In 1996, Street Fighter EX was developed by Arika (a company founded by Final Fight and Street Fighter II co-designer Akira Nishitani) and published by Capcom as an attempt to bring the normally 2D Street Fighter series into true 3D. The game saw the return of Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Guile (in his first game since Super Street Fighter II Turbo), Zangief, Akuma and M. Bison. New characters, who are fully owned by Arika, were also added. These characters include:
- Hokuto, Japanese Kobujutsu master and archer
- Cracker Jack (just Jack in later installments), American bouncer
- Doctrine Dark, Ax-Crazy German mercenary
- Skullomania, Japanese salaryman turned hero
- Pullum Purna, Saudi princess
- Allen Snider, American ex-Karate champ
- Blair Dame, Monegasque Ojou and socialite
- Kairi, the long-lost amnesiac brother of Hokuto.
- Darun Mister, Indian pro wrestler
- Garuda, demon samurai
Two Updated Re-releases were created as Street Fighter EX Plus, adding dark versions of Ryu (Evil Ryu) and Hokuto (Bloody Hokuto), and Cycloid-β (Beta) and Cycloid-γ (Gamma), two cyborg Ditto Fighters with no faces (Gamma's a wireframe). PlayStation-exclusive Street Fighter EX Plus α added familiar faces Dhalsim and Sakura.
The game played similar to Street Fighter Alpha, but with the addition of side-stepping (albeit only as an aesthetic element of certain specials; unlike, say, Tekken, it was not a universal mechanic), guard-breaking attacks that makes the opponent temporarily dizzy, and special moves and Super Combos that can be cancelled into other Super Combos.
In 1998, Street Fighter EX2 was released and added Excel Combos ("Excel" being an abbreviation for "Extra Cancel"), Custom Combos similar to the ones seen in the Alpha series. This game also marks the first time that a Street Fighter game within its own sub-series removes characters from the roster as Akuma, Sakura, M. Bison, Cycloid β, Cycloid γ, Pullum, Darun, Allen, and Blair were cut. In their place came Street Fighter II veterans Blanka and Vega and four newcomers:
- Hayate, Japanese swordsman
- Sharon, French (?) secret agent gunslinger
- Nanase, Hokuto's staff-wielding sister
- Shadowgeist, masked anti-hero
Street Fighter EX2 Plus brought back Pullum, Darun, and Bison and then added Ryu's rival Sagat, Area (a young inventor with a giant mechanical arm), and Vulcano Rosso (fiery Italian fighter). Hayate was dropped from the arcade version of EX2 Plus, but returned for the PlayStation version. EX2 Plus also added Meteor Combos, a precursor to the Ultra Combo system later introduced in Street Fighter IV. Aside from Super Cancels, EX2 allowed for Super Combos to be cancelled into a Guard Break (Cancel Break, which could then be followed up by another Super Cancel if the player had enough/infinite meter) or a Meteor Combo (if the game allowed the player at the time to have infinite super meter or more than three bars).
In 2000, Street Fighter EX3 came out exclusively for the PlayStation 2. A Tag Team and Dramatic Battle system was added, complete with various new gameplay mechanics such as Meteor Tag Combos. Everyone from Street Fighter EX2 Plus (except Hayate) returned, as did Sakura, from Street Fighter EX Plus α. Ace, the sole new character for the game, was a character that could have moves from other fighters added to his move list at the player's discretion. Guard Breaks were replaced by the somewhat similar Surprise Blow, losing their unblockable properties but able to stun crouching opponents, floor airborne ones, and inflict chip damage as well as costing no meter to use, while Momentary Combos, two special inputs for each character allowing them to cancel from one special move to another unique special with the press of a precisely-timed single punch or kick, were added. The Excel from Street Fighter EX2 Plus was essentially replaced with the Critical Parade, a new mechanic added to Street Fighter EX3 wherein the standby character in a partner match would join their teammate and both characters could use unlimited Super Combos for a brief period of time, not unlike the Duo Team Attack from Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes.
In 2011, screenshots◊ and gameplay footage of a test project for the Nintendo 3DS known as Fighting Sample (alternatively, Project EX) featured (some of) the cast of the EX series. However, this only proved to be a tech demo of sorts, and Arika currently has no plans to make it into an actual game. On September 19, 2016, Capcom released a profile and artwork on Darun Mister which also mentioned Pullum Purna and connected him to the plot of Street Fighter V.
