If you were a fan of fighting games in the late ’90s, you may recall the Arika-developed Street Fighter EX series. EX, a spinoff of the core Street Fighter franchise, brought a pared-down version of the Street Fighter roster together with new, original characters in a “2.5D” fighting game with polygonal 3D graphics. It’s been 17 years since Capcom released the last entry in the series, Street Fighter EX3. Since then, Arika has produced a hodgepodge assortment of titles — its last U.S. project was Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure for Nintendo 3DS — and there had been no serious signs that the developer would return to its fighting game roots, let alone the EX series.
Until EVO 2017, that is. Arika surprised fighting game fans at the show with a teaser announcing a new, then-untitled fighting game with many of the EX series’ original characters. Akira said the game, which was called “Mysterious Fighting Game (Title Undecided),” was on track to launch in 2018 on PlayStation 4. In a recent PlayStation Blog post, Arika revealed the game’s official name, Fighting EX Layer. It’s a great fit because, oddly enough, it’s the name that fans of the EX series were already using. Here’s what we know about Fighting EX Layer, Arika’s next game, which you’ll be able to try soon.
It started out as a joke
As we mentioned, there were no serious indications that Arika would return to the EX series. There was a joking one, though. On April Fools’ Day 2017, Arika released a clip of the unannounced fighting game. At the time, it was seen as a run-of-the-mill, albeit polished holiday prank. Even the trailer’s description stated as much:
“These are April Fools’ story and not being officially considered for release at this stage. So even if you contact the official ARIKA Corporation, there is nothing you can do at this time. Also, currently there are many similar inquiries to stakeholders such as Super Sweep Co., Ltd., so they do not know circumstances at all, so please do not make an inquiry,” the description read.
According to Arika founder Akira Nishitani, the joke trailer was not a calculated tease, but meant as an actual joke. In a conversation with Red Bull eSports, Nishitani explained that his team was learning Unreal Engine 4 at the time, and decided to create a fighting game in it. Due to the positive reception from the fighting game community, Arika decided to turn the joke into a full game.
What’s in a name, anyway?
Fighting game fans were referring to the “mysterious project” online as Fighting EX Layer from the get-go. The “EX”is a nod to Street Fighter EX, and Arika confirmed in the description of the reveal trailer that its next game would indeed be the next entry in the “EX” series, albeit without Capcom or the Street Fighter brand.
As for the words wedged around it, they point to Arika’s 1998 Japanese arcade title Fighting Layer. Despite the title, it doesn’t appear that Fighting Layer EX has any real affiliation with any other Fighting Layer games. It may be derived from a canceled project, but we don’t know for certain. In his interview with Compete, Nishitani claimed the April Fools’ trailer was put together in part from a scrapped 3DS project dubbed Fighting Sample.
As part of the EX lineage, “Fighting EX Layer” will see the return of a few familiar faces. In the brief teaser trailer we saw five characters from the Street Fighter EX games. In the PlayStation Blog post revealing the game’s official name, Arika also confirmed that Allen Snider from Street Fighter EX will be in the game, bringing the total number of recurring characters thus far to six.
- Hokuto (Shirase)
- Darun Mister
- Allen Snider
While these characters appeared in Street Fighter games, Arika retained the rights to those characters, so their presence does not signal a renewed partnership between Arika and Capcom. So far, it doesn’t seem like any characters from the primary Street Fighter franchise will be available for use in “Fighting EX Layer.”
Arika said the game will probably feature a fair number of characters from past Arika games, rather than a completely new ensemble. “We’ll probably end up using previous Arika characters because making new characters costs a lot of money,” Nishitani told Compete. That means we could see the likes of Doctrine Dark, Pullum Purna, and Cracker Jack, to name a few.
“EX,” but perhaps only in spirit
While “Fighting EX Layer” will share the characters and possibly stages with the original Street Fighter EX series, it will be quite a departure in one big way.
In the Compete interview at EVO 2017, Nishitani said that while fans may recognize the mechanics as a successor to Street Fighter EX and Fighting Layer (exciting combo chains and cancels), the overall gameplay will be changed by the new Gougi system.
The Gougi system allows players to build decks of Gougi symbols that significantly alter combat. Gougi symbols can affect a player’s super meter, speed, and movesets, and also do things like change certain moves into other moves — like heavy attacks into guard breaks.
In the gameplay video above, taken at EVO 2017 (watch more action on CPS_IV’s YouTube channel), we can see five different Gougi symbol decks to choose from, each matching up to a certain play style. They are:
When scrolling through the symbols, notice how each one offers five different abilities and enhancements. At EVO, the symbols were already built for players, but upon release, Arika wants to give players the opportunity to build their own decks.
Nishitani sees the Gougi system not only as an integral aspect of the game, but as “the focus,” according to his interview with Compete. In his PlayStation Blog post, Arika further stressed the importance of the Gougi system, saying that his goal is for Gougi to fundamentally change matches and dictate how people choose to play.
When can you play it?
Fighting Layer EX launches sometime in 2018 for PS4. You can try it soon, though. A two-week open beta period begins December 11. The beta will feature the six fighters shown off so far.
Updated to reflect official name and open beta start date.
- Ex-BioShock developers offer details about their new game, ‘The Blackout Club’
- ‘Annihilation’ review
- EVO 2018 will feature ‘Dragon Ball FighterZ’ but ‘Marvel vs. Capcom’ left out
- ‘Monster Hunter: World’ costumes will be up for grabs in ‘Street Fighter V’
- ‘Monster Hunter: World’ welcomes veteran street fighters Ryu and Sakura