Arika EX: Full system and mechanics rundown from EVO 2017

At EVO 2017, Arika finally showed off their new April Fool’s fighting game, Arika EX. This long awaited revival of the Street Fighter EX series (but without Street Fighter characters this time) is becoming quite popular with fans. However, it might have some systems that will take you by surprise.

While still an EX game at its heart, Arika EX takes inspirations from the VS series, Smash Brothers, and even Street Fighter X Tekken. Let’s break down what we learned at EVO 2017.

Basic Controls

Arika EX controls very similarly to the Street Fighter EX games that came before it, with a bit of an update for a modern day audience. It’s still a six button fighter consisting of light, medium, and heavy punches and kicks. It has a very simple universal chain system, allowing attacks of a lighter strength to naturally combo into attacks with a heavier strength. Special moves can cancel from any normal and super moves can cancel from any special. Special moves are executed through basic Street Fighter motions including quarter circles, half circles, dragon punches, and 360s.

Super moves are executed through double quarter circle motions. Pressing both light attacks initiated a throw, which can be teched by throwing at the same time, while pressing both mediums initiates a “hard attack,” a universal overhead which can be charged but cannot be chained out of. Double tapping forward makes you dash and double tapping back lets you backstep, which has a small period of invulnerability.

Progressive Controls and Easy Combos

Like most fighting games these days, Arika EX has an alternate control mode for people who find it too difficult to perform quarter circle movements. This mode, called progressive mode, actually adopts a control scheme similar to Smash Bros. Attacks that are done from a neutral stance or that are done after the joystick is tilted come out as normals and command normals. Attacks that are “smashed,” i.e. pressing an attack button and a directional button at the same time, come out as special moves. Super moves in progressive mode are done by tapping forward-back or back-forward with punches or kicks.

Progressive mode is… interesting to say the least. Traditional fighting game players will get incredibly frustrated with this mode, as they will constantly throw out specials when they want to throw out normals. However, Smash players will take to it just fine, since they are used to managing their directional timing. There’s no penalty for using progressive mode, so this feels like an attempt to reach out to the platform fighter community that normally doesn’t try out 2D fighters like this.

It’s really self-explanatory, too. If a move would typically be done via a quarter circle forward, its command becomes smash forward. If it would be done via a quarter circle back, it’s just smash back. Dragon punches are smash diagonally down forward and 360s are smash up (which is usually where 360s end when executing them).

Arika EX also has an “easy combo” system, but unlike most games you can’t execute it simply by mashing buttons. To trigger it, you have to dash first, and then start tapping light attack buttons. This will send you through an auto combo string, chaining through your normals. Once again, there’s no penalty for using this system, or than the extra time it takes to dash. It should also be noted that easy combos are actually harder to use in progressive mode since you might accidentally get a smash attack if you press light punch too soon after dashing.

Super Cancels

Both players have a three stock meter, exactly like they did in Street Fighter EX. Using one stock of meter allows you to use a super move. However, you can also use multiple stocks of meter to cancel one super move into another. It’s also worth noting that you can super cancel out of your universal overhead. It is, in fact, the only move that can cancel out of it naturally.

The Gougi System

Arika EX’s most unique system, the Gougi System, can be most easily compared to Street Fighter X Tekken’s gem system. Each player equips a deck of five gougi, each of which grants them a bonus if they fulfill a certain condition. There are two different types of gougi: orange gougi and blue gougi. Orange gougi alter the properties of your moves and character, while blue gougi increase your stats. In the demo, five loadouts were prepared. It is unclear whether or not you will have to stick to these static loadouts in the final game, or if you will be able to create gougi decks of your own.

The five loadouts were as follows:

Juggernaut – Use your invincible body to unleash a fatal attack!

  • Hades

    • Trigger: Activates after taking 300 points of damage
    • Effect: Gain super armor
  • Guard Break
    • Trigger: Perform 4 hard attacks (hit or blocked)
    • Effect: Hard attacks become guard breaks
  • Meter Up
    • Trigger: Attack your opponent 10 times (hit or blocked)
    • Effect: Increase super meter gain by 30%
  • Speed Up
    • Trigger: Activates after ten seconds have passed
    • Effect: Increase movement speed by 10%
  • Attack Up
    • Trigger: Build one bar of meter
    • Effect: Increase damage by 15%

Impressions: Juggernaut is actually built entirely around one move, the “hard attack.” While this attack is normally just a chargeable overhead, this gougi loadout gives it super armor and lets it break guards, which turns it into a Street Fighter IV style focus attack. Every other gougi is included simply to build on your base stats. The overall goal of this loadout is to use your unblockable hard attacks to penetrate your opponent’s guard and then cancel these attacks into supers to do huge damage.