In 2017, Arika announced a follow-up to Street Fighter EX and its loose spin-off Fighting Layer under the Working Title (later made the official title) of Fighting EX Layer note with gameplay footage to show off. The announcement, meant to celebrate Arika's extended 20th anniversary note , came on April Fools' Day, leading many to initially believe it was a joke. Others thought the game looked way too real and polished to possibly be a joke (explained in part here), and as it turns out, the game is indeed playable and was even livestreamed later that day at a promotional exhibition event-slash-location test featuring Arika staff members and notable Street Fighter player Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue. (According to Akira's vice president Ichiro Mihara, the development of Fighting EX Layer being hidden for so long was, in fact, the joke.) At EVO 2017, the game was confirmed to be under development for the PlayStation 4 with a simultaneous launch in 2018.
Tropes distinct to, or introduced in, this game:
- 2½D: Contrary to popular belief, and much like IV would do years down the road, the combat system remained strictly 2D, the only changes being the 3D polygonal models and certain moves taking advantage of more dynamic camera angles as opposed to being set purely on a 2D plane.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: The original game had Blair's nameplate under the life gauge spelled as "Brair." Also the original game mispelled the gauge as "GAGE". This was corrected in the Plus update.
- Bowdlerize: The blood from Garuda's attacks was removed from the US version.
- The Bus Came Back:
- Sakura was exclusive to EX Plus α until she was brought back in EX3.
- Bison, Pullum, and Darun were retired in EX2 before they returned in EX2 Plus.
- As far as alternative version of characters go, Evil Ryu and Bloody Hokuto were completely absent for EX2 and EX2 Plus, only returning in the third installment (Evil Ryu as a Secret Character again, Bloody Hokuto as part of her regular form's moveset).
- The Cameo: For reasons known only to Arika, the background texture of Bison's stage in the third game has a low-resolution picture of Mr. T.
- Canon Foreigner: The characters introduced in this series belong to Arika. In Street Fighter EX2, they retconned the backstories of most of the new characters to distance them from the canon characters, while Blair and Allen were actually included in a non-Capcom Arika-developed fighting game titled Fighting Layer that never left the arcade. An interview with Seth Killian states that both Capcom and Arika own the EX characters, and that the only reason why a new EX game hasn't been made was Capcom's wish to have Arika make it happen.
- Canon Immigrant: As of Street Fighter V, it's revealed on Capcom's CFN website that Zangief gave his Chess Piece to Darun Mister to keep safe. The CFN website has since added other characters from the EX series, implying that while their game of origin has no place in the Street Fighter canon, the characters themselves are still a part of the Street Fighter universe, even if they never show up as playable characters again.
- Combination Attack: The Meteor Tag Combos from EX3.
- Easter Egg:
- EX Plus α was swarming with them, ranging from an alternative version of Hokuto dressed as a Miko to Ryu's headband continually growing larger after winning five consecutive matches to C. Jack's aluminum baseball bat to Akuma's prayer beads breaking apart and flying off of him if struck by a Super Combo.
- EX3, upon either completing Original Mode eight times with Sakura on Normal/Hard or earning all of the bronze medals, provides the option of having Sakura featured as the announcer of your matches.
- Fictional Country: If the map in vanilla EX2 is any indication, every stage in the game is set in a fictitious country meant to stand in for a real life one. Stranger still is the fact that Street Fighter heavily features real life locations, with most of the characters (EX cast included) explicitly hailing from an actual nation.
- Gaiden Game: The working title of the first game was actually Street Fighter Gaiden.
- Gratuitous English:
- Various characters aside, EX3 featured the mildly Engrishy YOU GOT MEDAL when obtaining medals in Original Mode.
- Even the naming conventions for some of the music aren't safe. Take Garuda, for instance. In EX and EX3, his theme is entitled "Stronger." That's not bad by any means, but his EX2 boss theme and EX3 Original Mode mid-boss theme are respectively "More Stronger" and "Great Stronger" as opposed to "Even Stronger," "More Strong," "Strongest," etc.
- Lag Cancel:
- One of the EX series' claims to fame is the ability to, by default, chain multiple Super Combos into one another for big damage so long as the player has enough meter to burn. On the rare occasions players are provided with infinite meter (such as after the second Bonus Game in EX2 Plus) or more than three bars (such as when Emotional Flow activates in EX3), this can lead to some truly ludicrous combos, sometimes capped off with a Super Cancel into a Meteor Combo!
- Guard Breaks in EX2, in addition to breaking an opponent's guard and being able to juggle airborne foes, can be used to cancel normal and super moves alike in what is known as a Cancel Break.
- Limit Break: The Meteor Combos, introduced in EX2 Plus.
