Fighting EX Layer is a 1-on-1 competitive Fighting Game developed and published by Japanese developer Arika, released as a PlayStation 4 exclusive on June 28th, 2018. The game serves as a Spiritual Successor to the Street Fighter EX series and Fighting Layer, also developed by Arika, as best evidenced by its use of gameplay mechanics from both EX (a multi-level Super Gauge in the vein of Street Fighter Alpha, the ability to cancel Super Combos into other Super Combos, Guard Breaks) and Fighting Layer (walled 3D arenas, the ability to sidestep)—though the 3D elements from Fighting Layer were later stripped out during development, leaving the game a 2½D fighter much like Street Fighter EX was.
The game serves as a launching pad for Arika to start fresh with the characters they co-created with Capcom for the Street Fighter EX games, with all announced fighters so far being from that series. This includes EX protagonist Hokuto; her Superpowered Evil Side Bloody Hokuto as a separate character, now going under Hokuto's real name of Shirase; Hokuto/Shirase's older brother Kairi; demonic samurai Garuda; part-time superhero Skullomania; Indian wrestler Darun Mister; cocky American martial artist Allen Snider; mercenary Doctrine Dark; young Monegasque heiress Blair Dame; bodyguard/bouncer Jack; cybernetic vigilante Shadowgeist; cheerful athletic college student Sanane (better known as Nanase); and modern-day swordsman Hayate.
Returning characters added via (free, except for Terry being paid) DLC have since included the Arabian princess Pullum Purna and the fiery Italian fighter Vulcano Rosso in version 1.10; secret agent Sharon and a Guest Fighter, the Legendary Hungry Wolf from Fatal Fury and SNK icon Terry Bogard in version 1.20; and tech-savvy Area in version 1.30.
The game has also been playable on Nesica-X-Live 2 cabinets since November 29, 2018 in Japan. There is a PC/Steam version as well, with 4K resolution support, released on November 30th, 2018 worldwide. A mobile version titled Fighting Ex Layer -α (Alpha) was released on April 1st, 2019 for both iOS and Android. A Nintendo Switch port known as Fighting EX Layer: Another Dash was announced in Februrary 2021.
This game provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: The game's story isn't really acknowledged in the game itself, but rather on the game's website.
- Art-Style Clash: The official character art are stylized and anime-like, whereas the in-game character models are more realistic looking akin to Tekken 7.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Ace from Street Fighter EX3 is the only Arika original character from the EX series not to make a comeback so far. In addition, none of the new characters introduced in the original Fighting Layer return.
- Decomposite Character: Both sides of Hokuto's personality are separate playable characters, much as was the case in the original Street Fighter EX. EX3 saw Bloody Hokuto's moves integrated into the command list of her regular self, with Hokuto having to burn a bar of super meter in order to tap into the powers afforded by her Seal of Blood. The reality is somewhat more complicated, as while Shirase is the original Hokuto from Street Fighter EX (now having succumbed to the Seal of Blood), "Hokuto" is actually Hokuto's kid sister Nanase, having had her memories suppressed and led to believe she is Hokuto.
- Demonic Possession: What happened to the elder Hayate in the backstory of this game, with his body now being used as the host for Garuda.
- Downloadable Content: It was announced by Arika president and CEO Akira Nishitani that the game would have post-launch characters if it met certain sales expectations. Thankfully, they were met, and so Vulcano Rosso and Pullum Purna became free additions in version 1.10. Sharon (v1.20) and Area (v1.30) were also included as part of a free update, while Terry Bogard (v1.30) is paid DLC.
- Guest Fighter: Terry Bogard of Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters fame joins the roster as a DLC character. As a trade, Skullomania travels over to the world of SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy to get genderbent and do battle with the ladies of SNK as a Downloadable Content character.
- Like Father, Unlike Son: In this case ancestor and descendant (their exact relation has yet to be fully revealed) between the elder and younger Hayates. Whereas the elder Hayate is a stoic person who tended to wear more traditional attire, the younger Hayate by contrast is less stone-faced (with artwork of him showing him with a smirk) and preferring modern-style clothes (while incorporating a few pieces of armor on the shoulders and sleeves of his jacket).
- Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: More than a few fans have noted how the title is a somewhat odd mishmash of the game's predecessors compared to something more natural-sounding like Fighting Layer EX (considering how, while the cast introduced in EX is featured here, this game is otherwise unconnected to the greater Street Fighter universe, much like Fighting Layer was). This is justified, however; so as to not risk copyright infringements (Namco published Fighting Layer and thus owns the trademark), Arika instead used a loophole.
- Officially Shortened Title: The official abbreviation for Fighting EX Layer, as per Arika's social media accounts, is FEXL. It doesn't stop some fans from calling it FLEX instead.
- Recycled Soundtrack: A number of the tracks in the game are lifted straight from the Street Fighter EX series and Fighting Layer without any sort of remixing. This can include themes for characters who are not even in the game, such as "Before Moon" (Sagat's EX2/EX3 theme) or Tetsuo Kato's theme.
- Send in the Clones: When playing as Skullomania in Arcade Mode, three other Skullomanias will be fought. His arcade ending reveals this as happening in-story when Skullomania discovers that "The Dark Organization was mass producing Skullomania clones!" Though it is followed by "(It was just a dream)".
- Snap Back: Mechanically, Fighting EX Layer plays far closer to the original Street Fighter EX and its two updates (Plus and Plus α) than any of the EX sequels. The Meteor Combos from EX2 are nowhere to be seen, and Excel (the EX2 equivalent to Custom Combos from Alpha 2) is likewise absent, to say nothing of all the Tag Team mechanics introduced in EX3 note . Even the Guard Break mechanic is no longer standard, instead serving as a possible enhancement to the universal Hard Attack (a feature carried over from Fighting Layer) depending on the Gougi deck selected. Individually, the EX cast is more varied; most are wholesale replications of their previous appearances, though a few characters gain new moves or follow-ups to old ones. For example... On the other hand, Allen and Blair have lost the Super Combos introduced in Fighting Layer (Galaxy and Fairy Gift) despite Ace having access to both as possible moveset loadouts in EX3.
- Spell My Name with an "S": The official character movelists provided by Arika along with the beta spell Skullomania's name as "Skullo Mania." Similarly, the game spells Shadowgeist's name as "Shadow Geist."
- Spiritual Successor: To both the Street Fighter EX series and to Fighting Layer, itself a Spiritual Successor of sorts to the first EX game that featured Allen and Blair among its lineup.
- Status Buff: The Gougi System. Players are able to choose from one of five playstyles (Aggro, Juggernaut, Shinobi, Infinity, and Miracle) after picking their fighters at the character select screen, similar to the -isms of Street Fighter Alpha 3, the Groove system of Capcom vs. SNK and its sequel, and the Variations in Mortal Kombat X. While these "decks" don't change how the combatants play in general, they do grant various passive effects should the player fulfill certain requirements in battle, not unlike the Gems in Street Fighter X Tekken. One of the more notable examples is Infinity's "Rage" skill, which provides the player with infinite super meter should they manage to spend 7 bars of the Super Gauge in a single round. It should also be noted that some perks are shared between two or more of the decks, such as "Guard Break" note and "Hades" note . Even more Gougi decks with their own bonuses are included in the game's Standard Edition.
- Writing Around Trademarks: Seems to be the case for this game on a couple of fronts. First, there was the working title being changed from Mysterious Fighting Game to what it is now (Fighting EX Layer), and Cracker Jack's name has been officially shortened to Jack again at the request of Arika. (That said, this is continuing on from the EX series' continuity, as Cracker Jack was simply called Jack in EX2 and EX3, and Arika has joked on the subject why he's back to just "Jack.") Given Arika's remarks on the matter, it is likely that they couldn't legally go with either Fighting Layer EX or Cracker Jack as Bandai Namco still owns the "Fighting Layer" name/trademark and Frito-Lay currently trademarks the "Cracker Jack" name.