Fighting games hit a brick wall, a dead end towards the end of what marked the golden era preceding the Street Fighter III series back in 2000. Even Capcom wouldn’t produce a sequel until way later, in 2008 that marked their comeback with Street Fighter IV. However, if we are to analyze how this genre has performed in the past couple of years then it is safe to say, the fighting game scene is hotter than ever.
We have back to back smash hits in this short duration with Tekken 7, Street Fighter V Arcade Edition, Dragon Ball FighterZ, SoulCalibur 6 and as of late, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; all of which seem to breathe new life into the genre.
Even looking at the other end of the stick from Street Fighter III, games like Tekken 3, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior and Virtua Fighter 2 initiated the journey of fighting games as they gained more attraction for critical acclaim, awards, and eSports competitions.
One potential franchise that was left in an awkward position among the struggles of giants was the EX Series, especially after the potential that it held with the crossover, Street Fighter EX series back in 1996.
We take a look at the roots of the Fighting Layer series, how it has fared along the way, and what similarities or differences it holds to the Street Fighter series.
Origins: Fighting Layer
Fighting Layer is not one of those successful fighting franchises that have rolled out multiple installments. In fact, the game was not even its own thing since the characters and settings were a part of the Street Fighter EX series.
It was only after Street Fighter EX2 started rolling out in arcades, did Fighting Layer, its own independent game, launched a few months after the same year in December 1998.
With over 17 characters in the original Street Fighter EX, we were introduced to some welcome changes in the gameplay department as well.
These included the increased utility and potential of combos, strings, and ‘canceling’ special moves and normal ones into each other.
Then there was also the Guard Break attack, which will leave the opponent open for follow up attack, even if they were blocking by putting them in a stun or dizzy state.
We would later see this mechanic return in Street Fighter IV as ‘Focus’ and ‘EX Focus’ attacks.
After 1998, Arika pulled a Capcom by not releasing their next installment until June 2018 that marked almost a decade for any recognition of the short Fighting Layer series.
Although the concepts were pitched to Capcom well before the game would eventually release, Capcom had their own plans and so the pitch was not favored.
What followed was a long and tough journey concerning Arika’s head of the department Arika Nishitani and the way he returned the series to its former glory with Fighting EX Layer and marked a high point for the franchise.
Hitting the Mark With EX Fighting Layer
Staying true to the fundamentals and keeping the feel of the original game, EX Fighting Layer continues its 2.5D format with 3D character models and environments, but 2D traversal and movement options.
Apart from the huge leap in the graphical department, more so than Street Fighter V itself which goes for a more cartoon-ish and more flashy art style albeit having more fluid animations, there were several new mechanics added to keep the game fresh and interesting even after a long time.
The most significant mechanic in the game is the utilization of special deck cards under the ‘Gougi System’. These largely resemble the Gem System in Street Fighter X Tekken which were responsible for providing power-ups in mid-battle.
The only differences being that you can choose much more, 5 cards per match and that once activated, the effects will carry over to all the rounds of the match.
These customizable power-ups range from giving a boost to movement speed, damage potential, and super meter gain to more complex ones like an evasion of combos, canceling into special moves from guarding, and acquiring super armor to absorb damage.
In terms of moves list, commands, and combo executions; the game learns from its roots in Street Fighter.
Notations like quarter-circle forward, quarter-circle back, 360 rotation, dragon punch input, and aerial attacks are all familiar to fans of the Street Fighter series. So are the movement options like back-dash and forward dash though the latter puts you in a running animation like that in Tekken 7.
Furthermore, Fighting EX Layer takes a different approach when it comes to the learning curve and accessibility than SF, as the latter is often deemed as harder to get into than any other fighting game.
Borrowing another concept from Tekken 7, the ‘Progressive Mode’ allows newcomers to ease into the game by simplifying inputs for all moves so they come out much quicker with less effort.
In terms of roster, Fighting EX Layer originally had 13 characters at launch and four characters were added as free in-game updates. The DLC practices have also been similar to Tekken 7 with paid characters model rather than an in-game currency like Fight Money in SFV.
The game also gave the players a guest character, Terry Bogard, who had been prominent in the Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters series.
Last year in August, the game even had its own EVO tournament that is always a major boost to the popularity and longevity of any fighting game, and for some, even the main goal from day one. Being on the big platforms like PS4, PC and on Arcade Machines, the player base is also expanding.
Despite its absence for quite a while, Arika has made up for it with promises of continued support, eSports recognition, and ease-of-use for beginners to venture back into the fighting game scene when the genre seems to be the hottest and most trendy it has been in years.
This marks the start or more importantly, the revival of the series with a new engine in UE4 and confidence in how they implement and present their new mechanics and build up on the existing ones across other popular fighting games.
We cannot wait to see how the series fares going forward, but it is likely that the success will continue partly due to the fact that fighting games are being played and favored in this age, more so than ever.