Street Fighter X Tekken Special Edition
Release Date: 03/06/12
Capcom’s been on a roll with both their fighting games and crossovers in the past few years, between reviving the Street Fighter franchise, bringing back Marvel vs. Capcom and introducing the world to Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, and they show no signs of slowing down. While this year is a big one for Capcom thanks in large part to their three Resident Evil titles releasing, the fighting game side of the company has its own exciting landmark to show off as Street Fighter X Tekken launches, marking one of the genre’s biggest crossover’s yet. Combining Capcom and Namco Bandai’s flagship fighting franchises into one title seems like an impossible task, one that both companies are independently working toward, and with Capcom’s release coming to the console market first, we get to see what Capcom’s take on the concept is. While the game looked to be coming along well at first glance at last year’s E3, the roster has expanded significantly in this time, and more than a few new concepts have been added or expanded upon since that time. The good news is that many of these concepts do add quite a bit to the experience, and the end result is a game that’s mechanically familiar, yet quite unique in several ways. However, for all of the good the game has to offer, well… let’s take a look.
There is a story here, actually, and it’s as good a reason as any for a bunch of unconnected characters to beat the heck out of each other. It seems that a mystical box, dubbed “Pandora,” has crashed in the Antarctic, and everyone seems to want it. The two major factions across the crossover universes, Shadowloo and the Mishima Zibatsu, are locked in conflict trying to acquire the device, but several other teams of fighters are interested in acquiring the device for their own reasons. As the plot goes, the “magical object everyone wants to fight over” concept isn’t bad on its own, but the game does a surprising amount with it, between random bits of flavor text that come up when unrelated teams are chosen, fully rendered endings and some strong character interplay with assigned teams, and the end result is surprisingly compelling. The game also puts together some surprising teams that make sense and are fun to see together, and their banter is often cute or funny in the right ways, especially that of Jin Kazama and Ling Xiaoyu, as the game goes with the “romantic tension” card in some surprising ways that, honestly, the Tekken franchise should consider. Just a thought. There are also a whole lot of play modes here, including the standard Arcade and Versus modes, online play that includes Ranked matches, Endless Battles, Scramble Matches and partner practice and selection options as well as replays and leaderboards, Training, Trials, Missions, a functional Tutorial and the option to customize your characters to various extents, well, there’s a lot to do here right out of the box.
Street Fighter X Tekken is not only one of the best looking fighting games to come from Capcom yet, it’s honestly one of the best looking games available for the 360 right now, as it’s technically solid and very artistically interesting. The game is incredibly detailed, and each character from both universes looks absolutely amazing, whether static or in motion. The Tekken characters are especially well replicated, retaining the personality from their parent franchise while adjusting into the new series just fine, and the Street Fighter characters look as fantastic as ever, whether new or returning. There’s also a large amount of personality in the different stages, between the different interesting and goofy background animations and the excellent design put into each one in general, making them fun to fight in. Aurally, the game once again features English and Japanese voice tracks for every character, and allows you to set them all English, Japanese, or to their respective expected languages, though this means “the correct language for the Tekken characters and Japanese for the Street Fighter characters.” You can also customize the languages per character if you wish, and the language tracks for both factions in both languages sounds great. The music feels very similar to that of prior recent 3D Capcom fighters, meaning that it’s very inspiring and varied, and fits the fighting theme perfectly fine. The sound effects are exactly what you’d want and expect, as well, and combat sounds absolutely violent and powerful at all times. The game also features cute audio touches like fading out the background music when you’re near defeat, for example, and there’s really just a lot of personality in the game overall.
Street Fighter X Tekken borrows its control dynamics from Street Fighter 4, meaning that we’re back to the classic six button style of play here, so fans should have a decent idea of what’s going on. Basically, the left stick, pad, or the arcade stick moves your character as needed, and you’ll have three buttons committed to weak, medium and strong attacks, either punches or kicks. You can chain these attacks together to perform combinations by escalating them upward, IE weak, then medium, then strong, though some characters can work around this. You can also perform special attacks by performing directional motions and button combinations, either by tapping, rolling or charging directional inputs to perform unique attacks to aid you in battle. The game also carries over some of the more common additions from its predecessor and other genre products, meaning that you can press both weak attacks to throw your opponent or cancel a throw, recover from a knockdown by pressing two attack buttons or a direction and an attack, double tap a direction to dash or backdash, perform Super Arts (super moves) by performing a motion and pressing all three of an attack type, and so on. The core mechanics specifically should be very familiar to fighting game fans in general and Street Fighter 4 fans in specific, and the game gives you an exhaustive tutorial to explain the majority of the techniques regardless so you can pick them up without a problem.
