Street Fighter and Tekken (SFxT), arguably the two biggest franchises in the fighting game genre, have spent the past 20 years being worlds apart. One is the benchmark for all 2D fighters; the other is the pinnacle of 3D fighting games. Now, thanks to a partnership between Capcom and Namco, we get to see them both on even ground in the ultimate battle for supremacy.
SFxT is a massive game and will undoubtedly please fans of both series. That aspect is the one thing that I feel Capcom should truly be commended for accomplishing: the game stays true to and honors both series despite the huge differences that exist between them. Many were worried whether the Tekken-aspect of the game could be adapted to a 2D plane; well it has been and it was done so in a fantastic fashion.
The gameplay mechanics of the game is an ingenious blend of Street Fighter 4 and the Tekken Tag Tournament series. Depending on which side of the roster you choose your character, their skills and abilities will reflect their roots. Capcom has meticulously crafted the offensive (and defensive) arsenals of the roster in a manner that makes them accessible to all players, regardless of their series loyalties. Everyone on the Street Fighter side of things feels and plays exactly as fans would expect them to; strangely, the same could be said for the Tekken side of things. The resulting game is a unique hybrid of the two games which is as fun to play is it is impressive to see in action.
Fighting looks and feels a lot like Street Fighter 4; everything is anchored in the 2D plane with a focus on both landing special moves and stinging together attack combinations. The Street Fighters have the same moves you know and love from their previous appearances, although there have been some changes made to their command inputs which will take some adjusting for veterans. For example, Chun-Li’s Hyakuretsukyaku, better known as her patented Lightning Legs Kick, is no longer performed by rapidly tapping the kick buttons. The input has been changed to a half circle forward with a kick button; you can then proceed to tap the kick buttons for additional hits.
Small changes such as this have been made to help craft a more intricate and methodical combo system which is a combination of old-school style move linking and what the game refers to as the Cross Rush system. Basic attacks can be strung together in any combination as long as they proceed from weak to stronger; this mechanic ties in heavily with the tag team mechanics which are taken directly from the Tekken Tag series. This isn’t a Marvel vs. Capcom 3; this isn’t about learning a series of pre-programmed combinations that every player will learn and utilize. The new system is about knowing your characters moves and reading your opponent’s. The result is a much slower combat system that in turn creates more intense and methodical battles.
Aside from the tag mechanics, which we will discuss here shortly, another gameplay element lifted heavily from the Tekken universe is the concept of juggling your opponents. If you want to be successful in defeating your opponents, you are going to have to keep them off of their feet and that doesn’t always mean that they need to be on the ground. The characters have a bit of a “floaty” feel to them both in their control and their response to being hit. This may feel awkward for SF fans but Tekken players will feel right at home. This “floatiness” gives you a chance to string together multiple attacks and juggle the characters through the air. Failure to master this concept will put you at a serious disadvantage and is the one thing that Tekken players have going for their selves when starting out with this game.
Obviously, the tag mechanics that I have mentioned weigh heavily into the formula of the game as well. Your teams are just that, teams, and the must operate succeed as a single unit in order to survive. This game isn’t about the process of elimination; if one of your characters falls in battle, your team loses. A lot of people will complain about this aspect but it truly promotes a “smarter” approach to your fights. You really need to think about your every action and reaction or else the entire team will suffer.
Just know going into the game that there is a slight learning curve for both sides of the fence, but having familiarity with one over the other will not put you at a disadvantage. The game will teach you a bit about the side that you aren’t familiar with and in the end we will all be better fighting-gamers as a result. There are tons of other gameplay mechanics that are introduced in this game, but this is a review and not a how-to guide on how to succeed in the world of SFxT. Although, I would be remised if I didn’t at least mention the gem system Capcom has crafted to enhance battles.
I was worried, when the system was first revealed, that the power gems of the game would really alter the tides of battle but that isn’t the case. The gems, and there are a lot of them, simply serve as a means of emphasizing and tweaking your play-styles. There are means to boosting one’s offense or defense slightly, as well as effects for both the super bar usage and gameplay speed. The gem benefits fall so naturally into the battle scheme that you don’t even notice that they are there, but you will surely notice when they aren’t.
In the end, the gems system really serves to add some much appreciated customization to the game and the chance to make your characters and teams truly “yours”. The game also let you do this visually as well thanks to the character edit mode which allows you to tweak and adjust the various colors associated with each characters costumes. Unfortunately, the palette available currently for visual customization is fairly limited though Capcom has expressed an interest in expanding this (for free) in the future. Even with the 4-color limitation currently in place, you can really add some variety to the visual appeal of each of the game’s characters.
