Fighting fans around the world are frothing at the mouth for the chance to get their hands on Capcom’s latest pugilistic creation, Street Fighter X Tekken (pronounced Street Fighter ‘cross’ Tekken). The anticipation for the game is reaching a fever pitch as we are merely a few short days from the official release of the game. In preparation for the game’s release, I figured that it was time to reflect on just how big the game is in terms of its impact on the fighting game genre and just what its features mean for the resurging fighting game scene.
A crossover of epic proportions
If you aren’t a diehard fighting game fan, you might not realize just how epic the combination of these two universes is in terms of the global (fighting genre) picture. We are talking about a combination of what are arguably the two most prominent fighting game series of all time; that fact is even more impressive considering that they each come from separate companies that are usually fierce competitors of one another, not willing partners. This isn’t the first time that such a thing has happened though, and it isn’t even the first time these two companies have crossed paths.
While Capcom is known for their various “versus” series of fighting games, it is their work with Marvel Comics that has garnered them the most attention. While it has always been great to see those 2 universes butt heads, it isn’t as impressive as seeing two completely different fighting game series cross paths. There was a time when the thought of such a game was completely out of the question, and then came a partnership between Capcom and SNK. When those two developers combined 1999's SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millenium, a series of games resulted, each packing in more characters from the respective universes and delighting fighting games fans around the globe.
The most interesting aspect of the series was that each company took creative control over the other’s characters; Capcom reimagined the SNK characters in the game using their own visual style(s) and SNK did the same with the Capcom cast. This helped to create a fresh and interesting atmosphere for fans of both series. It is that same take on the respective series characters that should make Street Fighter X Tekken (and Namco’s Tekken X Street Fighter) all the more interesting. In this game, Capcom will be handling the character designs of all of the characters, including the Tekken cast. When Namco releases their take on the series, Tekken X Street Fighter we will get a chance to see their versions of Capcoms fighters.
While this will mark the first time that these two specific series will be crossing paths, it isn’t the first time that Capcom and Namco have combined for a game. The two joined forces back in 2005 for a crossover-tactical-RPG on the PlayStation 2 entitled Namco X Capcom. Instead of focusing on a single game from each company, the game took characters from all across the respective universes and threw them together for a giant adventure.
That was an RPG and this is a fighting game. This is the genre that has arguably made these two companies as big as they are today. Come March 6, the two intellectual properties that built these respective companies will meet in a forum which they both do very well: fighting. While they both do “fighting” well, they also do it differently. Both Street Fighter and Tekken have unique styles and elements to their series that have built up legions of fans behind each respective series. How will these two drastically different entities fit together? What does this mean for the competitive fighting game scene? We won’t know for sure until March 6, but it looks very promising.
2 Worlds, 1 Game
When the game was originally announced, after the initial excitement wore off, many Tekken fans were left fearful that the characters and series that they loved would be changed in order to make this game a reality. Think about it, how could it not? We are taking a video game series that has been built and flourished solely in the 3D realm and converting it to what many consider to be a completely separate genre (2D fighter). How would the “feel” of the game survive the transition to this new medium? Thanks to information revealed about the game over the past couple of months, many of these concerns appear to have been quelled. Capcom is taking a very smart approach to this new game and one that I think fans of both series will appreciate.
Capcom has revealed that the two sides of the roster will reflect their independent universes not only in their look but in their performance as well. While there are a few core gameplay changes that have been made to the game, referencing its advancement from the Street Fighter IV series, Street Fighter fans should feel right at home when they take the controls for the first time. As odd as it may sound, Tekken fans should feel comfortable as well.
That is because Capcom hasn’t taken any liberties with the style and feel of the Tekken roster; they recognize what made these characters unique in their own universe and have preserved those elements in this game. The Tekken characters will have their own unique control schemes and combination system in the game, modeled directly off of the Tekken series. Tekken fans don’t have to worry too much, a majority of your bread and butter combos and techniques have made the transition to this 2D realm, 4-button specific controls and all. It could be argued that the Tekken characters are actually receiving the bigger benefit of the crossover as Capcom is expanding their arsenals with new techniques and maneuvers meant to help them against the fireball-wielding Street Fighter universe.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that Kazuya or Jin have suddenly learned how to summon the Hadou their selves. Capcom isn’t tampering with their fighting formulas, just giving them a few extra tools to use in battle against these newfound foes. Things such as special dashes and projectile dodges should help Tekken fans even the score with their Street Fighter counterparts, all while allowing them to use the moves they have spent years perfecting in the Namco fighting series.We can only hope that Namco shows the same courtesy to Capcom fans when they craft their entry into the series.
SF X Tekken does take a page out of the Tekken playbook though, particularly from the Tekken Tag Tournament chapter. This is a team-based fighting game and the tag-team mechanics are based heavily on those used on the Tekken Tag series of games. Team members have their own individual power bars reflecting their current condition but depletion of either one will result in a loss of a round for the team. There is no character elimination here like the Marvel vs. Capcom series. Lifebar management is a must in order to succeed in this universe.
