[8 May 2012]
The kind of mashup presented in Street Fighter X Tekken is nothing new to Capcom. They’ve long been doing titles like this quite successfully with properties from Marvel, SNK and Tatsunoko. But in all these titles, the characters that they were working with had either previously appeared in fighting games that had mechanics that were easily transferable to a Capcom-style presentation, or else the characters were able to be granted a moveset that fit both the fighting game mechanics and their personality. So while it shouldn’t be surprising that Capcom has been able to absorb external characters into their particular flavor of mayhem, the fact that they’ve been able to do it so successfully with characters that come from their own long running history of fighting games with completely different mechanics is very impressive.
Ever since the announcement that both Capcom and Namco would be developing their own crossovers, bringing Tekken fighters to the world of Street Fighter and vice versa, Capcom has publicly been the far more active promoters of the two. It wasn’t too long after the announcement that images and then videos began to surface of characters like Ryu and Kazuya Mishima occupying the same design space. Beyond the speed with which there seemed to be progress from Capcom, there were two reasons to suspect that they would be successful with their efforts.
The first is Capcom’s aforementioned successful history with fighting game crossovers. But the second, and perhaps more importantly, is that Capcom had so recently returned to fighting game glory with Street Fighter IV. Street Fighter X Tekken uses a modified Street Fighter IV engine, and as such, the game feels and plays remarkably smoothly, just as that game did. The intense yet quasi-cartoony presentation introduced in IV works quite well for the material. The audio production also suits the game well, as is par for the course for recent Capcom fighters.
Street Fighter X Tekken is undoubtedly a title for fighting game fans, and although some concessions are made for newcomers, understanding the nuances of the game is still quite daunting. The tutorial mode is the most instructive of any Capcom fighter to-date, which certainly helps. But there’s so much to the mechanics of the game, particularly with respect to both tagging and the Cross Gauge, that the only real way to get a grasp of what’s going on is with lots of play. But this complexity certainly isn’t out of place given Capcom’s pedigree and fans of Capcom fighters will take to the mechanics more quickly than those more comfortable with Namco’s generally less hyper approach.
Of the two franchises, Tekken is undoubtedly the more straightforward, with less special mechanics and a more forgiving window for move entry, and it seems likely that Namco’s take on the crossover will be somewhat easier to grasp. But Street Fighter X Tekken absolutely succeeds in what it sets out to do, namely bringing Tekken characters into a decidedly Capcom-style brawl. Further it makes some mechanical tweaks to make the Tekken roster more playable in a Capcom universe.
One of the most unique elements of Street Fighter X Tekken is the inclusion of a gem system to augment play styles. Players can equip up to three gems, which grant various advantages, like slowly recovering life or automatically escaping throws. While the effects of some gems are active throughout a battle, others have certain conditions that need to be met—connecting with a predefined number of special moves, for example. The system is an interesting way to add an additional level of depth to the game. The gems are well balanced, and their effects relatively subtle, such that there is no set of 3 that will make or break you as a fighter. They seem to function best when used to enhance the natural tendencies of the player in short bursts, giving a damage boost to an offensive player, or a speed increase to those that tend to incorporate a lot of motion into their game.
Street Fighter X Tekken is a no-brainer for fighting game aficionados. As so many fighting game fans tend to fall into the camp of preferring one of the represented franchises over the other, Street Fighter fans might find a bit more to love. But the Tekken characters have been incorporated into the mix with a great deal of respect and care, and the result is a compulsively playable, intricate fighter. It won’t hook everyone, but the people that it does will find it long lasting, with multiple layers of depth. Capcom has set the quality bar for the crossover quite high with this release, and it will be very interesting to see if Namco is able to follow suit whenever they present their take.
Gamers are currently enjoying something of a fighting game renaissance with deep, quality titles being released with a frequency and consistency that hasn’t been seen since the twilight of the arcade scene. This trend was arguably started by Street Fighter IV (and certainly the initial fighting game craze was created by Street Fighter II) and now continues with another strong Capcom title.