The kings of the fighting game genre come head to head in Capcom’s latest title. Despite a roster that’ll make fans drool and a bunch of new features brimming with the best of Street Fighter and Tekken respectively, the game still feels old.
History in the Making
The fighting game is an institution. Many a friendship was born, and many more were lost with buttons bashed and sweat perspired under the pressure of an intense one-on-one battle. ‘Ready… Fight!’ echoed from arcades to homes, from Street Fighter in 1987 to Street Fighter X Tekken in 2012, the genre has come a long way.
Street Fighter is famous for sweeping stick movements, cartoonish graphics and an incredibly fast pace. Namco’s Tekken, which first burst onto the scene in 1994, is known for limb-for-limb buttons, visual flair and manual throws.
With Capcom the priest of this marriage, the game is Street Fighter dominant. A fast pace, fluid stick movements and noticeable cartoonish graphics (for better or for worse) rule the game mechanics. There is a twist of Tekken through the tag system and manual throws, which keep this game from going full-Street Fighter.
So how does a round of Street Fighter X Tekken play out? Well you choose your two fighters from an evenly matched roster of 38 (XBOX) or 44 (PS3) characters and then you pick one of eleven uninspired backdrops to battle it out in the best of three rounds. But before you fight, you buff up your fighters with Gems. What is this, something new?
Yes it is. Capcom has added new features this year, no doubt with the intention to spice up the genre, and so enter ‘Cross Gauge’ and ‘Gems’: little friends that add a touch of strategy, or annoyance, depending on how you look at it.
The Cross Gauge is a power bar shared between both of your fighters; plain and simple. You build it up by landing hits, or blocking successfully. The bar is divided into three sections, and different special moves will use one bar, two bars or all three, depending on their strength. The special moves are stylish, and the damage satisfying. The power bar is a welcome addition, and means that you can’t unleash your most powerful attacks all of the time, but rather have to build up to them adding a bit of a tempo, a dance if you will, to the fights.
The controversial Gems are buffs for your fighters and they come in two types: Assist Gems and Boost Gems.
Assist Gems are passive buffs. They might give you auto-block against throws or a passive increase in life. You assign your Assist Gems before a fight (in the character selection screen) and they automatically trigger using a bit of your Cross Gauge.
Boost Gems are active Gems that improve your attack, defence, speed, vitality or Cross Gauge depending on the way you play. Block five times and you’ll increase your defence, hit five times and you’ll increase your attack. They augment your character depending on how they are fighting, and how well they are doing.
Gems are a mixed bag, there are over 100 to choose from, and some are way more powerful than others. With the idea to encourage strategy though, it’s hard to be too tough on them. However, one might play for a while without even noticing Gems. Sure your character might glow green or yellow for a bit, but ultimately their addition doesn’t change the way you play, at best they’ll hide your weaknesses.
On top of the Cross Gauge and Gems are Pandora mode and Super Arts. Pandora is a kamikaze all or nothing mode that is activated when your health is 25% or less. Your body glows purple and your attack increases, it lasts ten seconds and if you don’t K.O. your enemy in that time you automatically lose the round.
Super Arts are basically finishing moves. They use the most Cross Gauge, but are very stylish, often using both of you team mates resulting in some of the more aesthetically pleasing moves.
Besides these new additions Street Fighter X Tekken is a familiar experience. This is a fighting game, and unfortunately the genre just hasn’t progressed much in the last ten years. The modes are all the same: Arcade, Versus, Online, Challenge, and Training/Tutorial. All but Challenge can be seen in every fighting game ever, and seeing how Challenge is just a single player scenario mode, it isn’t that interesting.
Arcade mode is particularly disappointing, it’s essentially a Story mode without any story; just some badly translated Japanese banter thrown in between fights. So if you want to hear Yoshimitsu tell Ibuki that her thighs are strong, then this is the mode for you.
Online the game lacks depth but it’s sufficient. Two players can fight on the same team against other two man teams around the world or you could take on Scramble mode: a four man free for all which is great messy fun.
Graphically the cel-shading of the characters is bright and in tune with Street Fighter’s trademark aesthetic, but the environments are lacking. With only eleven to choose from you’d expect to be blown away. Yet you’ll fight in a skate park where the skaters just roll around and the graffiti artists spray nothing onto walls. However one particular stage, an ode to Capcom’s Dino Crisis, proves that dinosaurs with boxing gloves make the best spectators.
Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Street Fighter X Tekken is the best fighting game in years. This is as much a compliment as an insult. The game highlights the glaring problems and lack of innovation in this genre because Gems, the Cross Gauge, whatever — it still plays like a fighting game from the 90s but with more glowing. There may be new features, but the game feels old and so perhaps it’s not the game at all, but rather the genre that is tired and worn.
Version Tested: PS3