Review: Street Fighter x Tekken

There’s never been much of a debate between 2D and 3D fighting games for me. I was a Street Fighter kid from the start.

My grandparents had an NES when I was little, so I got some playing time in with Mario 3, Dr. Mario, Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, Metroid and all the classics. But when the Super Nintendo came out and my dad picked one up, Street Fighter II was the first game I had for it — not Super Mario World like 95% of the rest of America.

SF II was interesting for a few reasons. It’s what got me started on the chess-like nature of fighting games. It was also the genesis (see what I did there?) for my love of video game music, as I would let some of the great stage themes play in the background while I worked on other things. Ryu, Ken, Guile and later Cammy’s stages became the accompanying soundtrack for life.

Why does all of this matter? Because Street Fighter x Tekken incorporates a long-standing 3D franchise into my 2D wheelhouse, and that’s just the way I like it.

Street Fighter x Tekken is the first in a two-game series featuring the crossover between perhaps the best two fighting franchises of all-time. Sorry, Soulcalibur, but you haven’t been great since III. No dice, Guilty Gear — not enough people like you. It’s nothing personal, King of Fighters, you’re just not up to snuff comparatively.

While Tekken x Street Fighter, set to be released next year, while be a 3D fighter similar to Tekken with SF characters thrown in, SFxT is based on a system similar to Street Fighter IV with a few tweaks that make gameplay more frenetic and fast-paced. Gone are SFIV’s focus attacks and Ultra Combos. Instead, we have a versatile system that encourages chaining combos together and then extending them with the help of your teammate.

That’s right: SFxT is 2 on 2 fighting. The game puts certain characters into teams for story purposes (like Ryu and Ken, Cammy and Chun Li, or Heihachi and Kuma), but you can pick any two choices from either franchise to take on your opponent. Bringing Tekken characters into a Street Fighter world might seem like a tough sell, considering how projectile-heavy the SF cast is, but Capcom has compensated for that by giving the Tekken characters a variety of ways to dodge fireballs or move across the screen quickly.

On the surface, the game’s art style and control scheme would seem to be straight out of the SFIV playbook, but there’s more than meets the eye. The 2 on 2 nature means there are a variety of new tactics at your disposal, such as team-up supers, launchers that allow one character to bring in another to extend a combo, and a mode that allows you to sacrifice one fighter to power up another. Some of these are more useful than others — launchers are easy to execute either on their own or at the end of strings of normal attacks, but Pandora mode’s character sacrifice only lasts for 10 seconds before you lose the round. Still, the focus here is on fun combinations that juggle your opponent and tack on damage as much as possible.

Up to four players can take part in the madness, and if you’ve read these reviews before, you know that co-op play is cruise control for cool. You can team up with another player in the standard way where one character from each team is on the screen at a time, or in the clustermess known as Scramble mode, where all four fighters engage in simultaneous madness. Scramble is more appropriate for party settings than serious gameplay, but it’s a nice option to have.

Online play is about what you’d expect from a Capcom title at this point. If both connections are rock solid, you’ll have a lag-free experience. Anything less than that leads to frame drops, skipping, and other obstacles to a genre that relies heavily on pinpoint timing. Still, the system is a success more often than not.

As far as single-player mode goes, the usual Arcade, Versus and Training options are here. One nice touch is that you can customize your characters’ colors, with even more palatte choices being available to download for free later on. There’s also a Challenge mode that forces you to fight in unusual ways, such as using nothing but special moves or never blocking. It may not have the awesome array of modes like, say, Soul Calibur II, but the choices are sufficient.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention SFxT’s awful DLC plan, which involves 12 additional characters already on the disc who won’t be released until the PS Vita version hits in a few months. As mentioned multiple times in this space, on-disc DLC that exists when the game hits shelves is a terrible choice, and Capcom has been docked accordingly in my score because of it. Not that they care, mind you, but it makes me feel better.

Still, that last point notwithstanding, Street Fighter x Tekken is a great fighting game. It manages to find a happy medium between the sometimes-boring Street Fighter IV and the dauntingly crazy Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (two games I’ve enjoyed, mind you) to present an experience that’s a lot of fun, even more so with more people involved.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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