A while ago, I came across a game that I never saw in the stores before. Called “Battle Fantasia” and produced by Aksys games and developed by Arc system works, I got excited by the prospects of what I uncovered. A 3-D fighting game on a 2-D plane, with great influence in fantasy and steampunk elements, makes for an interesting experience to say the least, so I took a gamble on something new.
When the dust was settled, and I exhausted my time with it, I was torn though, by how I felt about the game. “Battle Fantasia” feels like an incomplete experience, one that has a lot of potential, but only if it was given times to reach it through some tweaks in the gameplay.
While versus fighter games always have piss poor plot points, “Battle Fantasia” actually has a really fleshed out world, and the characters you control actually grow and offer great adventures this time. It also helps that a lot of the storylines are individual to the current character you’re playing as, something Arc system works built upon with “BlazBlue.” Here though, the stories are not only coherent, but some of them are downright touching. Sure others serve as comic foils to fill out their respected characters, but overall, I was actually impressed with the tales yarned here.
Sadly, the storylines could not save the game from a few problems that detriment the experience. The controls are extremely sluggish, especially on a normal 360 controller, which leads to a lot of slowdown when fighting opponents. This also leads to leaving yourself open to attacks as you try to perform limited combos with the characters move sets. There is a blocking system , but it seems hit or miss most of the time, and since the characters special moves can pretty much penetrate anything, it is almost pointless at times to block. This eliminates a lot of strategy and depth into the game itself, which can be a kiss of death for this genre.
It also doesn’t help much that there is major balance issues. Certain characters either have an amazing reach with specific moves, or are ridiculously underpowered by their design. For example, the character Watson, who acts as the mage, needs to literally level up his power to become an effective fighter. If you don’t know how to level up or you get pummeled, which is likely to happen because of the sticky controls, and then it makes him almost useless to play as. Other characters, like the gunslinger Face or the shadow named Ashley, are extremely overpowered, able to use charge moves that can touch pretty much the entire screen if aimed correctly. This type of issue can doom a fighter from the start if they are not careful.
The game also has the standard survival, time attack and arcade modes, which work well and offer unlockables, like in most current Arc system games. The multi-player, however I much wanted to try it, is practically dead, however. And with no way to track statistics that I know of, it is hard to measure how you do online and off. It seems bare bones in this regard, offering what is needed to make the game tolerable at best.
Thankfully, the games character design prevails. This is, as far as I know, the only Arc System Works games to use 3-D character models instead of 2-D. There is a lack of detail on the characters at times, but the designs, as always, are amazing. Ranging from a magic wielding rabbit to a pirate with a 5 foot hook on his arm, and the obsession of cat-girls continues with Coyori, a cat-girl waitress that fights with a tray and broom. There is also an interesting, hand drawn style to the portraits that makes the game look antiquated in a way, although I personally don’t like it as much because there is too much interference with lines.
Sadly, the sound is perhaps the worst part of the game. The background music is forgettable, and the sound effects are adequate but nothing new, but it’s the voices that are glaring. The game was translated by text only, and all the voices are in Japanese, which is normally not a problem, unless if you count the issue of annoying voice actors. One character in particular annoyed me so much I actually stopped playing his storyline with the sound on, and muted my TV. Others were ok, but for the most part the voice acting was annoying.
In the end, I can see why not too many people have played, let alone heard of “Battle Fantasia.” It is an obscure game at the very least and a mediocre game at best. It has a lot of potential and lots of promise, plus some of the best story-telling in versus fighting game that I have personally ever seen, but the glaring deficiencies that turn it into a budget title make it hard to really get into, let alone enjoy. In the end, only fighting fans may find true enjoyment, or renting it for a weekend when you’re tired of “Street Fighter IV” as another option.
Final Score- B-