Hello, everyone! Marco here to bring you some sweet, sweet EXCEED content. Given that we’re expecting a decent influx of new players from the new Street Fighter season, I believe that it would be useful to give them a quick primer on an EXCEED mechanic that is quite important: Normals.
Normals are, for the most part, a set of cards that every character in EXCEED has access to. Much like “normals” in actual fighting games, these cards are meant to represent attacks and options that any character can do such as blocking or sweeping. It is, therefore, important that you understand how Normals work. You’re gonna be seeing them often, after all!
The Anatomy of a Card
Before diving into how Normals work, we must first establish a few terms. This is important as I’ll be using them quite often when talking about the cards. Please reference the graphic below:
Here you see the “Cross” Normal. It has a Range of 1-2, a Power of 3, a Speed of 6, and an After Effect that lets you retreat 3. On the bottom of the card, you see the “Run” Boost, which costs 0 Force to play and has a Boost Effect that lets you advance up to 3 when you play it. As such, each card in Street Fighter EXCEED can be thought of as two cards in one: an Attack you can use in a fight, or a Boost that gives a variety of effects in and out of combat.
One thing to note is that cards in EXCEED can be played as an Attack (the top 80% of the card) OR as a Boost (the small yellow box on the bottom). These two aspects of a card are often separate and mutually exclusive. This means that using a card’s Attack prevents you from using its Boost and vice versa. Do you want to use it as an attack now or hold it as a Boost for later? These kinds of questions will, hopefully, be answered by the end of this article.
Understanding Your Options
It’s time to get to the Normals themselves. As mentioned earlier, these cards are representations of actions that all the characters can take. They are, therefore, tools that every character can make use of to further their gameplan. Whether you’re a Zoner like Guile or a Grappler like Zangief, a good understanding of your options is crucial to victory! With that in mind, let’s get started!
Grasp is EXCEED’s take on a fast poke attack. Taking from high priority grab attacks in fighting games, Grasp offers you excellent control over the opponent’s positioning with its Hit Effect, possibly cornering them for added pressure. Using its massive 7 Speed, not many attacks can beat Grasp when it comes to going first. However, its limited Range of 1 makes it only useable in melee. In addition, it trades quite poorly if it does not Stun the opponent or move them out of their attack’s effective range, so be careful against attacks with Guard and huge Range.
Fierce, its boost, provides quite a bit of extra punch to most of the attacks in the game, letting you forego Grasp’s fast consistency for a meatier hit on another attack. While not relevant in many cases, the added Power to your attack could spell the difference between Stunning the opponent or letting them counterattack. Consider your opponent’s Guard options and boost with Fierce to adapt.
Cross is a powerful tool that gives your character a lot of mobility, especially when it comes to creating gaps. An effective “side-grade” to Grasp, Cross sacrifices Speed for added Range and positioning control, letting you create a lot of breathing room. Defensive fighters appreciate this Normal quite a lot due to the amount of space it creates for them, as the opponent must now close the gap to apply more pressure. It’s very important to remember that, unlike Grasp, Cross’ movement is an After Effect; not a Hit Effect. This means that, even if you whiff, Cross still lets you back away from the opponent, giving you guaranteed distance. However, be weary of your positioning because Cross is only as good as the spaces behind you. Without room to retreat, it will handily lose to a lot of other Normals.
On the offensive side, the Run Boost fulfills the opposite purpose: it’s a powerful gap-closer. Movement is often quite costly in EXCEED as you often have to trade one card for one space of movement (and more if you want to switch sides with an opponent). Run lets you move three spaces for the price of one card, making it quite efficient. Aggressive characters who want to stay in melee may find themselves using this Boost quite often.
Moving on, we have the aggressive character’s favorite Normal: Assault. True to its name, this is a highly offensive Attack, letting you close-in on your prey while dealing a decent chunk of damage. Fans of our other games might be scared to see that the Before Effect moves you 2 spaces and could result in you “overshooting” your target. Don’t fret as Assault uses the keyword “Close”, which lets you advance without switching sides, guaranteeing that you stay at Range 1. However, while this is all well and good, one of its biggest benefits is most definitely its Hit Effect, which gives you Advantage, letting you take the next turn post-Strike. This is a powerful ability as it allows you to keep the pressure on and possibly “combo” into another Strike that yields even more damage! Assault’s biggest weakness is its middling Power, which makes it trade relatively poorly against some of the slower Normals with huge Guard and Armor values, so be careful of those.
