Street Fighter x Tekken (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 [Reviewed])
Release date: March 6, 2012 (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3), May 11, 2012 (PC)
Capcom certainly isn't a newcomer to the world of crossover gaming, as the ever popular Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is still showing us. We've even had games like Namco x Capcom and Cross Edge in the past, though I feel it's safe to say that their strengths lie in their beat-em-ups when it comes to squaring off against a guest series.
The story involves a strange cube-shaped object dubbed Pandora, a mysterious item that gives power to those that are in conflict around it. It reminds me a little of the whole 'rage' plot in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, only with more thought behind it. Still, it's only really there as a way to explain the 'Pandora mode' mechanic, and that's not really a bad thing. You're coming into this game to kick butt, so the story is just a nice bonus.
Street Fighter x Tekken uses a variant of the input system used in Street Fighter IV and its many incarnations, meaning that Tekken fans will have a little bit of adapting to do if they want to go straight into this game. There are a few differences, however, mainly stemming from the tag-team fight system. Fights are won by knocking out one of your opponents characters, identical to the way in which rounds are won in Tekken Tag Tournament. This seems to be quite the double-edged sword, as while it offers plenty of strategy and tactical options to the professional players, it's not a very friendly mechanic if you just want to bust the game out at a party. A system like the one in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 where each character must be defeated to win a round may seem like a better way of doing it, but you can't blame Capcom for wanting to want to avoid making similar fighting games in such a short time.
There's also plenty of new fighting techniques you can pull off in the heat of battle. Cross Arts use up all three bars of your Cross Gauge, causing your character to perform a slick combo on the opponent. However, when this combo ends, your partner will tag in and pull off a combo themselves. There is also the Cross Assault, which sees your partner jump into the fight temporarily to perform a combo while you're still there fighting. To complete the set, we also have Cross Cancels, which you use immediately after blocking to start an invincible counter. If you've had enough of cross terminology, there are also EX Special Arts, Super Arts and Super Charges, so there's plenty of tricks you'll want to familiarise yourself with if you want to master this game.
Another new mechanic, and one I mentioned briefly earlier, is 'Pandora mode'. You can only use this when your active character is at 25% or less life, and doing so will knock that character out. However, it gives your remaining fighter a significant power increase, as well as an unlimited Cross Gauge. This has a time limit though, and when that is over you will automatically lose the fight. In my opinion, modes like this are a great way to make some memorable fights, as risk-reward systems are great at generating tension and excitement. Think of it as a risky version of 'X-Factor' from Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
Street Fighter x Tekken also introduces the gem system, allowing players to customise the characters they pick even further than just colours, fine-tuning them to best suit the way they play. There are six different categories of gem, ranging from attack gems to Cross Gauge gems, and they each have their own conditions that must be met before they activate. The gem types are on display to both players, as well as an indication of when they activate, allowing for the opponent to try and predict what they're in for. The problem with this is that the game only comes with a selection of gems, with the better gems available for download at the cost of 80 Microsoft points or $1 per pack. Casual players won't be bothered much by this, but those of you who enjoy stringing together your combos and humiliating people online with your fight stick might not appreciate it.
One of the best things about this game is simply the roster, with a whopping 38 characters available from the start (41 if you're playing the PS3 version). These extra three characters come in the form of Toro and Kuro, the feline PS3 mascots, as well as Cole from InFamous. Users of the PS3 version will also be able to download Mega Man and Pac-Man for free, bringing the total to 43 on that particular system so long as you have an Internet connection. The Vita version due in October has an additional 12 characters, but these will be offered as paid DLC for both Xbox 360 and PS3 owners towards the end of July. A fighter with up to 55 characters? Not bad at all! It's a shame that there wasn't an exclusive character or three for the Microsoft version, similar to the situation with Soul Calibur 2, but it at least settles which console you'll want to buy this game for should you own both systems.
There is also a decent collection of game modes aside from arcade/story and the standard local versus modes. There's the 2v2 mode for both local and online play, which sees four players fighting on screen at one time. Characters fight on two different 'planes', meaning they'll be dealing with one character each. A sensible decision, considering how mad the alternative would have been! There's also the mission mode, which gives you twenty scenarios of increasing difficulty, each with requirements that must also be met during the fight. Some are simply 'win with only special moves', but some are quite a bit harder, such as performing a 15-hit combo with a switch. Plenty to keep you busy, no doubt! There's also replay and training modes too.
Now, it's no secret that most people playing this game will be doing so to use the online features. If you remember, the online features of this game were a tad broken upon release. Not very good for a big title such as this, but thankfully it's been fixed since then. In fact, Capcom have been releasing plenty of patches since launch, with the next one due at the end of this month. Most of these have made minor changes to balance characters, while others have made major changes, such as removing newly discovered infinite combos (and believe me, no one likes being beaten by an infinite combo). Right now, the online seems to be as smooth as you'd expect. I had no problem connecting to matches and getting pummelled by the pros, so all is well in that department!
I think that about covers the game, besides my recommendation of course! Sure, there are a few things that I'd loved to see changed if we were to ever see a sequel, but there's so much to like about this game that it's hard to get too worked up about it. The game looks absolutely stunning, perhaps being the most visually pleasing 3D fighter I've laid hands on due to that gorgeous Street Fighter IV art style, but most importantly, it's a blast to play. Now that the online is fixed, I'd definitely suggest you pick this up.
Score: 8.0 -- Great (8s are very impressive efforts in their genre, with a few noticeable problems holding them back. This is worth your time and cash if you're a fan of fighters.)
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