I’ve written about Fantasy Strike before and I still think it’s the best thing to happen to the fighting game scene.
It’s a game laser-targeted towards people who have felt intimidated or overwhelmed by other fighting games while still offering the high-level play that the veterans crave.
If you haven’t tried it out already, then you owe it to yourself. Not only might you enjoy Fantasy Strike, but it could be a gateway to the entire fighting game genre!
After you’ve dipped your toes into the water, how do you get better?
There is an online Fantasy Strike tournament coming up on October 6th. It’s free to enter, and we’re going to sign up. You and me against the world!
This tournament is double elimination and uses Fantasy Strike’s special Team Battle format. You pick three characters, rather than just one. Your three characters will be randomly matched against the opponent’s until you’ve won with all three characters.
As the community likes to repeat: “You’re only as strong as your weakest character.”
Currently there are 10 characters, each one with a unique playstyle. You can see their gameplay videos here or through the in-game menu.
From the Fantasy Strike website
So how do we improve our Fantasy Strike game?
In any other game this process would involve going into training mode and drilling better combos, spending hours and hours practicing for the big day.
But since this is Fantasy Strike we can skip all that misery and jump right into the fun stuff: strategy.
Here are some general tips from my own experience:
1) Play real people. The computer can be fun to beat up on, but it teaches you some bad habits that will hurt you when you play in the tournament. The online matchmaking is really solid, and you should be able to find matches fairly regularly.
2) Learning is more important than winning. Don’t feel disheartened when you lose; try to think about what happened during the match.
- Were you taking a lot of risks?
- Did you try the same thing over and over?
- Was there a particular situation that was hard to overcome? What was it?
From the Fantasy Strike website
3) Know your moves. I know what you’re thinking: “There are only like…12 moves for each character in this game”. But do you really know all of their uses?
- Jaina’s fireballs can anti-air if you hold them long enough.
- Lum’s melon toss can be used to avoid bomb explosions.
- Valerie’s back kicks are throw invulnerable
- Geiger’s air pause can be used to avoid fireballs, bait anti-air attacks, or even mix-up the opponent (Jump over them, pause right above, and they won’t know which side you fall on.)
- and many many more.
Each move in FS is very carefully constructed to accomplish several tasks at once. Know your moves, and use them when you need to.
4) Play safe. “Safe” means that you won’t be easily punished after you use a move. Jaina’s uppercut is a really strong move, but it is not safe. If the opponent blocks it you will get hit. On the other hand Grave’s forward palm + fireball is a safe combo. Even if the opponent blocks it they won’t be able to counter it.
Fantasy Strike matches are very fast. Play safe until you see an opportunity, then jump in and exploit it. Some characters require you to take risks and open them up (Rook, Valerie) but even then it’s important to play carefully until you have an opportunity.
From the Fantasy Strike website
I had the pleasure of interviewing 3 other Fantasy Strike experts and was able to uncover their darkest secrets. Well…maybe not darkest, but certainly the most useful. I hope you enjoy reading them as much I enjoyed interviewing them.
- Neb, winner of the first European tournament.
- Cwheezy, undefeated winner of both North American tournaments.
- David Sirlin, lead designer and creator of Fantasy Strike.
My questions are in italics.
I’m interviewing the best Fantasy Strike players to discover the secrets to their success. Do you have any advice?
I think the best advice I can give is to stay calm and not let it affect you when things go wrong. Stay positive and don’t feel bad about losing, instead think of your losses as opportunities to improve. Most importantly, make sure you’re enjoying the game regardless of whether you win or lose and let yourself celebrate your success when you do well.
As for strategy, try and figure out what your strongest position is for each matchup: where you are the most threatening or have the best keepaway. Figure out how to stay in that position as much as possible while preventing your opponent from getting into their best spot. Also be aware of times when you shouldn’t do certain moves because they can be countered easily, like jumping forward over a projectile when your opponent can anti-air you easily, or doing a slow move when your opponent can parry it on reaction.
I’m not really an expert at fighting games so I don’t think I can give much more in-depth advice. I only started playing this year and this is the first fighting game I’ve played. I’ve learned a lot about a lot about fighting game fundamentals while playing and I’m always discovering new things.
Wow your first fighting game! What’s been the hardest thing to learn?
Because the execution is simple, the hardest part has been figuring out how to play each matchup. It’s been very rewarding to come up with working strategies after struggling against certain characters for a while.
I found the game easy to learn in general. Fighting game techniques like frame traps and tick throws were straightforward when I saw them done against me and it was clear to me what was happening. Right after I saw a tick throw for the first time, I practiced it myself in training mode and got the technique down pretty quickly.
Image from the latest tournament. Neb playing as dragonform Midori on the left.
What’s the best way to practice?
The best way to learn is to play against other people online. Training mode’s good for learning the basics of each character as well as practicing and experimenting with specific interactions. That said, Fantasy Strike isn’t very complex so you don’t need to spend much time in training mode.
If you’re just starting out, you can use the solo modes to get comfortable with your character but be aware that the challenge modes are very difficult, so don’t worry if you can’t beat them. I personally don’t practice against the AI because it doesn’t behave like human players do.
