IGN Review of Battle Fantasia
If you were a pirate, exactly how big of a hook would you attach once you lost a hand? If you answered "enormous," you might be a good candidate for inclusion as a character in Battle Fantasia, a throwback fighter brought over from Japan by Aksys Games. The game has some fun character design and a fighting system that even a new entrant to fighting games can learn the basics of quickly, but ultimately can't compete with its big budget competitors.
Battle Fantasia was made by storied development studio Arc System Works. Fighting aficionados will recognize this as the group responsible for the much-loved Guilty Gear series. This new franchise brings with it full 3D graphics, but still restrains the movement to two dimensions. It's brighter and more colorful than some of Arc System's other work and has an instantly appealing look to it. That style is the most alluring part of an otherwise run of the mill fighter, and even it is spotty at times.
The character design in Battle Fantasia is lighthearted and appealing. There's Urs who carries a weapon that looks like a chainsaw crossed with a light saber, the massive Deathbringer, a tiny bunny named Watson who uses a little bear trap to his advantage, the half-cat Coyori who is always worried about people looking up her short skirt and a handful of others. It's hard not to like these characters. Just take a look at their wacky design and often equally wacky move animations and you'll start to get hooked on the game. The background environments are less impressive and oftentimes bland and ugly, but unless you're spectating you won't notice this much.
Battle Fantasia is a throwback in many ways, and not all of them good. There are just 12 fighters, each fitting one of the classic molds that anybody with a history of playing games like this will instantly recognize. Each character has a small handful of moves that, again, anybody that has played 2D fighters in the past will have no trouble picking up. Most simply involve down-to-forward rolls and dragon punch motions that everybody will recognize from Street Fighter games.
This simplicity keeps the action basic, but also prevents the game from being as daunting as other modern fighters like Virtua Fighter 5. Spend just a few minutes learning the game and you'll be ready to have fun with it. There's a bit more depth with some combos, "Gachi" counters, and the "Heat up" system that adds a couple more possible moves. Using these properly will separate the pros from the novices, but even so this game is more about timing and calculated moves than massive combos or memorizing deep move sets.
You may have heard that Battle Fantasia was inspired by RPGs and carries a few of those elements into a fighting game. This is largely just marketing nonsense since Battle Fantasia doesn't do much different from any other 2D fighter. Don't buy into it. If you're a fan of RPGs and don't like fighters, there's nothing here for you. The art direction has a fantasy and anime inspired theme, as does each fighter's story, and characters have hit points (larger ones carry more) rather than standard static bars. That's about it in terms of relating the game to an RPG, and the different hit point values make the game feel unbalanced, especially for novice players. Big beasts like Donvalve can have two or three times the number of hit points as their smaller opponents, making things feel unfair right from the start.
Like most arcade fighters, several new modes have been introduced for the port to the console. The meat of it is a story mode, told through sketched animations and text with Japanese voicework. Each character has a full story that ties them back in some way to a great darkness that is spreading across the realm, some leading directly to a contest with the boss Deathbringer. Others are more lighthearted and some are tales of revenge. If you like the character design, playing through these delivers some nice depth to round them out.
Aside from the story, there's a thin practice option, the original arcade mode, a survival contest, and standard versus that can be played both online and off. Playing through Xbox Live was a smooth experience with no noticeable latency, though that might change based on you or your opponents' connection. Playing through the various modes allows you to unlock movies, character art, several bonus costumes for each character and a well put together set of Achievements. It will take a while to get through all of this, but the set of unlockables and feature set is rather thin when compared to other modern fighters.
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