Infinity – Go wild with infinite super meter!

  • Rage

    • Trigger: Use 7 bars of super meter
    • Effect: Gain infinite super meter
  • Guard Cancel
    • Trigger: Block 30 attacks
    • Effect: become able to cancel your guard into special or super attacks
  • Meter Up
  • Meter Up
  • Meter Up

Impressions: Infinity is… pretty nuts. It takes a ton of effort to activate. Spending seven bars of meter, even with nearly double meter gain granted by your meter up gougi, is not easy. Successfully spending seven bars of meter will probably kill your opponent anyway. If you somehow manage to activate all the gougi in this loadout, you become a terrifying monster. Your guard cancel ability means that you can transition any successful guard into massive damage with your infinite meter. You will certainly make your opponent afraid to push buttons with this deck.

Aggro – Recommended for aggressive attackers!

  • Rampage

    • Trigger: inflict 40 damage in one combo
    • Effect: Damage increases the more you attack
  • Illusion
    • Trigger: Activates after taking 300 points of damage
    • Effect: Escape an opponent’s combo once per round
  • Chip Up
    • Trigger: Inflict 40 points of chip damage
    • Effect: Increase chip damage by 2
  • Attack Up
  • Attack Up

Impressions: The aggro deck does what it says on the tin. It rewards relentless aggression. Most of the gougi in this deck will activate normally simply by playing as you normally would if you are an aggressive player. They make your combos more and more of a threat and make your opponent afraid to get touched. However, even this will cause them to eventually fall, since you will do increased chip damage with each hit. The Illusion ability also gives you some extra insurance if you get too reckless while pushing buttons, giving you a free combo escape.

Shinobi – Move Silently like a ninja and surprise your opponents!

  • Ghost

    • Trigger: Avoid your opponent’s attacks for 6 seconds
    • Effect: After dashing for 10 frames, become invisible for 1.5 seconds
  • Guard Cancel
  • Guard Break
  • Speed Up
  • Attack Up

Impressions: The shinobi loadout is meant to favor mix-up oriented players. Ghost is its main ability, allowing you to turn invisible after dashing. Once invisible, the opponent is completely vulnerable to a high, low, throw mix-up. Add an unblockable hard attack to the mix and it will be near impossible for the opponent to predict your movements. The natural response to turning invisible is to attack, but this loadout’s guard cancel ability makes that a risky proposition as well.

Miracle – Unlock all your skills at once with this dream deck!

  • Overload

    • Trigger: Maintain a full super meter for 20 seconds
    • Effect: Activate all other gougi
  • Hades
  • Illusion
  • Guard Cancel
  • Guard Break

Impressions: For a deck that is built around one gimmick, unlocking all your gougi at once, miracle is probably the most all around deck. It doesn’t increase your stats at all, but rather gives you a full complement of altered properties. From super armor, to combo escapes, to guard cancels and guard breaks, it simply gives you more tools than the opponent, provided that you can build your meter to max.

The gougi system is one of the most fun and interesting parts of Arika EX, but it doesn’t seem balanced at all at this point, and only has the potential of being further broken if these decks become customizable. The developers will have to put most of their balancing efforts here, or else the game might become impossible to play on a competitive level.

Characters

Only three characters were available to play in the EVO demo, and all of them have appeared in Street Fighter EX before. Kairi is, for the most part, exactly a Ken and Ryu clone. He will be the easiest to pick up if you aren’t familiar with the system.

Garuda is an animated suit of armor whose move set largely revolves around moving around the stage in awkward ways. He capitalizes on his strange hit-box shape and multi-hitting special moves to trap the opponent into long super cancel combos.

Finally there is Hokuto, who is certainly the hardest character to get a hang of so far. She has weird special move inputs, a throw, a projectile, several striking attacks, and more. She is the most technical character, and has the longest move set so far. In general, she plays more defensively than either Kairi or Garuda, looking for openings in the opponent’s sloppy offense.

General Impressions

Arika EX is fast, very fast, much faster than Street Fighter EX ever was. It focuses on combos and aggression far more than footsies, making it distinct from the original EX series. It has a lot of potential, but without a keen eye for balance, can go very wrong very quick.

This is why the team is taking things very slow. Most of the graphics are just placeholders right now. Stages are simple, sounds and music are re-used from previous EX games, the demo is a demo in every sense of the word – a totally incomplete and unfinished product. And that’s OK, because the Arika team seems very interested in listening to fan feedback and building up their game around fan desires. The more incomplete the game is, the more time Arika has to make it the best fighting game it can be.