Released in Japanese arcades in April 2007, Battle Fantasia offered a unique take on the fighting game genre with its highly stylised visuals and infusion of RPG elements.
After being ported to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in 2008, where it was met with a mainly positive reception, the title has now finally arrived on the PC in the form of Battle Fantasia Revised Edition. Featuring spruced-up graphics, new camera angles during special attacks and all the latest balance changes as seen in the latest arcade iteration, is this a welcome re-release of a classic game, or a title that is best left forgotten?
Not content with being a run of the mill beat ’em up, Battle Fantasia incorporates RPG elements in a valiant attempt to bring a refreshing change to an otherwise conservative genre. Instead of the standard health bars usually associated with beat ‘em ups, Battle Fantasia features an RPG-style hitpoints system, incorporating character archetypes such as tank, fighter and mage that are more typically associated with RPGs. Tanks like Donvalve and Deathbringer move slower but have much more HP, whereas quicker characters like Face and Odile have less HP to compensate for their speed. Whilst this is a nice touch, it’s really just window dressing and in actuality it doesn’t do much to differentiate it from other fighting games on a technical level; big characters still hit hard but have little evasive options whilst more nimble combatants do less damage but have more manoeuvrability.
Designed to be a back to basics approach to the genre, Battle Fantasia’s combat is rather underwhelming. Whereas fighting games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur and Tekken give you lots of combos to play with and create your own fighting style, Battle Fantasia has very few combos – you can literally count them on your fingers. Not only that, but you can’t use all of them immediately – you have to power yourself up in battle first: you have to fight before you can fight. On the one hand, this makes the game accessible to newcomers of the fighting game genre as they won’t have to worry about pulling off complex combo strings, but on the other hand those looking for a fighter with depth may find this title lacking. I must also note that when I fought against the character Marco, I became increasingly frustrated as my horizontal and high attacks just missed him; they went right over his head. Soul Calibur did a similar thing when they released Yoda as a character – it’s bad game design to have a character that’s too short to hit!
I will admit that I am a fan of fighting games that have storylines, and although they are not original in any sense of the word, each of Battle Fantasia‘s zany characters’ stories are somewhat enjoyable. Like in most fighting games, the character you’re playing is chasing after some mysterious antagonist and they have to beat the others down to get to them. The dialogue between characters seems very clumsily-written, with both interlocutors making terribly weak puns, jokes and breaking character to pull ridiculous expressions. Face, the “badass” outlaw with revolvers for example, breaks his taciturn, broody character to exclaim in childlike manners while Coyori, the cat-lady, slaps a cream pie in your face as one of her attacks.
The game can’t seem to decide on whether it wants to be “badass”, “cutesy” or “comically random”, with the mix of pirates, warriors, children (seriously, Marco looks like he’s about three years old) and pie-loving catwomen throwing insults and jokes at each other while, at the same time, conversing about bounties and the deadly, frightening “Black Knight” they all seem to be after. I seriously cannot see Marco, the toddler, taking on this infamous bad guy and winning.
Control inputs have always been a point of contention for fighting games. Though a quite a few have adapted or created control schemes especially for PC, they are, in general, better to play with a controller as using a keyboard to do movement-based combos are a lot clumsier than the smooth rotation of a joystick. Most fighting games these days do allow you to use a controller (this game included) but if you want to use the keyboard, be prepared for a lot of keys flying over your shoulder as you hammer the movement buttons to try and perfect that simple down-to-forward sweep.
Where games will usually allow you to change the controls in-game, Battle Fantasia does the exact opposite. If you want to change the controls, you can only change them on the splash window that appears before you start up the game – so if you want to change anything, you have to close the game down and start over, which is incredibly poor design. In spite of this, I will point out something with the PC controls that I found to be quite cute. The default button layout is perfectly reminiscent of the old SEGA joystick gamepad from older fighting games like Street Fighter. This caused the nostalgic child inside me to squeal with joy… for a few seconds.
Overall, Battle Fantasia Revised Edition is a bit of a mixed bag. Considering it’s now an aging anime styled beat ’em up, the graphics are good and the animation is smooth, but the basic combat mechanics are somewhat lacking. Whilst this is undoubtedly the best version of the game available, it unfortunately doesn’t make it any more essential for those not already infatuated with its crazy cast of characters and back to basics approach. Regardless, those looking for a short diversion away from the heavy hitters such as BlazBlue and Street Fighter will certainly find some enjoyment from the title.