Video Game Review: ‘Street Fighter x Tekken’ Enters Crowded Arena of Stellar Fighting Games

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CHICAGO – It’s an amazing time to be a fight game fan. For years, it seemed like the genre was on life support, waiting for someone to unleash the fatality that put it out of its misery. There seemed to be a distinct lack of creativity in the arcade-based form that once gave us titles like “Mortal Kombat” and “Street Fighter,” games so popular that they even spawned movies. Even those series seemed to flag as the next generation moved on to shooters and even sports games took off. And then something happened. Right now, fighter fans have to choose between “Marvel vs. Capcom 3,” “Soul Calibur V,” the brilliant reboot of “Mortal Kombat,” and, a new-but-old contender, “Street Fighter x Tekken.” Or just play ‘em all. Video Game Rating: 3.5/5.0
Video Game Rating: 3.5/5.0

With the “x” pronounced as “cross,” “Street Fighter x Tekken” copies the basic mold of the hit “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” series (which was a massive success and was just imported to PlayStation Vita) by figuring that if one fan base is nice, two is even nicer. Considering the game was built by Capcom, their guest at the party (“Street Fighter”) gets the basic foundation. This feels more like a Capcom game than a Namco Bandai (the developers of “Tekken”) one, although the player can change the default controls to more accurately mimic the “Tekken” franchise if they choose. Either way, characters from both series along with some surprising new choices have come to kick some ass in cartoonish, ridiculous ways. For the most part, it works.

Street Fighter x Tekken
Street Fighter x Tekken
Photo credit: Capcom

The “more” approach to “Street Fighter x Tekken” applies to every aspect of the game. The title includes dozens of character from both franchises along with several new, unusual additions (some of the PS3 exclusives) including Pac-Man, Mega Man, and Cole from Sony’s “inFamous.” I must admit that using Cole’s electrifying powers in a fighting game provided a nifty kick but I’m getting a little exhausted by “guest stars” in fighting games like Freddy Krueger, Kratos, Darth Vader, and Ezio (all recent fighters). There’s something goofy about watching a giant Pac-Man in a robot suit fight Cole but it seems like a gimmick that has run its course.

Street Fighter x Tekken
Street Fighter x Tekken
Photo credit: Capcom

Now, it’s just a minor part of “Street Fighter x Tekken.” You can stick to the classics like Ryu and Asuka if you want. How do they play? Pretty fluidly with a fighting style that, in the standard for most quality current-gen combat games, is easy to learn but hard to master. The default controls include six variations — high/medium/low kicks and punches (but can be changed to a “Tekken” four-button system). The matches are also tag-team based. You pick two fighters and fight two fighters, tagging out at key moments to either combine moves into a combo or just keep yourself alive. If one fighter on either side dies, that team loses.

The controls seem simple at first but the game is actually deep in combo moves and includes a bit of strategy in the way players employ gem sets for added in-combat boosts. Which gems can be earned are set before play and then they are gained by completing combos and special moves that fill a “Cross Gauge,” a power meter. For example, you can have gems that boost defensive abilities, speed, etc. The idea that a well-placed gem could turn the tide of a fighting game has upset some purists and I can see why. I never quite took to the gem system. I also never found “Pandora” to be effective. It’s a new mode that can be initiated when your life meter is below 25%, allowing for infinite “Cross Gauge” but it’s timed. Kill your enemy before “Pandora” runs out or die yourself.

Street Fighter x Tekken
Street Fighter x Tekken
Photo credit: Capcom

“Street Fighter x Tekken” includes four modes — Arcade, Versus, Network, and Challenge — but the game is heavily built around online play. Even as you’re going through the Arcade/Story mode, the default setting is that it can constantly be interrupted by an online combatant waiting to unleash his Pac-Man skills on your ass. If found that I couldn’t make it through one chapter of the story until I turned off the setting. In other words, there are a lot of people out there looking to fight. Sadly, once I did get into the story, I realized there wasn’t much there at all. This is best-viewed as an arcade/online game with unique characters and setting (including one that features dinosaurs and another that seems to take place on the back of an arctic transport vehicle being chased by a Mastodon).

As for visuals, it’s the highly-stylized, cartoonish style that fans of “MvC 3” should expect. Personally, I’m not a huge fan, preferring the more detailed fighters of “MK” or “SC V.” There’s a weight to the action missing here, including kicks and punches that don’t seem to connect and others that do when they feel like they shouldn’t. The music is your standard techno nonsense. Works for the material, but I quickly turned it down out of personal preference.

And that’s the thing with fighting games — they’re very subjective. It’s whatever fighting and visual style works for you (the new “Mortal Kombat” DESTROYS the competition for this player). One man’s obsession can be easily dismissed by another. Rarely has there been a time in video game history where there were more options in the field. “Street Fighter x Tekken” isn’t my favorite of all the choices, but I’m willing to admit that it could be yours.

“Street Fighter x Tekken” was developed and released by Capcom on March 6th, 2012. It is rated T (Teen). The version reviewed was for the PS3 but the game is also available for the Xbox 360 and will be eventually available for the PC and PlayStation Vita. content director Brian Tallerico

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