In case you hadn’t heard, there are two crossover games in the mix for fans of Street Fighter and Tekken. Both will use a different engine and feature a host of Capcom and Namco characters from either iconic franchise.
This month’s flavor is Street Fighter X Tekken (that’s “Street Fighter first!”) -- a game that utilizes a modified version of Street Fighter IV’s engine. As a fan who’s longed over a decade for a Rolento and Yoshimitsu dream team, I was prepared to put this crossover to the test.
Street Fighter X Tekken (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Reviewed])
Released: March 6, 2012 (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) / May 11, 2012 (PC)
With all crossover fighters, the developers need to find a reason to get everyone in the mood to beat each other’s faces in. The crux of the game revolves around a powerful mysterious artifact called the “Pandora Cube.” Long story short, Pandora has crash landed on Earth after traveling through space on a meteor, and due to the power it holds, pretty much every fighter on Earth wants a piece of it. At the center of this mystic arms race are M. Bison’s Shadaloo organization and the Mishima Zaibatsu, which are vying for control and/or world domination.
But none of that really matters in the grand scheme of things, because all of this story really only plays out during the game’s Arcade Mode. If you’re expecting something fully fleshed out, I’d look elsewhere -- original content in Arcade Mode is extremely light.
Essentially, after picking select partnerships, you get a generic moving artwork opening video -- one that only initializes for certain themed teams and characters -- that often doesn't have much meat to it other than "these heroes decided to team up." Once you're in the thick of things, you fight a handful of other teams with little to no explanation, one rival team (sometimes with no indication of why they're "rivals"), and a final boss.
After everything is said and done, the only consolation you get at the end is another vague cutscene, or a black screen with two paragraphs of text, vaguely explaining what happens to the first character you picked after the final boss fight. As for the bosses themselves, don’t expect any epic Marvel vs. Capcom Onslaught-esque encounters -- they’re just standard characters that are available at the start of the game.
Most of these endings are extremely unsatisfactory (such as “Rolento further dreams of a militant state”), and don’t even come close to Street Fighter IV’s robust character-specific anime cutscenes. While this mode won’t last you long, fans may find some solace in the fact that a second player can join in on the fun via co-op (not online though on the Xbox 360), given the tag nature of the title. In regards to the stages, there are only eleven of them, and most have a number of cameos, ranging from Mecha Zangief to Kunimitsu.
Mechanics wise, SFxT uses the standard Street Fighter six-button system (low, medium, and high punches and kicks). Rounds themselves are won just like Tekken Tag Tournament: if either partner has their health reduced to zero at any point during the round, it's over.
This creates a more strategic pull in terms of combat; you have to be deliberate with pretty much every switch you initiate. Due to pressure of one punishing combo losing a round for both characters, there are a number of safe ways to switch (or tag) out partners, and some special tag moves involving both fighters.
The roster of characters is the biggest yet for a Street Fighter game, and most of the Street Fighter characters play similar to how they do in Street Fighter IV. In fact, my personal favorite, Rolento -- who hasn’t made an appearance since Capcom vs. SNK 2 -- handles very much the same as he always has in the Alpha series.
As for the Tekken characters, they translate fairly well to 2D combat. Most of their moves are intact, but are obviously changed to suit the game's six-button system, and hadouken/shoryuken input methods. If you're a fan of technical Tekken fighting, though, you may be somewhat disappointed to see your favorite character simplified. For instance, Raven goes from nearly a hundred different moves/combos to a paltry few.
The engine itself is a Street Fighter-oriented joint -- specifically, it’s a refined version of SF IV’s engine. EX moves return, as do Supers and a Super Meter (now called a Cross Gauge). Characters have one "Super Charge" move, which allows you to “charge” a single specific ability by holding down the attack button. For instance, you can hold down a punch button to power Ryu’s hadouken into an EX, then a shinkuu hadouken super.
Tag teams have their own host of special moves and abilities. There’s the Cross Cancel, which allows you to cancel a block into a launcher that safely switches your characters and initiates a combo. The Switch cancel can be used to switch characters in mid combo. Cross Arts are essentially “double supers,” and are reminiscent of Marvel vs. Capcom’s team supers.
The Cross Assault ability, which is similar to the Alpha Series' V-ism, allows players to use their entire Cross Gauge to send out both fighters for a limited time. This can be particularly deadly in co-op fights, as each player can control their fighters during this limited period. In addition to these new moves, there’s also the biggest new mechanic of all: Pandora Mode.
Pandora Mode, simply put, partially reminds me of Guilty Gear’s “instant Kill” mechanic mixed with Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s X-Factor. After your character has reached 25% or less health during a fight, you can sacrifice them to super-charge your partner. At that point, you have about eight seconds (it feels like less!) to finish your opponent with an infinite meter -- otherwise, you instantly lose the round.
How this will end up playing out within the competitive community will be interesting to watch, as I can easily see how the mechanic can both be abused and easily countered (by running slow launchers, OTG combos and switching carefully). Beyond this drastic new addition, there is an entirely new, out-of-combat Gem mechanic.
