A quick table-top battle of spirits, not fists, with Street Fighter Exceed
Nothing can beat the experience of playing Street Fighter on the arcade but this game comes pretty close.
BY GREG WATSON
Street Fighter Exceed Fighting System
$29.95 from Level 99 Games
Street Fighter Exceed is a tabletop combat card game featuring elements of the classic Street Fighter arcade games.Check out the rulebook at play Season One of the Exceed Fighting System for free at Level 99.
Street Fighter Exceed
Bring the fast-paced action of head-to-head arcade fighting games to your tabletop
Choose your fighter from an ever-growing roster of diverse characters, each with their own deck of special moves and supers. Play your cards to unleash fireballs, dragon punches, and deadly combos on your opponents!
Here comes a new challenger
In 1987 arcades were revolutionised by Capcom with the first competitive fighting game in the famous (and in some cases, infamous) Street Fighter series. Since Street Fighter became the top dedicated arcade game, breathing new life into martial arts games, the series has spanned 30 years and 35 games which have been released across almost every home console platform. Not only has Street Fighter seen success across arcade and console gaming, it has also expanded into live action and animated movies, manga and each game (including the various crossovers with other properties like Marvel, Tatsunoko and Tekken) has had soundtracks released. The global breadth of the Street Fighter series appears to be expanding each year. The next instalment of this epic franchise is Street Fighter Exceed from Level 99
This isn’t the first time Street Fighter has reached the tabletop gaming scene; there have been several games including a dedicated board game in the 90s and recently a miniatures tabletop game however this iteration of the Street Fighter series personally feels like the most accessible for casual gamers and people new to tabletop card gaming.
The premise of the game is relatively simple; two players choose their character from a small selection of iconic characters including Ryu, Akuma, Zangief and Sagat and play to beat their opponent’s health from 30 to Zero. The game play is fast and smooth with only moderate difficulty understanding the few core battle rules. Each game should take roughly fifteen to twenty minutes, maybe more if an actual fight breaks out when the players get so absorbed in the action and relive their favourite gut busting moves and scream Hadouken out loud as an attack lands!
“I’m sure you’ll do better once you learn how to fight”
As the box was opened and the game unpacked sparks of joy ran across the table as we saw the beautifully presented game mat which acts as your battle ground. The game mat includes each player’s total health, a dedicated gage for building up power for unique special attacks and an area of movement right across the centre of the mat. The movement area does a good job of representing the 2D playing field of the video games which was always met with a joyful gasp when each competitor realised that they had the closest thing to a beat-em-up game without a console on their table.
The decks of cards that come with the kit have had as much care put into their presentation as the game mat which, in my opinion, is the maker or breaker of many card based games on the market. The designs of the characters in each of the four decks appear to be inspired by Street Fighter IV’s painterly, Japanese style with thick strokes of ink across the designs of the characters and each of the cards illustrative designs appear to be adapted from Capcom’s own promotional material and scenes from the anime. Little details like the design or feel of the cards can make or break a game for me, and the card presentation was thoroughly enjoyable.
The gameplay was simple enough after scouring the rulebook thoroughly for things I may have missed in my play through. The rules appear to be a standard model for attack based tabletop card games with a couple of additional rules that push the difficulty of Street Fighter Excess from Basic to Moderate. The difficulty was felt by a couple of the players who were new to tabletop card games but with persistent rule reading (occasionally with varied tone and volume depending on frustration levels) the game was eventually understood. I found a trial play through helped to fully grasp the rules, however they are laid out well in the rulebook with a gameplay example handily mapped out for those who like to skim rather than absorb the rules of the game. Learning the Focus rules and Movement rules were vital to success throughout my experience however the games’ namesake, Exceed, didn’t often come into play and didn’t have an impact on the overall enjoyment whether the boost from Exceed happened or was ignored throughout an entire match. Street Fighter Exceed did have an air of advanced Top Trumps but that element made the game instantly pick up-able and playable if you didn’t want to follow the additional rules; a diligent player however would take a little longer to peruse the rules, gain a thorough understanding and get the full Exceed experience. I did feel at times, particularly when gameplay had to be stopped briefly to explore the rulebook, that the additional functions could slow the game occasionally but this was rare and didn’t have a tremendous impact on my enjoyment. Thankfully Level 99 have an online tutorial outlining the gameplay to newcomers to the series.
When it came to actual ‘combat’ the game flowed, cards were laid down, attacks were issued and subsequently guarded against or, inevitably with some of the overpowered attacks, led to stunning which stopped the defending player from making a counter move. The game did feel like a tabletop reimagining of the classic arcade game. Other than Focus and Movement rules, the Gage element of the game play was heavily focused on; the Gage would allow players to unleash special attacks like Shinryuken and Hadouken which would often turn the tide of the combat in your favour whether you had the upper hand or not.
The character selection had a good mix of characters with great range and speed compared to the tanks who, although suffered from limited range, could land a heavy punch or guard strong attacks when needed. I found playing Zangief the most enjoyable of the characters available due to the pure brute strength when you had a character in range. The Range of an attack does lead me back to understanding the movement rules; without a full understanding of how to advance and close in on an opponent, retreat or push and pull them from you there is a high probability you may end up in a position like my opponent and get pushed into a corner, taking a beating from Zangief.
Tag Team matches are available in the gameplay which allowed each combatant to play with two character decks which led to a wider variety of devastating attacks.
“But, what lies beyond this victory?”
“Nothing can beat the experience of playing Street Fighter on the arcade but this game comes pretty close”
STREET FIGHTER EXCEED: CONCLUSION
Overall I was very impressed with Street Fighter Exceed; the presentation was beautiful and appealed to my aesthetic nature and the rules were generally easy to follow. Each ‘Round’ would take an average of 15-20 minutes to complete and I feel with additional character decks to choose from (many more decks are available to buy) and a few more playthroughs to fully understand the rules Street Fighter Exceed will be one of my go-to tabletop card games for a quick battle.
Nothing can beat the experience of playing Street Fighter on the arcade but this game comes pretty close. While there are other tabletop card games on the market that have a similar playstyle to Level 99’s team-up with Capcom, Street Fighter Exceed is an enjoyable experience and I’m looking forward to the inevitable crossover with Darkstalkers in the future.
The Good Stuff:
- Great presentation
- Quick combat when you understand the rules
- Enjoyable group experience
The Bad Stuff:
- Some rules felt superfluous
- Limited character choice in starter box
Review copy kindly provided by Level 99 Games at PAX East