Thank you for checking review #103 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
**Note: A review copy of the game was sent in exchange for an honest review.
An overview of Exceed Season 3: Street Fighter
Exceed Fighting System is a board game designed by D. Brad Talton, Jr. that is published by Level 99 Games. The box state it plays 2 players and has a playtime of 15-25 minutes.
EXCEED brings the speed, tactics, and variety of high-stakes fighting action to life. Choose your fighter and enter the arena. There are no packs to open or rares to chase get everything you need to play right here. Bring your best to the battlefield with four new fighters (per box) from STREET FIGHTER.
I’ll be among the first to admit that I don’t exactly get excited by Street Fighter as a theme – I played it in my younger years but I am by no means a fan of the series or IP. However, I do have enough character recognition to be able to appreciate how Level 99 Games made these characters retain aspects of those characters and integrate those into the unique cards in each deck and in the player powers. Sure, some aren’t going to scream “This is _____” when you see them, but they did a great job overall of trying to put some consideration into each character and what went into the decks.
The gameplay is the same outstanding system that has been built upon in the previous seasons of Exceed. It should come as no surprise that it is just as great in these boxes, making this a solid entry into the Exceed line of games and a worthwhile addition to any Exceed collection. The IP makes it a great starting point for new players, while there is enough here to merit picking up even for those who might already have a solid roster of fighters.
The new Critical mechanic is interesting, as you are forced to spend some of your Gauge to use it – and you must make the decision on using Critical as you set an attack, not when it resolves. This is the same Gauge that you can use to Exceed, or to play your strongest cards in your deck. Which means you need to decide to try and boost your current attack – which may miss or not resolve if you get stunned – or save those resources for something different later. This adds an excellent decision point to the game with one drawback: if one player pulls ahead early, they could spam the Critical on their attacks, because they have the Gauge to spend and could end to a lose-more situation for the other player.
The characters feel unique. In a beat-em-up game you would expect mostly similar ways to use characters. Maybe one hits hard from a distance while another hits hard up close, right? And there are characters who are basic enough to fit into those categories nicely (making them perfect for learning the game). But then you grab a character like Dan, who is so bizarre in how he wants to be played that he makes you rethink your approach. And then you grab C. Viper next and get blown away by how much she breaks from what you expect a fighting character to operate. I love that you don’t have 12 characters in the season who all just punch and kick with slight variations. If you want to play well, you need to consider the strengths of your character, their weaknesses, and what the opponent’s character is capable of and consider all of that. Which is a lot of great depth in a 20-30 minute dueling game.
This only gets mentioned because this is a Level 99 Games title, who notoriously use folded sheets for their rulebook – the version I played before this season had that folded sheet as the rules. But here it has a book-style rulebook which is excellent to have in the box and makes a perfect thing to reference.
The season is spread across three boxes, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It is good because that keeps costs down to purchase a single box – making the entry point appealing for the pricepoint. You get a TON of game for the $25-30 you’d pay for the box. The downside is that there are three of those boxes to purchase if you want the whole season – and with a popular IP like this odds are the characters you want to play as are not all found in a single box. Which means you’re probably spending the $75-90 on the entire season eventually anyway.
There is no way to count life for the players inside the box, something that might not go over well with newer players. Yes, a pair of d10s per player, or an app on a phone, or even a stack of poker chips can be used. Many gamers have ways of accomplishing this, but it is worth noting that you need a way to track health from 30 down to 0 for each side. Even something as simple as two health cards per player, in the vein of Hero Realms where one has 10’s and the other 1‘s and players manipulate the cards to represent their health would be better than nothing in the box. There is, of course, a playmat you can purchase and it has a spot on each side to track health. But since you already have a 9-card portable “board” to play on, shouldn’t there also be an easy way for this included in the box? Toss 4 cards or 4d10’s in there and this issue is solved.
Taking into consideration the fact that I am yet to play Season 2 of Exceed, I will start by saying that this season is the best one that has hit my table. Not only are the characters more universally-recognized than the Red Horizon IP, but the characters in these boxes come alive for the Street Fighter Exceed. There were moments when I would smile at the subtle nods to some aspect of these characters in the game, something I couldn’t enjoy with Season 1 and something that would also be absent from Season 2. If this season of Exceed accomplished nothing else, those character-defining traits would have been enough to bring a popular IP into the game.
However, they also took a solid system and added an interesting new layer of tactical decisions with the Critical mechanic, and it adds so much to the game experience without making things more complicated by extension. This is a solid entry into the Exceed line-up, and is likely to be a best seller for them because of the IP recognition. Gamers who pick up a box of the Street Fighter Exceed series are getting a really solid, replayable, addictive game in the box. It comes with tuckboxes for each character deck already in the box, an added touch that will do right by the customer (and something I wish I had for my BattleCon collection for those older sets).
One of the coolest moments, if you have any base knowledge of Street Fighter, is having those moments where you see a card or ability effect keyed to that specific character and see how appropriate that would be for the character in question. For instance, Vega gets a boost when backed against the edge of the arena – something he very much uses in the video game version of Street Fighter (well, at least the older versions I played). While not every ability can feel completely thematic, they do a good job of making every character stand out as feeling unique even though they all have a foundation of basic cards that are the same.
All in all, the Exceed Fighting System remains among my favorite games to play and I intend on picking up more of this system with Season 2 being highest on my wishlist for the Seventh Cross characters. I’m a huge fan of the 2-player dueling genre of games, and this is one of the best in that category. The elements of luck and (when you want to Wild Swing) chance are balanced properly with a dynamic battling system which flows quickly and does well at keeping both parties engaged. If you haven’t played Exceed yet, this is an excellent entry point into the system. And if you’re a returning fan, there is enough new content in here with that Critical mechanic, along with the playstyle of the characters, to merit adding this to your collection of fighters.