think about it; Street Fighter already exists. It will always exist. Heck, I still play 3rd Strike (1999) online. We already have many high-skill games that reward hundreds of hours of practice. Guilty Gear is a SUPER complex game, and it’s great.
Fantasy Strike isn’t trying to replace Street Fighter, it’s bridging the gap. Not only could a simplified game allow Guilty Gear players and Street Fighter players to enjoy a common game, it also reaches out to people who don’t play fighting games. People like my wife.
My wife loves video games. We both play Fallout 4, co-op in Borderlands, and Ori and the Blind Forest. But she’s never enjoyed fighting games. We’ve tried to play Street Fighter together, but she doesn’t enjoy practicing quarter-circles or learning to cancel her 4 hit combo into V-Trigger into Critical Art.
But she enjoys playing Fantasy Strike with me. She likes the mobility and trickery of Setsuki, the nimble ninja. Just the other day I was playing as Grave (the blue guy) and I had her trapped in the corner. She timed her jump, threw a Kunai, and then hit me in the back with a tricky mix-up. “Ha! Got you!”, she exclaimed. Her face was bright with the satisfaction of having outsmarted me.
Fantasy Strike is Good for Everyone
Everyone should get to experience that rush of victory; the challenge of overcoming your weaknesses and improving as a player.
More fighting games is good, and more fighting game players is good for everyone! If someone plays FS for a while but wants something more complex they can get King of Fighters or Killer Instinct. Fantasy Strike isn’t stealing players from other games; rather it’s creating a brand new pool of players!
Fantasy Strike is still in Alpha. If anything I said registered with you then I highly recommend you check it out. Help us bring fighting games to new players, and bring old players together. You can buy it on Steam, Switch, or PS4.