Pretty, isn’t it? Like the forthcoming Street Fighter IV, Battle Fantasia’s 3D graphics power 2D gameplay, and it looks almost as good as Capcom’s new fighting king. Battle Fantasia is a departure from Arc System Works’ heavy-metal fighter Guilty Gear, and no, before you ask, it’s not nearly as good. The Arc trademarks are all there – crazy character design, flashy visuals, lashings and lashings of crazy Japaneseness – but it’s a very different fighter, and one of the best introductory fisticuffs games in years.
Battle Fantasia isn’t really ‘simple’ so much as it is ‘traditional’ – all the motions for special moves are lifted from Street Fighter tradition, the parry system is borrowed from Street Fighter III, the combo system isn’t terrifyingly Guilty Gear-complex, and there are few enough characters that you can learn them all. The real emphasis is on a slower, more tactical type of play than Guilty Gear, with full combo potential only available when your fighter is in Heat Up mode – burning up one super move bar and lasting only a very short time. Much of the time, combos are Street Fighter-style four or five hit affairs, but once charged, they tend to hit Guilty Gear levels of air-combo insanity.
It’s a mish-mash of systems found in different fighting games, and together they work well – fighting fans will have dabbled with Fantasia’s systems so often in so many other games that Arc’s latest will come naturally. Less familiar is the way the game handles character design. Fantasia draws from RPG archetypes rather than the usual fisticuff folks. Energy bars are represented with hit points, and attacks dish out numerical stats on every hit. Being an Arc game, character design is predictably eccentric, pitting fuzzy bunny sorcerer Watson against the eight-foot tall Death Bringer, screen-filling Viking Donvalve, or chainsaw/sword/missile launcher/hoverboard-wielding hero Urs.
It all adds up to an easy-to-grasp entry-level fighter which might just hide some layers of depth beneath its accessible exterior. It’s not a well-played game in Japanese arcades and it’s hard to say just how deep Battle Fantasia’s well goes, but at the level we’re playing, we’ve had fun, and if nothing else, Fantasia is a solid set of fluffy training wheels for the impending challenge of Street Fighter IV.
Jan 5, 2009