|System: Xbox 360, PS3*|
|Release: March 6, 2012|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Alcohol Reference, Crude Humor, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
Street Fighter X Tekken is the crossover fighting game that fighting game fans have been waiting for ever since Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The game features an interesting blend of Tekken and Street Fighter mechanics that emphasizes comboability and execution above all else. It also has an incredible feature set that is far more expanded than anything we have seen come out of Capcom before. It's certainly a refinement of the Capcom fighting game formula, but the new renewed focus on combos and execution risks alienating the less skilled audience.
Let's go over the basic gameplay systems first. This is a six-button fighter, designed to be played on an arcade stick. Three punches, three kicks, no aerial dashing or blocking—in that respect it plays a lot like Street Fighter IV. The game is also a 2v2 team fighter, but this doesn't mean Capcom has just made another Marvel vs. Capcom clone. The 2v2 fighting is actually much closer to Tekken Tag Tournament; when one character dies, you lose the round. So be sure to carefully tag in and out to manage your life total.
There are a lot of intricate systems in SFxTK to take note of. First, you have a three-stock "Cross Gauge." This super bar allows you to pull of EX moves for one stock, super arts for two stocks, and special techniques like the Cross Assault and Cross Art for three stocks. Double quarter-circle motions are all gone, as all super arts are performed with a motion and three buttons instead. It's simple, like Marvel, and it lets even less skilled players have access to advanced techniques on day one.
The Cross Assault calls in both characters to fight at the same time with one being controlled by the A.I., and Cross Arts are just more powerful super arts performed by both characters. There is also Pandora Mode, which sacrifices one character to give the other an eight-second power boost. However, if you don't win the game by the time those eight seconds are up, you die. You can tag cancel by using a bar of meter to set up some interesting combo opportunities, and charge up special moves to get supers and EX moves for free. It's a lot to learn, but they all come together in an interesting way that gives you plenty of options at any given point in a battle.
Then there is the much loved and loathed gem system. Unlike other fighting games, characters in SFxTK can equip gems to alter their stats. After reaching an activation condition such as "land five attacks" or "block three times" the gems activate and give you a short power-up. Gems can increase your attack, defense, or speed, regain your health, gain you more meter, and more. There are also "assist gems," which simplify move inputs and allow you to auto block if you are a newbie to SF-style fighting games.
And there's so much more! You can play 2v2 team play with four players. You can train online with a friend before going into ranked and unranked battles and lobbies. There's even a host of tutorials and trials to play if you are totally new to fighting games in general. To top it all off, the netcode in this game is revolutionary, seriously reducing lag for online play.
So with all of these features, Street Fighter X Tekken must be the perfect package, right? Well, not really. Unfortunately, everything about Street Fighter X Tekken feels a tiny bit "off." For example, let's look at the combo system. Light chains to medium to heavy, as is the case in most fast fighters like Marvel 3, but specials can't cancel off chains unless they are EX moves. This feels like an arbitrary rule that will just confuse newbies. Some normals can't be canceled out of at all, and there's no way to tell except through trial and error.
There is no hit-stun degradation in the game and comboing is easier than it is in Street Fighter IV. However, each move has a limited amount of "juggle points" in the air, and when these run out the opponent will just fall right through your attack. These points aren't a known quantity either. They are all calculated behind the scenes with no visual indicator to show you when your points have run out. So without serious study you'll find your combos drop for no reason.
This trend of things feeling a little "off" saturates every bit of the game. The netcode, as I said before, is revolutionary in terms of latency, but it somehow seriously affects the game's audio performance. Throughout a match, you'll randomly hear hit effects drop in and out, and, as a result, you'll have no audio confirmation on when an attack hits. This is incredibly disorienting and unfortunately sours the experience of playing a lag-free match online.
The gems also feel weird and poorly constructed. At first glance, there are simply some gems that are better than the others. Gems that activate due to common conditions are just hands-down better than gems that activate due to rarer conditions. Similarly, gems with longer activation periods, regardless of their power level, are always better than gems with shorter ones.
Assist gems, which make things simpler for newbies are, unfortunately, nearly worthless. "Shortcut" moves start up slower than their official counterparts, so pros will easily stuff them out with simple normal attacks. Auto-throw escape and auto-guard eat meter too fast to be useful, and they give up a gem slot that pros will be using for power boosts. So these gems don't actually help newbies at all. They actually just cause them to get crushed faster than they normally would without them. In the end, there is a very limited gem set that you will use, and, given a couple weeks, optimal gem builds will be all over the Internet.
The game's other modes also feel strangely half-complete. The tutorials are great in that they teach you the basics of the game, and, since there are so many intricate systems in Street Fighter X Tekken, you'll need them. Unfortunately, they don't really get into strategy, and so you'll mostly find yourself lost even after you complete them.