Monday, March 5, 2012

Has Capcom Really Crossed the Line? The Street Fighter X Tekken Review

Street Fighter X Tekken feels like a dream fighting game that fans have been clamoring for years so they have can answer the obvious questions that who would win a fight between characters from these franchises. Now these can be resolved in Capcom's latest filled with gameplay systems completely new and controversial depending on how you spin it. Like most people, I was a little worried how this game will turn out with all these additions, but it turns out that I should not be worried anymore. Right from the get go, it is telling that Capcom wanted to makes this fighter as accessible and friendly for newcomers to play as this is their most accessible effort yet. However, there are still lingering and nitpicky issues that they haven't learned yet preventing this game from perfection.

A huge roster of over 30 fighters from these franchises awaits players as stalwarts such as Ryu, Ken, Guile, and Chun-Li are in as expected from Street Fighter. The Tekken cast are also filled with favorites like Kazuya, Nina, Hworang, Law, King, and Paul. This game also has Final Fight characters as Rolento and Hugo return, but now Poison makes her fighting game debut. Exclusively on the PS3 version is Infamous's Cole, Playstation mascots Toro and Kuro, Pac-Man on a Mokujin robot, and the return of "bad box art" Mega Man. As of this review, Pac-Man and Mega Man aren't available yet as they will be next week. Then there is the whole DLC fiasco of more characters, which I will not mention here. There is actually a storyline in Street Fighter X Tekken as a mysterious box from space lands on Earth filled with the power of Pandora as the fighters go after it for their own reasons. Shadoloo and the Mishima Zaibatsu are also after the powers of this box, so M. Bison and Jin Kazama have their own little rivalry going. In addition, boss characters Ogre and Akuma are around as well with their own agendas regarding Pandora. Overall, the cast has your favorites from both franchises and some oddballs, so if any fighter that you wanted in the game that didn't make it, they are probably DLC on a later date.

Since this is a Capcom game, this is a 2D Street Fighter game at its core with the inclusion of Tekken characters. One of the big questions about this game is how will the Tekken characters translate to a game like this? Capcom did an amazing job with the Tekken cast making them playable in 2D and have tons of options once in close range. It makes you wonder hey, the Tekken guys don't have projectiles what shot do they have against the likes of Ryu or Ken throwing out hadoukens like nobody's business? Well, if you played the Tekken games, some of the cast have ways of getting in such as Kazuya having the mist step to go through fireballs in this game for example. Most of the characters' signature strings have made in this game too as well as their special moves now with quarter/half circle or charge commands like the Street Fighter cast have. In addition, the Tekken cast's ability to juggle combo and bound also transitioned well to Cross Tekken too, but they are the not the only ones that can do it. The Street Fighter folks for the most part play as the same as they are especially since the Street Fighter IV series. With the juggle mechanics though, they have more tools to dish out the damage as much as the Tekken cast. It might be daunting to use the Tekken characters because their move lists are huge compared to the Street Fighter guys, but it is worth the learning curve since some of them are pretty good particularly in a style of game like this.

While the core fighting feels like Street Fighter where there are special moves, EX moves that cost meter, and supers, there are a ton of gameplay systems in this game, but maybe perhaps there are too much for some to grasp. The goal of winning in this 2v2 format is like the Tekken Tag Tournament games where if one of the teammates lose all their health, you lose the round. You can tag out your partner in a variety of ways as the normal way is both medium punch and medium kick, but it is not the safe way to do it. A more safer way is during a blocked move or pulling off a big combo costing one part of your meter. Another way is using the Cross Art, which is basically the team super of the game. The main crux of offense is linking your combos and also using chains. Linking is similar to the Street Fighter IV games, but since this is a new ballgame, the frame timing is different so your combos that worked in Street Fighter IV easily are a little harder to pull off here. Chaining is a little easier to do because it is basically a magic series as seen in the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 games and you can do a launcher after a chain to tag in your partner to finish off the combo. While comboing is easier to do in this game for the guaranteed damage, if you want to do deal more damage, linking is the way to go especially for tourney-level players.

While I just discussed the basics of some of the gameplay systems in Street Fighter X Tekken, the other systems are not as useful as they should be and often been debatable why they are in the game at all. Cross Assault is simply your two characters on the screen at the same time as your opponent for a limited period of time as this is similar to dramatic battles in the Alpha series and a mechanic in the first Marvel vs. Cacpom. Then we got Pandora, which at first seemed to be the "comeback mechanic" of this game when it was first introduced, but it is more of a desperate gamble. You sacrifice your character on screen for your partner to have eight seconds to win the round with infinite meter. There are some ways to use Pandora effectively, but at the end of the day it is not really that useful of a mechanic. The more debatable or controversial addition in this game is the gems system. Before the start of a match, you can have gems assigned to your characters that increase their damage, defense, or speed as examples when certain actions are done. Then there are gems that allow you block or tech throws automatically at a costs one use of meter. These assist gems are good for newcomers that want a get out of jail free card the easiest way possible. The gems system is another reason why Street Fighter X Tekken is Capcom's most accessible fighting game yet and it is not bad as you thought it would be.

