In my Epic Battle Fantasy 4 review, I had mentioned wanting to also go over the earlier titles from Matt Roszak in the series. As EBF3 is much more similar to EBF4, this will be a short review of the earlier titles, Epic Battle Fantasy 1 and 2. Here we go!
To start things off, some context. Epic Battle Fantasy came out as an in-browser flash game in May of 2009. At the time, it released on Newgrounds, Kongregate, and Armor Games to good reviews, and still gets regular traffic. While Roszak had been making flash animations for a few years at this point, and even some games, this was the first strategic turn-based combat game he had made. While mostly an original creation, it could be considered a fan game of sorts due to the number of other sources used, like creatures from other games as summon-able allies and background music sourced from Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda games. What is special about Epic Battle Fantasy is how well it captures the core of what a great deal of JRPGs is about: the combat.
Now from previous reviews I’ve done, some can probably tell that I appreciate simple things, and that’s what Roszak has here. He’s taken the standard of the Japanese role-playing game, simplified the formula, and streamlined into this. Epic Battle Fantasy is a series of combat waves, as is Epic Battle Fantasy 2, where you have to plan your moves against hordes of enemies with boss fights placed regularly throughout. You have control of your two characters, Matt the swordsman and Natalie the mage. You have items that you buy at the start and must ration out across the fights, with checkpoints for buying more after major boss fights. In Epic Battle Fantasy, there’s not much more than the fighting that I enjoy so much.
Now I’ve said it before, now let me explain how and why this simplicity works in Epic Battle Fantasy. With your two characters, Matt and Natalie, you have two of the major archetypes for RPGs, the tougher melee-based character and the less-armored spell-based character. Each character has their options, like Matt can switch which sword he’s wielding and perform special attacks with his swords, and Natalie can cast healing magics, damaging spells, and summon allies to help. Enemies show up to be beaten, and as they’re beaten, more show up. Some enemies have tactics, like blinding you or, my favorite, automatically revive on death, requiring you to respond to their strategy by curing the blindness or dispelling their magic. As enough enemies are beaten, the area is cleared, and the characters transition to the next area. After enough areas are cleared, a boss enemy will show up for a greater challenge. This flow of events repeats until the final areas and final boss, at which point the game is complete. Since there’s only these battles, there’s no worry of what level you’re supposed to be, no grinding to be done here, fleeing is not an option. You have everything at your disposal, every weapon, tool, and spell, and it’s your job to make it work to get to the end. In terms of JRPGs, it’s so simple. It’s the most straightforward thing I’ve seen in the JRPG style.
Being the first in the series, Epic Battle Fantasy is very simple by comparison to its sequels. As previously mentioned, it pulls quite a bit from other games in terms of material, using creatures from other games as summons and enemies, music from other video games, and a moogle who helps bring in free items to name a few. This, of course, doesn’t detract from game, merely it is a reference point for the rest of the series, to show how far it’s come. As we get to Epic Battle Fantasy 2, which came out in August of 2009, just roughly 3 months later, we see a number of improvements. The core is still basically the same, fight the enemies, fight the boss, move to the next area. Music for EBF2 is composed by Phyrnna, who will later create the scores for the later games. More moves and spells are available to defeat your enemies with, as well as the introduction of Limit Breaks, super powerful moves you can access after taking a lot of damage, similar to Final Fantasy VII. But most importantly, is that it all stays connected. EBF2 starts off exactly where the last game leaves off in terms of story. One of the bosses of the last game replaces the item-bringing moogle, and another reappears as a summon-able ally. All of these things laid the groundwork for Epic Battle Fantasy 3, and subsequently Epic Battle Fantasy 4, both of which tie into each other and these games as well.
I understand that this is a very niche thing, and that not many will enjoy it like I do. That’s okay. If you want to try either of these games, you can check over here for the first game and over here for the second game. They’re free, but require a Flash plugin, which can be downloaded if you don’t have one already.