Capcom’s success with crossover titles featuring their brand of fighters against another companies list of combatants has proven to be a successful formula. Whether its SNK’s lineup of brawlers, or even the Marvel Universe, Capcom managed to blend together long lasting titles that, even after a dozen years, still receive respectable amounts of coverage and play. Though Capcom and SNK fundamentally shared similar interests and aspects to their gameplay and systems as a whole, there hasn’t been a blend that, on paper, seemed implausible at best. Fast forward years later and a partnership between Capcom and Namco Bandai produced just what I thought would be an implausible marriage or two of the most prominent fighting game franchises of all time in the form of Street Fighter X Tekken (SFxT.)
Being on the outside looking in, it was hard to imagine whether or not a crossover of such differing franchises would ever work. Street Fighter’s adherence towards a two dimensional plane for a majority of its lifespan, along with its projectile game and the advent of super meters and super moves, were a start contrast from Tekken’s side stepping three dimensional world, filled with ten pieces, outlandish juggles and focus on an up close and personal battle. The final result was a bit shocking – it’s mostly a Street Fighter world, but with a bit more of an “in your face” battle and an emphasis on juggling and creativity with combos.
For those who have been accustomed to the Street Fighter 4 franchise, as well as the first Street Fighter Alpha release, they will quickly find themselves on somewhat familiar ground. The link system based about the SF4 franchise will come into play for both Tekken and Street Fighter combatants, not to mention EX attacks (which were more famous in the Street Fighter III franchise), as well as the light > medium > heavy chain combo system that Street Fighter Alpha had, among with super moves (which were birthed in Super Street Fighter II Turbo.) That aspect alone leads to creative combos that can be unleashed. Add in the tagging portion of the gameplay, as well as the juggle centric nature of the Tekken franchise, and the spectator game becomes equally as fascinating as participating in the action. With a myriad of ways to tag in mid combo, launch mid combo and have the second character involved within each match and combo, SFxT easily becomes one of the most sophisticated brawlers ever in the Capcom arsenal.
Admittedly, I have never had a complete investment within the Tekken scene, though I have had countless hours with the franchise, mostly from Tekken 1-3, Tag and 6. So while I understand many intricate aspects to the combat system, I cannot claim to know the complete ins and outs. With that said, my impressions of the Tekken casts representation within SFxT are mixed. Many of their moves, traits and characteristics have been faithfully ported over, though there are notable changes to make them more streamlined. Paul, who’s one of the characters I’ve dabbled with throughout each Tekken title I’ve played, retains similar special moves, such as his Phoenix Smasher (quarter circle forward + punch) though now it can be used with three different strengths and speeds, depending which of the three punch buttons are used. Other moves such as Shredder (forward, down, diagonally down-forward + kick) was performed by pressing diagonally up-forward + 3 then 4 (3 & 4 representing kick buttons in Tekken.) There are some noticeable changes however, such as the removal of ten piece combos (more or less a sort of “dial-a-combo” which defaults to ten hits), several characters receiving moves they never had before (Raven’s shuriken projectiles, Jin’s pulse balls) and certain combo strings that are no longer available (Ogre has a move called the “Infinite Kick” however it’s not the same properties as Tekken 3.) Some of the missing pieces may turn off certain fans, though the puzzle still feels complete nevertheless.
As a tag title, SFxT doesn’t disappoint. In many respects, the tag portion of the gameplay is reminiscent of Tekken Tag Tournament – if one character loses all of their health, that team loses the round, forcing players to pay attention to both of their characters at all times. Tagging can be performed a number of different ways, either mid combo, or from a distance. Tagging mid combo takes one bar of the players three bar super meter, though extends the time and damage performed. Tagging can also be performed mid combo via launcher, which can be delivered when both heavy buttons are pressed at the same time, or one of the heavy buttons are pressed two times in a row. This method does not deplete any portion of the super bar, and can leave the player wide open if blocked.
For those who enjoy a single player experience, there’s a share of good news as well as bad news. The optional tutorial that greets first time players (which I whore-heatedly recommend) serves as an important first step towards learning the ropes. It does go over fundamentals that most fighting game players of all walks of life should already know, though there are portions that will help give any player a better understanding of what’s to come. As with Street Fighter 4, there’s a Trial Mode which has twenty tasks for each character, ranging from command normals (holding back and pressing medium punch for Marduk’s spinning back fist, etc.) to realistic and complex combos, to situational combos that will never see the light of day anywhere outside this mode. Mission Mode is a collection of twenty missions that will frustrate more than entertain. Running that gamut on mission #20 in a legitimate manner, will drive most grown adults crazy.
Sadly though, the story in the Arcade Mode ranges from intentionally comical (Rolento/Ibuki’s banter between matches) to a vastly cheesy ending (Heihachi/Kuma.) The banter between rounds between two paired fighters (you’ll know who is paired with the character you choose as soon as you select your first character) can be interesting, and builds up right to the end (especially the tension between Balrog and Vega) though ends up in a rather disappointing ending. The whole bit about a meteorite crash landing in Antarctica with some kind of secret mystical powers attached to its landing is a flimsy way of putting together the grand scheme of it all, but as usual, the gameplay more than makes up for this. Those looking for a Mortal Kombat like experience with the main story though, will be more than disappointed.
