One of the most unsung innovations in collectable card games is the UniVersus system.
Originally launched as the Universal Fighting System (or UFS) in 2006, UniVersus is a system that cleverly replicates the feel of video game fighting titles, making it perfect for licenses such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.
In fact, both of those franchises were adapted into UFS sets – and, as the system is universal (as its title describes!), players were and are free to build decks where characters from both of those franchises, or any other, are included!
As the game has passed through numerous iterations and even a change of name over the years, unlike most other card games (including the ‘big three’ of Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh), the card backs have changed pretty significantly since UFS debuted.
So let’s take a look at each of the card back designs and the sets these featured on!
1. UFS (2006-2019)
So far, this card back is the most enduring of all of the designs for UFS/UniVersus, lasting an amazing 13 years.
The first sets to feature the UFS logo back in 2006 were based on video games Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown and Soul Calibur III, along with popular webcomic Penny Arcade.
Penny Arcade was, in fact, the first release for the system overall!
All of these sets – several of which were expanded over the following years – were soon joined by another video game fighting franchise, Darkstalkers.
Two promo cards to tie in with MMO Warhammer: Age of Reckoning were released in 2008, but this didn’t lead to further UFS cards utilising the popular Games Workshop property.
Interestingly, the system was licensed to Fantasy Flight Games, who released the fantasy-based ShadoWar UFS set in 2009. Even more intriguingly, ShadoWar’s visual aesthetic and pseudo-historical setting is reminiscent of a more recent contender in the CCG sector: Flesh and Blood.
Namco’s weapon based fighting video game made a return to UFS, with a Soul Calibur IV set arriving in 2009 and another Namco fighter, Tekken 6, brought to the system in the same year.
In 2010, Jasco Games acquired the rights to the UFS card game system and created a set using their own, original setting: Red Horizon.
SNK fighting game King of Fighters returned in 2012, followed by another Capcom license (to add to Street Fighter and Darkstalkers) in the form of Mega Man, which was released in 2014.
Level 99 Games released another original, fantasy battling set for UFS, with World of Indines in 2016.
The first set based on an anime – Cowboy Bebop – arrived in 2018, with yet another fighting game, Mortal Kombat X, debuting in the same year.
2018 also saw the arrival of Street Fighter vs Darkstalkers, bringing two perennially popular Capcom series together in one set!
The final UFS-branded set hit store shelves in 2019, with the release of another mange/anime set: Yu Yu Hakusho.
2. UniVersus V1 (2021-2023)
A pretty recent change, UFS switched over to the UniVersus branding in 2021.
The dynamic new image on the card backs was certainly more striking than the original UFS logo.
The front of the cards, though they hadn’t remained entirely static over the years since the first sets were released, were also given quite an overhaul, making them a bit more readable and certainly more modern in their look and feel.
This change was first seen in the My Hero Academia Collectable Card Game, which would continue to be the main focus for UniVersus going forward.
My Hero Academia is, of course, fertile ground for a wide range of characters and attacks, being based in a world where superpowers (known as Quirks) are common.
Given that an enormous number of Quirks exist, as well as the variety of characters who possess them, the setting allows for a huge variety of material to be brought into the card game.
The card art, special foil treatments and even the revised layout of the game elements on the front of the card have all played their part in modernising the look and feel of UniVersus, though do note that it is still possible to play older UFS cards with the newly branded UniVersus cards!
3. Universus V2 (2024-?)
So now we arrive at the present UniVersus card backs, which have an almost minimalist look in comparison to the electricity powered, first version of the UniVersus branding.
Two striking swirls of colour with a much simpler logo is what you’ll find on the back of these cards.
You’ll note that there’s also been some shifting around of icons and game elements on the front of the card in comparison to the previous UniVersus card layout as well; this really allows the extended and full art cards to truly stand out, without sacrificing the functionality of each card.
Additionally, if you’re a fan of anime or manga in general, you’ll also see that the particular card in our photo above is not from a My Hero Academia set; instead, it features Spike from Cowboy Bebop!
That’s because UniVersus has recently expanded into other worlds again, beyond My Hero Academia.
Though My Hero Academia will remain the focus of the bigger sets for UniVersus for the foreseeable future, lots of exciting new franchises are being given the UniVersus treatment!
In 2024 alone, UniVersus is expanding into the sci-fi anime reboot Trigun Stampede, livestream RPG sensation Critical Role and the eternally popular kaiju series Godzilla.
Cowboy Bebop has already made a return to UniVersus in 2024 and Yu Yu Hakusho is also staging a comeback to the game!
Though all of the above being more limited decks and sets, a larger and more comprehensive set, mirroring the size and scope of the My Hero Academia sets, is on the way.
That’s arriving in the form of the Attack On Titan set.
Given the popularity of the manga and anime source material, this will likely be a pretty big deal for UniVersus when it arrives.
You can find out more details on this and all of the other releases mentioned in our very own upcoming UniVersus sets article.
How Do I Build And Use A Deck Using UniVersus Cards With Different Card Back Designs?
As we’ve mentioned, if you want to create a deck with cards from various eras of the game, which will of course have different card backs, you are certainly free to do so.
However, how do you ensure that your card backs aren’t going to give away what type of card is coming up next.
So if you are going to mix cards that have different backs into the same deck, the best way of dealing with this is to use opaque card sleeves.
We’d highly recommend Vault X, Dragon Shield and TitanShield sleeves; all offer a variety of different coloured, opaque sleeves that’ll be perfect to conceal the identity of each of your UniVersus cards!
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