fight of the century, review of Street Fighter X Tekken

Wednesday, March 7th 2012. | Games News

Street fighter XWe don’t know how our young minds would’ve coped with the idea that the characters from Street Fighter and Tekken might one day feature in the same game. It’s the sort of dream team crossover that always seems impossible, right up until it actually happens and it’s all a terrible disappointment. That’s how it normally works anyway, but Capcom has been on a roll lately with its Vs. fighters and this is the best one yet.

To clarify Capcom and Namco Bandai are producing two crossover fighters, with Namco’s Tekken X Street Fighter destined to look and play like a regular Tekken game, only with Street Fighter characters in it too. It’s not clear when that’s being released but Street Fighter X Tekken (the ‘X’ is pronounced as ‘cross’) is the mirror image and places the characters from both games into a 2D fighter based on Street Fighter IV.

Thankfully it’s not as simple as that though and the game features a number of unique elements, including the controversial gem customisation system and new mechanics such as Pandora mode. These help to make the game its own unique experience, and not just Street Fighter IV with extra characters. It also helps to smooth over the significant differences between the way the two franchises play.

That Tekken is a 3D fighter isn’t terribly important – it’s never used the third dimension very much and so little is lost being squashed down into just two. However, unlike Street Fighter, Tekken fighters tend not to have projectile attacks and instead focus on close-quarters fighting. The controls are also very different, and so the Tekken characters are forced to use Street Fighter’s six-button layout and special move system.

Unusually (since it doesn’t feature in either series’ core games) Street Fighter X Tekken is a tag team game with four characters going into battle for each match. If anyone is knocked out though the fight is over, so you can’t just think of your partner as an extra health bar. Instead it’s best to switch them out often, ideally while using Switch Chance to swap in your partner mid combo and carry on the attack where you left off.

This takes one pip of your super meter but is a key tactic for success, as is Cross Rush (launch your opponent into the air and then immediately switch characters) and Cross Cancel (counter an attack and then perform a launcher move).

Pandora mode offers another more desperate option: if you sacrifice one partner when they’re low on health, the remaining fighter is massively powered up but given just 10 seconds to land a killing blow or forfeit the match. There’s been concern amongst fans that this would unbalance the game but it’s no sure-fire tactic at all, in fact we probably lost more times using it than we won.

Even more controversial is the gem system. The idea behind this is that you can customise any of the characters with up to three gems, which either add extra abilities or boost a fighter’s stats. The worry was that this will unbalance the gameplay and that anyone that’s got all the gems will be given an unassailable advantage.

Again that’s not been our experience and although some of the gems are quite powerful – making combos even easier or automatically escaping throws – these are clearly aimed at newer players. More experienced fighters will prefer the gems that simply increase your power or reduce the damage you take, but these all have to be powered up in-game according to very specific criteria -such as performing a certain number of blocks.

Worries about Capcom offering extra powerful gems as downloadable content is a more reasonable concern, but in terms of what’s on the disc it’s all very well balanced.

Perhaps smarting from criticism of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, there’s more game modes here than many of Capcom’s recent titles, with a proper Arcade mode including some endearingly silly intro and outro story segments. There’s also a challenge mode with specific missions and trails, and also – shock and horror – a proper tutorial.

Hosted by none other than Dan Hibiki (a purposefully useless joke character), for once the game does bother to explain most of its concepts in some detail. You can even play practice matches online with a partner and the replay system is extremely useful for working out where you’re going wrong with a move.

That’s not the only way the game seeks to help new users though. There are a set number of simple moves common to all the characters which mean anyone can perform a least a few useful moves with any of the characters. There are also shortcuts for some of the more powerful special moves, although these cost some of your super meter to use – so again the game doesn’t become unbalanced.

Prior to launch the game’s online mode has been pretty unstable, but assuming that’s fixed the options are again more imaginative and varied than any other recent fighter. Not only can you choose to have your team-mate controlled by another human player but there’s also an amusingly silly free-for-all mode where all four fighters appear at once onscreen.

With all these new mechanics and the bizarre roster of characters (particularly so on the PlayStation 3, which includes everyone from Cole from inFamous to Pac-Man) Street Fighter X Tekken is very much its own game. It’s not as deep as Street Fighter IV it’s true – the defensive options in particular are very limited – but it’s a much more technical fighter than Marvel Vs. Capcom and so sits in a comfortable middle ground between the two.

Street Fighter X Tekken has its own rules, rosters and options; and despite the whole concept sounding like a niche gimmick only for fans the tutorial and control options actually make this one of the most accessible and innovative fighters of the last few years.

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