Capcom loves crossovers. Its world warriors have faced down the X-Men, the Avengers, the King of Fighters, and many others. With Street Fighter X Tekken, the stylish cast of Tekken fighters is next in line to go blow for blow with Ryu and company. It's an interesting transition for the Tekken members, who are leaving their native 3D arena for a 2D battlefield. But their adaptation is just one of the many surprises waiting in this complex fighter. With a host of new mechanics and modes, Street Fighter X Tekken has a lot to offer fighting fans of all skill levels.
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Street Fighter X Tekken is a 2D fighter with two-on-two combat. Each side is in control of two fighters and can swap between them on the fly. Players can even team up cooperatively and fight on the same team, just like in last year's Mortal Kombat. This means up to four players can take part in a fight. However, when one fighter on a team is knocked out, that team loses the round--regardless of how much health the remaining fighter has. Therefore, you must treat your two fighters as one unit. There are numerous ways to switch between your fighters, and mastering good synergy between them is the key to building devastating combos and winning matches.
The game includes many of the fighting mechanics seen in Super Street Fighter IV, with several new additions. It has a six-button layout, with three punches and three kicks, and a three-section energy meter with numerous functions. This meter is earned quickly and spent quickly on devastating super arts, EX special moves, and more. But one of its most important functions is cross-canceling. For one block of meter you can tag in your partner mid-combo to continue the assault. At first this "two-as-one" style can be difficult to put into practice. It's much easier to fight with one character until his or her health gets low, switch characters, and repeat. However, in doing so, you lose a lot of what makes this game unique, as well as sacrifice an edge in combat.
Early on you play the system, rather than the characters. This is because several types of moves are performed the same way no matter whom you're controlling. Every character can perform a simple combo of light-medium-heavy-heavy, and execute the two-in-one cross-arts attack the same way. This standardization across the cast lowers the initial barrier to entry by providing a simple, effective foundation, no matter which character you choose. There is still plenty of individual character complexity, but you don't need to know it all to feel competent. By leaning on the fundamentals, you are free to discover character-specific techniques at your own pace.
Additional design choices let you simplify the game and shrink the skill gap between more- and less-experienced players. Certain combos can be automatically executed by pressing two buttons. Attack inputs can be reduced from a 360-degree motion to a tap of the up button. But these shortcuts come at a cost. They may cost meter or lower your fighter's attack power. For those in the intermediate skill range, these options promote an even playing field by offering some extra assistance to those who need it.
One of the best ways to adjust your experience is with gems. Gems make your character stronger and can be tailored to suit any fighting style. If you're offense-oriented, then the attack-boosting Immense Power gems are for you. Conversely, if you plan on getting hit a lot, the Iron Wall gems, which grant damage reduction, would be best. Each character can hold three gems maximum, and while several gems offer the same benefits, what distinguishes them are their activation conditions. You do not acquire gem bonuses for free; they must be earned. But for all the good they do, gems cannot be solely relied upon. They are a subtle complement that can enhance an already lethal player, or shield someone less experienced from a beating.
In addition to its numerous combat mechanics, Street Fighter X Tekken has a robust game mode selection. Arcade mode is up first and opens with an introductory short for each official tag team. As matches are won, there is some post-bout banter that adds color to the adventure. A bout between each team and its rival team occurs near the end and includes its own introductory cinematic, followed by an ending cinematic showing what the winning team did with Pandora's Box. Together these story bits dress up arcade mode, and their funny, lighthearted delivery is fitting for an already outrageous game.
Next is challenge mode, which includes the tutorial, trial, and mission modes. Tutorial mode is where new players should start. Hosted by the jocular Dan Hibiki, this mode talks you through the game's numerous mechanics. It's a definite improvement over the complete lack of an introductory mode seen in most fighting games. Trial mode includes 20 character-specific trials for the entire roster. These trials range from performing basic special moves to pulling off advanced combos. Mission mode rounds out the set. In this mode you pick any character you like and battle against the AI with various battle conditions.
Two of the game's best teaching tools are not found in the challenge section. These are replays and practice mode. Replay mode lets you filter reaplys by character, player skill, and other factors. Studying the tactics of superior players is a great way to improve your own abilities. Training with a friend online also helps. With a partner in tow, you can hit up the briefing room and spar with, or against, him in practice mode.
Unfortunately, online stability is inconsistent. Even against players in the same region, and with the maximum connection rating, it was still a toss-up whether we'd experience lag or not. Against players below those conditions the match would often slow to a heavy crawl. Hopefully this lag will be reduced over time, but for now it's an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise pristine game.
Street Fighter X Tekken provides complex combat in an inviting package. The fighting genre needs to become accessible to a wider range of players, and this game takes an important step in the right direction. Accessibility that doesn't come at the expense of variety is a smart move and sets this fun and flashy fighter apart from the pack.