What other advice would you offer newcomers?
Have confidence that you’ll definitely get better as you play more. The playerbase is small right now so you’ll often run into good players who you’ll lose to a lot but don’t let that discourage you. If you’re struggling against a certain tactic, take a step back and see if you can figure out a counterplay. Playing the characters that give you trouble will help you see what their weaknesses are. The community’s very friendly and you should join the discord channel, ask for help if you’re stuck and look for people to play with around your skill level.
Cwheezy - Twitch - twitter
I know you play Guilty Gear. What makes FS different from other games? What should players focus on when learning FS?
Hard question. FS is different from Guilty Gear in a ton of ways, what with GG being an anime air-dasher. One big difference is GG has a lot of system mechanics, maybe 20 or so that apply to each character. That’s a lot of crazy interactions to work out when learning the game.
FS has less moves per character and less system mechanics, so more care is put on each individual move working instead of relying on general stuff to keep them in check.
Another big difference is execution. Execution in GG gets very very difficult, like 8/10 overall and Marvel vs Capcom and Melee being a 10/10 in difficulty.
Fantasy Strike still has hard things to do, but they are emergent from just playing the game, like walking forward and blocking Geiger’s foreward+A is really hard but doing the move itself is easy.
Fantasy Strike also is different because the game is very clear when you make a mistake compared to Guilty Gear, where it can often be kind of arcane as to what happened.
That’s part of what players should focus on when learning Fantasy Strike: if you got hit, or you got thrown, you definitely did something wrong.
I think the other important thing in FS is learning your character first before matchups, knowing what’s safe, what your anti airs are, stuff like that.
Image from the latest tournament. Cwheezy playing as Geiger on the right.
How important are character matchups? I know the tournament format makes counter-picking impossible, but there are still tough matchups.
I think there is a lot of potential to overcome bad matchups. Once you have a solid grasp of your character then you should spend your effort on learning how to defeat other characters.
What is the best way to practice?
I think it depends on what you are struggling with. If it is just one move I think training mode is really useful, you can go into training and see what’s going on with it.
If you aren’t sure of your overall goal in a matchup then watching other people or asking other people what they do and giving it a shot is good. The most important thing when it comes down to it though is playing the game with the purpose of improving.
if you can record your matches and watch them back that’s also very good, but more important is having the thought in your mind: “What could I have done here instead?” , “Was that worth it?”, and so on.
Any other advice?
If you are having trouble don’t be afraid to ask for help.
As the creator of the game you teach people how to play every day. What advice would you give to someone looking to improve?
A good first step is to watch the character spotlight videos that are included in the game itself. Especially the one for the character you’re playing. That should point you in the right direction about how your moves work and what your game plan is.
Beyond that, to improve, you should play against other people. There are many fighting games where a key piece of improving is doing hours of solo training mode, but there’s just no need for that here. You can learn everything you need to learn by actually playing, since the main thing you’re learning is how to make good decisions.
The main skill I think you’re trying to develop in Fantasy Strike is “game sense.” That means developing an intuition about a wide range of situations in the game so you instinctively know if you should pressure, hang back, bait a reversal, etc. It’s hard to summarize this because there is so much involved, and many situations. You have to develop intuition about what’s smart to do in a zillion situations, and that might involve careful timing or spacing or matchup knowledge like “I should do Grave’s wind right now” or “I should throw to avoid getting hit by Lum’s bomb,” etc, etc.
From the Fantasy Strike website
As a general tip in fighting games, it’s helpful to fight both stronger and weaker opponents. Against stronger opponents, what you’re often learning is what NOT to do. They punish you for doing wrong things, so you should be thinking about why you got hit. Did you do the wrong move? Which move would have worked? Where you forced into a guessing situation and you guessed wrong? What were your guesses in that situation and which ones would have worked? If the situation really has the odds stacked against you, could you have done other things earlier to never get into that bad situation in the first place?
Against weaker players, it’s kind of the opposite in that you aren’t looking for mistakes to remove from your play, but rather more ways to destroy them. You get to practice offense and develop rushdown or traps or block damage setups that are stronger and stronger. Then later when you’re comfortable doing that stuff, you can try it against stronger players and see if they teach you “nope, you can’t actually do that.”
Another important step is that if you encounter a matchup where you just can’t figure out what to do, simply ask other people (such as in the Fantasy Strike discord at discord channel) or watching other players’ matches using the in-game spectating feature of anyone on your friends list. The good news here is that if there is some key piece of info you need, like X move beats Y move, or “it’s all about staying at a certain distance in this matchup” or “do X a lot because it leads to a good combo” or whatever, you can easily incorporate that into your own gameplay once you know it. Fantasy Strike emphasizes decisions over execution skill, so if you know a new thing you want to do, you can probably execute that new plan immediately, without needing to practice it solo first.
From the Fantasy Strike website
See you online!
Thanks so much to Neb, Cwheezy, and especially David Sirlin for helpful insight into an incredible game. I hope you found these ideas and suggestions helpful.
Now go download Fantasy Strike, sign up for the October tournament, add me as a friend (Mercifulhacker), and jump onto the discord channel.
I hope to see you in October’s bracket. Good luck!