Writing about the new Street Fighter Exceed set has forced me to confront something I dread: my past writing. Nervously I searched for my original review of Exceed, fearing the idiocy of my past self. To my relief, despite some grammatical tendencies I’ve been trying to eradicate, I discovered that my original review wasn’t half-bad. After revisiting Exceed, I find myself agreeing with more or less all of my original thoughts.
I labeled that review as a “first impression”, as I wasn’t sure how I would see the game after repeated play. Despite enjoying my initial experiences, I wondered at the end of the review if I would continue playing very often. I didn’t. Not because I started to dislike the game, but because I had trouble finding willing opponents and because there’s a lot of competition for attention in the 2-player card game realm.
Now I’ve got a sampling of the Season 3 set, which features the Street Fighter IP, something I know very little about. In terms of theming, I’m one of the last people you should ask, but I assume Level99 has sufficiently evoked the characters. Speaking of the characters, if you’re not a fan of the IP you may find them a bit bland compared to previous sets. I have the Ryu box, which features 4 flavors of burly men. Confused, I had to search to see that not all of the characters are burly men, though most of them are.
Like I said before, if you want my thoughts on the system, read the earlier review. The new mechanism for this set are “critical abilities”, which are bonus effects that you can spend gauge to activate to make an attack or ability more powerful. Combined with the simultaneous reveal method of resolving attacks, this creates a new layer to the mind game in Exceed. Now you might have your opponent not only initiate an attack, but spend a gauge before the card is revealed. How does this influence your decision making? Knowing what you know about their deck, what card might they have under there?
On the flip side, spending gauge in order to boost one particular card is an interesting decision, as it decreases your ability to play more powerful attack cards. Cards that require gauge to play cost generally fewer gauge, from what I can tell, but that kind of short vs. long term decision making is compelling.
Most importantly, this mechanism is very easy to understand and creates a fantastic entry point to the series. I’ve found all four of the fighters in the Ryu box to be more straightforward and intuitive to play than the fighters I got from Season 1. Each of them gets their own tuck box with a general summary of their strengths and weaknesses printed on it, so it’s easy to pick up a new deck, see what it’s about, and quickly develop some simple strategic heuristics. This might be the best set to begin with unless you dislike Street Fighter.
The game comes in a nice box with more than enough space to house not only the four included fighters, but a larger collection as well. I housed my five fighters in a spare Netrunner deckbox before, and I was able to include that and the new fighters all within the Street Fighter box with a bit of room to spare. Thankfully, the rules are now printed in booklet rather than folded-map form, and I love the tuck boxes for each fighter.
The graphic design for this set is again different from the previous sets, fitting within the theme nicely without losing any (and possibly gaining some) clarity. As to be expected from Level99, the art is superb, even though, to a non-fan like me, the subjects are rather bland.
Sagat is all about movement and manipulating the distance between him and his opponent. He’s got mostly long-range attacks, but when he gets face to face he can strike and retreat reasonably well. I feel like he’s trying to close the game quickly with a diverse set of relatively quick attacks and some incidental card draw.
Ryu seems like a jack of all trades who can adapt to any circumstance. He’s ostensibly a close-range brawler with a couple of ranged attacks, but if you look at his effects, he can kind of do everything–close in, defend, counterattack, string attacks, and adapt to his opponent. I suspect the key with Ryu is to play a tempo game–stay up on card advantage and try to manipulate your opponent into hasty decisions.
Akuma has some super powerful attacks, but he’s perhaps the most complex and technical fighter, with a number of conditional effects centered around movement and timing. If any of the fighters in this set have a higher learning curve and depend on card knowledge, it’s Akuma. I found him a bit tricky to play successfully, certainly because I don’t have that card knowledge at all. Interestingly, his inherent power boosts both him and his opponent equally.
Zangief is the burliest of all the burly brawlers in this set. He’s a grappler who wants to get close and stay close for the entire game. Playing him against a more long-range foe was a comical chase back and forth across the play area. Ideally you want to push your opponent to the edge of the board and keep them from running away.
If you’re looking for an interesting, pick up and play competitive card game, Exceed is a solid pick. You don’t have to build decks, every deck plays differently, and by now there are are number of different sets to choose from. Street Fighter is another great addition to the series.