Much like Cross, Assault’s Backstep Boost is the polar opposite of its Attack counterpart. Rather than bringing you closer, it allows you to create distance; this time, at a rate of 4 spaces for 1 card! This is quite efficient and definitely a welcome option for defensive ranged characters who need to get away from aggressive enemies. This is a common theme in EXCEED. Characters who don’t find the Attack side of a card useful can often make excellent use of a card’s Boost instead!
Dive is quite an interesting attack with very specific Range. Despite having a Range of 1, its Before Effect advances the user 3 spaces, which, unlike Assault’s Close 2, allows them to overshoot their target. This effectively means that Dive’s “effective Range” is actually 3-4, making it a mid to long range option for a close-in. However, its mediocre speed leaves much to be desired. Many character-unique Attacks that are effective at these ranges tend to either be Speed 4 or greater, meaning that Dive could easily be stuffed by a dedicated ranged character, since it has no Guard. However, should the opponent find no answer to it, Dive is quite a powerful attack, letting you charge in, deal big damage, and avoid the enemy’s attack all in one go! One final thing to note is that Dive can still be used in melee. Even if you won’t hit the opponent, you can still use the Before Effect to move past an opponent and dodge any Attack that’s slower than Speed 4, such as some of the Normals below. As an added bonus, if your opponent is in the corner (or near it) the movement won’t necessarily put you outside of Range 1, making for a sneaky option that many players won’t expect from a “ranged” Attack.
The Boost on this card, Tech, is very much a niche utility effect, much like Dive itself. While there aren’t that many uses for it, this Boost can prove crucial in dealing with specific types of characters, specifically those who tend to rely on Boosts to power-up their attacks a significant degree. Sometimes, removing that one crucial Boost on the opponent’s side could mean the difference between a lost or won Strike, so look out for those opportunities and don’t forget this option!
We’re going to jump a little ahead of the Speed order and move onto Sweep (I’ll explain why later). Sweep is what many players consider to be “the best Normal Attack”. It essentially trades positively in terms of damage and card advantage against all of the Normals we’ve just discussed. This means that, at Range 1, you can expect Sweep to consistently net you a huge lead in almost every respect. Sweep, therefore, kind of dominates many of your Attack interactions. It dictates what attacks “feel safe”, as anything that can’t effectively trade against Sweep will just feel bad when fighting against it. However, despite its many advantages, Sweep does have a few downsides. The biggest one is its slow Speed, which makes it susceptible to the opponent’s Effects. Should they have any effects that let them evade, or even outright Stun you, Sweep definitely seems less good. As an extension to this, it is important to remember that Sweep is a trading Attack, and that means that Sweep will often have to eat and Guard through an attack before hitting back. This can be quite troublesome at lower life totals, as the opponent could easily just K.O. you before you even get the chance to Attack!
Light, on the other hand, is much like the Fierce Boost on Grasp. It allows you to buff your next attack with more Speed. This may seem like an effective side-grade to the Fierce Boost, but don’t let looks deceive you! In EXCEED, Speed often dictates what Attacks win or lose. A simple +2 Speed can turn a bad interaction into an extremely positive one! For example, an Assault with 5 Speed handily loses to a 6 Speed Cross, which makes the aggressor sad, but an Assault with 7 Speed handily beats Cross, flipping the entire outcome on its head. Consider this well and boost your Speed to tip the scales to your favor!
Focus is an Attack that is little bit less powerful than Sweep but is definitely a lot safer. A large majority of the things that I said about Sweep tend to apply to Focus as well. It usually dominates attack interactions, and results in you getting a life lead and card advantage. In line with this, its low speed also makes it highly susceptible to faster Effects. However, Focus has a few advantages that Sweep does not. This Attack’s built-in Armor values mean that it can still shrug off attacks at low life totals. Its “cannot be moved” Effect is also quite powerful, letting you guarantee your positioning for at least another turn. However, this also means that Focus has a few weaknesses when compared to Sweep. These are, mainly, its lower Range and Power values. This means it can’t kill as fast and more mobile characters can dodge it should they wish. Therefore, look to Focus should you need a safer, more defensive alternative to the powerful Sweep. Just be mindful about the opponent’s movement tools.
