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Pirates, Magic Rabbits, and Goth Girls- Battle Fantasia Review

SeanNOLA’s Take: I remember where I was when arcade fighters started coming home: I was in the living room playing Tekken.  Even though I had been a huge arcade buff growing up, I always had a lot more fun playing Tekken at home by myself than I did at the arcades with other people.  There were a lot of things that made the home version feel superior, such as new game modes and additional characters, but I think the unique endings for each individual character are what kept me in the den rather than at Aladdin’s Castle.  Unlike traditional arcade brawlers, like Street Fighter, Tekken had a story.  Each of the characters had motivation for fighting in the Iron Fist Tournament, and you could witness their stories without ever cracking open the manual.  I wanted to know about each and every one of them – I was hooked.

Years later, fighting games have made a comeback and, without arcades lining every street corner, they have directly penetrated the living room.  However, few have strong story modes, like the PlayStation-era fighters I loved so much. Battle Fantasia continues the tradition of fighting games tailored for the living room, but might concentrate too much on the engrossing world and story, while tossing the fundamentals to the wind.  Each character is unique, with each character acting out their own agendas for hunting down the “Scion of Ill Presage,” creating great incentive to play through with each of the ten warriors.  In story mode, each fight is book-ended by a brief cut scene, complete with voiceovers, explaining who each fighter is, why there are present, and why they would choose to fight one another.  Even if you lose, the chapter is carried out to a logical conclusion before offering a chance to continue.

Battle Fantasia falls flat in the actual mechanics of combat.  Each fighter is frustratingly unbalanced, which allows for a challenging single player experience, and an irritating, rock-paper-scissors-style multiplayer experience.  The size difference between certain characters makes it near impossible for some combatants to land a hit on a smaller foe, and slower fighters will often find themselves committing to a lengthy assault, only to be manhandled by their quicker opponent.  A large character may have double the HP of a smaller character, which does little to level the playing field, but can make a fight seem drawn out.  The combo system is mundane when compared to any of its contemporaries from the past decade, providing an overall lackluster brawling experience.

Battle Fantasia allowed me to relive the armchair fighting days of the 90s, but I would be hard-pressed to invite my buddies over for a tournament anytime soon.  After the story was told, there really wasn’t much left that I wanted to see.

DesertEagle’s Take: For the majority of the 1990’s Capcom reigned uncontested as the premier developer of 2D fighting games. When I wasn’t dropping fanatical amounts of quarters into their arcade coin-ops, I was feverishly purchasing every home translation on release day. While Street Fighter Alpha 2, Darkstalkers, and Marvel Super Heroes all offered competent recreations of their arcade counterparts, each was hampered by the hardware- from missing frames of animation to the sporadic lengthy load time.

In 1998, Arc System Works released Guilty Gear onto Playstation systems, magnificently demonstrating that home fighters could have all the visual flash and fluid animation of their coin-op counterparts. After more of a decade of Guilty Gear Slashes, #Reloads, and revisions, the developer released their first successor to the title, entitled Battle Fantasia. While this game has a number of similarities with its Arc brethren, it also offers distinction from the perpetual permutations of Guilty Gear titles.

Whereas most 2D fighters render their roster with a minimum of visual depth, Battle Fantasia’s characters are drawn with three dimensional polygons. This technique gives the title a pronounced sense of depth, and is comparable to Street Fighter IV’s graphic aesthetic. While combat is presented in razor-sharp clarity, the game’s cutscenes employ a remarkable hand drawn look, with observable pencil shading. Preservationists will enjoy that the game’s original voice-overs have been left intact, requiring non-Japanese speaking players to read a healthy amount of on-screen text.

As SeanNOLA stated, characters are woefully unbalanced; although the inconsistent health points and size of each combatant didn’t present a substantial nuisance, each character’s reach did. As such, I found myself gravitating toward the characters that had an extended attack range. While I could understand balancing issues for a game with a gargantuan roster, Battle Fantasia contains only twelve brawlers. On the upside, each of the game’s pugilists are wonderfully inventive- from a mysterious gunslinger, a rabbit mage, to a Harry Potter clone with a mitre. For better or worse, the title eschews some of the more hardcore mechanics of the Guilty Gear series. By eliminating Instant Kills, Roman Cancels and Burst Gauges the game is accessible to novices, but also lacks the depth cherished by fighting aficionados. 

