Advanced play in Battle Fantasia is all about predicting an opponent's attack pattern, landing a Gachi Drive, instantly Heating Up and then bashing out the longest combo your character can deliver. We landed the occasional 50+ combo with Coyori as she can link her two Supers once Heated, but with consecutive hits doing less damage this wasn't broken or overpowered. It's worth reiterating here that, despite its extra tech systems, Battle Fantasia is still accessible to the fighter dabbler. You won't even need the Gachi button to finish the Arcade Mode on its hardest setting and the basic benefits of Heating Up are normally quite apparent.
Of the 12-strong roster, Urs and Marco have the closet DNA match to Ryu - both with fireballs and dragon punches performed in the classic manner. Cedric, one of only two charge characters in the game, plays in a similar style to Guile with his own versions of the Sonic Boom and Flash Kick. Some of the more original offerings include Coyori and Face, whose move-sets include various attacks that chain into each other, and Watson, the aforementioned "wizard rabbit" who, despite having the lowest HP in the game, has some of the most damaging and easily combo-able Supers. My pick though has to be Ashley. With precise stick timing he becomes an aerial monster once Heated, with the ability to trap his opponent in a lengthy air barrage. Let him connect that first hit at your peril.
As well as the usual Arcade, Survival and Time Attack Modes, Battle Fantasia also has a stab at a Story Mode. This involves nothing more than going from fight to fight with character dialogues in-between. The dialogues are Japanese with English subtitles and are portrayed with high-quality 2D drawings. Although the conversations often have a zany charm reminiscent of Nippon Ichi, they aren't as inherently funny as Disgaea, with the plot itself revolving around the Black Knight Deathbringer causing havoc across the land and something called the "Scion of III Presage". When one of the characters is a nine-year-old boy wandering around with a giant claymore, changing into his Power Ranger "Dyna Kid" alter ego, any perception of seriousness is swiftly quashed beneath an avalanche of absurdity.
Five-button fighters generally tend to work more intuitively on the 360 pad than their six-button brethren, with all four attacks mapped to the face buttons, but the 360 pad is still no substitute for a solid arcade stick - or even those new SEGA Saturn-style Mad Catz pads. Online is a bit of a mixed bag too because, although the net code is more or less playable with a good connection, available competition is often absent despite the game's US and Japanese releases last year.
The main criticism though is the by-the-numbers gameplay, which adds little we haven't seen before, and while the styling is a nice departure, many will find the overly twee presentation a bit too sugary for their fighter tastes. Some would also argue that the small character roster is a bit stingy, although for my money it represents a level and tight playing field far removed from Arc System Works' shenanigans with the Hokuto no Ken licence. Unsurprisingly then, Battle Fantasia certainly isn't going to have anyone cancelling their pre-order for Street Fighter IV; it's not even in the same league as Capcom's superlative re-envisioning. But if you've room in your life for more than one 2D fighter, then Battle Fantasia is a polished if slightly standard gem worthy of any would-be fighter's time.
7 / 10