Now, onto the meat of this card: Reading. If Sweep is the “best Normal Attack”, then Reading is the “best Normal Boost”. While many newer players might not exactly appreciate it, experienced players know the power of Reading. The text might seem a bit odd at first, but it essentially lets you call out Normal and force the opponent to Attack with it, if they have it. This ability, when used correctly, allows you to win virtually any Strike by calling the right card! Simply call an attack that will lose to a card in your hand and you will find yourself getting a “free win”. Granted, the opponent won’t always have the Normal that you name, so it is important to keep track of what cards could be in the opponent’s hand so you don’t name a card they can’t possibly have! Should you fail the read, don’t worry too much. Your opponent still has to reveal their hand to you, which gives you crucial information on what attacks they can play, setting you up to win Strikes on later turns.
Should you ever feel like you don’t know what to do when your opponent attacks, Block is often a good tool to make use of. Despite not actually being an “Attack”, since it doesn’t hit or deal damage, Block is core to every character’s kit, giving them a defensive option that can possibly negate most, if not all, incoming damage! In addition to this, you still get to build-up Gauge thanks to its After Effect, which will definitely help you when trying to keep-up in terms of resources. However, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows! That damage mitigation comes at the hefty cost of Force, which could leave you resource-starved later on. When playing Block, remember that you are not required to spend Force to negate all the damage. This could be quite useful when Blocking attacks like Grasp and Cross, which would only deal 1 damage after going through your default 2 Armor.
Parry acts as an alternative to Focus’ Reading Boost. Instead of forcing the opponent to Strike with the named card, they simply have to Discard it. This might seem much weaker as the pay-off is nowhere near as good as instantly winning a Strike, but it has its own distinct advantages. First, it allows you to name ANY card; not just Normals! This makes it great for getting rid of threatening character-unique attacks like Specials and Ultras, which are often unbeatable by most attacks. Speaking of Specials and Ultras, the second advantage is the fact that you don’t have to Strike! Should the opponent have an attack that’s nigh unbeatable (like a Special or Ultra), you don’t have to bother fighting against it anymore and just have them Discard it instead, removing a threatening option from the opponent’s hand while maintaining relative safety!
This is the reason I decided to skip ahead on the Speed order. It would be really hard to explain Spike without having exposed you to all the other Normals. Spike functions similarly to throwing a wrench into a bunch of cogs: it kind of flips the entire system on its head. Slower Attacks like Sweep, Focus, and Block tend to be safer and more consistent, while faster Attacks like Grasp, Cross, Assault, and Dive tend to lend themselves to risker, but more rewarding pay-offs. Spike disrupts this by being a strict counter to slow Attacks. With its Ignore Armor and Ignore Guard Effects, Spike can handily trade-up against the usually consistent Sweep, Focus, and Block! This allows you to threaten some of the most dominant attacks in the game while dealing some big damage to boot. However, on the flip side, the usually risky fast Attacks completely dunk on Spike due to its low Speed and awkward range. If the attack isn’t going to Stun it, the opponent can usually use their movement options to get into melee or move far away enough to evade Spike entirely. This makes Spike a risky but necessary tool for counterplay.
Last but not the list is the Defend Boost, which is very much different from Spike itself. Rather than being risky, Defend increases the safety of your following attacks by giving it +1 Armor and +3 Guard, which usually guarantees safety against most fast pokes. Much like Sweep’s Light Boost, this can change the interaction between some attacks in a way that makes things beneficial for you. This is especially true for attacks with middling speed, such as Dive and Spike itself!
Normals act as a substitute for “basic actions” that characters should be able to perform in any fighting game. While they may seem “plainer” when compared the more exciting Specials and Ultras, they are still crucial tools that can aid your character in their gameplan. They could even support your character’s Specials and Ultras by giving them added stats or setting-up their preferred ranges. It is, therefore, useful to remember what options these cards provide you, so that you can play more effectively and get that K.O.!
Seriously, if you use Reading to call out Spike then Shinryuken someone, you know you’ve won some immense hype points.
And that brings me to the end of my article! I hope you all enjoyed it! Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions in the comments below. I’ll try to answer them as best as I can. Finally, if you want a try at using the Normals yourself, I suggest getting a box of Street Fighter EXCEED by CLICKING HERE!