Leading up to Christmas 1992 everyone who owned a SNES had to have Street Fighter II. It was incredibly difficult to get hold of though - it sold out in many places very early on despite the game costing upwards of sixty pounds. I have since learnt about my own family’s travails in an effort to avoid disappointment. Suffice it to say the last copy in the county was obtained and wrapped up in time for Santa’s visit. Come present opening time, a love affair was born.
Moving forwards a number of years and Street Fighter IV was released. It is quite possibly the finest beat ‘em up ever made, a clear ten out of ten and a significant personal time sink these past few years. Things had moved on since 1992 though. With Street Fighter II there were eight playable characters, classic (to be) special moves to learn and once the playground chatter communicated it, an unstoppable four-hit combo available to execute as Guile. By the fourth iteration combos were the key to winning. Some simple to execute but hard to master; others far beyond mere mortals like myself who’d missed the intervening years learning with titles such as Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition. Super and Ultra combos helped balance out the lack of skills and the game as a whole still entertains today thanks to its balance and acceptance of varied ability levels such that anyone can find enjoyment.
We are now fortunate to bear witness to the next great hope of fighting games in Street Fighter X Tekken (‘Cross’ given the crossover nature of the title). Announced in 2010 by the man who brought Street Fighter IV to life, Yoshinori Ono, this is the first of two titles combining the world’s premiere 2D and 3D fighting games. The second, Tekken X Street Fighter will be developed by Namco Bandai and integrate Street Fighter characters into the Tekken world. In this case,Tekken fighters and fighting styles have been assimilated into Street Fighter’s world.
In developing this game it seems based on the outcome that the team sought to fulfill a series of criteria. It’s designed to be fun for newcomers and less skillful players whilst still delivering the kind of hardcore depth and novel fighting mechanics which will consume experienced fighters and professional gamers for months on end. Whilst clearly Street Fighter oriented it’s setup to attract Tekken gamers as well and there is a degree of customisation and choice in place unprecedented in these games. Finally, of course, the team set out to deliver an excellent fighting game.
The big change in fighting mechanic is the tag team element. Similar to that seen in Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, you fight with a partner and can tag them in at any point during the fight to either assist you or to change places. Interestingly however only one of the team need deplete all their energy to win or lose the bout. In the middle of a fight it’s not easy to keep an eye on energy levels and swap characters but it is something necessary if a win is to be achieved. Swapping players on the fly is easily done by tapping each of the medium punch and kick buttons, but in practice this is rarely recommended given you’re undefended for the period of time this takes. Thankfully there are alternatives which ensure you stay on the front foot. Depressing hard punch and kick simultaneously instigates a launcher which if it connects, sends your opponent into the air and switches in your partner allowing you to continue the combo. Juggling is a key aspect of this game (and is going to be more familiar to Tekken players than Street Fighter veterans).
Another way to swap your fighters is by initiating a Cross Rush which in itself is a supremely helpful move given it’s a simple four hit combo. It’s very easy to pull off as it requires only a basic command input - light, medium, hard and hard button presses in succession (either punch or kick). Again, this launches the opponent into the air ready for continuation of the combo when your partner arrives. The window available to hit after launch is big enough that anyone can continue the combo. This is a big thing - timing in the game is otherwise much more stringent where combos are concerned.
There are two other ways to leverage your teammate, and in each case also requires a full Cross Gauge. The Cross Gauge is similar to the Super and Ultra combo meters in Street Fighter IV, albeit in three parts. It’s filled over time and can be used in a number of circumstances to execute EX special moves or Super Arts (a Super combo basically) for example. When full however it allows the user to execute a Cross Assault or Cross Art.
The Cross Art is the game’s Ultra combo equivalent and the one that if timed correctly results in the most spectacular animation and ‘flashy background’ if resulting in a KO. As with every move in the game the commands required are simplified as much as possible. Cross Arts need only a quarter circle forwards and the depression of the medium punch and kick buttons. If it connects each of your characters will perform what’s effectively their Super Art with a link in-between. If preferred, the player can perform the same actions but with a quarter circle turn backwards and the same button presses leading to a Cross Assault, at which point both fighters are on screen at the same time; the character who’s tagged in will now be under your control whilst the CPU will control the other. The benefit of this will depend entirely on your ability to attack with the character under your control. Based on experience these moves are not ‘one shots’ that completely change a game and bring someone back into contention unlike Ultra combos. They need to be used with caution as if the advantage is not used, or connection is not made, then you will be open to attack having wasted your entire Cross Gauge.
