Battle Fantasia is out this week, and I always try to buy and boost small games like this. It's a new (new, that is, to the West) game by Arc System Works. Now considering Arc's body of work, you'd probably expect a slightly modified game in the Guilty Gear engine, and you really wouldn't be wrong to make this assumption. Battle Fantasia is actually an entirely new piece of work. Unfortunately, it's catching a lot of shit for that, from GG fans complaining that it isn't just like GG to IGN giving it a low score because it isn't Soul Calibur 4. Oh no, this fighting game isn't stuffed to the brim with useless extras! Whatever shall I do?
As a tangent, people who think that unlockables and achievements, in and of themselves, define a quaility videogame can fuck right off. Try playing a videogame for once instead of filling out a checklist so you can take the game back to the store tomorrow while Gamestop is still willing to give you five bucks for it, you idiots.
Meanwhile, Battle Fantasia has nothing to do with Guilty Gear. GG is a game designed by a fanboy-- hair metal fixation, chains, fire, and a full complement of otaku fetishes on the side-- and Battle Fantasia is a game designed by a fangirl: director Emiko Iwasaki. The setting is a JRPG fairytale, the character design opts for the cute (the lead character is a little boy with a sword who tawks wike dis), and everything about the game is a little softer and lighter. It's a blue-skies change of pace that I, for one, found rather endearing.
The game itself moves slower, the movelists are shorter, and the combos are simpler. The focus is on ranging rather than the rushdown. The game is a very deliberately dialed-back engine: check out the interview here to read about how the designers were outcasts at their own company for daring to make a game that wasn't about big combos. The first time I played this was back at Otakon, where the game's owner likened it to Samurai Shodown II or Last Blade: games that reward slower, more deliberate action as opposed to a constant rush. You can pick up the basics of a character with maybe twenty minutes in practice mode: this is in sharp contrast to GG, where learning those same basics means an hour or two of study and practice, and the combos are extremely difficult, largely for the sake of it.
This isn't to say that the game doesn't have advanced techniques or get complicated: the bar for entry, however, is much lower. This is good for the genre: I still play Guilty Gear and Virtua Fighter, and they're both sufficiently complex that I'd never want to try and teach them to someone who isn't already intimately familiar with the genre. This just means that the crowd gets further inbred and the games stagnate. I'm quite happy with where both GG and VF are going, but we also need games like Battle Fantasia for the genre to continue to progress. It's a breath of fresh air, and still has the same mind-game depth as any good fighter should have.
If you like fighting games, but you're put back by the amount of technical knowledge a lot of them require, I'd recommend Battle Fantasia emphatically. It's really unfortunate that the game slipped under the radar when it came out in Japan, and is doing so again as we speak in the West.
And now, an adorable bunny rabbit versus a hell knight.