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Jun262017

« A brief history of Arika and its fighters by Josh "funkdoc" Ballard, part 3 »

Part 3: Fighting Layer

Fighting Layer was released in 1998, though a bit later than the original version of EX2. It was published by Namco, whereas all of the EX games were published by Capcom. It remains a highly obscure game since it didn't have the Street Fighter name to draw player attention. Being a Japan-only and arcade-only release, it still sees occasional play there but is hardly touched elsewhere. It may be known best for the fact that Arika used Blair & Allen in this game instead of EX2 and 3.

This game retains the super cancels and general feel of the EX series but is very much its own creature. The most obvious difference lies in the movement: Fighting Layer has dashes and sidesteps. Additionally, Guard Breaks have been replaced with universal overheads that don't cost meter and will stun crouching opponents for a follow-up combo. Most characters have Target Combos, often from repeatedly pressing LP. These can usually combo into specials and supers so they're important for hit confirms. There is also a universal wakeup option called the Hard Reversal, which costs meter but is invincible for an extremely long time and can be performed early in the knockdown state. This game doesn't have as many traditional reversals as EX, hence the need for this feature.

The most unique of this game's mechanics is the Super Elusion, a weird variation of Guilty Gear's Burst. It can be used to escape any combo at any time and you can roll in any direction afterward. It also gives you a full super meter! As seen below, you can even burst out of a grab super as the opponent is physically grabbing you:

Thankfully, the Super Elusion is restricted to once per match. This results in some interesting strategic decisions, particularly given the meter gain from it.

When played well, this game doesn't look as different from EX as you would expect. Sidesteps don't cover much ground and don't work as reversals, so they're mainly used to avoid long-range attacks that move directly forward. This game has much weaker anti-air options than the EX series; only a couple characters have an invincible DP, and invincible supers tend to have slower startup or not connect fully on airborne opponents. You're going to see a heck of a lot more jumping here!

Combos have been simplified from EX2 and are closer to those of the original EX. Mid-range hit confirms are a big part of this game. That said, some characters can create longer juggles thanks to particular supers. Overall, the character designs are more creative than EX's—one character has a super that gives her huge corner juggles and full eight-way movement! There's also a wrestler with some moves that work like they do in wrestling games, such as an Irish whip. Arika clearly got more experimental over time, and that trend didn't end here!

Strong Characters: Lan, Capriccio, Blair

Lan has an infinite with her standing jab Target Combo:

You have to kara-cancel the move she's doing right before the hop, so it's hard but doable with effort. That infinite is her main threat, but she also has some of the quickest normals and walk speed. She can even hit-confirm a full combo from her crouching LK, which isn't all that common in Arika games. This game has lower overall damage potential for combos than the EX series, so the infinite stands out more here.

Capriccio is fantastic at controlling the long- and mid-range spaces. He can summon mushrooms on the ground and keep them in place, move them along the ground or throw them at the opponent. The mushroom remains active when he gets hit, though it can be destroyed by attacks. This leads to situations reminiscent of Hidden Missiles in Marvel vs. Capcom 3: if the opponent hits Capriccio but is stopped by the mushroom, he may be able to combo off of that. He also has fantastic pokes that are easily hit-confirmed into supers, and he can set up various okizeme from his dive-bomb super. Other characters have traditional projectiles which are easily sidestepped, but mushrooms are still an effective means of zoning since they track the opponent!

Blair maintains her core moveset from EX+, with her punch super being replaced by the far superior Fairy Gift. This new move is a threatening reversal that works as anti-air and can be mashed for some of the highest damage in the game. She can even juggle after it on occasion! She also gained an air flip kick special to help her juggles after Shoot Kick. She even has an infinite combo via linking standing jab after Shoot Kick, but this only works in the corner so it's not nearly as practical as the Lanfinite. Below is a short series of Blair versus Capriccio matches where you can see all of this in action:

Final Verdict: This is where Arika started to move away from the Street Fighter core in its design. There are a lot of fun gimmicky character concepts here, so this is one to check out if you appreciate that sort of thing. The infinites and lack of meterless anti-air are a shame, though. It's tough to say more than that because this game has been played much less by Westerners than any of the others in this article series.

Josh Ballard is a longtime veteran of competitive games, ranging from speedruns to the card game Dominion. The fighting game scene was his first love, and he remains a fan of old & obscure fighters. You can find his Twitch stream at twitch.tv/srkfunkdoc, and follow him on Twitter @SRKfunkdoc.

 

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