The tag team mechanic and appearance of Tekken characters means the game is balanced much more in the favour of those who can link moves, juggle and fight with variety. This is why it’s massively important that commands for moves have been simplified across the board. That, in addition to launcher moves and the Boost Combo, makes linking and building a combo a much more accessible pair of concepts. The Boost Combo is an intuitive and memorable way of linking moves. Build from light to heavy, via medium if desired, using punches or kicks, with any character. The Cross Rush is an example of this. Learn to utilise the Boost Combo, launchers and Cross Rush and you’ll be more than capable of winning matches against the CPU and online. If you then learn your team’s moves comprehensively, you can connect post-launcher by using the right move when tagged in. Attacking is rewarded which should mean more enjoyable and entertaining games online and otherwise. The system means you will need to play differently to Street Fighter IV if you want to be successful.
Pandora needs to be mentioned. If your lead character has less than 25% health remaining a double tap of the D-pad or stick downwards plus depression of the two medium buttons activates Pandora mode. That character will lose all vitality and be replaced by their partner who then has seven seconds to save the world and beat the baddy. If they don’t, they die too. In return for this you’re rewarded with extra power and a refilled Cross Gauge. Use wisely - to date, every time Pandora mode has been activated in a game by either myself or my opponent, that player has lost.
There are two types of Gems - ones which assist a player and another which provides a boost. Assist Gems (of which there are five) are there to further make the game enjoyable for newcomers and casual fighters. Always active, Assist Gems provide support in an area you need help with, for example automatic throw countering. To maintain balance though, there is a negative offset. Helpful in learning or party environments they’re unlikely to be used by experienced pros as in their place Boost Gems can be used.
There are five categories of Boost Gem - Attack, Defense, Speed, Vitality and Cross Gauge - and fifty-two available. Typically the benefit of an Assist Gem will be that the relevant statistic is enhanced for a short period of time. For this to happen the Boost Gem needs to be activated and depending on the chosen load out this activation requirement will vary. Strategically the player would look to pick Gems that they believe will be activated. The activation conditions are not seen on screen so an opponent online will not know what you need to do to gain the benefit. Again there is a negative offset to stop the game biasing irrespective of skill level. There has been concern amongst the community that Boost Gems will break the game. This is unlikely to ever be the case. Every plus comes with a negative. The active period is limited. In reality, although the choice is understood by the gamer the effects are not consciously noted during a fight. Gems are an interesting addition that will affect the way people play but have been managed so as to ensure it fits within the confines of the game itself and the balancing of the characters. Street Fighter X Tekken will definitely still be won and lost based on character tiering, skill and strategy. The strategy just has another facet.
Gems are one of the customisation mechanisms available to the end user. Others include the ability to assign a Quick Combo to the hard punch/light kick and hard kick/light punch button presses and the obvious variation in costumes, colours, online titles and comments. Any further options will be pushed via DLC, rather than new disc releases of the game.
The single player experience is as excellent as it can be. The campaign has multiple storylines depending on the team chosen. Different routes lead to match-ups against specific ‘boss teams’, whilst the final boss varies depending on who your tag team is. Regardless, the final fight is against a considerably less cheap opponent than Street Fighter IV’s Seth. Each of the immediately available characters on the impressively large roster (thirty-eight available on each platform plus five PlayStation exclusives) has trials to complete as well as there being a challenge mode with set missions. The character selection is wide and varied allowing you to mix and match from some of your favourites and others which are completely new to you. Inevitably not everyone you love will be present. Training mode is invaluable if you want to learn how the characters play. Movesets are slightly different to those people may be familiar with and the inputs as mentioned are changed in some instances too. The whole game is a learning experience from the ground-up regardless of experience amount and type.
Multiplayer is what you buy the game for though and is very well done too. Aside from ranked and unranked matches with or without lobbies there are Scramble matches which are two on two co-op fights. Great fun and a real wow however you play but especially so if you have three like minded friends and create a private room online (or at home!). It is not possible to test the netcode properly before release (when servers are fully online) but it is described as an upgrade on that in Street Fighter IV, and given the excellence of it there (no lag in-game at all provided the connection is good), is unlikely to be a problem. Replays of fights can be saved and attack data and inputs assessed afterwards (as in real time during training). Other players’ replays can be searched and if one fighter is of particular interest, they can be followed so that watching their future fights is straightforward.
All in all, Capcom have produced arguably the most comprehensive beat ‘em up ever made and one of the very best. Everything that people could possibly want is in there as well as a number of things people wouldn’t have imagined. It is simple to pick up, play and just enjoy whilst also delivering a terrific amount of depth and variety. It has a number of new mechanics and these are fantastically well integrated regardless of their origins. It adds something new and interesting to the sizeable beat ‘em up population in existence today. It will become the preferred option for many whilst others will retain their interest in those games they currently play. Street Fighter X Tekken is a fabulous game which stands shoulder to shoulder with Street Fighter IV in the final assessment.