- Gwar ARUnited States
So, after a couple-month wait from PAX pre-order, IT CAME!:
Over the course of the last week I'd say I've put about ~8-10hrs into this thing so far. At boardgame night at my FLGS, not only did I get to play a bunch, but this was THE game of the night. 6-8 folks playing, 3 simultaneous games at pretty much all times - all of us brand new players. And by the end of the night? Everyone raving about how fun it was, or how they can't wait for next time! Needless to say, I'm stoked with my purchase; and now that I've got a reasonable amount of playtime under my belt, I'm ready to write a bit more about it for any who are interested.
EXCEED is a system for simulating a classic 2D fighting game. Level99 Games is the company that produces it, and this is their third year doing so. Needless to say, there's been a lot of refinement to the formula and they've gotten pretty good at it. In this season, they partnered with Jasco to use the Street Fighter IP... meaning all the characters are SF characters, which (IMO) makes the game instantly more recognizable and accessible than their previous more anime / original-IP offerings.
So, normally I don't really focus on this, but I was blown away enough here that I had to include it. The component's of this game are all absolutely lovely. I bought the full set of the game - 3 boxes, 4 characters each (12 total) + 'board-cards' to lay out for a 9-space battlefield in each + playmat. For each character they include a fold-up-yourself tuck-box w/ art, logo, 'character stats' name, etc. which are nice and flashy too. There's a ton of extra space... which makes them fit perfectly when sleeved. Very polished.
The playmat absolutely captures the Street Fighter 'feel' and provides plenty of help with organizing where to lay out what. The 30->0 healthbars feel just right as a 'slider'. The art style is consistent and very effectively captures the 'feel' and style of each character. Whether it's the red-purple flames of Akuma's Raging Demon, the red-fury of Ken's "Shinryuken", or the manly massacre that is Zangief's Ultimate Atomic Buster -- the style and art really helps you get into the feel of playing a fighting game.
Additionally, there's a lot of great QoL included. Every character has a pre-printed 'movelist' card and their own quick-rules-reference card with an 'action-list' on the opposite side. They could easily have skipped out on these, but including them really adds to the part of this game that is meant to focus on reading your opponent (more on that later), and the speed with which a newbie can start having a fighting chance (hah, lame pun).
Each character has a 30 card deck - 15 moves, 2 copies each. It is pre-constructed; much like a fighting game character that is not meant to be customized. 7 of these moves are the 'basic' moves (Dive, Cross, Assault, Spike, Sweep, Block, Focus) meant to simulate the basic actions available to a fighting game character. Then there are 5 individualized special moves - like Ryu's Shoryuken or Hadoken, and 2 'ultimates'. Furthermore, the bottom of each card has an alternative use 'boost' ability, allowing even more flexibility to how you play out your hand.
The board is a 9-space 'battlefield' and contains the character-card for each player. You draw up a hand of 5/6 cards to start and then the game begins. On each turn, you take an aciton - such as drawing a card, playing a boost, paying 'force' to move your character, etc, and then draw one new card at end of turn. This serves to simulate the 'footsies' part of a fighting game where you're 'setting up' for the real meat of the game. . . the STRIKE.
When a player takes the "Strike" action, they play a card, facedown, from their hand. Their opponent must respond with a card of their own. Both are simultaneously revealed as part of combat. Each card has some basic stats - speed, power, range, etc. First you compare speeds - the faster attack goes off first. Card effects like the "Before:", on "Hit:", and "After:" can radically affect character positioning, timing, etc. If the range checks out though, you land a hit and deal damage equal to the moves 'power'. Much like in a fighting game, this can prevent the opponent's move from going off at all due to being 'stunned'. To prevent this, many moves have 'Guard' on them - so even though you take damage, you don't get knocked out of performing your move and can retaliate. Finally, after the strike is resolved, if you hit your opponent the card goes to your 'gauge' as energy to be spent on ultra-moves, critical-attacks, or powering up your character (Exceeding) later on. You do NOT draw at end of turn, and play passes to your opponent.
