Skullomania returns!

It started as an April Fool’s joke. Arika streamed a new fighting game in the EX series and we all thought it was just dream. Fast forward to 2018 and I am playing a brand new fighting game featuring Skullomania. I can still remember when Arika developed offshoot Street Fighter games. There was something about their mechanics that put a new spin on the genre. Now with Fighting EX Layer they bring that into the new generation, without the Street Fighter license of course.

Let’s address the elephant in the room right up front. When this game launched there were definitely issues. It launched with two packages, a light version and a full version. The difference was a full set of Gougi (more on this later) and an extra character. While it might not seem like much, the Gougi system is one of the more unique aspects of Fighting EX Layer. Think of it as a sort of loadout for the match. The Light version only came with a handful, which limited the play styles.

MSRP: $59.99 (standard), $39.99 (light)
Platforms: PS4
Price I’d Pay: $29.99

I am not a fan of leaving out game play items in different versions. Especially once I got into the game and discovered how unique each of these make playing. The Gougi system is a set of buffs and actions that can change depending on how I was playing. One example is causing my player to be invisible during a dash. It sounds minimal, but it can be a game changer. These loadouts were activated depending on how I played. So if I was more of an aggressive player, I would want a Gougi pack that matched that play style. With the Light version that might not be an option, which left me purchasing more packs. The game should have just launched with one version and been done with it.

There is also the topic of lack of content. At launch the game had online and offline versus and training…that was it. No arcade mode, no vs. AI mode, nothing. It was as bare bones as it got. The messaging was also that these standard items would be added if the game sold well. Not the best messaging. As of this writing though the team has introduced an arcade mode, which was a very welcome addition. They have also announced two new characters that will be free to all players. Support is coming, but it is trickling in. I feel like waiting to launch the game might have been a better option.

Of course this is a very small team. I get that, but it is hard to convince consumers to buy in on an unproven franchise, especially when the features are severely lacking.

The biggest draw came when I finally played the game. This thing is just downright fun. The combat feels spectacular. Combos feel good, the characters all play differently, and I just really have fun when digging into it. Even with just one single player mode, I have spent countless hours going through. I want more. The more I play, the more I want this game to expand. I was really hesitant about the Gougi system at first, but now I find myself experimenting to see what I like. This game just retains that Arika polish I fell in love with all those years ago. In a year or two this could become one of my favorite fighting games, it just needs more content.

I also really love the look of this game. It brings some of the most eccentric characters with it, favorites such as Skullomania with his loud callouts for every move. They are all interesting and the animation is incredible. The game runs at a rock solid 60fps, and looks super smooth on the PS4 Pro. The stages are also lively and unique. There is something just visually appealing about the style of this game.

Fighting EX Layer is a hard sell to casual fighting game fans. Its lack of modes is its biggest downfall. For those who grew up with Arika’s work though it is a pure joy to play. I hope they continue to support the game and add more and more content as it goes on. Perhaps it will be featured at EVO next year instead of just a side option. With the announcements of new characters, stages, and even crossover characters, the future looks bright. I just hope the momentum continues.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Beautiful art design
  • Fighting feels superb
  • Characters are fantastic
  • Still lacking modes
Written by
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.