When Battle Fantasia was released on Xbox 360s, I didn’t think the disk-based game had enough content and depth to warrant its $50 price of admission. Now the title is available for $20 in the Playstation Store, I’d recommend the game to fighting-game fans. While the Arc System Works developed title isn’t without its flaws, it should keep players pleasantly occupied until Super Street Fighter IV makes its inescapable home appearance.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

43 comments

  1. Thanks for the two man review. I almost bought this on 360 once.

  2. How are the load times?

  3. I almost bought this. I saw waiting for a trustworthy review on it. Thanks, Nola and Deagle!

  4. Great, now I need to buy a $20 Sony card since I collect all decent fighting games.

  5. Any difference between the versions (360 vs. PS3)

  6. Looks pretty crazy I like all those flashed and effects in the Guilty Gear games.

    HEAVEN OR HELL!

  7. Where’s the pics of the goth girl fighter? FAIL 😉

  8. $20 seems about right for this one.

  9. I might have to get this. Lets hope Aksys doesn’t put this on sale anytime soon 😮

  10. I have to admit I like fighters that aren’t too combo heavy.

  11. Great review, guys!

  12. I hard the characters are pretty freaky. At least there’s no KoF/Ken/Ryu clones in it.

  13. I’d like to know as well. The 360 version is $19.99 at Gamestop. I think I’d rather have the actual disk, but I like the PS3 controllers better for fighting games.

  14. I hope this is better than BlazBlue. I didn’t like that as much as GG.

  15. Any slowdown?

  16. Nice review. You guys are two of my favorite reviewers right now.

  17. Cool and all, but I don’t know how much space I have on my 60 GB HD. How much room does the game take up?

  18. Only 12 characters? That’s kind of weak when compared to Tekken 6.

  19. I think a C+ is a bit low, so guys need to consider the price more. I’d buy a C+ when it’s $50 but at $20 this is a got-damn steal.

  20. How are the finishing moves in the game?

  21. The Scion of Ill Presage? Is is related to the house of ill prestige?

  22. If Capcom made a 3D Marvel vs. Capcom they’d be on top again.

  23. Barely noticeable. Except for the telltale “now loading” message in the bottom right of the screen, one might never suspect the game is streaming in data.

  24. I didn’t spend too much time (7 hours or so) with the 360 version, but from what I’ve seen, no. Both are equally competent.

  25. See my last paragraph.

    Actually NOLA gave it a C, I gave it a B-, so the end result is the average of those two scores.

  26. $20 sounds about right for this one.

  27. That doesn’t make sense. Why not just offer multiple grades.

  28. Just bought it. It’s a bit over 1 GB. not bad at all.

  29. It just need fighting hamsters. They would put it over the top!

  30. Yep, and Pandas>rabbits.

  31. devotii of the wii

    So this is just on 360 and PS3? Guilty Gear was out on Wii, though!

  32. This rule b/c there’s no GS that have BF around me, and Amazon still sells it for almost $50.

    $20 is excellent.

  33. Can you turn off those big ass numbers? It looks like a RPG!

  34. WTF is a mitre?

  35. Been a while since I’ve heard the term “manhandled” 🙂

  36. The graphics look pretty damn good!

  37. Sounds like it’s not as good as Guilty Gear.

  38. Nice review, guys!

  39. Im gonna try to find the 360 version.

  40. That big hook hand on the pirate fighter looks pretty retarded. Hopefully not all the chars are that lame.

  41. Just bought it for today’s holiday.

  42. I always wanted to pick this one up. Now I got a PS3, I won’t even have to leave my house to score it.

    Good deal.

  43. I’m having more fun with this then SFIV. Maybe its the wierdass characters.