Review by Tenshi No Shi

"A 3D fighting game from the folks who brought us Guilty Gear? Madness!"

I love fighting games. I particularly love 2D fighting games, which is why when Capcom effectively stopped making them, I was more than happy to fill the void with Arc System Works seminal Guilty Gear series. But now a new generation of consoles are on the market and it would seem that all good things must come to an end, which brings us to Arc System Works latest fighter, Battle Fantasia.

Since I picked the game up from an import shop in New York City, the story is a little rough around the edges but seems to have a certain RPG flair to it: The world was once covered in darkness. Humanity struggled against the evil that had overrun the planet, but to no avail. When it seemed that all hope had been lost, four heroes emerged and drove back the darkness, restoring peace to the world. time passes and it would seem that chaos once again threatens the planet, and thus a new batch of heroes, each with their own unique destiny, must rise up and defeat the evil that threatens the land.

So by now I'm sure you've surmised that Battle Fantasia is a 3D game. Sigh. Mind you I have nothing against 3D games, but so few companies support sprite-based graphics any more that it disappoints me to see Arc System Works take this route. That said, Battle Fantasia's visuals still reflect a decidedly 2D feel with their water-color style textures that maintain the same level of sharp detail one would normal associate with a sprite-built game. While I'm still left waiting for a current-generation 2D game to blow my mind (BlazBlue can't get here soon enough), Battle Fantasia still pleases the eye.

Anyone who has played any of the Guilty Gear games knows that Arc System Works has a certain flair when it comes to soundtracks, and Battle Fantasia is no exception to this. Full of a wide variety of tracks to please nearly all tastes, the audio offering here is nothing short of superb, enhancing nearly every aspect of the game in a way that most companies fail to pull off in such a pleasing manner. As a fighting game, you really can't expect much from the audio effects (no matter how you mix, punches and kicks still sound like punch and kicks) so it's not even worth going in to.

If I had to compare the way this game plays to any other fighting game that you might be familiar with, I'd have to say it most closely resembles Street Fighter III. The most noticeable similarity is a system very similar to parrying called Gatchi which allows you to counter an attack at the precise moment of impact for more damage. Also, much like Street Fighter III is compared to the Vs. series, so to is Battle Fantasia much more subdued combat-wise compared to the Guilty Gear series. Controls are tight and precise, but the d-pad tends to rub your thumb raw after an hour or two session, so you might want to invest in a controller more suitable for an intense 2D fighter.

Battle Fantasia has a rather unique story mode in which the way you fight in a battle during certain key moments can actually alter the path of the plot and lead you down an entirely different story branch. I find this sort of thing rather refreshing in a fighting game, and I really hope more fighters take a cue from Battle Fantasia as it seems like an incredible design choice to prolong the life of the game. That aside, you won't find much else here that differs design-wise that sets this game apart from other equally good games in the same genre on the market.

There's honestly not a whole lot extra going on for the game. One could argue that the console version at least offers the story mode which was lacking in the arcade version, but outside of that you aren't rewarded much for your efforts. Sure you can unlock a slew of artwork for the Gallery and there are alternate costumes if you complete Story Mode with a certain percentage, but as far as an extra character or two (which is typical of an Arc System Works game) you'll be disappointed to know that there is none.

So is Battle Fantasia worth getting? Well, if you're a fighting fan who leans more towards the old-school side of the spectrum (2D over 3D) then the answer is a resounding yes. More so, the game is actually worth importing since you can generally get it cheaper than it would cost to buy the domestic version (should one ever actually come out). It might not be a perfect game, but it's a damn fun one, and in the end that's all that matters.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/17/09

Game Release: Battle Fantasia (JP, 05/29/08)

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