The hype surrounding Capcom’s latest fighter has been nothing less than legendary, even considering the substantial backlash that Capcom received after announcing the character boosting “gem system.” Since it’s original reveal, the game has gone through substantial changes, but what was obvious from the get-go was that Capcom was firing on all cylinders for this title. In fact, I think we can finally say that the Street Fighter formula has finally evolved, and though I stop short of saying that this is the best Capcom fighter to date, it’s damn close for a myriad of reasons.
Aesthetically, the game looks good, but technically, it is a little underwhelming. I was surprised to see the game looked noticeably worse than SF4 or UMVC3. Stylistically, I appreciate SFXT’s characters and cartoony textures more than SSF4′s inky, exaggerated look, but I feel like Capcom might have pulled some punches in order to deliver the game on time. Street Fighter has always looked best when done up in an anime style, so a return to the series’ roots was definitely welcome. The visual appeal only really suffers on a detail level, in its sometimes muddy textures and sketchy colors.
On the same note, however, the Tekken characters look amazing as anime fighters. Some standout character models are King, Heihachi, and Kuma, as each of their personalities has been further emphasized by the style shakeup. Some of the more brooding characters look very good as well, including Jin and his father, but the more exaggerated the character, the more Capcom has pushed their design. So, for those Tekken players concerned that Capcom would drag their favorite fighter through the mud, rest assured that these characters are in capable hands.
In fact, if nobody minds me being a bit controversial for a moment, I would go so far as to say that Capcom has done a better job displaying each character’s unique personality than Namco has in years. Between the very awesome new cutscenes and the after fight dialogue, certain characters have been given more attention than they have received in a long time. King especially seems to have developed into a full blown character, moving beyond his original, campy roots. Though some people don’t respect the new cartoony visuals, it’s hard to complain about the service Capcom has done for these other characters, and I highly doubt we see many players complaining about character representation this round.
As for the music, though better than SF4′s original offering, I still wish for the glorious return of Third Strike’s Jazz Fusion. SFXT fails to even topple SSF4′s eclectic music selection, and I hope to see more character specific themes and stage revisions in the future. Otherwise, character voices come in both English and Japanese flavors, and can be set on a character by character basis. Voice acting is on par for a Capcom game, that is to say don’t expect any award winning performances to crop up.
But that’s enough about the gloss and glamour – lets get down to the nitty-gritty. The combat in SFXT is just awesome. It’s awesome because it has found a way to meld the best of several different worlds into a single system. In other words, this is the first true evolution of Street Fighter since SFIII.
The list of mechanics is extensive and substantial. Wall bounces, Ground Bounces, Juggling, Tag Attacks, Cross Arts, Pandora mode, chain combos, link combos, EX moves, Charge Canceling, and so on. The point I’m trying to make is that this game features a huge amount of tactical options and ways to play. The system is very intricate and much more complex than even previous Street Fighters, but is also considerably more accessible. The inclusion of standard chain combos makes learning to play much simpler, as anybody can hit four buttons in a row for considerable damage. Yet, lying below the surface, is a very flexible system of interchangeable techniques. Within the next few weeks, I predict we will see some crazy new combat technology developed through some of these unproven mechanics, especially based around Pandora mode and Gems.
Tekken characters seem to have benefited greatly from their transition to 2D. Because of their already grand repertoire of chain combos, these characters come with built in, high damage combos. Chain combos are, to some extent, part of the reason why Yun and Yang were so dominating in SSF4 Arcade Edition. Their ability to continue combos for high damage allowed them to poke their opponents into high damage strings of attacks. Now, thanks to the new system, all characters have received this treatment, but many of the high damaging combos from Tekken have been repurposed for the 2D environments. So, if you have been a hardcore Tekken player for some time, you will already have a familiarity with these character’s most damaging abilities. But don’t worry, Street Fighter fans, the world warriors all benefit from the new chains as well, and their (EX)special attacks become even more destructive when included in long, damaging chains.
Understandably, all of these new features and characters can be a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, Capcom has placed a new, extensive tutorial mode in the game to break in new players. Fans of recent Capcom fighters can attest to just how rare this is, as modes such as this have all but been put aside from their latest crop of games. It seems, to some extent, that Capcom is finally catching up to modern conventions, further expanding upon their last few outings with new trials (feature practical combos), a mission mode (where players fight matches with specific modifiers and handicaps), and the previously mentioned tutorial (which walks players through all the game’s basics). Players can even take their training online in cooperative training modes, where they can spar over the internet and mentor one another.
The game also features some long awaited customization modes, including a new color edit system. Though, pre launch, the color offerings are extremely slim, past screenshots have shown that Capcom fully intends to release new colors for the mode. On the other side of the coin, we have the new Gem system, which is not as intrusive as originally anticipated. Players are able to customize their character with up to three gems, some of which are balanced between both buffs and nerfs to characters. All gems have activation conditions that must be met before any gem effects are placed on the character, and even after activation, the characters only receive the effects for a short amount of time. Still, the gems should not be discounted, as some of the buffs, especially when stacked, are quite substantial.
Developing strategies around gems and their activations will add a new layer of depth to the game, forcing specific play to both counter and activate them. Already people are finding combos that only work under specific gem loadouts, meaning that some options will simply be unavailable without the right setup.
Even after several paragraphs, though, I still feel like I’m missing the most important aspect: the multiplayer modes. Capcom has ported over both their replay system and general online offerings from SSF4 with, apparently, brand new net code. The matches I played online were mostly functional, though some lag was definitely noticed. After the influx of new players levels out and the servers are more accommodating, SFXT will definitely have the legs to keep the competition fresh and consistent, but even still, I have skirted around the coolest part of the entire package.
SFXT’s brand new tag team four player mode is just incredible. Mike Ross and Gootecks of Cross Counter have already stated that they only expect to play the game as a tag team, and many other pro-fighters are following suit. Running through arcade mode with a friend or practicing combos with a dedicated partner adds a whole new dimension to the genre, and I wholly suspect this mode to be what attracts many competitive players to the scene. Plus it’s a ton of fun to hotswap controllers between a room full of eager players. Even ignoring the new barriers of coordination and communication that this mode creates, it is a very fun, cooperative way to play the game. Players can tag each other in just like in the single player mode, but during combos, players can also use cross gauge (the super meter) to tag themselves in if they feel they have a competent follow up. Cross Assault, the full meter eating special that puts both characters on screen at the same time, is also made much more dangerous when both players act in tandem.
The honest truth is that this game has been better developed than either Street Fighter 4 or Marvel Vs Capcom 3. Clearly, Capcom has learned many important lessons since releasing their latest batch of fighters, and I’m thankful that they are beginning to give in to player demands. On the other hand, the game feels slightly unpolished, and the latest DLC debacle has only blown even more negative press into Capcom’s camp. Regardless, this is the game that both SF4 and MVC3 should have been, with extensive beginner modes, new ways to play, and actual experimentation on the developer’s part. From the very beginning, this feels like a game with a great amount of competitive potential, but only time will tell if it holds up to further scrutiny. For the rest of us, the casual fighters, this is a much better package than Capcom’s other fighters, and in that sense it certainly deserves a place on your shelf, if only for the multiplayer offerings.
Street Fighter x Tekken was released on March 6th, 2012 for Xbox 360 and PS3. Review is based on the PS3 version.