The modes are your standard fare if you have been playing Capcom's fighting games lately. Arcade mode is your normal eight stages culminating with boss battles against Bison/Juri or Jin/Xiaoyu and then either Ogre or Akuma depending on which franchise your point character is from. Character endings are handled in a weird way they are team specific even though your point character's ending will be in text after the credits roll. For instance Ryu and Ken have their ending together, Chun-Li and Cammy, etc. Trial mode is self-explanatory since it is the same as Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter IV. Mission mode allows you to fight with certain stipulations such as special moves only do damage as an example. There is actually a tutorial mode that teaches you the fundamentals and the systems that this game offers too, which is a neat touch for newcomers to start up. Training is also self-explanatory and now you can have a second player join in as well to practice up. Speaking of having a second player in a 2v2 game, you can team up in versus mode and even online to fight against the competition. While you can play 2v2 normally with a teammate, the Scramble mode allows all four combatants on screen at the same time to fight as the teams share their own health bar. Scramble mode is basically a fun mode to have around because of how chaotic and frantic it is.

Street Fighter X Tekken's online handles similarly to the Street Fighter IV games with ranked matches and endless battle lobbies, and replay channels, but the performance of it in action so far has been disappointing. The main disappointment is that there are sound issues throughout the matches I played so far. The sound effects get cut off and I can clearly say that is the Capcom's worst online effort performance wise and they had a history of having sound issues with their fighting games online. Sure as of this review, the game is not yet and who knows if Capcom is gonna patch it day one (There was already a patch when I got the game but didn't address this issue). On the latency front, most matches play fine as long as you have a good Internet connection, but when you play laggy matches, the game does become pretty laggy, but not unplayable. As mentioned earlier, four players can battle in one match either by regular 2v2 or Scramble mode. The sound issues though along with the camera not cutting into the launcher animation are a bummer and it goes to show maybe Capcom really rushed this out in crunch time.

If you have seen the game since its initial announcement, you may notice that it is too similar to Street Fighter IV because it is as it runs on that engine. Most of the assets from that game carried over to X Tekken meaning most of the Street Fighter cast pretty much look identical to their SF4 counterparts. The Tekken cast looks great with this graphical style as they manage to translate their overall looks well here. Some of the fighters' faces like too crazy and animated on the character select screen like Paul, Law, Zangief, and others, but that is expected if you have seen their facial animations when getting hit by ultras in SF4. There are only a handful of stages as some probably hoped for more, but it is okay as the locales range from the Mishima Estate, a hideout where the Mad Gear gang hangs out, a warzone where the big robot from Tekken 6 is lurking, and more. These stages are filled with cameo appearances by non-playable characters such as Yun and Yang hanging out at the half pipe. The soundtrack is your expected mix of fighting game stuff and there are some character specific themes that play during certain moments of the game such as Jin's theme song from Tekken 3 when you're fighting him in arcade mode. Character voices are also fine as some of them speak English or Japanese.

So has Capcom really crossed the line with Street Fighter X Tekken? The answer is both yes and no as the game is great to play in general, but I have my nitpicky issues. The Tekken characters made the translation to a 2D game amazingly well as some of them are really fun to use. The 2v2 core fighting feels fine, but the some of the gameplay mechanics introduced here like Pandora are not that useful. The gems system will continue to be a hot topic whether or not it is worth it at the end of the day, but it does not seem that bad during fights. It is however Capcom's most accessible fighting game yet being the most friendly to newcomers with a decent tutorial mode to get started and certain gems helping them get out of hairy situations. Plus, the simplified offense of chaining normal moves is nice to have too, but linking will still separate high and low level players right away. The online performance however is the game's most disappointing aspect to me preventing it from being the perfect fighting game package to get this year. If you're still itching for more Street Fighter or fighting game action in general especially if you're tired of Capcom's past releases, Street Fighter X Tekken is worth your money.

Score = 8.5/10

  • Capcom's most accessible fighting game yet with tools to make things easier for newcomers
  • Core fighting feels great and offensive-heavy with the chain combos as an example
  • Tons of fighters to choose from either the Street Fighter or Tekken side
  • Major online issues (laggy matches, sound effects getting cut off)
  • Some of the new gameplay mechanics like Pandora aren't that useful at all
  • Maybe too many gameplay systems as if Capcom putting it in just for the hell of it

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