Fantasy Strike was not what I had envisioned when I accepted the invite to go demo the game and interview members of the team. It was so much better than anything I could have thought up.

Fantasy Strike manages to meld together gameplay that is perfectly easy to pick up for new players but has a deep enough strategy to it that seasoned fighting game players can jump in and feel right at home. This is truly a fighting game for everyone. There is no need to worry about or remember elongated combos, and special moves can be done with one button.

The developer I spoke too cited that the highest moves count is usually around three moves before any sort of a combo chain is broken. Every bit of information the player needs for a fight is made crystal clear. Aspects like that are what helps Fantasy Strike stand out.

Some of what makes the game stand out are things like the health system. “In a Street Fighter II style moves deal high damage” as a member of the team put it. This causes rounds to go incredibly quick since each character can only take seven hits before the round ends. The developer wanted to ditch a lot of the things that have popped up in the genre that have annoyed them over the years.

Stances are thankfully not in the game, which is something that a casual fighter like me has found particularly annoying. The developer also took out the need to spend hundreds of hours in the training area trying to learn everything. The game conveys everything the player needs for the basics of the game in the tutorial. Anything outside of that is character specific.

Take for instance this lawyer looking character named Degrey. He is referred to as a wild card character in the game. His main identity is to “frame trap” an enemy, which, to my understanding, means if an experienced enough player can time a counter right it will punish his opponent. He also has this ghost companion that can aid him in fights. Not in a spammy Noob way from Mortal Kombat 9 but the ghost can help with counters or be used to stop an incoming attack.

Fantasy Strike’s system actually punishes move spamming. You may get a hit or two in, but, thanks to the color indication for when strikes land, you can tell how to effectively deal with and counter the attack. The same goes for blocking there is no need to worry about damage not happening when someone seems to close themselves off and not block. Health will be chipped away at a reduced rate and the attackers and the defender has an equal opportunity to change the tide of the fight.

I mean that wholeheartedly, the developer I spoke to gave me a short run down of how to use Degrey and within less than a minute I was able to pull off combos like I had been playing the game for years. That kind of conveyance to the player is unmatched by almost every fighting game on the market.

The characters all have their own personality and feel unique. Even the ones that are listed in the same class all have a different feel. Wild Cards, such as Lum, a literal giant panda, who plays with bombs, plays wildly different than Degrey. Setsuki (my favorite character from the game) gets in close to enemies hitting them with a quick flurry of strikes before getting away from the opponent.

Her classmate, Valarie, likes to fight in a close to midrange level using her paintbrush sort of like a staff causing rainbow strikes against the opponent. Having the two of them fight is the kind of tension felt when competing in a game on stage, it always felt like a back and forth game that could be anyone’s for the taking. The developer expressed interest in having pro-level tournaments for the game and if the crowd at Pax South and their reactions to some of the fights are any indication, that can be done with no question.

There is a full pseudo campaign in the arcade mode and online support for multiplayer as well as domestic-same-screenplay (or couch co-op as we all know it). The AI is a little dumb and easy to combat (the developer is working on a way to increase the AI’s ability) but the arcade mode is well worth running through. The game is in early access on steam now, so I recommend grabbing the game for twenty dollars and a controller (it plays better that way). The game is also coming to PS4 and Switch at a later date.