Fantasy Strike by Sirlin Games is a video game based on a card game inspired by a video game. You still following?
Yomi, the card game that is the source material Fantasy Strike is based on, is one of my all-time favourite tabletop gaming experiences for how well it translates the thrill of playing a fighting game into a tabletop experience. Does Fantasy Strike bring the whole thing full-circle as a compelling video game?
Players will take control of one of the game’s 10 combatants as you fight your way to the top in an assortment of local and online modes. Many characters are analogous to those found in Street Fighter, making the learning process a bit smoother for those with experience playing the iconic fighter.
At a glance, it very much looks like a game in the style of Street Fighter, especially since many of its characters are direct analogues to those in Capcom’s iconic title. If anything, you might get spooked by some of the wackier moves and abilities that each character possesses. However, the reality of what’s happening is actually more (and less) complicated.
Fantasy Strike has been tailor-made with accessibility in mind. Special move inputs are simplified to singular button presses and directional inputs. Anyone that’s played Smash Bros. should grasp the concept immediately. The concept of high-and-low blocking doesn’t exist here, as you simply need to block in the correct horizontal direction to protect yourself. A number of training resources are also available, such as an interactive tutorial to demonstrate the basics and character-specific tutorial videos that do a great job of showing players what each character is capable of.
As an introductory fighter, it’s an interesting proposition. Stripped down to almost the bare essentials, the initial hurdles often associated with the genre are removed. Newcomers can pick up the game and access every move without needing any sort of practice. If you want to mess around with fellow fighting game newbies, you can at least access the special moves right away.
That said, it doesn’t mean that the playing field between a rookie and an expert has been evened out. Expert fighters will still crush scrubs all the same, as the game has been hand-crafted to still benefit players who have that prerequisite knowledge. I think the logic is that with an easier first step into the genre like this, you’ll be more likely to put in the effort required to “git gud”. The in-game resources are at least a good starting point in your quest to level up.
As someone with a background in fighters, I appreciated being able to get into the meat of the action fairly quickly. After a few runs through the game’s surprisingly tough arcade mode (don’t worry, it has difficulty settings and even lets you skip fights without consequence), I took part in a number of compelling online matches against skilled opponents. Higher-level tactics such as cross-ups, shimmies, frame traps, and 50/50 mix-ups are still here for those who know how to use them.
Besides the combat, the game comes with a sufficient number of modes and features to keep players engaged. For solo players, you get a standard arcade mode, daily challenges, a boss rush mode, survival mode, and single match. The game’s training mode features frame data and numerous dummy actions to help lab out specific situations. Online warriors have the ability to play online in casual matches, against friends with cross-platform support, and a neat ranked mode that requires players to take three characters into a tournament bracket and fight with all three. I do wish it had a more traditional single-character ranked mode with leaderboards, but this will do.
Fantasy Strike excels by having a clear vision of being a fighter striving for a fine balance between accessibility and depth. It holds up in competitive play, but may be best suited as a starter game for new players. With a well-rounded feature set, there’s enough to keep players of all skill levels busy.
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