Capcom and Namco unite as Street Fighter and Tekken face off for the first of two cross-over beat-em-ups. But does Street Fighter X Tekken reign supreme?
Yoshinori Ono and Katsuhiro Harada are long time friends, but simultaneously project leads for Street Fighter and Tekken respectively. Their friendly rivalry has finally turned into something every fighting game fan has been dreaming about for years: a showdown between the two biggest fighting game franchises of the last two decades. Welcome to Street Fighter X Tekken.
"Why hasn't this happened already?" You cry. Well, it kind of did. But Namco x Capcom, released in 2005 for the PS2 was an RPG, and though it featured many of the Street Fighter and Tekken cast, it's not really what we wanted.
As for a cross-over fighting game, we think it's been worth the wait. This game wouldn't be nearly as relevant or exciting if both franchises hadn't been running for well over 15 years. Why else would we be so geekishly excited about the idea of Ryu vs. Kazuya, Balrog vs. Steve Fox, or Russian bear-wrestler Zangief finally taking on Kuma the bear?
Ono and Harada both emphasised that this is not a friendly cross-over - the 'X' in the title (pronounced 'cross') is supposed to symbolise the brutal streak in this rivalry. These two brawling kings are fierce enemies, and Street Fighter X Tekken is about fighting, pure and simple.
Street Fighter X Tekken: Gameplay
This is a Capcom game, built to play like Street Fighter, so don't be surprised when we tell you that you're dealing with six buttons: Jab, strong, fierce, short, forward and roundhouse, or if you prefer - light, medium, heavy punch and light, medium, heavy kick.
Similarly, you've still got super meter a'la every Street Fighter game ever made, and it is perhaps the importance and use of this meter that makes Street Fighter X Tekken a little more scientific than other fighters.
Even so, the Tekken characters have been redesigned both aesthetically and technically, to play within this new system, which is no easy task given the differences between the two games. Fireballs for example are a fairly minor part of Tekken, but in Street Fighter a good fireball game can get you a very long way, because screen control and maintaining space is so important.
It would of course be totally unreasonable to just give the Tekken cast no options against fireballs, so the play style has to be altered without messing around with their Tekken moves, combos and roots. Capcom has done an excellent job here, not compromising any Tekken traditions while fitting the Tekken characters comfortably into the Street Fighter mould.
After playing (and being beaten) for a good quarter of an hour, we realised the basis of Street Fighter X Tekken's gameplay is the tag mechanic.
Like Tekken Tag Tournament, you pick two fighters at the selection screen and then once you're fighting, whoever loses a character first loses the round. While fighting, the active character will take damage when hit, some of which can be recovered if they are tagged out, so it becomes obvious fairly quickly that switching your characters in and out is extremely important.
You can tag in and out in open play, but doing so leaves the character coming in rather vulnerable, something that good players will premeditate and punish. You can also tag by connecting a magic series - light, medium, heavy, then heavy to launch the opponent whilst your partner rushes in to continue the pounding.
Outside of these options, bringing in a character safely often costs one of your maximum three bars of super meter, so frantic fights are also careful balancing acts where you have to decide whether to spend your meter on switching characters, or keeping it to unleash one of the many individual or tag special combos when your opponent is vulnerable.
Like Street Fighter 4's ultra combos, Street Fighter X Tekken's super arts and cross arts are beautifully animated and never boring to watch. The former is in essence a Street Fighter-esque super combo, whilst the latter is a two person tag team combo, dealing out monster physical and emotional damage to your virtual and human opponents respectively.
If that isn't enough, you also have the option of the cross assault - which brings both characters on screen for a few seconds of chaos, or Pandora - a calculated gamble you can take when your active character is at 25% or less health.
Pandora kills off that character, and brings in your partner with increased speed and strength... but you only have 10 seconds to win the fight, otherwise you will lose automatically.
Outside of hitting each other in the face, you can customise your options further via the gem system. This was originally a highly controversial addition by Capcom, with many fans feeling that this customisation was a step too far. Gems range from simple percentage health, speed, power increases to automatic blocking.
These gems are customised for each character, and most of them have activation requirements. For example, some percentage increase gems require you to block or hit your opponent a certain number of times before they'll activate, at which point your character will start glowing. In general though, the more powerful the gem is, the harder it will be to activate in battle.
Whatever level you play your fighters at, Street Fighter X Tekken will not leave you feeling frustrated in the same way as something like Soul Calibur V might. At the same time, it will challenge you and teach you new things that you may never have ever thought about, both in terms of outsmarting your opponent and stringing together endlessly pretty combos.
