Crossovers are without a doubt the cherry on the cake for many fans. While it may never be canon, or work out quite the way we wished, there's no question that we love crossovers. There's just something about seeing Batman take on Captain America, or The Hulk pummelling Superman, or even Captain Kirk giving Commander Shepard some much-needed pointers on inter-species romance and sex.
While many of us are still basking in the ambient glow of the last Marvel vs. Capcom game, it's become evident that Capcom has taken the bull by the horns when it comes to crossovers. Their latest delve into the infinite possibilities of the elsewhere ropes in the characters and fighters from Namco's fighting franchise, Tekken. If I would have ever created a list of my "most anticipated crossover", a Street Fighter vs Tekken game would have been right at the top.
Obviously, as the fervent Tekken fan that I am, my main concern was how they would incorporate the Tekken characters and whether the gaming Chimera would highlight the strengths of both fighting-game behemoths. Needless to say, Street Fighter X Tekken (SFxT) exceeded my expectations in this regard. While it may feature the misfits from Tekken, the game remains true to its Street Fighter roots. It even adopted the distinctive, colourful visual style of Street Fighter IV. However, unlike Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter X Tekken is focused primarily on tag-team based action.
It's still possible to unleash mind-blowing combos and powerful attacks that will leave your opponents begging for mercy, however the controls have been tweaked and simplified from the previous Street Fighter game. The more powerful attacks no longer require a Doctorate in Street Fighter. Instead, many of the special moves, EX moves and even Super Arts attacks require nothing more than a quarter roll on the d-pad, and a press (or holding down) of one of the face buttons. It's the ability and option to charge attacks that adds to the Street Fighter X Tekken experience. For instance, you can charge Ryu's hadouken (his trusty projectile attack) by simply holding the punch button (after performing the now iconic quarter roll and punch combination) - this will unleash the EX version of his attack. Or if you hold it a little longer, his move has the potential to become an impressive Super Arts finisher. In keeping with the tag team flavour, there are also tag team based attacks (like cross-rush, cross-arts and even launchers that allow for devastating combo attacks to continue even after you've swapped characters).
If it sounds a little overwhelming, rest assured that Street Fighter's greatest warrior, Dan Hibiki, will come to your rescue. Dan features in a comprehensive tutorial mode, which will familiarise any would-be marital artist with all the intricacies of the game. Dan-san covers all the basics, and eventually deals with some of the more powerful attacks, like the aforementioned switch-combos, cross-assaults, cross-rushes, cross-arts, throw cancels, and even charged EX special attacks. He also touches on pre-set quick combos that can be mapped to the R buttons (or even the shoulder buttons). These can be unleashed for those humiliating beat-downs. However, in order to take full advantage of the new additions, you constantly have to keep an eye on the Cross Gauge meter. A full Cross Gauge allows for the more devastating power attacks to be performed. Veterans of Street Fighter would have already mastered the art of keeping their Cross Gauge meters high, though.
Additionally, there is also a desperate suicide attack, called the "Pandora" effect. This gives you the option to sacrifice one character, while giving his tag team partner infinite Cross Gauge. However, once Pandora is activated, you're only given 10 seconds to "lay the smackdown". Fail to do so, and your character keels over for an instant and humiliating KO. If you manage to pull off a victory though, you gain instead bragging rights.
The controls are intuitive, and while Street Fighter X Tekken does posses a steep learning curve (in terms of how to effectively employ combos, or when to use your attacks), the simplified approach does wonders for the game. Even the game's more controversial addition, the Gems, are easy to use. Assist Gems have passive effects, like auto blocking or even throw cancelling, while Boost Gems activate a specific attribute from attack speed to damage output, but only upon performing certain requirements. These may include performing a set number of blocks or delivering a specific number of normal attacks. The effect of the Gems are subtle, and choosing the right ones to compliment your fighting style adds an additional layer of strategy to the game. However, they won't ensure victory. Success ultimately depends on your skill as a fighter and whether or not you can adapt to the fighting style of your opponents.
