One cannot overstate the importance of characters in a fighting game. We play these games in large part because we want the power fantasy that comes with being that character. It’s probably even more important than having tournament-level balance or a deep feature set.
Reflecting on my own life, there are so many examples where my character selection was the primary driver of my enjoyment in a fighting game. Discovering Rose in Street Fighter IV changed my life, as she and I melded into one being while climbing to the top of the leaderboards. The Marvel vs. Capcom series intimidated the hell out of me until Wolverine slashed his way into my heart. Despite my fundamental issues with Street Fighter V, I played that game for way longer because Rashid mobility and aggressive offense were so fun to use. Fight of Gods is a straight-up bad game, but I still found enjoyment out of playing as Jesus while making great use of his juggle combos.
Most recently, I’ve been dabbling with Fantasy Strike. Exploring what each character has to offer, my quest for a main character has taken me in an unusual direction.
Finding a main character in a fighting game is far from a science. If it were, everyone would default to the characters at the top of the tier list. The superficial aspects of a character matter, from their physical appearance, to the way their moves look in motion, to their back story. Even if a certain character might be mid-or-low-tier, a player’s love for the character can push them to perform even better than had they used a top tier. Sometimes it’s love at first sight. Sometimes it takes time to develop. But if you really want to stick with a game, it’s imperative that you find your one true pairing eventually.
Play styles matter too. Generally speaking, I lean towards all-around characters or those that specialize in aggressive play. I almost always avoid grapplers because I struggle mightily with their tool sets and can never seem to land command grabs on anyone. However, I’m completely smitten with Rook, the game’s resident grappler.
As you would expect from the archetype, Rook has a devastating command grab and high health to allow him to play a bit more aggressively. Though he does struggle against zoning characters, he doesn’t feel entirely hopeless at a distance. His kick hits at almost half the screen. His clap move hits almost as far while also sucking opponents inward. He can armor through moves with his dash punch and command grab. Best of all, his command grab range is HUGE. It grabs opponents at quite the distance in front of him and can scoop an opponent even further away if they whiff an attack within his reach.
Even in his worst matches against characters that can keep him at bay with fireballs, he has tools for that. Again, his dash punch goes through. The clap move will nullify a fireball. Most clever is his ground pound. Morphing into a giant boulder, he fast falls to the ground and knocks down any standing opponents. From there, you close the distance and create panic. All I need is three great reads to win with Rook and it feels so satisfying to nail them.
Discovering Rook really took my enjoyment of the game to the next level. His design is so well thought out in terms of what he is and isn’t capable of. While he’s certainly not overpowered and his worst match-ups against zoning opponents can be a struggle, I feel like he has enough tools to win if you approach intelligently. While I already respected the game a great deal, Rook is a big part of why I can’t put it down. At some point, I will finally give this a break and wrap up my review of Fantasy Strike. Aiming to have it done for the new year!
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