Roster diversification is the spice of life
Any fighting game fan will tell you that one of the main concerns whenever any new fighting game is released is the freshness and variety of the roster. There shouldn’t be any concerns of that sort with respect to SF X Tekken. None.
The roster of this game could be the greatest fighting game roster ever assembled, and I say that for a couple of reasons. First off, Capcom has meticulously selected the representatives from both series in order to maximize variety and assortment among the character types. Regardless of your playing style, you are sure to find a couple of characters that match your preferred style. They are all here: brawlers, grapplers, high-flyers, chargers, and even a few that span across multiple categories.
Considering that a majority of these characters are making their debut in this particular visual style, the concept of roster “freshness” is also something that isn’t an issue here. Of the game’s base 38 characters (not counting console specific characters and potential DLC), 22 are making their debut in this visual and gameplay style. It is obvious that we have never seen any of the Tekken characters presented in this manner, but Capcom is also including 3 Street Fighters that never appeared in the SF4 games (Rolento, Hugo, and Poison). Street Fighter fans in particular will have plenty of new characters to experience and learn, which should give the game quite a bit of legs in terms of its “replayability”.
Sony fans in particular are getting a huge bonus on their version of the game thanks to 5 more completely new characters, and that is speaking only on the PlayStation 3 version. That version will get the benefit of inFAMOUS’ Cole McGrath, Mega Man, Pac-Man, Toro, and Kuro. Plus, it was recently announced that when the Vita version launches in the Fall, it will include an additional 12 characters in addition to the those 5. That version will also feature Sakura, Blanka, Cody, Guy, Dudley, and Elena on the Street Fighter side of things and Lars, Alisa, Brian, Lei, Jack, and Christie on the Tekken side. Nothing has been confirmed but the chances are that all of these characters will eventually make their way to the PC and console versions of the game via DLC prior to the release of the Vita version.
Diamonds Gems in the rough
One of the new elements that Capcom is bringing to the table is the concept of the gem system. The game will feature a variety of collectible color-coded gems which can be equipped prior to the start of a match to give characters boosts in a variety of areas. The five colors of gems and their corresponding types are as follows:
- red / attack
- green / speed
- yellow / defense
- blue / charge gauge
- purple / assist
Prior to each match, players can equip up to 5 different gems on their characters which they can use to get an advantage in battle.
Different combinations of gems will grant the player(s) different benefits and abilities. For example, one combination may trigger an auto guard mechanic that will assist the player in blocking oncoming attacks; others may increase their offensive power or perhaps dramatically increase the speed of their characters’ movements. During the course of battle, players will be able to activate these abilities to give them temporary advantages in the fight. The manner in which you activate the different gems will vary but consist of things such as landing a certain number of successive attacks or taking a set amount of unblocked damage.
The use of gems is purely optional and meant to add a bit of depth to the experience if you so choose. The gem system is best compared to either the recent Heroes & Heralds mode released for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or perhaps the gems featured in Capcom’s old Marvel Super Heroes fighting game. The gems will sort of create their own meta-game within the game as players strive to both collect them all and find all of the various combinations. Those players who just have to find and see everything that there is in a game, the “completionists” if you will, are sure find enjoyment in tracking down all of the gems that will be included in the game. It is this sort of optional feature that will surely extend the life of the game long after it has run its standard course in most player’s consoles.
The Competitive Impact
SF X Tekken’s biggest impact could be felt on the competitive seen. Tournaments such as the Evo Championship Series and MLG have always featured clear distinctions between the Tekken and Street Fighter universes. There have always been tournament seasons based around each series individually. Now that the games are meeting in the same proverbial ring, we could also see those two universes of fans and loyalists combining as well.
Thanks to Capcom’s decision to incorporate Tekken-specific control schemes and combinations into the game, Tekken loyalists shouldn’t feel that “out of place” in this 2D universe. Sure, there will be some learning curves that exist for the adjustment from 3D to 2D, but Capcom has made efforts to smooth that transition with the various control options mentioned above.
This should open up the playing field in a major way in the future. We could see the field of contenders in this game exceed the expectations set by both the Street Fighter IV and Tekken 6 fields, considering that the two could, theoretically, merge. Suddenly, the reigning champions on each of the individual battlegrounds could be facing off in this new, unified arena.
Needless to say, things could definitely get very interesting on the competitive front.
Whether or not you are a fan of fighting games or either of the companies involved, it is hard to ignore how big this game is to its genre and to the gaming industry as a whole. It isn’t very often that we see two companies who are as fierce of competitors to each other as Capcom and Namco working together. The fighting game genre as a whole has been in the midst of a major resurgence, taking it to levels it hasn’t since since the arcade hey-days of the mid 1990‘s; this is one of the games that is leading the way. Based on everything that we have seen on the game thus far, it isn’t a stretch to say that it has the potential to be one of the best fighting games ever. Get those fighting sticks ready fight-fans, we are about to cross the line!
Street Fighter x Tekken launches for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on March 6, 2012. A PC version of the game is slated to release on May 11 and a Vita version will follow later this Fall. You can expect our full review of the game in the coming weeks.