Street Fighter X Tekken Review
Two iconic franchises should, almost by default, make sweet music when brought together. And for the most part, that sentiment is true for Capcom’s recent crossover effort, Street Fighter X Tekken. But after playing for a while, there was this nagging sensation that the game doesn’t capture the full singular beauty of either distinct style, and merely does a fair job of combining them. That being said, the super fast, super fluid, and highly rewarding combat experience supersedes that issue. It's just a flashy, absorbing game.
Stylistically speaking, this one stands out. There’s just so much color, so many beautiful effects that leap off the screen, and such a diverse and appealing array of backdrops. The speed almost never falters (and only very rarely when online), so that frame rate does the gorgeous visual presentation justice. Character design is superb and although some settings aren’t as impressive or inspired as others, there’s no doubt that the graphics are an eye-opening highlight.
The sound is good, too, although I’m not the biggest fan of the soundtrack or the voices. Objectively speaking, there isn’t anything qualitatively wrong with either, and there are certain music tracks that add some serious punch to the on-screen action. In truth, I’ve always thought the voices are too over-the-top cheesy in both franchises, but I know the fans really like that. It’s part of the identifying franchise flair, right? Besides, the fighting audio really is stellar; it combines with the intense, satisfying graphical effects to create a mesmerizing palette.
As I mentioned in the intro, this game basically combines the two franchises with an obvious emphasis on the Street Fighter mechanics. If you want more of a Tekken feel, I’d suggest waiting for the reverse offering, Tekken X Street Fighter, which is slated to drop later this year. As it stands, Street Fighter IV aficionados should really take to this one, because it’s awfully similar, although the developers do implement some elements of the Tekken series, such as the invigorating, strategic tag mechanic.
Regardless of which camp you prefer, you will likely find your favorite characters. All the recognizable and even iconic faces are here, ranging from Ryu, Guile and E. Honda to Kazuya, Heihachi, and Yoshimitsu. The best part is that the PlayStation 3 version also features other Capcom and Sony legends, including Mega Man, Pac-Man, and the bad-ass Cole (inFamous). This makes the potential match-ups all the more intriguing and I have to admit, I’ve always thought Cole would make a fine addition to a fighting game. Next up is Nathan Drake, I say…
From the minute you start, you’ll go— “Woah, shades of SFIV.” Well, exactly; that’s the point. Despite a few nods to Namco’s franchise, the action is very Street Fighter-like, featuring the Super Art moves and that trademark fluidity that allows for intuitive chaining of combos and flashy special skills that truly punish an opponent. Plus, strategy and planning is a big part of the experience; for instance, if one of your characters falls in a match, that’s it. It’s over. You don’t keep fighting until one side loses both combatants, so you have to pay close attention to that health bar…
The designers have added some interesting gameplay aspects that have been the subject of much discussion amongst fans. The first is the Pandora mode, which is all-out aggression that tosses all defensive strategies aside. Basically, you get 10 seconds to take down your opponent. You can’t tag in your partner but you do get an unlimited Cross Gauge, so if you’re getting the worst of a confrontation, you should consider throwing caution to the wind. The other new feature is the Gem system, which some will claim affects the balance of the game.
I’m not sure that’s true, though. Gems give your fighters some extra help: there are Boost and Assist Gems; the Boost Gems up your power, defense and speed, but only when certain conditions are met. Some of these conditions are relatively simple (execute a basic attack so many times, for instance) but others are more challenging. The Assist Gems give you passive abilities (RPG buffs know all about passive skills) like auto-blocking. You can trigger these whenever you want but they’ll eat up some of your Cross Gauge. You can equip your Gems before going into battle, and a few of the more querulous hardcore followers take issue with this.
According to the research I’ve done, they say these Gems give less skilled players an unfair advantage if the more seasoned player doesn’t have such effective Gems. They also claim it might make your battles with the CPU too easy. But although I’m no expert on the fighting genre, I’m not sure I see a whole lot of unbalancing due to this feature; the Gems are entirely optional in the first place and in the second place, you still have to fight well. These Gems may make things a touch easier but if you suck, you suck. No Gem combination is going to save you.
As for playing online, I had a few problems. It’s not so much on the technical side – most matches go off without a hitch, despite one freezing issue – but the servers don’t seem to be all that solid to me. I’m also not the biggest fan of the Fight Request option, where players can interrupt your single-player fun by asking to fight. I mean, it’s probably an illogical dislike; there’s nothing wrong with such a feature, but I just found it annoying after a while. At any rate, there are a fair amount of modes and options when online, so that’s a bonus.
Last but not least, and forgive me for this, but I just have to say that these two franchises are extremely different in terms of mechanics. I’m not even an avid fighting fan, and I’ve played them both plenty over the years. Who hasn’t? The point is that when you try to blend two very distinct styles, you’re bound to make some sacrifices and in truth, I think Street Fighter and Tekken stand just fine on their own. Mixing the rosters is cool for the fans and everything, but beyond that… I dunno, maybe mixing and matching isn’t always the best idea.
Nevertheless, Street Fighter X Tekken is a really solid fighter with all sorts of flash and fan appeal. Many might question the new Pandora and Gem features, and the final boss is a colossal pain in the ass, but there’s no denying the extreme responsiveness, fluidity, and depth of the gameplay. It’s satisfying to the nth degree (if you’re willing to invest the practice time), and playing with others is always a blast and a half. The production values are high and the entire presentation is borderline glorious. And please, bear in mind that some of the drawbacks listed here are very personal.
My subjectivity shouldn’t dictate your enjoyment. ;)
The Good: Beautiful, stylish visual presentation. Great audio effects. Top-notch control. Fluid, rewarding fighting mechanic. Big roster. Pandora mode adds intensity and urgency.
The Bad: Blending requires some sacrifice. Gems feature is questionable. Online isn’t quite stable enough.
The Ugly: “It’s only ugly when you’re on the receiving end of a world-ending combo.”
3/17/2012 Ben Dutka