Street Fighter X Tekken (the “X” is pronounced “cross”) is quite the anomaly. We’re sure the thought occurred in many minds of gamers as an interesting “What if?” scenario, but the thought of getting Tekken characters and Street Fighter characters in the same game seemed just as likely as Disney and Warner Brothers collaborating on a single cartoon.
GAME NAME: Street Fighter X Tekken
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
RELEASE DATE(S): March 6, 2012
Whether you wanted it or not, SFXT has arrived and with it an update to the Street Fighter IV engine. While the similarity to Street Fighter IV may be only skin deep, Street Fighter X Tekken still invokes the feeling of Capcom’s flagship fighter, while trying to do something fresh at the same time.
Like any fighting game before it, SFXT has little storyline to follow, or rather none that makes any sense. In a nutshell, a meteor has crashed into earth and now citizens from the worlds of Tekken and Street Fighter are now allowed to beat the snot out of each other. If you bought this for the storyline, you probably don’t play video games anyways.
The interesting thing of SFXT isn’t the crossover itself, it’s the fact that these two fighting games have little to do with each other besides the basic rules of the genre. It’s like if someone combined soccer and hockey into a new sport. Street Fighter’s 2D gameplay has been built on fewer moves with more depth, while Tekken’s endless amount of attacks for each character is dependent on juggles and a 3D playing field for sidestepping. Both are complex in their own way and while Capcom already developed a great fighting game crossover with SNK’s cast, SNK’s minions don’t give near as much friction as Street Fighter and Tekken theoretically would.
The game is a simple “two on two” or, if you prefer, “one on one” brawler. Tagging in this game is reminiscent of the beloved Tekken Tag Tournament: two characters share an energy bar and if one of their bars goes to zero, the match is over. Tagging out isn’t as simple as you may think, but it is much easier to implement than in TTT. Simply starting a combo and ending it with a fierce punch at the right time can send your opponent staggering and your teammate running in. There’s the old fashioned way as well — by holding both medium kick and punch buttons. Outside of the finicky controls, the Tekken characters are about as good a cast as any to walk into an SF game. Someone who knows nothing about either world would be surprised to know that Namco’s fighters really didn’t belong there to begin with. The Tekken characters look like they’ve been there forever with their look and moveset. The Tekken spice dashed through the gameplay makes the game feel like the Street Fighters have done business this way for years.
The mesh works surprisingly well and you’ll be juggling opponents in the air using Akuma in no time. But that’s it as far as core mechanics are concerned. You’re still on a 2D playing field, you’re still throwing fireballs, just against Kazuya instead of Ken, and despite Tekken’s influence marginally mixing things up, it’s still more Street Fighter than it ever will be Tekken.
And that also is the first problem: if you’ve stayed up till the wee hours of the morning playing Street Fighter IV or Super Street Fighter IV, been active on leaderboards, and can run the roster of characters with one hand, you will be disappointed. Once the joy of seeing Heihachi fighting M. Bison wears off, it feels more like an SFIV mod than a new fighting game experience-with an emphasis on juggling. Casual players of Capcom’s award winning fighter may be more receptive to the concept but those of you hardcore SF players: be warned, it’s a different game with a taste all too familiar.
Then comes the roster. You’ve got Ken, Guile, Chun-Li, Ryu and all of the Street Fighter greats going up against Heihachi, Nina Williams, Jin Kazama and all of Tekken’s bruisers, but it feels like the Street Fighter cast has a severe home field advantage. Playing keep away with Tekken characters feels like a chore and several SF combatants always have an unfair advantage as long as they have long range attacks like fireballs and hurricane kicks while only a fraction of Tekken’s cast have such attacks. It is nice that some things from Tekken like crouch dashing are used to combat against projectiles, but certain control combinations felt unresponsive, especially in online multiplayer. While you can use the moves you love from the Street Fighter side, a majority of the moves for the Tekken residents have been changed to take advantage of Street Fighter’s button layout. While this needed to be done, since you need to take characters from a four button game into a six button game, it again makes Tekken fans who have memorized the combos of their favorite character return to the training room to learn the new move-set. Add in that most of the Tekken casts moves are all close up dial-a-combos and you may be at a disadvantage to a player from the get-go. It makes one wonder why Capcom didn’t just return to the four button layout they had in Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, since the Street Fighter gameplay felt right at home in that change. With six buttons Tekken feels strange. It’s not something casual gamers will notice, and the game’s depth and complexity hide this very well, but like that hidden scratch on a ring, once you see it it’s always noticeable.
