One of the best editions of one of Capcom’s best fighting games was Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max for the PlayStation Portable. It had barely noticeable loading times, a rarity for a PSP game, and it added a motherload of characters to the arcade original. Eagle, Maki, Ingrid from Capcom Fighting Evolution—the line up was amazing. Capcom even added in storylines for all the new characters! It was gorgeous, a vision of what portable fighting games could be. It was also almost completely unplayable. The little analog stick was useless and the PSP’s directional pad was so unyielding that Capcom had to give out a cover that had to be glued to the system to make it playable. Control has ever been the bane of portable Capcom fighters.
Steet Fighter X Tekken for PlayStation Vita comes with a whole lot new, namely 12 brand new fighters not featured in this spring’s console version, including some amazing obscure choices like Elena from Street Fighter III. The new characters and features aren’t the best parts of this version though. That distinction belongs to the silky smooth controls.
At a mechanical level, Street Fighter X Tekken on Vita is identical to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 fighter. You pick two characters from the roster of Street Fighter and Tekken characters and have them beat the crap out of each other. The controversial Gem System is untouched as well. The controls are a bit different however. The Vita’s buttons and direction pad work flawlessly in Street Fighter X Tekken, making the classic quarter-circle motion (pressing down, then down-right, then right in a smooth movement) as natural here as on any non-arcade controller.
Capcom added in inputs taking advantage of the Vita’s rear touch panel as well. While this might seem awkward and superfluous in theory, it works quite well in practice. Swiping up on the left side of the rear touch panel for example activates a launching strike that will send your enemy into the air so your partner character can rush in and wail on them. Since some players have amply-sized hands, the rear touch controls can be turned off, but they do make for a nice alternative.
The spot on controls are essential for taking advantage of the Vita edition’s other big selling point: Cross-platform play with the PlayStation 3. Matches between a player on Vita and another on PlayStation 3 would be a waste of time if the controls weren’t functional on the handheld, but they work nicely. The matches I played over a WiFi connection were seamless to the point that I could watch the match as played on the television and my inputs still felt immediate from the Vita. That kind of smoothness is absent from the online play in single-platform fighting games like Soul Calibur 5 so it’s especially impressive for the cross-platform play.
Other than that, Street Fighter X Tekken on PlayStation Vita looks every bit as promising as the last time Digital Trends got its hands on the game. It is worth noting again how great the game looks on the handheld. While some graphical effects were toned down to accommodate for the handhelds diminished horsepower, many of the characters actually look better. The sort of glowing sheen on all the character models is gone, which allows you to get a better look at the characters features free of embellishment. It’s enough to make you wish you could turn effects off in the console version.
Capcom also seems to have taken criticisms about downloadable content to heart. All of the previously released DLC is included in the Vita cartridge. Anyone who already owns the PlayStation 3 version will get all of that content unlocked automatically by connecting their Vita version to the system. It’s a nice perk, though it would be nicer if Capcom offered those previous buyers a discount on the Vita version in the first place.
The Vita is shaping up to be the first portable gaming device that’s actually great for fighting games. The days of near misses like Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max are over.