While an all-inclusive story rarely matters in fighting games, the game does throw a MacGuffin (in the form of an extraterrestrial object, called Pandora's Box) at gamers. Pandora's Box peaks the interest of all and sundry, and what follows is a frantic inter-franchise race (amongst 38 fighters) to reach it. While the interaction between tag team members are hilarious, it's still disappointing that Street Fighter X Tekken does not throw the kitchen sink at the story. The potential for something more substantial is definitely there. In fact, Capcom could have taken advantage of the obvious rivalries between the various characters, such as Ryu and Kazuya, or even Heihachi and M.Bison. As a huge fan of King and Zangief, I would have loved some sort of meaningful or even comedic interaction between these two pro-wrestling behemoths. By all rights, the battle between them should be a main card grudge match at the next Wrestlemania. While a rivalry system does exist, it misses the mark completely.
One of my initial concerns with Street Fighter X Tekken was how Capcom would incorporate the 3D characters from Tekken within the 2D worlds of Street Fighter. The truth is they have surpassed my expectations. The character designs on the Tekken gang are phenomenal. Their individual personalities are captured perfectly, and as unbelievable as it may sound, their respective Tekken movesets have also been incorporated (although tweaked slightly to fit the Street Fighter mould). Some characters have benefited greatly from the Street Fighter makeover. One in particular, Jin Kazama, instantly springs to mind. He even gains a Street Fighter-esque projectile attack. However, with most of the others there is a steep learning curve, because they lack this ability, and when facing some of the Street Fighter characters, range becomes an issue.
Where Street Figher X Tekken does take an unfortunate self-inflicted kick to the chin is during online play. For a game that's undeniably focused on multiplayer, it is a shame that the online battles can be a frustrating affair. Online battles are plagued with sound syncing problems, misbehaving frame-rates, and that instant buzz-kill: online lag. Battling international players is almost out of the question (even for those amongst us with a 4Mb line). Sadly, facing local fighters is not entirely lag free either. In this case, a combination of our painful local internet and shaky online code ruins the chances of ruling online (for even the most ardent of local Street Fighter fans). However, Capcom is releasing frequent patches, and hopefully with time, we'll be able to have relatively lag-free Ranked matches with international gamers. In this regard, there is certainly room for improvement.
Online play definitely lacks the refinement of offline multiplayer. Oddly, it also lacks the option to team up with a friend in an online tag team of unbridled warrior spirit. It's a strange and unfortunate omission, especially given that the updated lobby system is a vast improvement over Street Fighter IV's online lobby. You can team up with a friend to spar in an online training mode, but sadly not elsewhere. However, in general online play boasts the same modes as offline multiplayer. There is the sublime Scramble Battle mode that allows four players to fight simultaneously in what can be best described as a chaotic brawl of undistilled bliss.
Beyond the meagre Arcade mode and Versus mode, Street Fighter X Tekken also throws in a Challenge mode. This can be broken up into a Mission mode and a Trial mode. Mission mode throws in specific challenges at players, from clearing a match with a perfect, to only using normal moves. Trial mode, on the other hand, expands on the Tutorial mode, but this time it allows you to learn the movesets and peculiarities of each fighter within the game. In other words, special moves, or character-specific combo attacks. In addition to Trial mode and Dan Hibiki's training mode, Street Fighter veterans may also be delighted to know that a Replay channel has been included (however it only works for online battles). For the more competitive gamer, this is a perfect place to pick up new strategies or to show off your fighting game prowess.
While Street Fighter X Tekken is without a doubt an excellent fighting game, the dark mark of downloadable content (DLC) rears its ugly head. While DLC can improve a game or add content as the months roll by, Street Fighter X Tekken's take on DLC may leave a sour taste in the mouths of some gamers. The problem lies with the fact that much of the content is already on the disk (particularly content that has already been released on the PS3 version - or will be released on the PS Vita version). Essentially in this case, DLC doesn't stand for downloadable content, but rather disc-locked content. While I'd rather not editorialise a review, it is a subject that gamers should be aware of. If this form of DLC offends you, then Street Fighter X Tekken might not be the game for you.
There's no denying that the total package feels a little light in terms of features, and could've benefited from a comprehensive story mode (to compliment the meagre arcade mode), or even an additional arcade mode that focuses on non-tag battling, overall Capcom has successfully and expertly merged the worlds and characters of two vastly different franchises, making Street Fighter X Tekken a game that both Tekken and Street Fighter fans can enjoy.
- Impressive and stylish visuals
- Intuitive fighting system (that's surprisingly deep)
- Tekken fighters are superbly recreated.
- What story?
- Online shenanigans
- Disc-locked content (the other kind of DLC)
- A little light on features