Borrowing heavily from the Street Fighter 4 franchise in certain respects, SFxT’s audio and visual performance is stellar. the character models previously seen from SF4, along with their voice-over work, were touched up ever so slightly, with a bit more shading on each character. Capcom’s representation of the Tekken fighters somewhat peak past those present from their side of the battle, though some of the English voice acting can be repulsive, which is a common issue on both sides. The music created just for this title is actually pretty catchy, with at least one of the songs leaving a noticeable lingering impact, kind of like how the opening intro song “Indestructable” from SF4 lingered on for hours after the game shuts off. But what stands out most in the A/V department are the creative backgrounds used. Unlike Super Street Fighter 4 and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, these are not cheap retreads of previously seen backgrounds, or some lazily added stage just to give players a bland place to do battle – these backgrounds are filled to the brim with detail, animation and a sense of action constantly going on. From the Jurassic Park-esque stage, to the Pandora effected mammoth chasing a vehicle you are doing battle on, these are some of the most imaginative stages I’ve seen in the genre. It may seem there are so few backgrounds in total, but the quality is beyond outstanding.
As with every fighting game under God’s hot sun, SFxT has its online component. Anyone that is familiar with the Street Fighter 4 series will know what to expect in both quality of connection and quality of content. Actually, the quality of connection seems better than SF4 as a whole, though the annoying sound drop outs that happen every so often are supposedly made that way by Capcom to help with stability. It’s a trade off I’m willing to take in order for my games to be as smooth as possible. The only major addition to the online mode is the ability to team with another person to take on another team in Scramble Mode (all four players on screen at the same time) or a sole combatant in Endless Matches or Ranked Games. It’s more of the same otherwise, though when there’s a solid online package being emulated, there’s little to complain about.
The only problems I can unearth with SFxT have to do with its flimsy storyline, lack of a true Tekken feel, timer speed and one of the major components to the gameplay, the gems and Pandora. As mentioned earlier, the story never takes its self too seriously, but never attempts to really entice players into caring about what the outcome of each alliance will be. If you go into Arcade Mode without the paired combatants, the ending comes off even weaker than they already are. The timer really does tick down too fast, which infinite time can remedy, though those that wish to play with the limitation on will see that even with a battle between experienced players, time over will still appear more than it should.
Tekken players may not find a whole lot that will remind them that this was supposed to be a battle between Capcom’s Street Fighter franchise and their Namco Bandai Tekken franchise. The look and feel is decidedly Street Fighter, though the juggles and a plethora of moves from the Tekken side will be very reminiscent of the 3D brawler, just not enough to erase the notion that everyone will be playing a game that’s tailored closer towards the Street Fighter gamer. This isn’t a real problem, especially since Namco Bandai will have their own crossover battle in the future called Tekken X Street Fighter, but there isn’t a significant feel to the gameplay that reaches out to hardcore Tekken players.
The last two issues are not so much a big deal, though one is a major component to the gameplay. The gem system doesn’t hold any real importance. Thankfully all but the Assist Gems feel so subtle that they could almost be non existent, though that’s the issue. With such brief and lax augmentations, one could simply forgo this addition all together, with no real importance being removed. The Assist Gems come in handy for more than just the novice player, especially the Auto Block Gem, which will knock off one meter for every missed block that the gem activates on. Even if it were just Assist Gems featured in SFxT, they could be completely removed and no one would really lose any sleep over it.
Finally, the comeback mechanic falls completely flat in every sense. Pandora enables players with their point character at or below 25% health to initiate a sequence that incapacitates said character, but boosts the health, power, speed and defense of their partner for ten seconds (the activation all happens in a 4-6 second time span.) Within these tens seconds, the player must defeat his opposition, and if the timer runs out before this task is accomplished, that Pandora powered player will lose the round. This gimmick is basically best used in the middle of a combo, or when the opposition left themselves wide open, but the problem is the strict time limit and completely situational usage. If the opposing player catches wind of what’s going on, they can simply jump backwards, fleeing most of the cast that cannot catch up to them (outside primarily Ogre and Akuma) and just run the Pandora timer out as they would if the actual timer was doing the same. There are gems that can enhance the players powers during Pandora, but again, it’s a completely situational comeback mechanic that will almost never work consistently. On top of that, a player who has a slight lead and is within the required activation costs, can activate Pandora with 3-4 seconds left on the clock, running the time out before Pandora is officially activated in battle. Maybe if the player survives after the time runs out and doesn’t have access to their partner, it would work a bit better, but as it is, Pandora is a broken mechanic with a situational use that will rarely pan out.
If we stick to the core elements of Street Fighter X Tekken, we have one of the most enjoyable fighting games since the Street Fighter III days. The audio, video and mechanical components all come together in ways that most fighters could only dream of, and the online component is one of Capcom’s strongest yet, in both content and stability. It’s as entertaining as a fighting game can get, with a serious amount of depth for hardcore, tournament level players, though enough simplicity for a novice to pick up and enjoy. Tekken faithful may not feel right at home, Pandora and the gems system could have been done without, the storylines are afterthoughts, and that timer really does tick by a little too fast. However the quality of everything that goes right for this game far exceeds the blemishes that the negativity raise. It might not be as mind blowing as seeing characters from Capcom battle the Marvel Universe, but it’s addicting, with plenty of experimentation and good times to be had.