|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Arc Systems||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Aksys Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Everyone knows the golden age of fighting games came and went in the early-to-mid '90s. In particular, the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II series combined manageable rosters (a reasonable number of characters with a few special moves each) with addictive gameplay that depended more on timing than on complicated button patterns.
Japanese arcade title Battle Fantasia has been billed as a throwback to that era, but it actually traces its roots more to the time just after that, the Killer Instinct period, when the games were still 2-D but started to feature complicating gimmicks like combos and breakers. Battle Fantasia is a fun arcade brawler with a unique visual style, but the console version's new features aren't impressive enough to make it a worthwhile buy.
Upon slapping the disc in, immediately noticeable are the artistic, cel-shaded graphics, which give off an anime vibe. The characters are modeled in 3-D even though the action is two-dimensional, and the animations are fluid. Backgrounds vary remarkably; it's not unusual to go from a stage with a dark, moody dungeon atmosphere to a scene straight out of Bambi, with woodland creatures scattered about. However, though well-done, these visuals are far from breathtaking, given the competition from major-studio fighters.
The Japanese influence runs far deeper than the graphics. English writing often appears beside Japanese symbols, and characters converse in the game's native language (only the announcer speaks in English, and when necessary, the characters' translations are subtitled). Hearing a lot of babbling in a tongue you don't understand can get grating, especially for innocent bystanders sitting in the room where you're playing.
On the game's main menu one can access the options screen (go there first, because auto-save is off by default, and the only other way to keep your progress is to come back to the options menu after playing and save manually) as well as the various game modes. Most of the modes are straightforward: you can tackle the game arcade-style (building up to a final boss match against Deathbringer and an anticlimactic ending consisting of a sketch of your character), see how many opponents you can beat in a row, play for speed, practice, or take on other humans on one console or online.
These simple modes serve as a great place to learn the fighting system. There are 12 characters total, and they run the gamut of quirkiness. There are a few standard anime fighters (females with girlish mannerisms and fast, vicious attacks; males in the mold of Link), but there's also a Harry Potter-looking dude in a robe with a cross on it, a masked outlaw, a rabbit wearing a poofy hat shaped to fit his ears, a fat guy with white hair and a beard (hmmm), and a boy wielding what appears to be a lightsaber chainsaw.
Most of these characters abilities are easy to learn, with responsive controls based around a standard scheme (four attack buttons, a throw button, push up to jump and away to block). Each has a few special moves based on SFII-style button patterns, though some of the more difficult fighters can chain their attacks.
To spice up these basic mechanics, Battle Fantasia throws in the "Heat Up" and "Gachi" systems. Each time you hit your opponent or get hit yourself, the "MP" bar at the bottom of the screen fills up a little; when it's full, you can use Heat Up to set your character on fire temporarily. This increases your strength and makes more moves available. The Gachi button, often compared to the parry system in Street Fighter III, counters attacks instead of just blocking them, leaving your opponent briefly vulnerable.