Ok, we’ve had Capcom vs SNK, we’ve had Street Fighter vs X-Men and we’ve had the utterly bat-crap crazy, Marvel vs Capcom crossover series, but as mad as some of those may have sounded on paper, never before has there been a more ambitious videogame crossover than Street Fighter X Tekken. Sure, they’re both fighting games at heart, but behind the punches and the kicks, these two series are as wildly dissimilar as Burnout and Gran Turismo. Beyond the obvious difference of Tekken being a flashy 3D fighter and Street Fighter a purer 2D brawler (let’s not go into that whole Street Fighter EX mess), the core fighting mechanics behind each of the two games are wildly unique. Street Fighter is all about flashy special moves and incomparable balance while Tekken has always favoured more flamboyant basic combat and slick four button combinations. Bringing these two fighting game behemoths together was always going to be tricky, but my God, did Capcom ever pull it off.
As the first of a two part release (Namco’s Tekken X Street Fighter is coming…….well, let’s just say it’s coming), Capcom’s Street Fighter X Tekken is every bit the Capcom brawler. Using the Street Fighter IV template as a starting point, Street Fighter X Tekken takes those fundamentals and successfully expands on those rock solid foundations to create a flashier, more accessible but almost infinitely deep fighting game experience. The Tekken characters, whose moves have obviously been tweaked to fit into the Street Fighter universe work better than one could have reasonably hoped for, while the balance, which, while inevitably not as tight as Street Fighter IV’s, seems a lot more refined than the occasionally haphazard Marvel vs Capcom 3.
Yeah, die-hard Tekken fans aren’t going to be over the moon with the changes made to their beloved fighters, but c’mon, this isn’t what Street Fighter X Tekken is about. If you want to play Tekken, play Tekken 6 or just wait for Tekken X Street Fighter – this is a Street Fighter game through and through, one that goes to great lengths to remain true to the universe while delivering an experience that will prove welcoming to any new comers intrigued by this most bizarre of videogame team-ups.
While the simplified Super Arts (read: Ultra’s) and basic three button ‘Cross Rush’ combos (hit attack buttons in ascending order from low to high) make for a game that is extremely easy to pick up for newcomers to the genre, Street Fighter X Tekken is a game that hides a mountain of tactical options for those looking towards tournament level play. In the same way that Capcom vs SNK 2 has garnered a loyal hardcore following over the last ten years, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this game enjoyed the same kind of long term success.
Beyond the simple joy of finding the most successful team-ups possible from the huge roster of 38 playable characters, Street Fighter X Tekken offers up a mesmerising level of depth for those eager to dig down to its core; there are an array of attack combinations available, a huge selection of special attacks, the unique Pandora mechanic that allows you to gamble everything for a last gasp shot at victory and, of course, the highly controversial, but wisely underplayed, Gem integration.
Gems allow players to apply special bonuses to each character that can imbue them with additional health or stronger attacks etc. With over 100 unique Gems available, as you can imagine, the tactical options provided by these Gems is immense. Obviously, as feared, they do affect the balance and, dare I say, the purity of the experience, but in fairness to Capcom, the Gem system has been delicately handled. Each of the Gems available are only unlocked in battle once certain conditions are met (block 10 times, land 8 regular attacks etc.), and come in and out of play after a few seconds naturally over the course of any battle. Sure, the automatic throw cancelling Gem will annoy the hell out of some gamers and the Gems allowing for simplified special attacks do make things a bit too easy for those eager to exploit the system, but for the most part, the Gem system works to successfully differentiate Street Fighter X Tekken from its immediate peers without the need for the pyrotechnics of the Marvel vs Capcom series, while also managing that fine balancing act of making the game more approachable to newcomers while simultaneously offering greater depth for the hardcore.
That’s not to say that Street Fighter X Tekken is devoid of spectacle mind. With Ex versions of each special move, a singular charged special that can be held until it unleashes a Super Arts attack and both epic three gauge Cross Art attacks that incorporate both fighters to devastating effect and the utterly mental Cross Assault that allows both your fighters to jump on screen to fight together for a limited time, Street Fighter X Tekken certainly has it where it counts when it comes to wow factor.
With Arcade Mode and the usual selection of character specific challenges combined with the all new Mission Mode (20 unique and highly challenging events to play through), the single player portion of the experience is relatively robust. As always though, it’s the local multiplayer and online support that will provide the long term appeal. Luckily, Street Fighter X Tekken has obviously been built with online fighting in mind. Beyond all the brilliant options already available in Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Street Fighter X Tekken’s big draw will likely prove the opportunity for online fighters to team up, train and subsequently fight together. With the chance to plan your tactics and strategies outside of battle, this alone will allow for a completely new approach to online battle. Add to that the inclusion of the hectic but hugely enjoyable Scramble Mode, a mode that sees all four fighters battling it out on screen at once, and you’re left with one seriously epic online offering. The netcode isn’t perfect yet, but given a couple of weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if a patch wasn’t put in place to iron out the minor niggles that currently tarnish an otherwise exemplary online offering.
With so many great fighters released in the past few years, one could have easily argued that the world didn’t need Street Fighter X Tekken. Thing is, when you’re met with a product of this undeniable quality, the argument of whether it is needed or not becomes immediately irrelevant – the fact of the matter is, the fighting genre, and the gaming world at large, is a better place for this game existing. It has exceeded all of my expectations and sits proudly next to Capcom vs SNK 2 as one of the two greatest cross over fighters ever released. It’s accessible, it’s deep, it’s beautiful to look and brilliant fun to play – Namco’s Tekken X Street Fighter sure has a lot to live up to.
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