While on the surface this sounds a lot like random luck, the implications of the way this is set up make the game far far deeper. For one, discards are all face up and checkable. So as the match goes on, you have a better and better idea of what the opponent probably still holds. Movelists help more. And also just having a sense of what each character is trying to do ... especially as the gauge starts to build up so you're ready for them to try to ult if they can. It stops being guesswork and starts being about reading the opponent.
Then there's the choice of strategy. Do you dive in there and strike now? Do you pull back and try to prepare by drawing 2 cards? Do you need to pitch your hand entirely and dig hard to find some specific counter to what you THINK they're going for? I've won games that I had bad character matchups in by thinking what my best outs were -- like mulliganing hard for my Hadoken against a Zangief or passing up on some early damage to make sure I had my 'speed-7, range 1 counter-attack' ready to go as Bison was powering up his ult.
Reading the opponent. Knowing when to use a card as a boost, when to hold it for later, or when to just pitch it and dig harder for something that will help you win. Knowing how to manage your hand in general vs. when to take the fight to your opponnent and allow your handsize to go down some. Managing your gauge and deciding whether to spend it on boosting individual attacks w/ crits or save up for a big ult.
All these decisions add up to a game with surprising depth and a real sense of polish and balance. At high level play, fighting games are about reading your opponent and outplaying their next play; and this captures that in spades. But, much like a real fighting game, sometimes just 'doing moves' and seeing what happens can be pretty effective especially at lower/casual level play.
The fact is - the game can be taught in less than ten minutes. A full fight, especially when you're at least passingly familiar with the cards and the system, takes ~15minutes on average. This is my 'sweet spot' for a game since you can get a total stranger playing and done with two rounds in 30 minutes! All these add up to a game that is PERFECT for casual play, and yet transitions seamlessly into 'expert' play. Easy to learn, hard to master.
On balance, it is a testament that after hours of play, no two people in my playgroup felt the same character was the 'best' or 'strongest'. Rather, the comments were more about how "Zangief plays exactly like he should". or "Akuma is totally a glass cannon just like in the game". Every character feels distinctive and plays like they should. And there's enough flexibility that you can change how you execute on your character to suit the needs of the matchup.
This game feels like a fighting game. There's tension. Reading. Atmosphere. The "magic pixel" effect where you get your opponent down to 1-4hp left . . .and then simply can't seem to land a hit as they come back hard. There's massive 'flashy supers', but also skilled play with trying to 'hit-confirm' your normals and specials for effective damage. I've wanted a game like this for a long time - and I feel this game succeeds where Flash-Duel tried and failed.
An easy 9-10 /10 - I can't honestly think of anything to complain about with this game, and that's saying something.
Would recommend to anyone looking for a good casual OR serious 'dueling' game. It's also one of those games that you can get a really good 'feel' of by just watching a game. So if it doesn't appeal when you see it being played, you'll know.
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- Duo Maxwell(cbrook29)United States
Great write up/review. I am a big fan of Exceed as well. I have the SF version also and I am even more eager to play it after reading your review.
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- Mike A(sh4mike)United States
IowaAt least I'm not covered in shit.
Oh God, you had to bring up Flash Duel. Such a disappointing purchase.
Exceed is awesome. Had some great games w/ my son last night. Broke new ground as he's always wanted to switch characters every round, but for the first time after a loss he requested a same-character rematch as those competitive juices swelled up. Makes a dad proud.
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- Marco Santos(mnmkami)Philippines
Wonderful review! Honestly, the biggest thing about SF EXCEED is that the characters just FEEL like themselves. Ryu is Ryu. Ken is Ken. Gief is Gief.
It's quite obvious that a lot of care and thought was put into adapting the characters more than just giving Gief slower attacks and Cammy faster ones, you know?
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