Needs a few more layers
Arika, as part of an April Fool’s Day joke, showed off a new fighting game that looked a lot like its formerly-developed Street Fighter EX series. To make matters weirder in an already weird 2017, Arika announced that it was pursuing development of this fighting game, but had yet to even give it a title.
Months had passed as Arika’s “Mysterious Fighting Game” added characters, a Gougi system, yet still no name. But, here we are, playing an open beta of the now-titled Fighting EX Layer, but while the frame is there, there’s still much more work to be done.
The beta had six available characters (Kairi, Shirase, Garuda, Darun Mister, Allen Snider, and Skullomania) as well as a training mode to mess with while waiting to connect with online opponents. Unfortunately, waiting was basically 75% of my time spent with the beta overall. Whether it’s a byproduct of the beta being out so early or a damning lack of interest, even with a full two weeks available of play time I certainly fought online less than I expected.
To be fair, Fighting EX Layer does its best to make this process as painless as possible. Online matchmaking takes place in the background of training mode, and you have the option to limit to certain connection speeds or regions (and pre-select you character and color to jump right into the action, much like other franchises). But even when testing out the lesser connection speeds, the matches just weren’t there. To top it off the netcode, even with a “5 Bar” connection, seemed to fall apart in matches. I’ll chock this up to the fact that Arika essentially sent out a “working” beta and is still figuring things out.
So how does it play? To those who have never played the Street Fighter EX series, the closest thing I can compare it to is Killer Instinct. Movement is speedy, yet deliberate. Each move has the potential to chain into other moves, and it’s very easy to experiment for a while and figure out which moves combo into others (even supers are able to chain together if you set them off in the right rhythm). It also has the tendency to be a bit weightless (something that carries over from EX) as many moves can act as “launchers” and bounce opponents into the air. There’s a rhythm to each set of movements, and when you and the opponent trade punches it’s always tense, since each one is a potential combo starter.
The characters here were all felt unique. Balance is still wonky, as Darun Mister can be incredibly powerful and deals way too much damage, but each character was thankfully different from one another. Kairi and Allen were the closest to fireball/projectile type characters, Darun is a grappler, Shirase was more counter-based, Skullmania has grand special moves that are highly punishable when he misses (due to longer recovery times than most), and Garuda is, well, just odd and fun to try and figure out. This all due to the two different types of control schemes. There was Classic, for those experienced with EX, and Progressive, which simplified special moves but still required some joystick movement rather than be a like a “Push X to win” kind of situation.
As for the Gougi system, it’s still too early to parse whether or not it’s game breaking. With five or so different arrangements, ranging from set ups that give you more meter when you play aggressively, to ones that grant meter when you’re lost a certain amount of health, but none really seemed to make a huge difference in battle. Well, except the one that can turn you invisible for a few seconds. The different layouts and their effects can be a fun added element to the overall strategy, but this will surely need more testing when Fighting EX Layer is closer to a final product.
The Fighting Ex Layer beta proves that Arika’s place in the fighting scene has a lot of potential. It may be littered with technical flaws for now (hit boxes act a bit wonky), but its impossible to ignore how strong the core game is so far. Fighting Ex Layer is an excellent base that I can’t wait to see further built on.