Fantasy Strike: Hands-on at GDC 2018

Have fighting games proven too intimidating or difficult to get into? Fantasy Strike is the game for you and Shacknews tried it out at this year's Game Developers Conference.


Fighting games can often be intimidating affairs. A lot of times, they require learning precise complicated button sequences, complex combos, and whatever systems the developer tosses in. Many times, there's a high barrier of entry for the best fighting games in the world, which keeps would-be amateurs on the outside looking in.

But then there's Fantasy Strike, from developer Sirlin Games. Sirlin Games is headed up by designer David Sirlin, who headed up Super Street Fighter II HD Remix and Puzzle Fighter HD Remix. With a comprehensive fighting game pedigree, Sirlin has put Fantasy Strike together with the goal of putting together a fighting game for fighting game fans of all experience levels. Shacknews recently had a chance to check out the Nintendo Switch version of the fighter at this year's Game Developers Conference.

Fantasy Strike is pure simplicity at its best. There are no light, medium, or heavy attacks. Basic attacks are mapped to a single button. Special moves are attached to a single button. For Nintendo users, this approach may feel familiar. Similar to the Super Smash Bros. series, special attacks vary depending on whether the player is holding down a directional button. Supers and throws are likewise mapped to just one button. There's even a jump button, though it can also be mapped to the Up button for traditional fighting game players. The learning curve for picking up and playing is virtually zero.

Having said that, Fantasy Strike isn't a mindless fighter by any means. There are numerous characters designed with different fighting styles in mind. For example, Grave is a zoning archer, while Rook is an up-close grappler. Geiger the time master is a charge character, albeit in a roundabout way, where he can only execute specials whenever he's not moving forward. Fighting game veterans can jump in and get into mixups, frame traps, zoning, and everything else that makes fighting games great.

The most interesting of Fantasy Strike's mechanics is the Yomi Counter. This is where throws can be countered by simply releasing all buttons. If that sounds like a gamble, that's because it is. If the opponent is not going for a throw, you're going to get punished hard. However, if the Yomi Counter takes, it can turn the entire game around. It's an interesting cerebral chess game that helps Fantasy Strike stand apart from its contemporaries.

The other thing to note about Fantasy Strike is that there aren't life meters, so much as there are life chunks. Each character has roughly five to eight life chunks, each of which erodes away after a successful hit. That means games fly by quickly, but also means that players need to be methodical about how they approach their opponent.

Fantasy Strike is aiming high, with Sirlin Games building it with GGPO (Good Game, Peace Out) for optimal online play. The game has already made appearances at events like Evo, with top players like Darryl "Snake Eyez" Lewis becoming early fans.

Fantasy Strike is preparing to hit Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 in the future. However, PC players can check the game out right now. It's currently available on Steam Early Access.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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