Here we go again, yet another Capcom VS. (Fill-in-the-blank) fighter. They’ve taken on Marvel, SNK, Tatsunoko, and Namco in so many crossovers that its dizzying. Now, another great group of fighters are ready to battle it out with the well-loved Street Fighter roster: the 3D team from Tekken. I wasn’t sure how well the transition would fare in turning Tekken into a 2D format, but like many other aspects of the game, the effect was surprising. Most surprising of all is that Street Fighter X Tekken (SFXT) has a lot to offer fighters of all skill levels.
It was interesting to play Tekken characters in a two-dimensional world. I thought it would take away from the combat, but it actually works quite well. I think it made more sense to change it this way, and not trying to make the Street Fighter characters play in a three-dimensional world. Each player is allowed two characters to fight in each battle, like Tekken Tag Tournament. You can choose any combination of fighters that you wish. You can “tag” in and out with your partner at will during the match, allowing the resting character to slowly regenerate a little health. The difference between Tekken Tag and SFXT is that if the character you are fighting with falls, you immediately loose that round, regardless of how much health your resting character may have. This creates an extra plate that the players must spin while they are frantically trying to best their opponent. There are plenty of combos that allow you to sync the two characters into fighting as one, and usually these combinations can mean the difference between winning and losing.
The fighting mechanics are very similar to Super Street Fighter IV; it’s based on a six button layout (3 punches, 3 kicks) and has a three-section energy meter that comes with several special functions. These functions include EX special moves, super arts, and most importantly a function for cross-combos. Many less experienced players will simply fight with one character until he/she is low on health, then switch them out for their fully rested second character. With cross-combos you begin a combination with your first character, then halfway through the combo you switch to your second character to finish off the move set. This two-as-one move may sound hard to pull off (and you’d be right), but once mastered this fighting style gives you an edge in combat as well as keeping the game unique from others.
One clever addition to the fighting mechanics is that all the characters have the same basic combo moves. So whether you choose Heihachi or Chun-Li, you can perform simple combos like ‘light-medium-heavy-heavy’ using the same buttons you did with some other character in the round before. You can also do the cross-combo using the same buttons no matter what character you pick. I think this was done to make the game friendly to players of all skill levels, allowing newcomers a chance to pick up SFXT and not feel completely left behind. To those die-hard fans out there who may think that this detracts from the individuality of the characters, think again. This standardization for all the characters actually accentuates their unique fighting styles by allowing the players to start with the basics and build on them depending on what character you choose.
There are also ways to create combo shortcuts. Certain combos have two ways to execute them: the long button combos and a shortcut of one or two buttons. While the shortcuts may seem unfair to those who’ve spent their young lives memorizing hundreds of move sets, Capcom has balanced these shortcuts with consequences. Some shortcuts cost you energy and others lower your fighter’s attack power.
Another important aspect of SFXT is the use of Gems. These are like perks that can be used in various combinations to help you get through your battles, all based around your specific fighting style and ability. If you are new to either series, then you might use Iron Wall gems that grant some damage reduction. If you are an old pro, then Immense Power gems would work for you, boosting your offensive attacks. Either way, these are a creative and subtle way to boost players’ abilities, making pros more lethal and giving noobs a chance to hang in there.
Mode selections are fairly typical. Arcade Mode is a given, and follows suit with every traditional arcade you’ve ever played. There is a small introductory cinematic before each scripted opponent, and a little banter after each. This time the story revolves around opening Pandora’s Box. The story makes little sense and has no depth, but do they ever in fighting games? It’s definitely a rare occasion when one does. In the end you are shown what your winning team did with Pandora’s Box.
SFXT also offers a Challenge Mode. This includes Trial, Tutorial, and Mission selections. Trials offer twenty character-specific moves, ranging from the simplest to the very difficult. The Tutorial is where every newcomer and old pro should start, considering it walks you through all the mechanics of the game. Mission mode allows you to pick a character, then face-off against the AI under several different battle conditions. These three selections within the Challenge Mode are vital to learning the ins and outs of the game and to understand everything it has to offer.
While Challenge Mode has much to offer, it isn’t the best place to learn how to hone your skills. This comes from the Replay and Practice modes. Replay allows you to watch play-backs of other gamers, filtered by character, player skill, and various other factors. This gives you an opportunity to study their decisions and parries and learn from them. Another great way to learn is to have a friend online who is willing to go with you to the Practice Mode. Here you can spar with or against him as you both brush up on your skills.
With all these fun options for gameplay, the most important aspects of the game require online capabilities. You can play SFXT alone or with a friend on one console, as well as practice your moves on your own with the AI, but it really just isn’t as effective. Here’s the catch – online connection is spotty at best. At best, when connecting with players in the same region with both parties at maximum connection ratings, it was still a toss-up whether we’d experience lag or not. Conditions less pristine than these would result in the matches slowing to a frustrating crawl. Another gripe I have about the online play is that while the game is centered around tag-team gameplay, if you have an Xbox 360, you aren’t allowed to play that way online. The reason for this difference is because of the architecture differences between Gamertags and PSN IDs. I’m not sure of the technical details, but basically it amounts to: Sony made it so you can mix and match online and offline, and Microsoft made it so you can’t.
The graphics are comical, with designers opting for a more cartoon-y look rather than realistic. There’s a hint of cell shading, which adds to the cartoon feel. It’s not really a bad thing, but I suppose I was expecting a little more. The sounds and score were typical of the genre – they didn’t try to go outside the box on anything. I guess if it isn’t broken… You know, it would be nice if someone could produce a fighting game in which ‘having depth’ didn’t only apply to the fighting mechanics and combos. But I digress…
The character selection is quite large to begin with, but they left many of the popular and interesting characters out. Capcom has, however, added 12 locked characters to the disc. Guess how you unlock them? That’s right, you’ll pay an extra $20 to play as Blanka, Sakura, Guy, Cody, Elena, Dudley, Alisa, Bryan, Christie, Jack, Lars, or Lei. There’s some controversy over this little issue with fans being outraged that Capcom didn’t just include those characters in the game if they were ready at release. I’m not going to go into it, but I must say I found it pretty annoying that I couldn’t play as some of my beloved characters.
Hopefully with time the online connection issues will level out, allowing players to fight the way the game intended them to. Fortunately that is the only real fault SFXT has. It provides access to a genre that many avoid simply because they have never tried it. While making it easier for new gamers to get their foot in the door in the fighting scene, they don’t sacrifice the meat and potatoes for the experienced ones. Overall, it’s a fun fighter in an appropriate package that will satisfy gamers of all skill levels.
I give Street Fighter X Tekken 4 “Cross Games” out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards-Hite