Critical Transform - Season Mechanics in EXCEED

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Hello, everyone! It’s Marco again and I’m back with another article on EXCEED. By this point, Street Fighter EXCEED should either be on its way to you or in your hands right now! This means that many of you will have at least seen the cards or played a couple of games.

I’d like to, therefore, take this opportunity to talk about something unique to the Street Fighter EXCEED game: Criticals. Specifically, I want to explore season mechanics and how they further sell you on the fantasy of the worlds tied to that season. So, without much else, let’s get into it, shall we?


What’s a Season Mechanic?

Simply put, a Season Mechanic is a unique mechanic that we put into every season of EXCEED. However, it is important to note the depth and gravity of this mechanic. It is not simply something like adding a new effect or a unique set of effects, as you’d often see when we make a new fighter. Instead, a season mechanic is more akin to a system-wide change. It does not only affect one character, it affects everyone in the season and, often, governs the gameplay and design of the characters in said season. The season mechanic finds itself interwoven into the very fabric of the game, making it less of an exception and more of a rule.

Furthermore, season mechanics are exactly just that: mechanics that last a season. They are made the main highlight for one set of characters and, then, take a backseat once the next season begins. This makes season mechanics similar to the “new keywords” that are introduced with every new set in CCG’s like Magic: The Gathering.

 

But Why Only One Season?

With each season of EXCEED, we hope to bring a new and enjoyable gaming experience to all of you. It is, therefore, in our best interest to keep things interesting by introducing new and fresh mechanics to a familiar system. This way, you can all enjoy the discovery of new and fun interactions through the lens of something that is familiar. However, such a concept presents a problem in terms of growing complexity.

One disadvantage of adding new mechanics is that they often tend to increase the amount of information that players need to know in order to even play the game. Since season mechanics tend to be system-wide changes that permeate every single character, it is very unlikely that one can play EXCEED while completely ignoring the season mechanic. This can be quite problematic for future design space. Would new players need to understand a couple of years’ worth of season mechanics just to even begin playing?

In the end, this issue of discovery at the cost of complexity is solved by having season mechanics last for only one season. Not only does it allow for discovery with each new season, it doesn’t increase the complexity of future seasons as a result. As an added benefit, not having to consider previous season mechanics as core design allows us to further sell you on the fantasy provided by each of the worlds we feature in each season. To better understand this, let’s look at two season mechanics: Criticals and Transforms.

 

Criticals VS Transforms

As mentioned earlier, one reason to make use of a season mechanic is to highlight and “sell” the players on a certain fantasy or experience related to the property or world we’re featuring in a season. This isn’t made clearer than in Seasons 2 and 3 of EXCEED, where we make use of the Transform and Critical mechanics, respectively.

However, before exploring their design and experience implications, it’s important to understand what these mechanics do.

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Above, you’ll see Akuma’s Gohadoken from Season 3 and Minato’s Bus Stop from Season 2. Both cards feature that Season’s mechanic. Street Fighter EXCEED (Season 3) makes use of the Critical mechanic. By paying 1 Gauge as they set an attack, Street Fighter characters can activate all the Critical triggers on their card, giving them added effects or stats. On the other hand, EXCEED Seventh Cross (Season 2) makes use of the Transform mechanic. Seventh Cross characters have cards that have a Transform rather than the typical Boost. When hitting an opponent with an attack that has a Transform, Seventh Cross characters may Transform it instead of putting it into their Gauge. These often give them special actions and abilities for the rest of the game. Transforms also reduce the character’s EXCEED cost, making it easier to flip to their EXCEED side.

These mechanics are quite different. Criticals are temporary attack buffs and Transforms are semi-permanent buffs that very much add to the list of available actions or effects the character has. However, this is to be expected, given the different worlds that each of these seasons are trying to highlight.

Eugenia going Cheshire Cat.

Eugenia going Cheshire Cat.

The world of Seventh Cross is defined by the idea of change and transformation. Characters, in the lore, can make use of magic, but must be weary when doing so, as magic inevitably corrupts and, eventually, distorts the user into a gigantic monster with immense strength and almost zero control. The Transformation mechanic captures this on multiple levels. By offering you the choice of Transforming or not, the game is tempting you with the Transform’s power, much like magic tempts the characters in the world of Seventh Cross. Should you decide to make use of the power, you lose the ability to use the card as an attack in the future, while also making it easier to EXCEED into your “monster form”, effectively mirroring the experience of Seventh Cross characters.

Ryu giving Akuma a good Tatsu.

Ryu giving Akuma a good Tatsu.

On the other hand, not every mechanic is meant to provide the experience of the world it is meant to represent. Sometimes, season mechanics pay homage to something familiar in the world. This is very much the case for Criticals in Street Fighter EXCEED. Being loosely based on the V-Trigger and EX systems in that game, Street Fighter characters can imbue their attacks with added properties in exchange for Gauge. This affords them added firepower at the cost of hard-earned resources, making this season more focused on Gauge generation, resource management, and attack buffs; much like the Street Fighter video games themselves. As such, Street Fighter EXCEED’s season mechanic is less about making you feel like you’re in the world of Street Fighter but, rather, making you feel like you’re playing Street Fighter.

 

Final Words

Not every season of EXCEED will have a season mechanic, but those that do make use of them to further immerse you into the world of the season, whether it’s that world’s mechanics or lore. This doesn’t necessarily mean that seasons without season mechanics are any less immersive. The lack of a season mechanic opens the design space for more complex individual powers that can make each character truly play differently, as opposed to working within a system that all the other characters are designed around. This highlights the individual characters more than the world they inhabit, which is a positive in its own right. Perhaps, we can explore that in a different article, when another season comes out. 😉


I do hope you enjoyed this dabble into the design of season mechanics! If you’re excited to see the difference yourself, I suggest getting EXCEED Season 2 (Seventh Cross) and EXCEED Season 3 (Street Fighter). Happy gaming!