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Street Fighter X Tekken Vita review: A Technical knockout for Sony’s handheld system

Street Fighter X Tekken reviewWhen it was first announced that Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono and Tekken mastermind Katsuhiro Harada had joined forces to create a fighter that would finally pit Capcom’s finest brawlers against those of Namco Bandai, fans of virtual pugilism were beside themselves with glee. Street Fighter (particularly Street Fighter II) is widely seen as the godfather of all modern fighting games, while the Tekken series has proven itself nearly as big a franchise by claiming the coveted spot of best selling 3D fighting series ever created. Given this, and Capcom’s propensity for fighting games that feature characters from multiple companies (see: Capcom Vs SNK and Marvel Vs Capcom), it’s almost odd that these digital brawlers had never before met in the ring, but following the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 release of Street Fighter X Tekken in March many were wondering if the anticipation was worth it.

Street Fighter X Tekken, the game has been released yet again for the PS Vita handheld, and much like Capcom’s Vita iteration of Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, this re-release includes a number of new, interesting features. Frankly, there’s so much new stuff here that I’m still trying to process it all.

New Age Of Heroes

Maybe I missed a memo at some point, but these days it seems to be an unwritten law that all big-name releases on Sony’s Vita must include at least three novel uses of the handheld’s exclusive features. After all, Sony didn’t install gyroscopic sensors and two touchscreens in the Vita just to have them ignored by developers. In keeping with this trend, Street Fighter X Tekken is packed to the gills with quirks not seen in its console predecessors, though the majority of these additions are of dubious utility.

Street Fighter X Tekken (Vita)

Take the game’s controls for instance. Though the Vita’s six physical buttons do an excellent job of recreating the Capcom-standard six-button control scheme seen in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 iterations of Street Fighter X Tekken, the game also includes a feature dubbed “Battle Tap” that allows players access to another six “buttons” that take the form of regions on the Vita’s dual touchscreens. By default you’ve got four buttons arranged in a square grid on top of your opponent, as well as two others which each occupying one-half of the rear touchscreen. If you don’t like this arrangement, you can resize and reposition any of the buttons (as well as dictate what you’d like each to do), though removing individual buttons doesn’t seem possible.

This feature should be infinitely useful to players, as it allows them to trigger a character’s special moves by simply tapping various spots on the Vita’s screen, but in practice Battle Tap is more of a hindrance than anything. Before I figured out how to disable this feature I constantly found my fingers sliding onto parts of the handheld that would immediately fire off a totally unplanned attack. That rear touchscreen seems like an ideal place to curl your fingers around the back of the machine, but with Battle Tap enabled the only safe place to rest your extra digits is in the cramped grip wells on either edge of the handheld. While I imagine one could eventually get used to Battle Tap (and subsequently pull off special attacks with inhuman speed), this game’s learning curve is large enough as is without forcing players to adjust how they hold their gaming device.

That said, if you’re one of the few people for whom Battle Tap seems like a boon, you’ll be glad to hear that in addition to the aforementioned touchscreen functionality, Street Fighter X Tekken also includes a Casual Style mode that expands the Battle Tap concept to its (il)logical conclusion. In Casual Style, the Vita’s standard six buttons are disabled, along with the handheld’s directional pad and its joysticks. Instead of actively controlling where your fighter goes, you tap various parts of the screen then watch as your chosen martial artist either travels to the specified point or, assuming it’s nearby, launches an attack. I’d like to think there would be some strategic wrinkles exclusive to this mode, but in all of the matches I played with Casual Style turned on all of the attacks I launched were seemingly at random. 

Street Fighter X Tekken (Vita)

Another example of baffling new functionality comes in the game’s Augmented Reality mode. Here players are able to capture an image of the real world using the Vita’s cameras (either the front or rear one) which can then be “improved” with the addition of a character model taken from the immense Street Fighter X Tekken roster. Since the game offers no real explanation for this mode — this trend of not including manuals with Vita releases is becoming problematic — this is how I discovered that you need excellent lighting conditions before the game will even display the character you’ve chosen. If you don’t have ample light the game will simply display a “Loading Character” notification indefinitely. Sadly, once I figured out how to get Blanka to perch on my laptop, I discovered two more issues: There’s no precise way to place and orient your fighter and any images created in Augmented Reality mode look terrible.

Then again, assuming this mode worked as advertised, and assuming there are actual human beings out there wishing they could somehow capture a picture of Kazuya posing in front of their worryingly large collection of wall scrolls, that still does nothing to explain why Capcom would add this feature to a game that is supposed to be a tag-team-based fighter. It just doesn’t fit with anything else here.

