There was a time in the late 2000s when the game that eventually became Yomi was actually the Street Fighter card game. Created by David Sirlin while he was a developer at Capcom, the Japanese publisher unfortunately denied him the rights to the license and the game was released without Ryu and company. While Yomi is fantastic on its own, I can only imagine how much better and successful it could have been had it been able to use the Street Fighter license to add further credibility to the final product.
Years later, we finally get an official Street Fighter card game, courtesy of Cryptozoic Entertainment. Unlike Sirlin’s effort, which was crafted to simulate the Street Fighter experience as closely as possible, the Street Fighter Deck-Building Game is designed around an existing gameplay engine that currently powers deck-builders for DC Comics and The Lord of the Rings. Going in this direction doesn’t necessarily make for a bad game, but it’s lip service towards the source material will surely irritate fans of the franchise.
In this 2-5 player card game, things start off by each person drawing one Super Hero card. Yes, much of the terminology from the DC Comics version directly carries over here, which is disconcerting to say the least. Save for T. Hawk, Dee Jay and Blanka, you can play as the entire cast of Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix cast, which contains pretty much all of the classic characters from the series. If you act fast or buy the game through a third party, you can also get a Blanka card to round out your collection. Each character possesses a unique counter attack and a character-specific Ultra move card that can be bought with power during the action. Don’t put away any of the unused Super Heroes, because they’ll come into play later.
The goal of the game is to collect the most victory points. This is done by using your base punch cards to obtain better ones that earn you victory points as well as more useful actions. The most lucrative of these are stages. By “beating” a stage, you gain a large sum of victory points, as well a card that will give you ongoing benefits each turn. When all of the stages have been beaten, the player with the most victory points at that time wins.
Just because you’re one of the legendary World Warriors doesn’t mean you’ll score a perfect victory on every level. Each time you claim a stage, you’ll have to face off against its boss. This is where the remaining Super Hero cards come in. When bosses are revealed, they hit you with a counter attack that hinders your deck in some way unless you have a defense card to block it. The goal of this mechanic is to make players second guess whether they want to claim a stage, knowing that the punishment for doing so could hurt them in the long run. Also, this encounter is the closest thing you’ll get to mimicking the video game experience, which is unfortunate, but more on that later.
Like the DC Comics Deck-Building Game, Street Fighter makes for a solid introduction to the genre for its short learning curve. For more experienced players, this is one that you can get into and out of relatively quickly while providing a fun deck-building experience. If you’re a fan of the DC Comics version, the gameplay changes here are slight, but may be just enough to justify double dipping on this.
However, Street Fighter also shares the same thematic integration faults of its Cryptozoic brethren. Because this game is built on a generic gameplay engine and re-skinned with different franchises, the game’s mechanics don’t mesh well with the theme. In DC Comics, I never liked how or why Batman could use the Joker, Aquaman’s trident and Wonder Woman’s lasso to beat Darkseid because it didn’t make any thematic sense. With Street Fighter, Guile can use Tiger Shots, Chun Li’s bracelets and Ryu’s headband to beat India. Worse yet, Capcom’s fighting game has a rich history of gameplay mechanics to draw from, which this game makes largely misguided attempts at incorporating into this card game. The only real combat that takes place here is the act of playing attack cards that screw other people over or defense cards to defend yourself from said attacks. They work in service of the mechanics, but this fighting doesn’t really evoke anything that feels like the source material.
Even within the context of the Cerberus Engine, there are holes in the gameplay that hinder the overall product. Virtually none of the card names represent the gameplay benefit that you get from using them. As a means of working within the confines of the existing engine, many characters from the Street Fighter universe are absent, and we get stupid cards like Ryu’s headband and Sagat’s eye patch instead because they fit the Equipment category. I also don’t like the way in which playable character counter attacks are handled. Most of the character’s counter attacks are slight variations of the same thing and none of them thematically fit with anything that character would do in the game. On top of all of that, the higher proportion of attack cards that are meant to give the game a more Street Fighter simply slow the game down more than make it feel like an authentic fighting game experience.
I’m not mad that the Street Fighter Deck-Building Game isn’t Yomi. Taken at face value, this is an alright deck-building game that will work well for newcomers to the genre. However, its thematic issues are a big problem for me since the source material is so near and dear to my heart. It’s attempts at trying to emulate the series either fall short or are completely misguided while not doing enough to address the fundamental Cerberus Engine issues that make these games feel cookie cutter in nature. If given the choice between the two, I would likely choose DC Comics over Street Fighter because I’m more accepting of that game’s thematic integration shortcomings.
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