Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Street Fighter EX Minus Street Fighter

One quick thing before the main event. I played a couple more hours of Ori and the Blind Forest, and it made a mystical transformation from a coma-inducingly dull Metrovania to a mean-spirited masocore platformer with more pointy objects than a cenobite's face. It's like someone from Moon heard my complaints from a few days ago and growled, "Oh, you want it more INTERESTING, huh? Oh, I'll make it plenty interesting!" 

Pulling thorns out of my keister is... is not the kind of "interesting" I wanted. My subscription to Microsoft Game Pass lapsed at the end of the month, which is probably a mercy in disguise because I won't have to finish removing the blight from the Ginso tree, only to be drowned by it thirty-seven times. So with that I bid Ori and the "if you keep doing that you'll go" Blind Forest goodbye. Don't let the door hit you in the thousands of razor sharp nettles on the way out.

Characters like Allen Snider have taken an
expected step up in visual quality... although
their taste in clothing remains questionable.
(image from YouTube)
Okay, now what was I going to discuss? Oh yeah, my latest purchase! During the soon-to-expire holiday sale on the Playstation Network, I picked up a copy of Fighting EX Layer. That's the spiritual successor to Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha, one of my favorite games on the Playstation and a title I find myself going back to from time to time on my hacked Vita. Feel free to read VGJunk's uncharacteristically warm review of the game if you haven't already tried it yourself. Then rectify that oversight and, uh, try it for yourself.

Fighting EX Layer is more of the same... and yet less, because the Street Fighter cast have their own 3D fighting games now and don't really need to be here. What you get instead are oddballs like beefy bouncer Jack, salaryman-turned-circus freak Skullomania, and talk show host by day, ruthless assassin by night D. Generes Dark. Are they as useful as classic Street Fighter characters like Guile and Cammy? Not really, but they have their own off-brand charm, and they beat the pants off some of the later additions to the Street Fighter cast. Come on, Laura, Necalli, and F.A.N.G.? Get outta here with that crap.

This isn't a bad consolation prize, though.
Bring on the Bogard, baby!
(image from Playstation Lifestyle)
It may be missing the star power of the Street Fighter cast, but Fighting EX Layer is a solid game in its own right. The constraints of Arika's modest budget are obvious... FEXL looks like it could just as easily have been pulled off on the Xbox 360, and the arcade mode is thinner than I would have liked; just an eight fight contest ending with superhuman samurai Garudo. However, the heart of the Street Fighter EX series still beats within this release. You can still chain together super moves for a humiliating beatdown, and each stage still has catchy tunes provided by Shinji Hosoi, the most unappreciated video game musician this side of Hitoshi Sakimoto.

There's no question Fighting EX Layer is lean on content, and no, the "Gougi" system which briefly boosts your character's abilities based on your performance doesn't really fill that gap. (Didn't we already do this before with Street Fighter X Tekken? Didn't everyone hate it?) You could probably get more mileage from your money with Mortal Kombat XL or Killer Instinct, which offer dozens of characters and styles of gameplay for a fraction of the price. Having said that, I can't help but wish the very best for FEXL, not only for the warm nostalgia it provides, but because it feels like a labor of love rather than a cold, calculated attempt to wring money from the fighting game community. You know, like what some better known entries in the genre have become. Cough, cough. Cough.

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