It seems that by now, it doesn't need to be said that Capcom is atop the fighting game genre. Now thriving, the genre was revived, so to speak, earlier this generation with the release of Street Fighter 4. However, prior to said game’s release, there was a noticeable lull in the genre compared to a decade ago. The teams over at Capcom corrected this by making sure that – save for the annual “Super” or “Ultimate” increments – each new game felt different from the last (e.g. Street Fighter 4 to Marvel vs. Capcom 3).
This time around, Capcom has done nothing short of changing up the pace enough to make Street Fighter X Tekken feel like its own beast. Aside from the fact that the roster has been gutted, and then sewn back together with characters from another universe – Yup, sounds like Capcom – the game actually brings to surface a rather large variety of gameplay mechanics that I just haven’t seen before in a fighting game.
So many in fact that this is one of the most troubling parts of Street Fighter X Tekken. It feels like the team at Capcom thought it necessary to run through a checklist of new ways to make the fighting feel different, all the while losing track of what made Street Fighter 4 so great: simplicity and balance. New mechanics like the Cross Cancels and Cross Assaults, which allow players to counter enemy attacks or have both your fighters out alongside each other, are just two of the many new ways that combat can get too hectic.
Most of the great fighting games out there have the “easy to learn, hard to master” motto embroidered into their gameplay architecture, but with Street Fighter X Tekken, it was hard not to get lost in the sea of new mechanics added to the mix. Even hours after completing all tutorials, I still found myself reading up on how to use the many different systems used in a fight. I felt lost, but most of all, I felt that the core fun of nailing your combos was buried under a mountain of digressions due to all these new mechanics.
The newly added Gem system allows players to customize characters by equipping their respective fighters with up to three gems that can do anything from boost your damage, block attacks for you, and even allow you to move faster. There are even a few gems that tinker with the very fabric of the fighting system, allowing you pull off certain move inputs easier, or with less effort. Added to allow less experienced players to compensate for their weaknesses, this gem system can just as easily be used by pro players to find and exploit certain strategies that may seem overpowered to some.
Ignoring the fact that this gem system potentially nulls all tournament-level competition, it’s even more of a pain to actually equip your fighters with them, as you’ll have to wade through menu screen after menu screen before a fight for each character you want to customize. It can be quite irritating, especially when you’re playing with a few buddies who want to experiment with different gem strategies.
However, don’t get me wrong: this is a Street Fighter game, and it does look and feel like one—for the most part. The game looks great with a slightly altered art style from SF4, and even manages to make the Street Fighter and Tekken characters look like they’re from the same universe, at least in terms of bodily proportions.
Street Fighter players will feel right at home when using characters from both universes. The Tekken characters have been heavily adapted to the “quarter circle forward” type inputs that Street Fighter fans know and love. So if you’re a Tekken fan walking into this one, don’t expect to pull off any button combinations that you might be familiar with – you’ll fail miserably.
There are a few noteworthy Tekken influences, however. The 2v2 “tag in, tag out” architecture that the game is built around feels straight out of Tekken Tag games, as does the ability to juggle your enemy in the air while chaining various punches and kicks. If you’re coming at this from a Capcom fighter background, you might be put off by the fact that unlike Marvel vs. Capcom, once one character’s health bar is fully depleted, the round is over; even if your second character is at full health.
Obviously, story takes the back seat in fighting games, but this time around, it seems as though Capcom didn’t even try to make the Arcade mode interesting. After finishing Arcade mode multiple times, here’s what I took away from it all: a certain “Pandora’s Box” fell to earth from space, and in it holds unimaginable power… or something. Everyone wants it, and depending on whom you finish the story mode with, you may or may not get it. That’s it. Don’t expect nifty cut-scenes or even interesting story bits to go with that, either. If you choose a pre-designated team to attack arcade mode with (e.g. Ken and Ryu), then you’ll get voice overs with what are essentially JPEGs of your fighters at the start of arcade mode, and a short cinematic cut-scene at the end. Every team that I beat arcade mode with had a laughable ending, which was sad, because I didn’t feel as if I’d accomplished anything from monotonously going through fight after fight, and every once in a while fighting a rival team.
Again, I do believe that stories in fighting games should take the back seat, however, wasn’t it nice when NetherRealm Studios actually tried something interesting with Mortal Kombat’s single player last year? Admittedly, the Street Fighter games never offered much in terms of story -- although the comics and anime do prove there is one out there. This is just the laziest one we’ve gotten in a long time; even Street Fighter 4 had anime cut-scenes that would delve into each character a little.
Take it or leave it, the trial modes are back in Street Fighter X Tekken. Unless you’re a pro at chaining and linking your combos together, then these are going to do just as much for you as they did in the Street Fighter 4 games. As always, you go through a list of combos for each character that gets harder and harder as you progress, without so much as a demonstration as to how to actually pull off these attacks in succession. In a fighter like this, where every frame counts, you might find yourself attempting these over and over (and over) just trying to figure out the timing to link two attacks.
Capcom says they’ve constructed brand-new netcode for Street Fighter X Tekken, which in my experience is quite the step down from their previous online infrastructures. You still get the joy of wading through menu screen after menu screen when trying to play against another player, just without good ol’ solid functionality.
First off, the servers seem incapable of matching you with players of equal skill level, even if you tell the game to. I was constantly paired up with players with far more BP (Battle Points) than I more times than not, meaning I wouldn’t stand a chance. This wasn’t a problem in Street Fighter 4 or Marvel vs. Capcom 3, so why is it happening now with Capcom’s “newer” netcode?
Secondly, every single match I played online flat out had broken audio. Four out of five times, sound effects and audio cues would be totally absent during a fight, leaving nothing to listen to but the BGM. While not game-breaking, the audio issues did get a little frustrating.
Lastly, it took relatively long to find an opponent to be matched with. This wouldn’t have been so much of a problem if the game was taking all that time to pair me up with another fighter of equal skill level, but like I said, it wasn’t. Waiting longer than I did for matches in Street Fighter 4 just to be set up against a player who has invested way more time into the game discouraged me from playing with strangers.
The PlayStation 3 version of Street Fighter X Tekken is definitely the version to own. Capcom included characters like Cole MacGrath (inFamous), Mega Man, Pac-Man, and even Japanese Sony mascots Toro and Kuro to sweeten the deal for PlayStation owners. Also, reportedly, online tag-team matches are not available for the Xbox 360 version of the game, which slightly limits the playability of that version's multiplayer. Capcom has said that they are addressing this 360-only issue in a patch, however.
Under it all, Street Fighter X Tekken is still a very capable fighting game. Even though there might be a little too much going on, the fighting is solid and just works. Whether or not this game will continue to be played in the tournament scene is irrelevant to the fact that you (and your buddies) could get totally invested in this new game.
If Tekken characters aren’t your jam—even though they are now essentially re-skinned Street Fighter characters—or if you simply still have fun playing Street Fighter 4 (or its “Super” or “Arcade Edition” increments) then you don’t necessarily need to make the jump to SF X T. It’s fun, but some fans will no doubt prefer Capcom’s last Street Fighter game. However, if you’ve been clamoring for more after the recent glut of 2D gameplay fighting games, then you’ll be safe in picking up Street Fighter X Tekken – just make sure to play offline.
-The Final Word-
At the end of the day, Street Fighter X Tekken is still a great fighting game. It has its issues, namely the online multiplayer component and the underwhelming menus, but there's still good fun to be had.