The names Tekken and Street Fighter are legends in the fighting game world. Street Fighter is by far the more prolific and popular of the two franchises but Tekken was (and is) an outstanding series. The games share only the fact that they are fighting games with a large roster in common, Tekken has always been 3D, while Street Fighter stayed (mostly) true to its 2D roots. Street Fighter uses six buttons which correspond to the strength of attacks where Tekken uses four (one for each limb). When Street Fighter X Tekken was announced and would be modeled after the art style introduced for Street Fighter IV there was a great mix of trepidation and anticipation. How would the moves work? Would there be compromises? How thin will the story be to get these universes together? Will it be awesome?
The answers to all of these questions are complicated. First we should look at the story, such as it is. How the two universes merge we are never really told, but a strange cube lands in Antarctica that researchers can’t explain. The cube is releasing energy that powers up combatants, or something. There is no individual storylines per character, but iconic teams like Ken/Ryu and Balrog/Vega as examples have intros and CG endings if they win all their battles. It is quite weak in my opinion as there is a lot of wasted potential in the story elements for this game.
Gameplay at least is much stronger in this game then the story elements. As this is the Capcom version of the crossover series (Tekken X Street Fighter will be out eventually from Namco) it uses the Street Fighter control scheme of weak, medium, strong punches and kicks across six buttons. This is quite an adjustment for the Tekken fighters and their moves undergo a bit of a transformation to incorporate some classic Street Fighter moves like half circles and uppercut movements. It actually works quite well and in fact quite simplifies the previously VERY complex list of moves Tekken normally has. The Tekken fighters are still very grounded and lacking in fireballs or crazy flashy moves but they are very capable and visceral in their actions, very much retaining the Tekken feel.
All combat is team based, meaning you choose a partner and battle out against another team of two fighters. The difference here from other tag battle style games is that the round is over if any one fighter is defeated — meaning you really need to pay attention to your health and swap out strategically. There is also a customization system in the form of the Gem System. Each fighter can equip up to three gems and they give if/and bonuses for a limited time. Hit with 4 super moves in a round and get +10% strength for 15 seconds as an example. These are not permanent power-ups and I found that many of the benefits happened accidentally because you tend to forget what gems you have installed. A savvy player, however, could quite easily use these as a strategy though to get a key advantage when they need it.
The depth doesn’t stop there of course with many super moves and attacks for each fighter as well as a number of advanced features. Features like Cross Assaults that have both players onscreen or Pandora Mode giving a huge boost in strength for a limited time before you automatically die being key examples that add a nice depth to the title. There are a few game modes as well such as Arcade (with the option to be automatically pulled into an online match), Training mode (which is very detailed and at times overwhelming) and a Challenge mode that gives specific criteria to meet in order to move on.
Speaking of online it is actually very well done, I left the option on to be pulled into online matches and had quite a few encounters. The game loads up very well and lag was minimal, the addition of gems doesn’t really affect balance (even though you will be able to buy new ones) making the matches enjoyable, even though I lost more than I won.
Street Fighter X Tekken has no shortage of options for customizing gem layouts or even color schemes for the fighters, but they are implemented in a menu system that is archaic and counter-intuitive. Just starting a fight with a team you want to look and act a specific way is an arduous affair and that is a real shame because the game really deserves to be quickly accessible in order to maintain the momentum generated in the actual fighting portions.
Reviewing this game is a tough thing to undertake. At the core the fighting is stellar, it looks gorgeous, the frame rate is rock solid, movements are intuitive and natural and the characters work really well together. The Tekken fighters are adjusted in a way that natives to their series will understand what to do and newbies get these interesting characters to supplement the Street Fighter ones we all know and love. But the bare bones story, difficult menus and lack of depth outside of the core arcade mode left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Games like Soul Caliber and the recent Mortal Kombat showed that a fighting game can be mechanically amazing and provide a deep experience. Street Fighter X Tekken gets one of these right and misses an opportunity on the other making this a great game, but not perfect.
Street Fighter X Tekken is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Crude Humor, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: PC, and PS3.