As if we really needed a reason to do so, Capcom has set a stage for this epic battle in the form of Pandora. The game’s story is based heavily around a mysterious box, known as the Pandora, which was discovered in Antarctica. Various factions and groups across the globe are scrambling to lay claim to this mysterious box and the power that it apparently possesses. This progression of this storyline is played out across the game’s main arcade mode, and it will branch into a variety of directions depending on the team of characters that you opt to play with. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who you choose for your team, but certain character combinations feature their own unique storyline that plays out throughout a series of battle. Playing as a combination of Cammy and Chun-Li or perhaps Paul and Law will present you with a character specific story based around each of those pairs rather than combinations of Cammy and Law or Chun-Li and Paul. Each of the preset teams also features their own unique pre- / post-match interactions which are thoroughly entertaining.
The arcade mode isn’t your only option for play though. The game gives players plenty of areas to put the gameplay mechanics I discussed earlier to use too. Few fighting games have been made which feature as many modes as this one. SFxT gives you the option of playing through in the following ways:
- with your friends cooperatively online and offline
- against your friends competitively online and offline
- trial modes that test your proficiency with each character (20 trials per character)
- mission modes that challenge you to battle it out with characters of your choosing under strict conditions and match requirements
- endless training mode for you to master you characters and teams both alone and with friends
- tutorial stages designed to teach you the ins and outs of the this new, hybrid SF/Tekken gameplay system
There is a ton to do and spending time in each of the areas really works to your benefit as it will mold you into a better player. I am a huge fan of this education directional that Capcom has been taking its fighting games and SFxT does it better than any one yet.
As great as the game is it practically falls apart when you take it online. First off, the matchmaking infrastructure behind the game is really unreliable. IT can take forever to find a match using the game’s ranked match feature, or unranked for that matter. The game constantly sends back “unable to find match” errors or hangs on the searching screen regardless of the time of day that you are playing. The most reliable means of playing against someone online is to either send an invite directly to your friends or activate the game’s fight request feature while playing offline. Thankfully, the fight request feature works extremely well and once you get paired up with someone online, things play out pretty well. I have not had too many lag or disconnect issues thus far in the game and the system seems to be reliable when you finally get connected.
Although the gameplay holds together online, it is too bad that the same thing cannot be said for the game’s audio performance; for some strange reason, when you play online the sound effects of the game go to complete hell, and I mean that literally. The sound effects and voices of the characters constantly skip and often disappear altogether. It all plays fine, but it sounds completely broken. Capcom has officially acknowledged
the issue and states that while they are looking into improving things, they feel that it is simply a matter of give and take for the gameplay performance. In order to ensure quality gameplay sessions, there has to be some sacrifices made in other areas, and in this case, sound. That is a funny response considering that I have seen better matchmaking experiences and performances in other games such as MvC3 and SF4 without having any sound issues.
Another complaint that I have about the game, which some may consider extremely superficial, is the lack of any sort of gallery mode to view the various art and movies that you experience along the way. With this sort of game, that type of feature should be a no-brainer at this point. Especially considering that Capcom has put as much effort as they have into crafting a detailed storyline and reimagining as many Tekken characters as they have, you would think that they would want to show it off. The video clips in particular, including the opening movie and the various character endings, are very well done. How difficult would it have been to give players access to them from a sub-menu in the options screen? This is something that Capcom has done repeatedly in the past but for some reason they have elected not to add one here. Although it is a simple concept, it could have added a lot to the SFxT experience.
These sorts of things can be forgiven though but ultimately they do bring down the overall experience in the end. The game is still a complete joy to play and the amount of love shown to both series throughout the game will surely put a smile on the faces of fans everywhere. In addition to an incredibly varied roster that is essentially a who’s-who of both series, the different backgrounds and storylines are chock full of cameo appearances from other characters from both worlds. You can see Yun, Yang, Mecha-Zangief, Haggar, and practically the entire Mad Gear gang scattered throughout the various backgrounds as well as Alex the dinosaur and Kunimitsu; regardless of which series you are familiar with, there is plenty to pick out in the backgrounds of nearly every stage.
Street Fighter x Tekken is a phenomenal addition to the fighting game genre. Capcom has gone above and beyond all expectations in terms of meeting the wants and needs of fans of both series. While they did a great job nailing the core gameplay aspects, they neglected to include some basic features and items that most gamers have come to expect in a title such as this. In terms of actual gameplay experience, this could easily be considered the best fighting game on the market right now and it might be the go-to game on the competitive scene for the foreseeable future. It’s too bad that things as simple as including a gallery mode or working out sound issues online persist which will keep it from being as great as it could be.