Street Fighter X Tekken brings a lot to the table that’s all its own, however, and the most interesting addition is the tag system. Similar to Tekken Tag Tournament or Marvel vs. Capcom 3, you’ll be selecting a multi-person team at all times, in this case, a two person team. You can switch between them at any time with a press of both medium attack buttons, which simply tags in your ally and leaves them to their business. However, there are other options for tagging in, such as performing the action in the middle of a move as a cancel (which consumes one bar of “Cross Gauge,” this game’s Super Meter), or hitting a Launcher to knock an opponent airborne. Launchers are exactly what they sound like, and they can either be performed on their own by pressing both strong attacks simultaneously, at an extensive delay, or by landing a combo and ending with two strong attacks, which will turn the second strong attack into a Launcher, called a Cross Rush, with no delay. Either way, this will knock the opponent airborne and bring your partner in to instantly attempt to juggle them for added damage. This also opens up the option for team supers, dubbed Cross Arts. By performing a quarter circle forward motion and hitting both medium attacks, you’ll burn all three Cross Gauge bars and unleash a tag team super for serious damage. You can also unleash a Cross Assault, for the same cost, with a reverse quarter circle motion, which will bring your partner in to attack by your side for some serious crazy combinations.
This also brings us neatly to the Pandora system. By default, the game works under Tekken Tag Tournament elimination rules; IE, when one team member gets knocked out, it’s match over. Pandora is meant more as a way of making use of a depleted partner when your options are limited; by double tapping down and pressing both Medium attacks, you’ll burn the other partner’s life bar and instead massively jack up your primary character, giving them a stat boost and a regenerating life bar. There’s a catch, however; the mode only lasts so long, meaning that you’ll need to win with it as quickly as possible if you want to make it count, or you’ve lost regardless. For those who want an edge without burning a partner, there are also Gems to consider. Each character can be equipped with up to three Gems that can either work actively, where performing specific actions activate them and confer stat boosts, or passively, automatically blocking and countering throws at the cost of some Cross Gauge. Active Gems have a time limit and specific stat boosts they offer, so you can pick easily activated gems and hope for the best or harder to activate gems and hope they kick in (or activate them) when needed, while Passive Gems are always on, but at a cost. Each character can have two gem palettes based on your needs, so you can set your characters up as you see fit based on what you need and how you want to activate their abilities, and while the boosts aren’t game-breaking, they can give you a serious edge if used right.
The game also has a few other minor tricks that are pretty interesting. EX Specials make their return, allowing you to burn one bar of Cross Gauge and press two buttons instead of one when doing a special move to perform a more powerful version. The game also adds in Super Charge, where each character has one move that can be charged by holding the attack button used. It will charge from normal power to EX to Cross Edge level over time, but leaves the player vulnerable while doing so, but if you CAN hit with it, it burns no Cross Gauge to use, making it a very rewarding system. You can also set Quick Combos to the left and right sticks, which are, surprise, combination attacks you can bust out at a press, though they also consume one level of Cross Gauge. In what is perhaps the most interesting addition here, however, the game also supports full four player play, where each player can play as part of a team, allowing two players to tag in and out to each other to beat their opponents. This can be done locally or online, though online players cannot play with local teams, but it’s a great addition to the game regardless and adds in some interesting dynamics in online and offline play.
As noted, the game offers the standard Arcade mode, which is a series of fights against progressively tougher enemies before a boss fight, with the option to allow random challengers to jump in and the ability to change difficulty levels as you wish. Versus mode also makes a return, allowing up to four players to beat each other senseless in team combat locally. Xbox Live play gets some new additions; Ranked matches are as they always are, though up to four players can participate at a time, but Player matches have been replaced with Endless Battles, which are essentially rooms that allow players to take turns fighting where the winner stays, waiting players can spectate, and players can form teams if they wish. Scramble matches are all-out chaotic four player brawls where both team members on both sides are active in battle, which are fun to goof around with (if more chaotic than functional), and you can also seek out teammates and train with them online in an online practice mode, or look at replays and see how you stack up on the leaderboards if you’re interested. As noted, the game also comes with an extensive Tutorial, a functional Training mode, character specific Trials to learn the basics and more advanced elements of the game, and some challenging Missions to take on to really test your abilities. Customizing your characters and profile are also amusing options, and will likely become more so once the associated DLC is released, between the expected additional characters, costumes and color options that will be made available, but even without there’s a decent amount available to play with. Basically, Street Fighter X Tekken is Capcom’s most fully functional fighting game out of the box that isn’t a direct expansion of a prior game in, well, years, and it’s absolutely crammed with stuff to do to keep you interested.
Also, let’s talk about the Special Edition contents for a second:
The Special Edition isn’t much more expensive than the regular release, retailing for approximately seventy dollars instead of the normal sixty, but for the ten dollars you get some pretty fun stuff. The manual doubles as a comic book introducing the basic concept (and comes with some extra artwork for fun), and the game also comes with a small plastic arcade cabinet coin bank and a code that unlocks an additional thirty six gems for use in the game. The arcade cabinet is cute, though it’s a little small (I’ve not put mine together because it seems small enough that I want to be careful with it), but the gems are fairly useful if nothing else, and the extra content is amusing and fun enough to justify the cost if you’re a fan and love collector’s edition content.
Having said all of that, there are, if broken down to their base components, four significant complaints to be made about the game, and rather than address them as one paragraph we will instead break them down in reverse order.
