Once again, Capcom illustrates that the fighting game genre is still very much alive and warranted. By combining both Street Fighter and Tekken franchises and meshing it all with a little Capcom magic, Street Fighter X Tekken offers a lot more than just another Street Fighter upgrade.
As many will know, Tekken, owned by Namco Bandai, is a fighting game franchise based on fighting on a 3D plane. When Capcom was tasked to bring over these Tekken characters into a 2D plane, they have done a fantastic job of bringing over their signature moves but also bring them to a level that is much like a Street Fighter character. Sure, they might play extremely different from their Tekken counter parts but they retain a lot of moves to the point where you can go in with a Tekken mindset and be able to build upon that foundation.
This time around the game is centered on a 2v2 tag affair. To those that are familiar with Tekken Tag Tournament, knocking out only one character on a team will result in the end of the round. This also leaves the potential of doing devastating combos and planning vicious tactics using tag mechanics and using it as a way to compensate for one character’s bad match-ups. Unlike the later Marvel vs. Capcom games, the emphasis on team synergy is not as strict so you will be able to play with two characters that you enjoy or feel most comfortable with.
Perhaps the most controversial addition to Street Fighter X Tekken is the gem system. The gem system allows you to equip gems that gives your characters temporary stats boosts. The entire system thankfully is transparent enough that it won’t turn a bad player into an amazing player but it will help make a good player into a better one. It can lead to some great strategies to allow for maximum output and gives you a secondary goal of being able to activate your gems to lay down some massive damage. I found myself trying out setups just to see if I can pull them off in an actual match and capitalize on it. I can see players using this system to their advantage. However, this should only be seen a way to complement your play style instead of changing your entire game based off of it.
Of course, there are a few people who might be concerned about another addition to SFxT and that’s Pandora Mode. By sacrificing your current point character who must be at 25% health or less, you imbue your sub character with a boost of strength and a constantly refilling cross gauge. This effect only lasts for 8 seconds and failure to defeat the opponent by the end of this timer will result in an automatic Time Over against you. There are applications for this but most of it generally revolves around setups that guarantee you a combo to kill the opponent. Otherwise, running away is still a very effective tactic against most characters and with only 8 seconds to work with, activating it without a plan is simply suicide.
As much as Tekken is being thrown into the mix, this is still a Street Fighter game at heart. Those that are coming in from Street Fighter 4, however, will have to empty their cup before stepping into the ring. While basic fundamentals are still important, changes to the system makes it a completely different game which requires a different mindset. Thankfully, some slight adjustments later and getting used to the fact that I wasn’t just playing Street Fighter 4 came fairly fast.
The fighting engine itself is very free form but it doesn’t go too crazy like in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. Combos that normally wouldn’t work in a Street Fighter 4 environment may potentially work here. Everyone is able to perform moves that will lead onto big combos. For that reason, being able to maintain a solid defense while taking the opportunity to expose the opponent’s holes in their defenses will be imperative to success in winning in Street Fighter X Tekken. Tekken characters have access to moves that allow them to quickly do mid-attacks, a property that is known in Street Fighter as having overhead capabilities. Because of this, knowing when to block high or low is going to be a learning experience that players will have to adapt to.
For those brand new to fighting games in general, Street Fighter X Tekken does a good job of introducing the mechanics. The game features a tutorial mode that runs you through everything from telling you the difference between a high and a low block to doing even simple combos. Of course trial modes will allow you to do sample combos to understand a specific character better. For those that are struggling with tech throwing and blocking, you can equip a gem that allows you to auto block and auto throw tech but at a cost of damage output and meter consumption. If you really struggle with combos, you can also use these shortcut combo commands with Light Punch/Heavy Kick or Light Kick/Heavy Punch. This comes at a cost of meter and personally I don’t see too much of a benefit of having this especially since these combos aren’t the most elaborate.
The arcade mode is still here but offers a little twist in terms of story. Everyone in the world seems to be focused on Pandora’s Box, which is said to contain some amazing power that can be utilized by whoever possesses the content. By picking specific team combinations, you’ll be presented with an intro cutscene stating the purpose of the team, what they’re going for and will be treated to special after round quotes that features a little team flair. Of course, this leads to team specific endings as well. Those seeking how the character’s personalities will clash with each other will be entertained by this. Remixed music on top of background cameos really adds to the nice polish of the game.
You also won’t need to fight your battles alone. You will be able to have two human players per team, one controlling one character. While it seems tacked on, many pro players and tournament organizers are considering embracing this mode of play. This setup can be done in any mode online or offline. If you want things to be a little crazier, you can enable Scramble Mode where all four characters duke it out on screen at the same time. This particular mode is nice to mess around in and a fun mode where you can throw away all the seriousness of competitive play and just have at it.
There are a few UI problems that I have with the game. Trying to learn a new character can be rough and accessing the move list with all the menu transitions just takes too long, especially when you’re trying to go down the list for the Tekken characters and their abundance of attack strings. Assigning gems for your characters requires you to go to a separate menu which then you will have to go back to the main menu and back to whatever you were doing. This is also frustrating is that there seems to be no way to edit your gems in an online lobby without leaving and losing your spot.
However, I’m happy to say that most of these are offset by some great UI refinements. You are now able to change your buttons in the character select screen by pushing Start. You can also opt to change the Pause button behavior by having it only pause if you hold the button down for three seconds.
Online matches are a bit of a toss up but could be resolved in the future. On testing with a few local players, there were a few cases of frame drops and sound cutting out. While overall it’s better handled compared to Street Fighter 4′s netcode, this can easily irritate or confuse players. Personally as someone who likes to hit confirm with sound, the sound cutting out really threw me off. Hopefully this will patched up in the future. You also can pair up with someone online and hit up the “Briefing Room” which is essentially an online training room. It was a much-needed feature especially when you want to use that opportunity to teach and learn when they’re not local.
It would be wrong to say that Street Fighter X Tekken is a huge innovative change for the genre. For fighting game fans, it’s definitely a fantastic game that will see play for many months. For the casual group, this is a nice opener and gateway to something deeper. However, it might not change the mind of anyone who isn’t already into fighting games and are content with button mashing. What Capcom sought out to do was to simplify the game in such a way that the player will not have to contend too much with high dexterity requirements and allow them to focus on the mind games and guess-work. I feel that Capcom has done this right but the overall enjoyment and long-lasting appeal of this game will solely depend on how much you’re willing to put into it.
This review of Street Fighter X Tekken was based on the Xbox 360 version. The PlayStation 3/Vita versions features console exclusive characters that may or may not change the overall balance and enjoyment of the game. Certain features such as DLC characters and any future modes were not factored into the review or the review score. The PlayStation Vita version will be released at a later time.