Street Fighter X Tekken
Capcom has a thing for weird crossovers. Over the years, we’ve been treated to Marvel vs. Capcom, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, and several other bizarre combinations. At this point, if there is a publishing company with a stable of recognizable characters, chances are they’d fit into some kind of vs. Capcom brawl. It helps that, despite many attempts to create fictional reasons for these characters to duke it out, fighting games remain essentially context-less. Who cares why Batman is fighting Scorpion? Because it’s awesome, that’s why.
Still, the relationship between Tekken and Street Fighter runs a little deeper than that. The producers of the series have a fairly public friendly rivalry, and the different sections of the fighting game community have a similarly public and often not quite as friendly rivalry - after all, Street Fighter and Tekken are both practically the standard fighting games in their respective sub-genres. 2D vs. 3D! Projectiles vs. juggling! Despite both being fighting games, the differences between the two franchises highlight the variety that can occur inside one genre, and combining them into one game sounds like an idea that would ruin one or both of the franchises. There are two games planned - one based on Street Fighter’s framework and one based on Tekken - and, it must be said, it’s pretty impressive how well the two mesh here. Even the visuals work well - the Tekken cast has been rendered in Street Fighter IV’s art style, and it looks fantastic in motion.
Street Fighter x Tekken (the ‘x’ is pronounced “cross” for who knows why. Perhaps the game is meant to be the most badass math problem ever conceived) is, for all intents and purposes, a Street Fighter game - at least, the fighting is confined to the familiar 2D plane, which may leave Tekken stalwarts wondering how their familiar characters even work. For the most part, the Tekken cast present here have all - or at least most - of their familiar moves available, albeit translated into Street Fighter’s control makeup. Classic Tekken inputs are mapped to the four light and medium attack buttons, mimicking the four-button layout of the series, so many characters will have some familiar moves available in roughly the same manner. 3D fighter fans may be bewildered by some of the logic on display here, but for the most part, it’s a sound transition.
The actual fighting isn’t too difficult to pick up and play, either, although it’s certainly got a few layers to it that are confusing at first. Street Fighter x Tekken follows the Tekken Tag formula, meaning that there are two characters on each team, but the round ends if either of their health bars drain. Switching characters can extend combos, either by tagging a partner in at the right moment, or performing a Cross Rush - a four hit combo that ends with a launcher, and tags in your partner. Surprisingly, a lot of the Street Fighter and Tekken characters mesh together as teams really well. Sticking to the side you know best will probably yield good results, but fans of both franchises will get the most out of the game. There’s far more to dig into as well, at least for the serious fighting game players. It comes as something of a relief that the fights work as well as they do - combining characters from 2D and 3D fighting games without sacrificing too much is a nightmare on paper, and for the most part, it works.
Some features are a little harder to judge, though: for example, the much-debated gems system is a tab nebulous, and this early in Street Fighter x Tekken’s life it’s a bit difficult to gauge how game-changing they are. Some of them are touted as a form of training wheels for newer players; others offer a sense of risk vs. reward, boosting defense but lowering attack power, that sort of thing. While that seems like a noble goal and an interesting kind of metagame, it’s a little bit frustrating in practice. Actually accessing gems is far less intuitive than it should be, since the gem customization menus aren’t available before a match in the character select screen, only in a separate menu way back on the main screen. It’s also probably worth wondering if adding a feature that allows players to tinker with the already-delicate balance of a fighting game is such a good idea - especially a fighting game that’s attempting to bring together two wildly different franchises. For what it’s worth, several small-scale tournaments have been run recently with the gems simply turned off. If they were a little easier to manage, maybe they’d be embraced, but for now, they remain a bit of an enigma. It’d certainly be interesting to see a fighting game with this level of customization - slightly more accessible - in the future.
Street Fighter x Tekken certainly isn’t lacking in other content, though. While it may not have the sprawling story mode Mortal Kombat presented last year, there’s still a decent amount on offer here. The arcade mode takes players through the story of the game - yes, Street Fighter x Tekken has a story - and there is a hefty set of challenges and training modes for people looking to dig their heels into the game. There’s even a party mode called Scramble which lets four players fight at once, which makes up for lack of coherence with sheer hilarity. The online multiplayer is a big draw, although as of this writing, the 360 version of the game has a few problems plaguing network fights. The biggest problem is the sound: oftentimes it just doesn’t sync up, which can make online play incredibly frustrating. Secondly, while arcade, scramble, and versus play fine with a second player controlling a partner, this guest can’t be taken online, which is a tad disappointing. These are presumably both patchable problems, but as of now they’re issues nonetheless. Still, when it all works, there’s a lot to do in Street Fighter x Tekken’s multiplayer.
With nearly forty characters split between the franchises, Street Fighter x Tekken is one of the most ambitious crossover (oh, now I get the title!) fighting games out there. Squishing the Tekken cast’s moveset down a dimension seems like sacrilege, but through some kind of black magic it actually worked. It’s got fan service where it counts, too - familiar character themes appear in the soundtrack, win quotes will often comment on specificities of other characters, and there are even some custom introductions for certain pairs of characters. It’ll be interesting to see if the game has legs within the community, or if it will be remembered as some bizarre experiment. Either way, Street Fighter x Tekken is quite a feat.
Eight out of ten