Hadouken meets iron fist in a crossover game that would have been highly unlikely years ago, as the worlds of Street Fighter and Tekken collide for a showdown that has had fans pondering for years over who would win if they had to face each other.
But can Street Fighter X Tekken prove itself to be a worthy competitor that satisfies fans from both genres with its ambitious scope, or was this a line that should never have been crossed?
While fighting games have never had the most concrete of reasons to set up fights between characters in crossovers, even the plot in Street Fighter X Tekken feels flimsier than wet tissue paper.
After a mysterious object from outer space crash-lands into Antarctica, the roster of brawlers from Street Fighter and Tekken feel an urge to go and investigate, because obviously all those donkey-punches to the back of the head has resulted in them being fascinated by bright lights and objects.
Along the way, they cross paths with their irrespective rivals, resulting in showdowns revolving around the 38 fighters available (43 on the Playstation 3), that utilises elements from both games, even though the Street Fighter style is strictly in control here.
Still, while the storyline is rather weak, it’s the style in which its presented that saves it, as the in-game cut-scenes and humorous epilogues make for some entertaining viewing. And besides, who really plays fighting games for an engrossing story?
At its core, SFxT is still a Street Fighter 4 game, with recognisable faces such as Ryu and Juri transitioning to the breakneck pace of the gameplay rather comfortably, much like slipping on a pair of your favourite socks, while not being as mind-numbingly distracting as the light show that was Marvel vs Capcom 3.
Fights are unmistakeably Capcom in nature, with six button setups that bring the 2D fighting gameplay into perspective. But with Tekken added to the recipe, there’s also an influence from the Namco brand that has made itself known, in the shape of new opportunities and special moves, such as wall and floor bounces that can easily set players up to dish out some punishing juggle combos.
High and low fighting, a characteristic of Tekken has also creeped in, with effective moves being performed far more frequently from crouched positions, bringing new dynamics into play for this Street Fighter 4 engine title.
And of course, don’t forget the tagging in and out at any time, an idea that most definitely comes from and is influenced by the world of Tekken, a system that can be used in conjunction with combo-starters and breakers, all the way through to tag team Cross Assaults which can finish a match.
Tag team forms the heart of the combat here, as players will have to regularly and strategically switch in characters, as losing one of them will spell game over for players. Other Street Fighter staples, such as the ultra combos have been tweaked in order to be easier to pull off, while a new Cross Rush system puts an emphasis on combos that will allow your primary fighter to dish out punishment, which is then capped off by your partner.
It’s this very system that successfully melds the two distinct worlds together, as the strict 2D world of Street Fighter works well with the more combo happy stylings of Tekken, resulting in a cross-pollination of ideas and trademarks.
But perhaps the most controversial aspect of SFxT so far, is the Gem system, a buffing feature that allows for players to slot three three of these jewels onto their fighters, that can potentially decide a match when used correctly.
It’s an inventive idea that actually works well the game, an optional way to use passive bonuses that can alter the flow of battle. Tweaking speed and how quickly a meter can charge might not sound like much, but for the experts, this can make a world of difference, and it’s going to be interesting to see what strategies and techniques seasoned pros come up with during the course of the game.
Using gems is not a rapid-fire feature however, as certain conditions must be met in order for them dramatically activate. For example, block ten times and your Iron Wall gem will engage, reducing damage by around 20% for the following 15 seconds.
Essentially, gems are a feature that allow for players to cover the areas where they are weak in fighting games, addressing such short-comings on a personal part that allows for them to be a more well-rounded fighter, while also giving the opposition a peek into how they play exactly, allowing for them to alter their own strategies.
And with a 100 gems available, there will be a lot of strategies floating around. While some of the more powerful gems are only available currently as pre-order bonuses, leading to concerns of characters being poorly balanced, this is a factor that can only be determined as time goes on.
On the other end of the controversy scale, there’s the Pandora feature, a last minute gamble that trades your health when its low for a massive power increase. But use it wisely, as you’ll only have access to it for a few seconds before your health bar is completely drained, which can result in game over for you.
Again, this is a feature that will cater to experts, a system that needs to be learned in earnest and studied carefully, as button-mashing won’t save the day when Pandora activates. It’s all part of SFxT experience, that represents a rich collection of systems, gems and meters, spread over a large roster of fighters that will be making an appearance for years to come on the fighting game market and in tournaments.
Online boasts some solid functionality, as to be expected from the Street Fighter net-code. Casual and ranked matches have the usual support, with lobbies available once again alongside replay functions, alongside a partner support that allows friends to team up against the CPU.
Of course, as with most fighting games, this all dependent on your local line speed, so make certain that you have the right ADSL in order to get beaten by South Koreans. The only downside however, is the dreadful audio, which never manages to stay in sync with the action that is unfolding on screen.
While it won’t break a game, it can be annoyingly distracting, and it needs to be fixed pronto.
SFxT is a dynamically gorgeous game, boasting vibrant visuals that are combined with super-slick animations over the slightly revised Street Fighter 4 palette. It may be a few years old now, but this particular visual signature is far from being an outdated experience, and it’s amazing how eye-strikingly gorgeous the graphics can be, with their expressive tones and shades.
The Street Fighter characters look at home here, but the Tekken fighters look even more suitable for the format, with their unique styles and abilities easily incorporated into the game. There may also be fewer background stages available here, but it’s hard to find any other game which features fighting backdrops that are as alive and dynamic as what’s on offer here.
Once you land a shoryuken on an opponent while a possessed mammoth chases down the hovercraft that you’re fighting on, you’ll see what I mean.
It’s an accessible title that doesn’t compromise on appealing to hardcore gamers or long-time fans, as Street Fighter X Tekken is an incredibly deep game. It’s worth the 20 minutes or so of tutorial training to get to grips with all the systems that are available.
A step in the right direction, SFxT feels like a notable evolution in terms of gameplay, with far more substance than flash.
Design and Presentation: 8/10
It’s hard not to fall in love with visuals at hand, as the cartoony elements blend in well with the more serious themes that occasionally present themselves. Smooth, polished and never boring, SFxT also features a catchy sound track from the iron fist catalogue, which blends techno with rock for some foot-tappingly good battle themes.
As with all Street Fighter based games, the Capcom selection here is humble, to say the least. Besides training, mission and arcade modes, there’s very little else on offer here, but if you’re the type of gamer who prefers to fight people instead of AI, then the multiplayer will keep you going for many, many nights.
Provided that you don’t flip your nut over the poor online sound which constantly dips in and out, an unwanted feature that is prevalent on both the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game.
Deep, engrossing and full of ideas that bring out the best in the genre, SFxT is a solid entry that will play out as a dream game for fans who have been waiting a longtime for this marriage of fireballs and devil genes.
It’s polished to perfection in all the right areas, and despite being somewhat lacking in other sections, it’s the core of the game that will appeal to most fans.
[Reviewed on PS3]