Street Fighter X Tekken: Characters
As with any Capcom fighting game these days, rumours and wish-lists surrounding the final roster were rife. You can't please all of the fans all of the time, bnut Capcom's final character roster is well balanced and manages not to take too heavy an influence from Street Fighter 4.
On the Street Fighter side of things, Capcom has included characters from Street Fighter 2, Third Strike, Street Fighter 4 and the Alpha series, making this cast one of the most varied we've ever seen. The Tekken side of things is similarly varied, with characters taken from Tekken all the way up to Tekken 6 to fill out the roster.
The tag team gameplay means that characters are already paired up on the selection screen. Some of these are obvious, canonical pairings, such as Ryu and Ken, or Jin and Xiaoyu. Others are a little less obvious (Ibuki and Rolento?) but are explained by the story sections within the game's arcade mode.
Many of these standard combinations combine well and have good team synergy (as well as having unique cut-scenes before battle), but Capcom is keen for players to experiment with their own tag team combinations. As with other team-based fighters like Marvel vs. Capcom, each combination of characters brings about new possibilities and combos.
A great part of the game's longetivity is based around this, every time someone discovers a team that seems the best in the game, the community will adapt and work out a way to beat it. This is arcade culture, and it's a culture and a community that Capcom is and always has been incredibly devoted to maintaining.
Street Fighter X Tekken: Features
Street Fighter X Tekken features the usual smattering of Arcade and Versus modes, with varying difficulty levels and plenty of unlockable titles for you to display online. There's nothing unusual here, but there's plenty to see and do, and an entertaining collection of cut scenes for you to check out if you play Arcade mode as the set tag teams.
Also present from more recent Street Fighter games is a tutorial (a welcome addition), and trials mode that attempts to teach you the ins and outs of each characters abilities and movesets. It's a good test of your execution, and gives you a little nudge in the right direction, even though it leaves you to figure out most of the best stuff for yourself.
We think that one of the best things Capcom has brought to this game may have gone under the radar a little bit. Get a mate involved and you can play together as a tag team, controlling one character each. We had a go on this via Xbox Live and, this might be a little premature, but we think this is the most fun we've ever had in a fighting game.
There's something incredibly satisfying about pulling off tag team combinations between two of you, and in terms of competitive play, this is the game mode that could keep Street Fighter X Tekken relevant for years and years to come.
This isn't only true of the standard tag mode, but also works in the new Scramble mode. It doesn't seem designed for any sort of sensible play, think Super Smash Bros on a tiny stage... but with more pandemonium. Scientific it is not. Fun? We think so, if only for light-hearted button-bashing or catharsis.
Be aware that if you are playing on Xbox 360 locally with a friend and you want to play other teams online, you can't. It seems Capcom is not 100% sure why, but something to do with Microsoft architecture means that you can only play 2 vs. 2 with everyone on the same console, or 2 vs. 2 with everyone online on an Xbox Live Gold account. This isn't the case if you're playing on PS3, so go nuts.
Online play, at least on Xbox Live, seems to have some sound issues, with the syncing being all over the place. Capcom is already aware of the issue and looking to fix it up, and though it's a superficial detail, often sound cues are vital for connecting tight combo links. We expect this issue wil be fixed fairly soon.
The game retains a similar lobby system to Street Fighter 4, with Endless and Ranked matches returning alongside a superb replay channel. You can track your own replays and follow others by character, an excellent addition for those looking to pick up ideas from other players. Street Fighter 4 did this so well, and you know what they say: if it ain't broke...
Street Fighter X Tekken: Verdict
There is so much more to this game than meets the eye. Street Fighter X Tekken brings together 5 generations of Street Fighter and Tekken characters, and puts them together in a system that suits both sets of characters and both sets of fans and players as a result.
Being the creator and developer of Street Fighter is no easy task, and for every fan that just wants Street Fighter 2 back with updated graphics, there will be someone else demanding innovation and new mechanics. Street Fighter X Tekken cannot expect to settle well with the whole crowd, but it's a superb fighting game in it's own right.
Street Fighter X Tekken manages to cater to all types of players via its mechanics and it's character cast. Old-school Street Fighter players will be able to pick this game up and find some initial success, as was the case with Street Fighter 4. With any fighting game, if you want to get good, you have to be willing to lose and to learn. Street Fighter X Tekken is no different in this regard.
But we've never had so much fun losing, and that's proof enough to us that this is a wonderfully reimagined mish-mash of what makes both these franchises so popular across the world.
Street Fighter X Tekken availability: Available now on PS3/Xbox 360
Street Fighter X Tekken price: £40