Back in 1996, polygonal 3D was really just beginning to catch on as the big trend in the gaming world, as the original Playstation made its debut. Fighting games like Virtua Fighter and Toshinden made headway into this new trend and pulled in a pretty good chunk of change from gamers, so Capcom decided to horn in on the action by developing yet another spinoff of their popular Street Fighter series - this time, in 3D!
Street Fighter EX was really only "quasi-3D", however, in roughly the same style as the first two Virtua Fighter games. It played more like a typical 2D Street Fighter game, just with the ability to sidestep up or down, and with fully rendered polygonal versions of the familiar SF cast along with very basic 3D backgrounds.
The game was also farmed out to developer Arika, the independent company formed by Street Fighter 2 lead designer Akira Nishitani. Thus, the feel and flavor of the original SF2 is present in this one, but things just move at a more leisurely pace. Characters largely have their same movesets, and new characters just have variations on the familiar joystick motions.
I don't think there's even any real attempt at a backstory to this one, but Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, Guile, Zangief and M. Bison all make returns for a little casual fighting in the streets. The other half of the roster is rounded out by newbies - Japanese warrior Hokuto, mad scientist D. Dark, hottie Arabian dancer Pullum, goofball Cracker Jack, big Halloween fan Skullomania and new big bad guy Garuda. The EX Plus upgrade also adds a number of hidden characters, most of them time-released; in this one you get Akuma, Allen, Blair, Darun, Kairi, the Cycloid brothers, and evil versions of Ryu and Hokuto added to the roster eventually through one means or another.
Aside from the 3D implementation, the gameplay system adds some new concepts and borrows some from other Capcom fighters. The three-level Super Combo gauge from the Alpha series is brought over, and one level can now be used in a move called a Guard Break which automatically dizzies a blocking foe. You can also cancel out of Super Combos into another Super Combo, leading to matches that last less than ten seconds if the player doesn't mind abusing the system.
While the game is fairly solid, many gamers see the Guard Breaks and the Super Combo cancels as just a little too cheap and irritating. Also, the move to 3D seemingly has done nothing to the gameplay except to slow it down a bit. Street Fighter EX Plus is certainly not a bad game - it looks fairly nice, the music is good, and the gameplay is fundamentally fairly sound - but there seems to be little reason to play it over the numerous other superior Street Fighter offerings.
* Gameplay Video