- Mini-Game Credits:
- The practice session in EX2 Plus with a Cycloid after winning the fight over M. Bison.
- Beating up random Mooks in EX3.
- Moveset Clone:
- Three sets: the ex-Trope Namers Ryu and Ken, Allen and Kairi (who are similar to Ryu and Ken), Zangief and Darun.
- A case can also be made for Skullomania and Shadowgeist, the later of whom made his debut in the second game.
- Downplayed with Sharon, who was introduced in EX2 as a replacement of sorts for Blair, though she had only a few of Blair's techniques and additionally used firearms. They'd diverge further in Fighting EX Layer (the first time both women were present on the same roster), Blair focusing more on her kicking combinations and Sharon focusing more on gunslinging outside of Super Combos.
- Promoted to Playable: Bison II, the True Final Boss of EX2 Plus, returned in the third game as a Secret Character, though he's only usable in Original Mode. True Bison (aka Final Bison from Street Fighter Alpha 3) would take over as that game's (unplayable) True Final Boss.
- Put on a Bus: Aside of the characters mentioned in The Bus Came Back above...
- Akuma, Allen, and Blair in all the entries after EX Plus α; the latter two were dropped due to Arika including them as Guest Fighters in the Namco-published Fighting Layer, though neither returned for EX2 Plus or EX3, which released after Fighting Layer. Akuma's exclusion is not entirely clear, although it's possible that Arika preferred to keep Garuda and Kairi in in his place, making Akuma irrelevant. note
- Hayate was retired from the arcade version of EX2 Plus in order to get around a ban in South Korea that prevented the depiction of samurai-like characters in media, but the PS1 port brought him back as an unlockable fighter. He would not return for EX3, however.
- The Cycloids first appeared in EX Plus and only returned for EX Plus α; their Ditto Fighter shtick would be subsumed and expanded upon by Ace in EX3.
- As far as bosses and mid-bosses go, Shin Garuda made his one and only appearance in EX Plus α as the True Final Boss.
- Retcon: The original backstories for most of the new characters featured ties to numerous established Street Fighter characters (Hokuto is a student of the Bushin school of ninjutsu, Doctrine Dark was a former subordinate of Guile who was injured by Rolento, Jack is a former Shadaloo enforcer, Allen lost to Ken once, Pullum Purna's family has ties to Shadaloo and Darun is a rival to both Zangief and Victor Ortega). In Street Fighter EX2, all of these backstories were rewritten to downplay and even contradict these connections (such as claiming that Hokuto and Kairi's school is known as the Mizukami style and that Doctrine Dark's insanity was due to him being raised as a child mercenary) once it was established that Arika owned all of the new characters. Capcom's CFN website would later take elements from both backstories, i.e. saying Hokuto is descended from Bushin ninjas as well as being an heir to the Mizukami clan.
- Shared Universe: With Fighting Layer.
- Shotoclone: Ryu, Ken, Sakura, Akuma, Allen, and Kairi. Divergent Character Evolution between them mostly began in the second game, although Allen was unique from the start with the inclusion of kickboxing moves, his Justice Fist (which could deflect projectiles), and two command throws. On the other hand, Kairi mostly played like a more balanced Akuma at first, although with Akuma's absence starting in EX2, Kairi essentially became Akuma. However...
- Situational Damage Attack: Cracker Jack's Final Punch is a Charged Attack using three punch/kick buttons; depending on how long you charged it, it can deal low to massive damage (more than half a life bar, even). As Jack's moveset is lifted almost wholesale from Balrog, the Final Punch is his answer to Balrog's Turn Punch.
- Skeleton Motif: Skullomania wears a full body suit that has a skeleton painted over his whole body. Subverted in that not only he's a hero, he's a clear-cut and rather silly one as well, with EX2 onward turning him into a full-on Toku hero pastiche.
- Sprite Mirroring: Averted; all the characters are 3D models.
- Tag Team: In EX3.
- Team Spirit: With EX3's partner matches, if one character is defeated, their accumulated Super Combo Gauge will be transferred to the remaining teammate in what is known as Emotional Flow. At this point, the second character will now be able to hold up to six bars of super meter as opposed to the normal three.
- Unblockable Attack: The Guard Break. In EX3, this was replaced by the Surprise Blow, which no longer cost super meter, but could be blocked (albeit for minor chip damage). It still stuns the opponent, but only if they are crouching; if it successfully strikes a midair opponent, they'll immediately be knocked to the ground instead of how Guard Breaks would pop them up into the air for a juggle.