1.) While a good amount of effort has been put into making the Tekken characters functional, even good, relative to their Street Fighter competition, Namco Bandai’s franchise characters mostly don’t seem to hold up well when compared to Capcom’s. It’s not a massive disparity in most cases, as there will always be characters that are different tier or meant for more developed players, and characters like Kazuma are fine for new players, but sooner or later you’ll notice. Playing through Arcade mode with your “best” characters from each side on comparable difficulties, you’ll notice a bit when you absolutely trash Ogre while Akuma makes your life difficult, but it also becomes apparent playing online, as most players simply tend to use Street Fighter characters or Kazuma, Julia and Law if they want to win. At a best case, the Tekken characters feel massively over-complicated, at a worst case they’re underpowered, and either way they’re not really going to do anything for Tekken fans anyway.
2.) While the online play tends to work fine mechanically when players have a good connection, the audio while playing online is atrocious. You’ll hear every fifth sound effect, the audio is practically useless even with excellent connections and the music is constantly fading in and out with no rhyme or reason. Granted, if anything is going to be messed up with online play, having audio problems is far from the worst thing, but it’s a noticeable problem all the same, and a seriously unfortunate one.
3.) The 360 version does not support the option for local and online simultaneously. That is to say, you can’t build a two person team locally and go online to play against others. The Playstation 3 version allows this option, and Capcom is indicating that this is a problem on Microsoft’s side, which is… not even likely remotely true, given that I’ve personally played multiple games that allowed cross-capable local and online co-op. It may be a problem relative to how Capcom chose to design their gamertag recognition system, which might be problematic for ranked play, but if there’s a good reason why it’s not available in unranked modes, Capcom has yet to offer it, which hurts the 360 version a bit if this was something you were interested in.
4.) Finally, the revelation has come out in the past few days that all of the planned DLC for Street Fighter X Tekken is pre-loaded onto the disc, ready to go, and is on hold pending the release of the Vita version of the game, so that it will have “exclusive” content. Now, it’s understandable that Capcom wants to keep the characters exclusive to the Vita release, so to that extent it’s not terrible to hold back the characters, and as Capcom has given away free DLC for games before, like the Heroes and Heralds mode for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, there’s precedent for this to be a free update. The problems, however, are two fold. First, the Vita release isn’t planned to come out for several months, which will likely mean that, by the time it releases, interest in the DLC will have waned, and second, there’s no guarantee the DLC will be free, and paying for something included on the disc that the player has no option to work around is frustrating. Jill and Shuma Gorath in the various Marvel vs. Capcom releases were at least free for players who had bought the collector’s edition of the original game. There’s no such option here, and at this point, any price is going to seem too steep to players.
Street Fighter X Tekken does a lot of things very right, and some post-release patching and good decisions on how to handle its DLC could basically make it the best fighting game of the year, hands down, but as it is now, it’s a great game that suffers from some unfortunate issues. The story is surprisingly interesting and developed, relatively speaking, and there are an abundance of play modes to jump into. The game looks and sounds splendid, and the gameplay should be immediately familiar to Street Fighter fans, but adds in a significant amount of new concepts for players to learn. The game features plenty of options for gamers of all skill levels, a wide variety of options for playing the game alone or with friends, and a whole lot of content, including promised DLC that can only add to the experience. However, the Tekken characters don’t feel like they stack up equivalently against the Street Fighter characters, the game suffers massive audio problems online, the 360 version lacks combined local and online play for no obvious reason, and there is a huge amount of DLC stored on the disc that, should Capcom charge their normal rates for it, hurts the value of the game immensely. This is a shame too, as with some patches and a reasonable approach to the DLC on the disc, Street Fighter X Tekken would be an easy game to recommend, but as it stands now, it’s a good game that could have easily been a classic game.
Story/Game Modes: CLASSIC
Appeal: ABOVE AVERAGE
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Street Fighter X Tekken has all of the tools to be the best fighting game this year, and almost accomplishes this by sheer force of will, but some balancing issues, technical flaws and less than optimal decisions hurt the game noticeably, which is a massive shame. The plotline is actually fairly engaging as fighting game plots go, and the game features a large volume of play modes to jump into that are all useful and fun. The game looks and sounds amazing overall, and the gameplay brings the classic Street Fighter formula to the table while adding in plenty of interesting elements that give the game its own unique flair. The different game modes offer something to players of a wide variety of skill levels, and there’s a fairly large amount of content available to play with, with more coming via DLC that can only add to the experience. However, the Tekken characters don’t seem to stack up well against the Street Fighter characters on a one-to-one basis, the online modes feature noticeable audio problems, the 360 version lacks combined local and online play for no obvious reason, and with the announcement that all of the planned DLC is on the disc, the possibility of Capcom charging their regular DLC prices feels painful to think of. With some patching and a reasonable DLC plan, Street Fighter X Tekken could easily be one of the best games period released this year, but as it stands right now, it’s not quite where it should be, and more’s the pity for it.