The year 2011 was a promising year for fighting games and their fans who enjoyed what could be considered a "fighting game renaissance." Due to the success of Street Fighter 4, Tekken 6, and many other fighting games released in 2009, along with many other factors, fighting games exploded in popularity. It can be argued that the genre's accessibility, the introduction to the international scene within the public eye, and the rise of competitive tournaments helped paved the way to what players call "esports." A genre that was once "doomed" was suddenly reborn from its ashes like a phoenix and if it wasn't for the community's efforts during that era, players wouldn't enjoy fighting games as we know them today. This community effort was what helped begin the development of games that dared to be different, like Yomi for example.
In 2011, times were slightly different as there simply wasn't an "install base" for newcomers to fighting games. Street Fighter players had their game, King of Fighters had theirs, and anime fighters had theirs as well. Established communities, including Super Smash Bros and Marvel vs Capcom 2, affectionately coined "Mahvel," have existed for over a decade with projected signs of lasting several more. If you were a fighting game fan, chances are you already found your niche. Others who may have had an interest in the genre may be intimidated by the overall metagame behind it.
Fighting games are never simply "whoever does the biggest combo wins," as there's an entire science that leads to "big damage." Sometimes, players will never reach "big damage" status as smaller victories add up over time. Before both players know it, a round ends, and that quickly follows a match's closure. What happened to the spectacle? The "Evo Moment #37?" This is where the common misconception about fighting games occurs. Most victories rely on a player's understanding of the genre rather than how much execution a player has. Reflexes and the ability to consistently finish tough combos is a cherished skills but if an opponent keeps opening up with a faster attack, the player may never get to show what they learned in "training mode."
Yomi was a "fighting game card game" released in 2011 as an early answer to the giant brick wall that was the "fighting game problem." How do you get newcomers to understand a genre that's complex yet simple on paper? Offer it in a medium that's arguably more complex yet simpler on paper as there's an active visual aid. As it turns out, converting common fighting game terminologies and situations into an easy-to-understand format complete with visuals helps a ton.
The TCG genre is one that had thrived through decades and will continue to enjoy success for the same reasons why fighting games achieved similar glory. Chances are if you lose at a TCG, the player simply had a better deck that outplayed yours. But if a player is confident in their own deck, chances are they should be able to wrest victory from their foe should they stick to fundamentals. Created by David Sirlin, Yomi's success as a fighting game card game meant to teach fighting games led to the foundation of Sirlin Games, responsible for other "fundamental teaching games" including Puzzle Strike, for the puzzle game aficionados, and Fantasy Strike, a free-to-play fighter.
I'm careful in calling Yomi a "fighting game card game" and not a "fighting game TCG" as it was never the developer's vision to make Yomi a "pay-to-win game." Buying a Yomi set would give the same player the same advantages as someone else who made the same investment. As TCGs are predatory by nature (You'll never catch me playing Yu-Gi-Oh and spending $50 on a card), Yomi can be played by anyone with each deck serving as a character one would pick in a fighting game rather than an archetype. This also helped maintain a solid community as its "pick up and play" functionality made it easy to catch on.
Now over a decade later, Yomi 2 is serving to be a reboot based on the original ideals of Yomi yet in a modern and simplified way. The years 2023 and 2011 have seen a lot of parallels even if the scope of fighting games has changed. With everything going online, Yomi's successor also getting a digital release is up there with MTG Arena and Master Duel. Last night, to help kick off the Indie Fighting Games Fest, I was joined by the marketing director for Sirlin Games, Leontes, in showcasing Yomi 2 to the public. I've talked quite a bit about Yomi 2's mission to teach fighting games to non-fighting game players, but how successful is this formula coming from someone who has played fighting games since Dead Or Alive 2?
As it turns out, having a history of Dead Or Alive as a series helps tremendously as at its core, Yomi is a "rock paper scissors" game much like DOA. In its simplest form, Attack cards beat Throw cards. Throw cards beat Block and Dodge cards. Block cards beat attacks while successful blocks allow players to draw a card under normal circumstances. Lastly, Dodge cards beat attacks but are riskier to play yet ensure an immediate punish. Throwing a Dodge in response to an opponent's block and vice versa leads to a neutral situation. Basic attacks follow an A > B > C combo system, where the higher the letter, the stronger yet slower the attack is. Games like Vampire Savior are prime examples of the "Light > Medium > Heavy" system, making this particular mechanic easy to follow.
Some attacks can be linked into specials, which usually serve as an ender unless it leads to a super attack. Each character has two supers that are usually unsafe on block, but are some of the fastest attacks in the game if used correctly. Naturally, this will want the defender to use Block cards, but there are High and Low Block cards meant to block specific orientations of attacks. A low attack goes through a high block and vice versa, yet the low attacks are some of the fastest in the game. Again, players familiar with King of Fighters will know how important leading with a "2A" is.
Being too predictable can be dangerous as both players can see the other's discard pile and make a deduction on what the player may throw out on their next turn. There are other inclusions such as Gems, which act like the Infinity Gems from Marvel vs Capcom Infinite and each character has a unique aesthetic with the card format. Valerie can chain attacks no matter the order, much like Melty Blood and Under Night In-Birth's "Reverse Beat" mechanic while Rook is a grappler with "armored" attacks, beating out faster attacks while still taking damage.
Everything I'm referencing is all common fighting game situations. There are even hints of set play, as seen with Valerie's Level 3 super which was explained to me as Milia's halo discs of death. While all of this seems daunting, as learning fighting games tends to be, Yomi 2 helps mitigate the headache by showing why things are happening the way they are. Players may eventually go "Well how am I supposed to know what my opponent is doing next?" That's the neat part. You don't. Welcome to fighting games where the plan is to ensure your game plan trumps your opponents.
Pairing the two genres work exceedingly well without the hassle of potentially dropping combos. There's no fear of time running out and other shenanigans outside of the players' control. It's a battle of wits that makes Yomi 2 just as much of a fighting game as other traditional fighters. While the game is still in development, Sirlin Games promises newcomers and fans alike hours' worth of single-player content to coincide with the awesome community that's always eager for games.
I've been a huge fan of teaching others genres of games that are often filled with misconceptions. Games like Yomi 2 are important as it's often difficult to convey the action going on into proper visual guides that may take months to fully grasp. While Yomi 2 won't probably make a player instantly good at fighting games, like most fighting games, the techniques learned in Yomi 2 can be applied to other fighting games, truly proving that the concept of fighting games, or "reading your opponent," is a universal skill no matter the application. Thank you so much to the guys at Sirlin Games for allowing me a chance to not only play their game but also join me in showcasing it. The VOD can be viewed below. Content warning due to language and spending the first fifteen minutes trying to unmute myself.
Yomi 2 releases on Steam sometime in 2023. Players can wishlist the game on the Steam page here.