At first, the Gem System sounded like something out of Marvel Super Heroes. But in actuality, SFxT’s gems bring back heavy memories of Street Fighter Alpha 3’s RPG-like abilities that you can equip in certain modes. Before battle, the player is allowed to equip characters with up to three gems. Some gems, called Boost Gems, activate under set conditions (such as blocked attacks). Others, titled Assist Gems, instantly activate at the start of the battle, but decrease other statistics.
Nothing so far seems game-breaking, and the system allows you to play to your strengths. In fact, the whole gem system seems confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's not so bad. All you have to do is equip your favorite characters with a setup that you are familiar with and then play the way you want to.
There are a few rookie-oriented changes, however, that may have hardcore fans on guard. First off, there are no "double hadouken" inputs for any moves whatsoever. In other words, all moves have been simplified, and in some cases, moves have been streamlined or eliminated.
Capcom also installed an easy combo system called “Boost combos” (essentially lifted from Guilty Gear's Gatling Combination), that allow easy combo strings from Low to High. What's more, the game makes use of a Quick combo system, which allows you to queue up small combos before battle, and map them to one customizable button. To help balance this seemingly broken mechanic, it does cost a bar of Cross Gauge to initiate.
While these changes seem alarming at first, I think they are a step in the right direction. Capcom has been musing with a way to incorporate new players for decades, with mechanics like the “Easy Operation” (EO) system in Capcom vs. SNK 2’s GameCube and Xbox editions, but all they really did was fragment different versions of the game. For instance, if a player became adept at EO, they couldn’t play it in the arcade, Dreamcast, or PS2 version because their play style wouldn’t translate.
Street Fighter X Tekken is basically an amalgamation of various mechanics from a number of different fighting games -- thankfully, it all gels. When you think about it, things like Boost Combos and the Quick Combo system are hard-built into every version of SFxT -- every player has an equal opportunity to use or ignore these features without fragmentation.
The fact that Quick Combos cost a segment of Cross Gauge is a good move to help balance the system, as veterans will have more access to better abilities and can just perform combos using their own skill.
But what good would all these mechanics be without a host of modes to play them in? Like Tekken Tag before it, SFxT features a “2v2” mode, where a team of two players faces off against another player-controlled team of two. Personally, I love these types of modes that pack in more players (especially online), because the less time you’re waiting in lobbies, the better.
If you’re really not keen on waiting, you can also tackle the game’s Scramble mode, built for four players at the same time. This is particularly reminiscent of a mode found in the long lost Street Fighter stepchild series EX. While it isn't the most competitive mode ever made, its an absolute blast to play with three other friends who just wanted to waste the afternoon away.
On top of the aforementioned user-friendly mechanics, novice fighters will also feel right at home with Street Fighter X Tekken’s modes. There's a standard training mode, but the game also features an all encompassing tutorial (with the fan-favorite Dan!) and a character-specific trial mode (like Street Fighter IV), allowing you to pick up the game more quickly than most fighting titles.
Then there is a replay mode, where new users can study top players and emulate their tactics (or vets can just plain show off), and a Mission Mode, which allows you to tackle a number of different challenges with any character.
Strangely, there’s also an online co-op training mode -- a really welcome addition. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to hang out with someone and shoot the breeze while learning a few new combos. I think this will help the online community overall, as it eases the learning curve when you have someone who’s able to easily explain mechanics to you explicitly in ways that a CPU is unable to.
Moving past the host of modes available, there’s a decent amount of customization options, like being able to change your character’s color scheme online player title. The costume-coloring system isn't fully featured, meaning you aren't allowed to drastically alter the character’s wardrobe. (That will probably be reserved for DLC costumes.)
Outside of the interesting online modes themselves, the netcode is solid overall. Other than some extended loading times before fights, I had no issues in any ranked or unranked fights. Matchmaking was also pretty quick to find other fighters.
In the interest of transparency, I should also note that the only available version for testing was the Xbox 360 version, which precludes us from commenting on the PS3 exclusive Pac-Man, Mega Man, Cole, Kuro, and Toro characters. It’s also important to note that the Vita version will be shipping later this year with the additional roster of Guy, Christie, Cody, Lei, Sakura, Alisa, Blanka, Lars, Dudley, Jack, Elena, and Bryan.
We'll be reviewing the Vita version later this year, but according to Seth Killian, the Vita characters will come to other versions as DLC. Exactly what that time frame is remains unknown. What is known, however, is that in the literature Capcom provided us, they state that Street Fighter X Tekken is the only disc-based product you'll need to own, and all future updates will arrive via DLC -- good news for people who are worrying about multiple SKU fragmentation.
It’s hard to tell whether or not Street Fighter X Tekken will blow up like Street Fighter IV did with the competitive community, but given how good it is, I hope it does. Despite the lack of story options, there’s plenty of solid gameplay to be had here, and the online features are going to keep people playing for quite a while. Namco has its work cut out for them with Tekken X Street Fighter.
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