|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Release: TBA 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
I have now played Street Fighter X Tekken at two different locations with two different control styles (once at the Sony press conference on pad and once at the main convention on stick). Sure, it's just day one but the game is already a big contender for my "game of the show" award. Of course, it helps that it's pretty much the only new fighting game at the con, and I am a serious fighting game fan.
First of all, the game is not Street Fighter. That was one thing I had to get through my head right away. Combos are much easier than Street Fighter combos, with every character being able to naturally chain together light, medium, and hard attacks. It's nowhere near as crazy as Marvel, and there is no air-blocking in the game either, but it is certainly faster than both Street Fighter and Tekken. If I had to compare it to any game, I would say it's most like Darkstalkers/Vampire Savior, but really it's an experience all its own.
The basic rules of a match are simple. You have two characters, and only one can be on the field at once. As a character takes damage, a portion of that damage is leftover as "shadow life." Shadow life drains as your character remains on the field, but recovers if they are off the field. So if you find yourself on the receiving end of a large combo, you should try to tag out as soon as possible to conserve the most of your life. As soon as one is reduced to 0 life, you lose the match. Your partner doesn't come in to finish off the match, you just lose. Believe it or not, many of the mechanics of the game are built around this central premise.
Seth Killian himself described to me how some of the mechanics of the game work. Pressing both light attacks together makes your character attempt a throw, just like in Street Fighter, while both mediums causes your character to raw tag out for his teammate. Raw tags involve your main fighter standing back for a second while totally open before your new fighter runs in to take his place, and yes, this means you can punish a raw tag before it happens in order to prevent it from happening. You can also cancel one of your moves and tag immediately by pressing these two buttons, but it costs one bar of your three bar meter.
Pressing both hard attacks together makes your character go for a slow launch attack. If the launcher hits, the opponent is floated in the air, and your characters switch places in order to start a combo. The launcher can also be executed by double tapping a hard attack button at the end of a chain combo, in order to make it follow from the rest of your hits. The last way you can execute your launcher is by pressing both hard buttons together while blocking. This will make you spend a bar of meter in order to "alpha counter" your opponent and tag out.
Now, think about that for a minute. Just about every core mechanic to the game utilizes tagging in some way. Combos end with tags and then continue with your second character in order to tack on more damage. Move cancels and alpha counters both cause a tag and they are some of the most useful tools in the game. All of this amounts to one simple premise: both of your characters have to be used evenly in order to be effective. If you let one of your characters fall to low health without using the other, you are basically cutting off the use of a good portion of your tool set, because any thing you do (like a forced cancel, long combo, or alpha counter) will force your low health character to come back in. And since the match is over if any character reaches 0 life, you are basically putting yourself in danger by doing so.
Characters can use EX versions of their super moves for a bar of meter, or can activate a super by using two. You can even tag in the middle of supers to continue the punishment. However, don't think this means that that meter is hard to come by. I noticed that I could repeatedly alpha counter my opponent and the following combos I would do as a result would almost always regain me the bar of meter I lost. Characters can even attempt to go for "free" EX moves and supers as well. Every character has a special move that they can charge by holding a button. Charge it up for a few seconds, and you'll have a free EX. Charge it up all the way, and you'll have a free super! Charging takes a long time and your character is vulnerable while he does it, so charged moves won't really come into play all that often. Still, characters like Ryu can now add charged fireballs to their ranged game! Sitting there and charging Hadokens is a perfect way to get an opponent to close on you. Otherwise they will just be eating super chip damage all day long.
Street Fighter characters can utilize most of their old SFIV combos and Tekken characters have many of their basic strings from recent Tekken games, but the game is most effectively played when you ignore both and just try to learn the game anew. I managed to beat players who I knew, for a fact, were better than me in both Street Fighter and Tekken just by trying out the new mechanics. Street Fighter characters have all their old moves (although Chun-Li's rapid legs are now a half circle motion which is weird) while Tekken characters are … well … complicated. Many of them use special side steps and dashes that have individual special move follow-up trees. However, if you get used to them, they could be absolute beasts. Hwoarang, for example, has three totally different really quick overheads that he can combo off of. Bob can string several of his special moves together with wall and ground bounces. Kazuya has a high/low mixup unlike anything I have seen in Street Fighter before. Heck, I enjoyed playing the Tekken characters better than the Street Fighter characters, and I don't even like Tekken!
Plainly put, Street Fighter X Tekken is fun. It's fast, but not too fast, technical, but not too technical, and … well, frankly, very addicting. It's both newbie friendly and intricate, and eventually even fighting game newcomers will figure out ways to string double tag launches in the corner. It's a fusion of the fast, easy combo games like Marvel and the slow, technical, footsie-laden games like Street Fighter. Heck, I'm bad at both Street Fighter and Tekken, and my Marvel and Blazblue experience made me a decent player. I had some matches with great pro players like Keits, Mike Ross, Clockwork, and more, and I really didn't do all that bad. Is this the perfect game that will bridge the 3D and the 2D, the fast anime air dashers and the slow traditional pokers, the newbies and the pros? Well, maybe that's saying a bit much, but the game sure is fun.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
CCC Freelance Writer