Mere days after learning that Capcom would be bringing a host of classic beat ‘em ups back, another name in fighting games has returned; the… well, what is it called exactly? Whilst the beta initialises, the title screen appears – “Fighting EX Layer” – so at least we finally know that it’s not Arika EX, Fighting Layer EX or Mysterious Fighting Game. As good as the gameplay turns out to be, the Fighting EX Layer beta is still very much a beta – you hit a button and get a choice of Online VS (ranked only), Training and Gougi (which gives an overview of each Gougi deck – essentially pre-selected sets of SFxT style “gems”.) Oh, and you can set your buttons. Being new to Fighting EX Layer and fairly new to Arika fighters in general, I went into training. Here you can pick from Allen, Darun, Garuda, Kairi, Skullomania and Shirase, so I selected Fighting Layer favourite Allen. Next, you have to select your character colour, “command type” and Gougi deck, although here you don’t get the deck details, so make sure you either memorised them from the Gougi menu or printed off the details beforehand. Going in to the command list (yes, the Fighting EX Layer beta isn’t so limited that you don’t get a command list), you find that the aforementioned “command type” determines the nature of your motions for specials and supers. In the original Fighting Layer, you’d perform a backwards shoryuken motion and a punch attack to get Allen’s Justice Fist – with the Fighting EX Layer beta this is the same notation in the classic command type, but if you opt for a “progressive” command type, you’d push back and a punch attack simultaneously (note that holding the direction and pressing the attack button won’t count – it has to be both at once, presumably so that you can still throw out normal punches whilst backing away.) It’s a nice way of making the game accessible for those who don’t want to wrestle with complex motions.
Mastering the Gougi of the Fighting EX Layer beta
Disappointingly, you can’t review Gougi deck instructions whilst in the Fighting EX Layer beta’s training mode or the character select screen, although it is only a beta so some limitations are expected. However, the decks on offer are interesting. There’s the “Aggro” deck, containing Gougi that increases your damage if you build meter and do high-damage combos among other things; the Shinobi deck turns hard attacks into guard breaks if you land enough hard attacks, turns dashes invisible if you avoid incoming attacks, and more besides… I could go on. The Fighting EX Layer beta has five decks in total and each deck has five perks; personally, I liked the look of the Infinity deck myself. I was always a fan of the blue gems in SFxT that adjusted meter cost and gain; here, the Infinity deck boosts the rate at which you gain meter as long as you keep throwing out attacks, and will grant infinite super meter for players who keep burning through bars of meter. That said, the training mode seemed to lock certain settings such as meter behaviour, which meant that I had continually regenerating super meter and couldn’t accurately tell when certain meter buffs were in effect.
Online play in the Fighting EX Layer beta
There was only one thing for it – take Fighting Layer’s Allen (easy enough to get to grips with; he has a projectile that uses a fireball motion, a rising attack that uses a shoryuken motion, the justice fist attack and a HCB+K command grab) and go online. The netcode of the Fighting EX Layer beta is a bit stuttery but not so bad that it rendered the match unplayable, and for a beta it’s kind of what I would expect. Whilst my first online match saw me get defeated by a much more competent Darun player, I was at least able to get a better idea of how useful the meter perks of the Infinity Gougi deck were. Additionally, each Gougi effect heralds it’s activation with the name appearing onscreen, so if you struggle to recall what each of the icons represents, there’s always a helpful reminder for you.
In general, it’s a fun little slice of Arika fighting action, although the beta limitations do make it hard to ascertain the quality of the final package. With Dragonball FighterZ on the way, more SFV content coming, the new Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, Dissidia NT and more, it’ll be interesting to see how people rate Fighting EX Layer against the competition in 2018.