Street Fight X Tekken

Street Fighter X Tekken PS3 Review

If there’s one thing I do love playing in the world of gaming, it’s fighting games. I have a deep affection for them, and have played most of the franchises that dedicate themselves to letting you beat up the opposition in whatever manner is available. Amusingly, if you had asked me five years ago if a game would come out that would let you pit the best of the Street Fighter characters against that of the Tekken cast, I would have humbly laughed in your face. How times have changed, because right now I’ve just had the pleasure of taking down King with some EX-Tatsumaki skills from Ken, and I felt so damn awesome while doing it.

Capcom is no stranger to the world of crossovers. Right now, they have Marvel characters fighting off with the cast from some well-known Capcom games.  SNK has been involved too in the past, with Capcom creating two Capcom vs. SNK games. There was one thing in common with the crossover games mentioned – all their mechanics and gameplay were based around the principle of 2D fighting. Tekken is a series with philosophies that are based around a 3D environment, allowing you to manipulate your character in 3 full dimensions rather than just towards and backwards. It’s a game where things like Hadoukens don’t exist and juggles reign supreme. Tekken is a whole different ball game than Street Fighter, so the question is how Capcom has done in merging these two franchises and combatting the problem in their latest crossover game? One word – superbly!

There is a matter of concern I must address before I continue on with this review. By now, you’ve probably heard about some future downloadable content coming out for this game, 12 new characters to be precise. Some illegal naughty boys have managed to dig into Street Fighter X Tekken’s (SFxT) data, and found that all of the 12 new characters are on the disc already, so you are essentially buying codes to unlock them. While some might argue this is a bad practice against fans, this is a review of the product I have in my hand, and none of this uproar that has come about from fans will have an effect on this score. At the end of the day, it’s all about the game as it is in its current state, and this review must be unbiased and fair.

SFxT’s character selection picks 19 fighters from each side of the cast, making a total of 38. All of the big names like Ken, Ryu, Sagat, Kazuya, Jin and Law stand at attention.  You can find a list of all the characters here. The PlayStation 3 version that is on review includes another five, but only three of them were accessible: Cole (from Infamous) and Sony mascot cats Toro and Kuro, who are basically clones of Ryu and Kazuya. Cole is unique, with moves inspired from the Infamous games as his base for attacks. Old-school, bad box-art Mega Man and Pac-Man are locked till the 13th of March, so I cannot comment how they are like to play.

But boy, can I comment on how overwhelming the battle mechanics are in SFxT. Capcom has taken the Street Fighter IV engine and tuned it to handle the faster and crazier combat. SFxT is a Tag Team fighter that pits 2-man teams against one another. If you’ve played Tekken Tag Tournament, you’ll have a clue how it goes. There’s only one person from each team on screen at once, but each character on the team has their own life bar. Victory is won if a player manages to reduce a character’s HP to zero. You have to be careful because there is no automatic tag-in if one of your characters is beaten in a fight. If you don’t tag him out before he loses his health, the round is lost. This is something that Capcom takes from Tekken Tag Tournament as well. You’ll need to keep a close eye on the life bars because this situation can create some tense fights, and it feels painful when you go down with a reserve character at near full health.

It seems this time around, Capcom is trying harder to teach new players how to play its fighting games. SFxT asks you if you want to take part in a tutorial on the first boot up. Tutorial wise, it’s probably the best one Capcom has done. It covers a wide range of topics such as normal moves, blocking, switching characters, Cross Arts, special moves and so on. Things are still missing, like the option to see the characters act out the moves you need to do in combos, something that makes the tutorials fall short compared to the incredibly deep instruction in the BlazBlue games.

Everything you learn from the tutorial will be put into action. There’s so many different techniques to be utilized that it might seem overwhelming if you are coming from Street Fighter IV. The skills you’ve gained from Street Fighter IV will work since it’s still a Street Fighter-style game, but those skills will only get you so far since the fundamentals are quite different. Players can tag their partner in by pressing both the Medium Kick and Medium Punch buttons together. I advise againsy this – it’s not safe. Instead, players will want to make use of the launcher system, a move that allows you tag in your partner during a combo, giving him the option to come in and continue the combo chain without getting hit.

Cross Gauge has a huge impact on the game. Call it the super metre of SFxT if you will, but so many things use it that it becomes a key point to winning. Building metre happens whenever you throw out an attack, even if it doesn’t hit. This is something that resembles how Street Fighter III: Third Strike did it. The Cross Gauge can hold up to three chunks with a variety of move sets reducing it accordingly. Buffed up special moves called EX moves take one metre to use. A super art (same as an Ultra from Street Fighter 4) uses up two. The inputs to do these are the same as before, but the super arts are simplified, so you no longer have to repeat the joystick/d-pad motion twice.

