Review: Street Fighter Deck-Building Gameon July 24, 2014 at 8:00 am
The “Street Fighter” series has always held a special place in my heart. We’ve certainly spent our fair share of days frolicking in a field of dandelions under the sun; tasting fresh, organic produce from the farmer’s market; or wistfully idling away crisp, autumn evenings together.
Not that we’ve been exclusive with each other. I mean, I’ve always played other fighting games, tasting of the forbidden fruit they frequently dangle in front of my drooling maw. Seeing what their characters have to offer, experimenting with how they work and seeing how they tick, and executing all of their flashy special attacks by pressing their buttons. Oh, their sweet, buttony buttons. It’s all so naughty.
There’s always something missing, though. Something that always has me coming back to “Street Fighter”.
To paraphrase John Cusack’s character in “High Fidelity”:
That other girl, or other women, whatever… I mean, I was thinking that they’re just fantasies. You know? And they always seem really great because there’s never any problems. And if there are, they’re cute problems… And then I come home, and you and I have real problems.
…I’m tired of the fantasy because it doesn’t really exist. And there are never really any surprises, and it never really… delivers. And I’m tired of it. And I’m tired of everything else, for that matter. But I don’t ever seem to get tired of you.
Yes, “Street Fighter” and I do have real problems, but they’re problems worth having. Problems worth overcoming. Problems we’ve been having since I first played the series when it came out on Super Nintendo. I quickly bore of other fighting games. I’ll play them for a few weeks, wading in the shallow end of their mechanics, but I always feel unfulfilled. “Street Fighter” fulfills me in ways other fighting games can’t.
So, when I saw that there was a “Street Fighter” themed deck-building game, my eyes glistened with the faintest hint of moisture because I was so happy. Its addition to my collection was inevitable. I already own enough deck-building games with “Dominion” and “Trains”, as well as other alternative deck-builders, like “Quarriors” and “Puzzle Strike”, but I thought that this might be something special. After all, it’s “Street Fighter”.
What could possibly go wrong?
A lot, actually.
So, to continue the “High Fidelity” theme, I’m going to list the all-time, top-five things that are wrong with the “Street Fighter Deck-Building Game”.
#5 The Box Art
There is so much beautiful “Street Fighter” art. In fact, lots of the art on the cards is fantastic, as much of it is from UDON and looks great. The box art, on the other hand, fails to excite me in any way.
You look at it. It looks at you. And you both feel you understand each other and the sadness that lies within the game’s box.
That generic, Japanese rising sun design shooting in the background and that plain looking character design is completely muted and ho-hum. When you see it, you can almost hear it say, “Hey… so, you could buy me, you know. If you wanted to.”
It looks into your eyes and sees a tinge of disappointment. It’s self-conscious. It knows it was given a tough lot in life. It’s not the prettiest, most exciting box on the shelf, but it’s “Street Fighter”! That has to count for something, right?
It does, because I own it, as I’m sure many other people will buy it for the same reason I did. We all love “Street Fighter”. We’re not going to let a homely looking box stop us from enjoying something. We’re not that superficial.
#4 There is Very Little Fighting
You’re going to get your new purchase home, gather your friends around, and start playing, what you think, is going to be a good time. You’re going to see the characters, the super moves, the attacks and think, “Awesome, this is everything I’ve dreamed of.”
Probably. I’m not sure how many people actually wanted their favorite fighting game to exist in card form, but just pretend it’s a dream of yours, okay?
You and your buddies are going to look at the mechanics and see that you get to attack other players, defend against their attacks, use ultras, and battle against stage bosses. It’s all going to seem very exciting.
Until you realize that none of it really matters.
Victory isn’t gained by depleting the life of your opponents, like a fighting game. Rather, it’s gained simply from getting points. Which isn’t the sexy, head-kicking combo-fest you were probably hoping for. Not when you were expecting to slam your friends into the ground with Zangief’s spinning pile driver.
You can certainly use the spinning pile driver (among other moves) and be offensive in the game, but the only effects these attacks have is forcing your opponents to discard a card or gain weaknesses, which are worth negative points. Things that make your opponent go, “Okay,” and perform the task as if it were a complete non-event.
Of course, if you have the correct cards in your hand, you can defend against these attacks, but that doesn’t feel special, either. Very rarely does anything happen to the attacker. It’s usually, “Oh, you don’t have to discard? Okay.”
It’s like you’re in your backyard, pretending to play “Street Fighter” with your friends, and you’re just running around, miming attacks, and yelling the special moves at each other.
“I’m doing my Sonic Hurricane on you!”
“Nuh-uh, I’m countering it with my Metsu Hadouken!”
Except that would actually require imagination and you could physically punch each other, if you really wanted. Depending on how much you liked that friend.
The “Street Fighter Deck-Building Game”? You can’t do that. It’s just elicits a roundtable of apathetic “Alrights”, as the game trundles along like a sloth with a limp.
“But what about fighting those stage bosses?!”
Exactly! What about them? They’re nothing.
The game progresses by tackling stages. There are eight in total and each stage and its boss cost a certain amount of power to challenge. Basically, it’s like buying any other card. The only difference is that you flip a Super Villain card over, even though the card will say Super Hero, and they do a kind of annoying thing to you, and then you take your prize.
What should’ve been an aggressive game of attacks, counters, and combos to actually beat on your opponents, just ends up being the card game version of tepid tapioca.
#3 The F***ing Point System
If you’ve played ANY other deck-builder before, think back on how victory was achieved. Points are the norm, but they’re either tracked as the game progresses or, like “Dominion”, you actively purchase point cards and clog your deck up with them. In the “Street Fighter DBG” almost EVERY card you purchase is worth points.
In theory, that sounds great! Every purchase goes towards ultimate victory!
You can easily have as many as 60 cards in your deck by the end of the game and now you have to break out your TI-83 graphing calculator, employ all of your disused calculus knowledge from school, and figure out who won.
It’s not just as simple as counting up your cards, oh no. That kind of design would be far too generous. There are also cards that give so many points for other kinds of cards you have in your deck, or cards that only give your points for having copies of that exact same card, or cards that ask you to read the fine print on cards to see if it gives you points in certain circumstances.
You’ve already played the game and now each player is struggling with this post-match math puzzle to see who won. No one cares, at that point. When everyone finally announces their point totals and a victor is decided, the first thing that will be said is, “Where is the scotch? Tonight, I’m drinking to forget.”
There’s never any indication of who might be ahead, who is playing well and who isn’t, or any indication that what you’re doing is effective. Every turn feels exactly the same. So, when you’ve finally figured out who won, it may be a surprise, but the biggest victory achieved will be that you’ll never have to play it again.
In reality, that’s how you win. You never play it again.