That’s a forgivable oversight, but it gets worse from there, because while you can get better with Tekken players and still dominate with practice, you can’t control the game’s new customizing gimmick: gems. Gems are bought, won, unlocked-you name it and equipped on your character for a bit of a customization in your fighting style. Some gems do things such as raise defense after four unblocked combo attacks or raise your attack power when your energy drops to 20 percent. It sounds good on paper, but it is game breaking in implementation. When you consider several gems are available only if you pre-ordered the game, some players now get an unfair advantage with no way around it (unless you want to spend money on DLC).
And the DLC is readily available. If you bought the PlayStation 3 version of the game, you will have Pac-Man and Megaman ready to go. On the Xbox 360, pull out the wallet. Beyond that, there’s 12 characters already created on the disc ready to be unlocked, provided you can give Capcom the dough. It’s unsettling to know that they have been ready all this time, but it’s more unsettling to know that it has become nothing more than another form of revenue for Capcom, who also is charging for gems along with new characters already programmed onto the disc.
Speaking of online, playing this game on Xbox Live is not the greatest way to waste time. Sound effects get muted or the music is missing entirely, while lag infests the match despite both you and your opponent having an above average connection. We never were able to take the PlayStation 3 version online, but it really can’t get much worse than the 360. With the choppy framerate, missing sound effects and needless lag, you may as well stick to offline play. Matchmaking in the lobbies is also broken. Ranked matches are simple one-off affairs without the option for a rematch leading to more seconds per match sapped up. On the unranked side, one-on-one matches are not available without doing a search for a lobby allowing only two people (where you can get booted in seconds by the host). Most of the time those lobbies simply aren’t available and if you’re to figure the game out, you’re going to have to go to a lobby with four or five people and watch them play in between matches. For a company like Capcom who has more pedigree than anyone else, this is very strange. The characters were ready to be bought and used, but online play is essentially broken. With all the problems during a match, and the chore it is to get matches going beforehand, this is more old school-it’s better enjoyed in a living room with a group of friends. If you were getting this for competitive online play, prepare to return to 1997.
Graphically, SFXT shines. It’s about as good of 2.5D graphics you’re going to find on consoles. The character art is ripped straight out of Street Fighter IV, and the Tekken cast has been given the same steroid induced, cut look that Capcom’s brawlers have. Much like when SNK gave Capcom the challenge, the designs of the characters fit in.
The agreement between Namco and Capcom brings this game as well as a Tekken X Street Fighter where Capcom brawlers are stuck in Tekken’s three dimensional combo-happy world. Perhaps a more memorable, balanced game will be made when Tekken has the home field because while we can’t think of a better opponent for the Street Fighters, we can think of better games for them. We were very excited about SFXT since its announcement at the 2010 Comic-Con, but that excitement very well could just be the novelty of the idea. Once the fun of the crossover wears off you’re left with a deep, enjoyable fighter despite its nuances. Unfortunately there are better and cheaper options available.
There is a lot to like about Street Fighter X Tekken. The animation offline is fluid, the gameplay is a nice, less, chaotic version of the Vs. series, and the small Tekken tweaks to the SF engine are things players will love to take advantage of. But for every great addition is a tiny nuance that keeps this game from joining Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, SNK Vs. Capcom and other great “vs.” crossovers. Characters are unbalanced, online play is a joke, and Capcom’s desire to pimp DLC grind the pedestal it should be on high in the sky closer to the surface. For what it’s worth, they did blend the Tekken cast into a Street Fighter game and while they may be welcome with the Capcom cast, they are simply overnight guests and nothing more.