Things start to get interesting once you have a full stock. Cross Arts allow you to blow the whole metre to perform a super tag team move. Your fighter will perform a flashy attack and then push your opponent into your tag partner’s super move. One other move that’s less flashy but more chaotic is a maneuver called the Cross Assault. Using this allows your tag partner to come in and fight alongside your other character for a limited amount of time. At first, it seems more of a waste to use than a Cross Art, but, if you learn how to use it correctly, it can devastate an opponent’s life bar.

Another major mechanic is Pandora mode. You can activate this if you have a character on screen that has 25% health or less. Upon activating Pandora Mode, your other character is buffed into a powered up state, giving added strength to attacks and unlimited cross gauge metre for around ten seconds. Pandora should only be used as a last resort; if you cannot kill your opponent in those ten seconds, your character will die, giving up the match.

A worry for some was how the Tekken characters were going to be able to merge into a 2D battle system. Capcom has taken this seriously and has done an exceptional job in trying to represent how those Tekken characters feel. Tekken players will be able to do some of those basic Tekken combos without needing to look up on the move’s list. These are primarily linked to the four face button inputs, just like Tekken. Juggling characters allows these combos work in the game, but that also means the Street Fighter cast can use it to keep characters bouncing in the air as well, and it’s something Street Fighter players will need to adpot if they want to pull out the most damaging combos.

Before SFxT was released, there was a big debate about the addition of gems. Gems come in two categories, Boost or Assist. Up to three different gems can be equipped. Boost-type Gems increase your attack, defence or speed, and Assist Gems allow you to auto-block, auto-cancel and gain health back. The problem was that fighting fans thought that these would be game-breaking by giving too much advantage to a player. In reality, this isn’t not the case. The impact isn’t big enough to make it so one player can easily defeat the other. In fact, I’d say the addition of Gems makes fights even more fun. Trying to follow the activation rules (10% damage increase might activate after your character hits three special attacks, for example) into your fighting style brings a refreshing sense of strategy to fights. Gems aid in creating your own character customization too and make mirror matches more interesting.

Offline play will only last you so long with the basic Arcade mode, Character Trials (combo learning challenges), and Versus Mode. One thing I am happy that Capcom has returned is the challenges from the original Street fighter IV. They were later removed from the Super version. In these, you need to beat characters under specific conditions, like defeating opponents with only super arts or winning a fight starting with 25% health. Scramble mode is a hectic new feature that allows four players to fight together onscreen all at the same time. It’s frantic and confusing, but lots of fun. It’s something I feel is more for a party game inclusion rather than something to be taken seriously.

Online is a big must in this day and age for fighting games. SFxT’s online system mostly works well. You have Ranked Matches, Endless Battle, Scramble Battle, and a Training Room that you and a friend can use online together. Capcom changed the netcode for this title, which seems to be more like the GGPO code used in Third Strike Online Edition. If lag plagues your matches, the characters on screen will teleport around as the netcode tries to rewind itself to see what the outcome from the player’s input should have been. A sound problem follows with this; you’ll hear sound clips play, but because of the rewind the move isn’t seen. Sometimes sound isn’t even played at all, so the matches go silent for a few seconds apart from the background music. It’s a strange thing, but with Capcom’s record of fixing problems, this will hopefully be  patched out in the near future.

This game reeks with style and presentation. One major upgrade over Street Fighter IV comes in the form of impressive work on the backgrounds. Jammed with so much animation and colour, you’ll know why they are some of the more exciting backdrops in a fighting game when you see a giant mammoth running after your hovercraft in the snowy mountains, or watching trucks park up and switch on their neon lights when it gets dark. There is never a dull moment anywhere. You’ll already know the art style of the characters if you’ve ever see Street Fighter IV, and the Tekken cast have converted well into the ink-based design.

I am so glad that Street Fighter X Tekken turned out to be a fantastic addition to the ever growing stable of great fighting games. Blending two different fighting games together was a challenge that Capcom has overcome with top marks. SFxT features a fast fluid battle system that fits nicely in between the over-the-top Marvel vs. Capcom series, and the calmer mano-a-mano mentality of Street Fighter IV. It welcomes newcomers with open arms that will hopefully bring in more people willing to try out fighting games. But Capcom also hasn’t forgot the hardcore, with an even more complex combat system than that of Street Fighter IV. More experienced players won’t feel that this game is a dumb-downed fighter catering to the casual crowd.

Capcom is on the ball when it comes to exciting fighting games. Say what you will about their DLC fiasco, but there’s no denying when it comes to what matters, Street Fighter X Tekken is one exhilarating fighting game that is easily recommended for Street Fighter fans. Even Tekken fans will get some enjoyment out of this, but how much they like 2D will be the final determining factor in how much they enjoy this fighter. Capcom has finished their end of the deal and come out with an A grade. The ball is in your court now Namco; how are you going to follow this evolution in fighting when challenged with fireballs in a 3D environment? I await the answer.

9 out of 10