Street Fighter X Tekken finally settles a generations-old fighting game grudge with an engaging crossover sporting wide appeal.
Published on Mar 6, 2012
For many fighting game aficionados, Street Fighter X Tekken is more than just a clash between two fighting franchises; it’s almost symbolic of the struggle between the 2D and 3D fighter for genre dominance.
Not everyone in our post-Street Fighter IV era remembers, but in the early Nineties the emerging 3D fighter genre seemed to herald the death of its 2D forefather.
With the 2D genre declining, the 3D variety offered a ‘wow’ factor that it couldn’t match. Casual fans were, ironically, put off by the more evolved 2D fighters’ demand for accurate commands and projectile-based zone control.
Instead, they turned in droves to the often more accessible combo strings and flashy juggle-based play of early 3D fighters – and games like SoulCalibur, DOA and Tekken took centre stage. Only Street Fighter IV, generations later, brought 2D fighters back from the brink.
There’s always been a rivalry over which fighting genre is superior, explaining why, at least emotionally, Street Fighter X Tekken is such a big deal. Remembering that, and the inherent differences between the two sub-genres helps underscore Capcom’s accomplishment here.
The action often gets wild and insane.
Capcom has not only crafted a fun, mechanically sound 2D fighter with characters that evolved under two different systems, but made it both accessible to casual fans and deep enough for the fighting faithful. Part of that success lies in its roster of 38 characters from across both franchises, giving a huge variety of choice.
As you’d expect, mainstays like Street Fighter’s Ryu, Ken and Chun-Li and Tekken’s Kazuya, Nina and King are here, but there are plenty of eclectic characters from both camps. They all retain their personality in its SFIV-based engine with its familiar six-button attack system, special attacks and three-bar Super meter that supports the EX attacks and Ultras, here called Super Arts.
Despite tweaks, like a faster pace, SFIV players will slip right in, and Capcom has successfully translated many of the Tekken characters’ familiar combos and command throws into the SF framework.
There’s a far greater emphasis on combos and air juggles in Street Fighter X Tekken’s tactical tag-team battles – unlike Marvel vs Capcom 3, you lose the round if any character is defeated – and a new launcher attack is the basis for myriad juggles and team specials.
Attacks that would only hit once or twice in Street Fighter IV can easily be linked together here, and punctuated by devastating Super Arts. You can tag in your partner after a launcher to extend combos and, with three bars of meter, pull off spectacular Cross Arts in which both characters use their Super Arts in turn, stylishly pummelling their foes.
It's colourful, mad, and best of all, plain good fun.
The action in Street Fighter X Tekken is a visual delight as fists fly, partners tag in and out and Super Arts fill the screen with all manner of pyrotechnics, but unlike its zanier cousin, Marvel Vs Capcom 3, no matter how crazy things appear on screen they still feel grounded.
Despite all these new layers of play, Street Fighter X Tekken is more accessible thanks to forgiving inputs and Boost Combos, which let you string together core combos simply pressing the Light, Medium and Heavy buttons.
For a bar of meter you can even use canned ‘Quick combos’ by pressing LP/HP. Street Fighter X Tekken's Gem system lets you choose buff-giving crystals that use meter to do things like make specials easier or give stat boosts – a boon to beginners. Its final new addition is Pandora mode – a massively powered-up state you enter by sacrificing one of your characters with low heath.
The remaining fighter does massive damage in this state, but you’ve ten seconds before you collapse. What’s impressive is that despite being more accessible, Street Fighter X Tekken still has real depth – everything has a check and balance.
Launchers put foes into juggles, but need to be comboed or they leave you vulnerable; there are canned combos, but they devour meter that more experienced players will use to greater effect. Various juggles and Cross Attacks require skill to really master, and even gems require certain conditions to activate.
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Street Fighter X Tekken just gives players more ways to be imaginative and the end result is a fun, fast and accessible fighter. If this seems complicated, don’t worry.
There are in-depth tutorials covering everything from the very basics to every nuance of the Super Arts, Gems and Cross Arts system, together with character challenges and a training room in which to hone your skills.
As with any fighting game you’ll only get the most out of Street Fighter X Tekken playing with other people either locally or online – if you flying solo with there isn’t quite enough meat here to satisfy despite an enjoyable, homage-filled Arcade mode.
Street Fighter X Tekken isn’t perfect, of course, and the eccentricities of its heavy combo focus, speed and various systems won’t appeal to those with more simple fighting tastes, and Tekken fans might feel their representatives are not quite as polished as their SF chums.
On the 360, the omission of special guest characters – the PS3 is getting four, including Pac-Man and Mega Man – is an almost criminal offence.
But gripes aside, Street Fighter X Tekken is a thoroughly enjoyable iterative twist on both Street Fighter IV and the crossover fighter formula.
Capcom has showcased the inherent strength and flexibility of the 2D fighter through the success of its translation of core elements of Namco’s 3D franchise into 2D, and we’re not sure it could be done the other way round. We certainly don’t envy Namco its task with Tekken X Street Fighter.
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Capcom has pulled off a serious coup with Street Fighter X Tekken, successfully combining elements of both franchises in an imaginative, fun and impressive fighter.