The dramatic comeback of the fighting game genre since 2009 has certainly been a breath of fresh air. Since with the release of Street Fighter 4, we have seen many games and franchises come back out of the shadows to deliver the goods on this exciting genre. Catering to fan demands, Capcom also brought back the concept of crossover titles with the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to rave reviews. However, by far, the biggest surprise was the announcement of a collaborative effort between the Street Fighter and Tekken franchises of all things to appeal to the fighting game community. The question arises, how can two very distinct and totally different game series find a common ground and make things work? After playing Street Fighter X Tekken, we can safely say that all such questions are satisfyingly put to rest.
The premise is that a mysterious foreign object that holds immense power has landed on Earth. This brings fighters from all around the world (or two different franchises) to duke it out and harness the power of the object dubbed ‘Pandora’. The game brings together fighters and pairs them up with very loose motivations that might not make sense, and their opening and ending stories are told through static images, leaving a lot to be desired.
Fighting game fans will be amazed at the gameplay that this epic clash across realms brings. For starters, the game is produced by Capcom, which means it is mainly tailored along the lines of the recent Street Fighter releases. Matches are played in the traditional 2.5D format with a variety of special moves, cancels and meters. While Namco’s involvement basically has to do with the licensing of its various characters, the major influence of the Tekken series can be seen under the hood of the mechanics. The matches work on a 2-on-2 tag style format, similar to what you might find in the Tekken Tag games. To gain victory, either one of the players on a team needs to be KO’d, regardless of their partner’s remaining health. This makes tactical switching between battles a necessity, and the system adequately rewards/punishes players for using this mechanic. Both players use the same super bar called the Cross Gauge, and switching can be done during combos at the expense of one stock, or by initiating launchers if you want to avoid using meter. The gameplay itself works on chain combos similar to the Marvel vs. Capcom games, and influences from Tekken includes bounds, air juggles and a greater focus on close quarters combat. The cast of Tekken certainly feels very well suited, and most characters even have a sidestep ability to quickly dash under projectiles.
Two new systems make their way into the game through this crossover of titles. The first is the much talked about Gem system that grants characters a variety of active/passive abilities, at the cost of varying properties such as meter gain. Each character can equip up to three gems before the fight, and the most require certain conditions to be fulfilled on the battlefield in order to activate. The system does give players the benefit of tailoring their character to a certain degree, though the controversy of more gems making their way through downloadable content (DLC) would raise concerns among the fighting game community. There’s also the Pandora system in the game which acts as a Hail Mary of sorts. Each player can sacrifice one of their one of their characters with 25% health or less to give the other character infinite meter and a boost in damage dealing for a limited amount of time. If the other player is not KO’d with this special ability in roughly 10 seconds, the player that initiated Pandora mode is defeated. The system isn’t as powerful as the X-factor system in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and the duration also seems much too short for any practical use, so concerns about it being an overpowered mechanic can be put to rest.
The game’s overall design matches that which many have seen in the recent Super Street Fighter 4. A cast of 38 fighters (43 for the PlayStation versions) flesh the roster out, with 12 more said to arrive via DLC options somewhere down the line, though they will be unlocked from the get-go on the PS Vita. Each character has a distinct feel to them, with the Tekken bunch standing out as a very versatile set. It’s really interesting to see these characters adjust to this format of fighting, though certain characters like Raven and Jin have been given projectiles.
Resembling a Technicolor mashup, Street Fighter X Tekken certainly is a relentless assault of graphics on the eyes. Characters are modeled fairly well from both the Street Fighter and Tekken sides, bringing a look that appears both faithful to their original incarnations yet carries its own distinct appeal. Color and effects explode on-screen, and the backgrounds are some of the most vibrant and detailed we have ever seen, filled with cameo appearances and subtle references to the great from both titles. Overall, the game comes down to a very pretty package that’s certainly a treat for the eyes.
The cross between two of the biggest fighting game franchises ever certainly makes for one of the most interesting plays this year. Street Fighter X Tekken is a well-tailored package that adheres to its fighting game roots and offers some great new systems to work with. That’s not to say the game is accessible to all players; yes, there is a learning curve, but if you are a fan of either of the series (particularly favoring the Capcom side), this clash of legends is sure to get you hooked.
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