I never thought I would see the day where Ryu hurled fireballs at Heihachi. Capcom is famous for its crossover games dating back as early as X-Men vs. Street Fighter, but I never thought we would see two powerhouse fighters come together quite like this. Being the first of two games in a double-series, Street Fighter X Tekken shows off Capcom’s take on the Namco Bandai fighter. Later down the line we will see how Namco brings the shotos into their dimension, but for now we have one packed fighter that is amazingly deep and a pure joy to play.
On the surface, this looks like any other Capcom vs. game. Once you dig in, though, you’ll quickly realize that this is a beast all its own. I will be upfront; I have never been the biggest fan of Tekken. Being a huge fighting game lover, it was the one series that never really clicked for me. Here, though, we get Capcom’s take on the roster, while still retaining a lot of what makes them special. Both sides are a force to be reckoned with, and I genuinely enjoyed playing with almost every character, a rare treat for fighting games.
The best way to describe the game is the perfect mix of Street Fighter’s precision and depth, mixed with Tekken’s tag and throw mechanics. I was actually expecting more of a versus mentality like Capcom’s recent Marvel vs. Capcom, but instead, SFxT brings an entirely new feeling to the table. You can use your tag mechanic to launch opponents into the air for massive juggle combos. You can also strategically switch in and out to refresh your character. Unlike the Marvel games, if one of your fighters’ health is depleted, it is game over. This layer of depth keeps matches frantic and fast-paced, and forces you to choose your team more wisely.
The roster is jam-packed with over 40 characters to choose from (with 14 more locked behind DLC gates on the disc). PS3 owners gain access to Mega Man and Pac Man exclusively, but don’t be surprised to see them wind up on Xbox 360 down the line. The other 12 fighters should be unlocked over time by paying for them, along with a plethora of costumes and colors for customization. PS3 owners also get Cole McGrath of inFamous fame. While he is definitely a cool character to toy around with, he, Pac Man and Mega Man are not likely to be enough to dissuade anyone towards one system or another. They all serve mostly as novel characters.
The rest of the roster is fleshed out with plenty of familiar faces. Capcom brings the traditional Ryu, Ken and Chun Li, while also adding unique entries such as Poison and Hugo. From the Tekken side, all of your favorites arrive including Jin, Paul and even Kuma. It really is an amazing collection of faces, and when you factor in that each character has a set partner that will showcase intros, endings and new cut scenes during arcade mode; you have a serious amount of fan service herein.
The actual combat is deep enough that fans will be mastering combos for months to come. I have already seen some amazing dash cancels into super arts that defy my aging abilities. What I love about SFxT, though, is that it makes things seem more simplified than they actually are. You can perform EX moves much like in SF4, but now you can charge them into super arts without sacrificing meter, or cancel out of them into another move. Super arts can also be saved up to three bars in order to unleash a dual combo with your partner, or bring in your partner for a 2-on-1 barrage. I also love the subtle touches, such as the original SF music kicking in if you are using Ken and Ryu during this move.
In addition, there are plenty of string combos you can perform, and mastering them all could take forever if you don’t focus on one specific team. Everything works into juggle combos, and the Tekken characters really bring a whole new focus of moves to the table. Pandora mode is also a new feature. Basically this works as a last ditch effort for someone about to lose. You can activate it, transfer your partner’s health to you, and deal extra damage and infinite meter. The catch is you have a limited time to finish off your opponent, or it’s an automatic loss. Huge risk, for possible rewards, but it makes matches much more interesting at times.
The sheer amount of depth is amazing, and I can see this being a tournament favorite for years to come. The one area that may hinder that a bit is the gem system. Capcom is introducing this new mechanic, which allows you to equip your characters with stat boosters that influence attack power, defense and more. On the surface, they seem harmless, but when you consider that the most powerful gems are gained by purchasing them online, it becomes frustrating. I am glad you can disable them in play, which I honestly do most of the time, and I can see them being banned at tournaments.
Speaking of playing with others, SFxT’s online mode is having the same growing pains most fighters do. Right now, they have a new lag system in place that is supposed to help with button inputs by removing as much latency as possible. The problem: it causes sound effects to completely disappear and music to be played in mono. This is massively distracting. I never knew how much sound effects played a role in my fighting games, but when they are so sporadic, it is immensely off-putting. If they can get that ironed out, the online mode will be a blast. You have standard versus and ranked matches, but you can also team up with a buddy in tag mode, or go all out in Scramble mode, which puts all four fighters onscreen at once. The game is definitely best served with friends.
Visually, the game looks much like Street Fighter 4 with its unique art style and flashy characters. The one major disappointment that Capcom continues to ignore, is a lack of stages. I guess I have been spoiled by the likes of Mortal Kombat, but I really like a plethora of venues to fight in. What is here, though, is really fantastic. The sheer amount of animation and background activity are incredible and chock full of fan service and characters. Like other Capcom fighters, I love the sound options. Being able to have characters voiced by their native tongues or all English or Japanese is a nice feature. The music is fantastic, and the quips from characters are great. All around, this game delivers on the presentation front.
Street Fighter X Tekken is easily the best fighting game I have played since Mortal Kombat landed last year. Sure, the story mode is a little contrived, and the gem system mildly flawed for tournament play, but the sheer amount of everything else completely outweighs it. I have been wrapped up in learning the combos and getting that sense I had back in the arcade days, when I actually wanted to master each character. The game is great for both Tekken and Street Fighter fans, and being a critic of the former, I am much more interested to see how Namco handles their end of the bargain now. If you like fighting games, this is a no-brainer. Street Fighter X Tekken will easily be my fighting game addiction of 2012, unless of course Rare shocks the world with a “killer” reboot.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on PlayStation 3.