For years rabid fanbases of fighting franchises have debated which cast of characters could beat out who. Can Scorpion beat Nightmare? Can Ryu best Ayane in battle? Is Shao Kahn mightier than M. Bison? Some of these questions will never be truly answered, but at the very least, we can bring two similar franchises to bring their fights to the table for the first time. Never before have the casts of the respective Street Fighter and Tekken games met in battle officially, but now Street Fighter X Tekken makes that idea a reality.
Capcom‘s interpretation on the legendary crossover hits first, ahead of Namco‘s own Tekken X Street Fighter next year. This means anyone who’s played a Street Fighter game will be made right at home here. The intense combos, the 2D plane, the stylized, hand-drawn art style, the insane and over-the-top special attacks will all feel familiar to fans of the franchise. But there are noticable additions.
Street Fighter X Tekken pits players against each other in teams of two a piece. However, this isn’t Marvel Vs. Capcom, so it’s not as if your players will cycle out until you’ve got no more capable fighters. If one of your fighters goes down, even if you have a perfectly capable one waiting to be tagged in, you lose the round. So it’s in your best interest if you keep swapping fighters out to maximize the amount of power against whoever’s sitting on the other side of the screen.
As with other Capcom fighting games, there are a handful of special moves to memorize and execute when the time comes. Most of these rely on the Cross Gauge, a gauge at the bottom of the screen that rises with connecting with, and receiving, attacks. The cross gauge will be almost as important as your health bar, because nearly everything you can do aside from normal punches and kicks will use that power.
The first of which is your Super Art moves. These are special moves that eat up a bit of the gauge in order to do something spectacular. The next is a Cross Assault, an attack that sees you and your tag-team partner pass an opponent between each other nailing powerful moves. Each of these will become crucial to mastering in order to actually take down your opponent.
What could use up the most of your Cross Gauge, however, is the new gem system. This is the controversial system put in place for the game to give a slight RPG level of strategy to the game. There are two flavors when it comes to gems: assist gems and boost gems. Assist gems give players abilities like auto-blocking or auto-throws at the cost of some of the Cross Gauge. Boost gems give passive abilities like buffs to attack or speed when certain qualifications are met in the match, like taking a certain amount of damage or landing a certain combo. While the gem system has been the topic of mass rejection amongst the fighting game community, the gems actually aren’t that bad. Afterall, remember that the gems can be added for both sides.
The final, both literally and figuratively, part of battles comes with Pandora mode. Pandora mode sacrifices the currently in-play fighter to make your remaining fighter stronger and with unlimited Cross Gauge. Take caution, however, because once Pandora mode deactivates, your remaining fighter collapses in defeat. It’s high risk and high reward, but a great way to take out an opponent at the end of their own life that just won’t get knocked down.
There isn’t much in the way of story, being limited to a short movie before and after you begin the traditional arcade ladder. Aside from that, there’s a challenge mode, meant to test a player’s skill with being able to pull off certain combos in each individual character’s repitoire. For the people who prefer the single player modes as opposed to getting their backside handed to them on multiplayer, there is a lot here, earning the different endings and completing the different challenges for each of the more than 50 characters. However, each mode doesn’t offer a whole lot in terms of variety, which means unless you’re a completionist, you probably won’t be going back to these modes for long.
Multiplayer is where the meat of the game is, and where most people will find themselves the most. After playing several matches online I’ve not only deduced that I’m still not nearly enough of a match for the community of professional grade fighters, but there are very few technical hiccups when bringing the fight online.
But this is where my biggest problem with the game is made apparent.
The fact of the matter is that Street Fighter X Tekken is a very well put-together game. Everything about it is solid. However, it’s very clear between this and the past three or four Capcom fighting games that Capcom is very disinterested in making a game that’s accessible to everyone. Sure, the plethora of difficulty options make the game a little bit easier for the uninitiated, but there’s almost nothing here that will hold the attention of anyone that isn’t looking to go professional level with the game. With the excitement of a crossover, people outside of a normal fanbase take interest into things. I think if there was some sort of true story mode, rather than a quick bit of a movie before and after an arcade run, it would be a bigger success.
I had a conversation with a friend I went to college with. He’s the kind of guy who frequents Shoryuken, watches tournaments online and even participates in his spare time. He’s a cool guy and I usually consult with him when I’m reviewing a fighting game because, as I’ve mentioned, although I consider myself a professional gamer, I will never be on the caliber of a professional fighting game player. While he tried to explain much of the game to me and what aspects of the game would appeal to someone like me, someone who’s interested in a game like Street Fighter X Tekken, but is far too intimidated by how much effort goes into making the game actually worth it to someone who isn’t like him. Ultimately, he didn’t really convince me.
But I get it. I respect what the Street Fighter series has become, and I respect that Street Fighter X Tekken accomplishes what it wants to very well. However, it’s infuriating that thousands of gamers want to be involved in something so segmented as a majority of fighting games, and developers, not just Capcom, don’t do anything to make a game more interesting to people who are on the fence.
Perhaps I’m just spoiled by Mortal Kombat‘s emphasis on having tough, engaging combat but also having plenty of modes that don’t rely on multiple people, and are all actually interesting to keep at for weeks after launch. For invested fans in the franchise, you already know the game is solid, and probably already own it. For those on the fence, or maybe haven’t played a Street Fighter game before, know that the game is fun if you can put in the massive amount of effort to actually become skilled at it. Some people are willing to put in that amount of effort, but many others, I know, are not.