That’s not to say that all of the additions Capcom made to the Vita iteration of Street Fighter X Tekken are detrimental. Outside of the modes mentioned above, the touchscreen functionality works really well and makes navigating the game’s occasionally-labyrinthine menus a snap. Likewise, the color customization features in this game are better than they’ve ever been. Scrolling through color options and selecting various elements of the character feels very intuitive, and while the customization functionality remains basically the same, this single, well-designed addition elevates the Vita’s character customization options far beyond those seen in earlier versions of the game.

Crisis Zone

The most heralded new addition to the Vita version of Street Fighter X Tekken is undoubtedly its cross-compatibility with the PlayStation 3 iteration of the game. That’s not what I’m going to be talking about in this section, simply because it works exactly as it should. DLC costumes, and characters can be transferred between the handheld and its console kin, and players on the Vita can play online against those on the PlayStation 3. The whole process is quick, relatively simple and just works.

Street Fighter X Tekken (Vita)

However, in testing this out I discovered exactly how complicated the DLC scheme for this game can be. Alright, let’s start simple: Everyone who buys the Vita version of Street Fighter X Tekken will find a code printed on a small card within the game’s case that has myriad functions. First, it grants Vita players alternate costumes for the 38 characters in the original Street Fighter X Tekken cast. Second, it also grants access to alternate costumes for the 12 DLC characters that joined the game’s cast months after its debut. Third, it allows those who also own the PlayStation 3 version of Street Fighter X Tekken to download those aforementioned 12 DLC characters for free. Those are all nice bonuses, but this is where things get complicated.

When Capcom sent over our review copy, it was, as usual, accompanied by a printed bullet list of features the company wanted to be sure journalists focus on during their time with Street Fighter X Tekken. This list vaguely states the above features I listed for that DLC code, but then for some reason also claims that those who pre-order the game will receive a code that allows for the download of those same alternate costumes for the 12 DLC characters. Why would it do that? I have no idea, so after a lengthy email exchange with Capcom I finally started to figure out how this system is supposed to work. Fortunately for those of you who don’t have Capcom representatives at your beck and call a comprehensive, explanatory post on the company’s official blog has been created that sorts all of these DLC issues out.

Whether you’re interested in this game and its DLC or not, please take a moment to have a look at that blog entry. If that scheme seems convoluted to you, congratulations, you have eyes. 

Dark Resurrection

If it seems odd that I’ve written 1600-plus words so far without mentioning the actual fighting in this fighting game, that’s only because outside of the new Vita-specific features this is the exact same game we reviewed in March.

During battle, Street Fighter X Tekken seems a logical extension of the gameplay seen in Capcom’s “Versus” fighters to date. Normal attacks, specials and super moves are all as you remember them. In fact, given Street Fighter X Tekken’s ability to crossover with the PlayStation 3 game, the basics of both titles are necessarily identical. Whether this is a positive or not depends entirely on how you feel about Street Fighter X Tekken as a whole.

SF x T

Personally, while I love the character selection (especially with the Vita’s massive roster which includes all 55 playable characters seen in any earlier iteration of the game) and find the graphics and aesthetics on par with the excellent Super Street Fighter IV, the gameplay itself is a bit overly complex. Not only does the game feature the arguably outdated six-button control scheme (as opposed to the newer, simpler four-button scheme seen in Marvel Vs Capcom 3), the various Super Arts and Cross Assault attacks are far less user-friendly than they might be. While it’s convenient that you can launch a Super Art by charging the move even if you don’t have the requisite amount of meter available, that’s only true because the Vita’s diminutive buttons make it overly difficult to enter the standard directional and button inputs necessary to launch a Super Art in the traditional fashion. On the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (both of which have larger, more comfortable buttons) there’s always the option of picking up a fighting stick and using that instead of a handheld controller, but on the Vita you’re stuck with the standard control scheme. 

Still, the above complaints are rather minor. You will have to spend time learning Street Fighter X Tekken’s unique nuances, but once you’re up to speed (and the game’s multiple training modes do an excellent job of teaching each character’s various moves and combos) this is yet another excellent fighter from Capcom. I like this game a lot, and given that its online multiplayer mode (which is roughly identical to that seen on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) is surprisingly lag-free, it’s become my go-to mobile fighting game fix. Given that it just replaced the Vita version of Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3, that should be seen as a huge compliment.

Conclusion

Though the novel Vita-exclusive features are largely a bust, and even those that are useful have little effect on the actual fighting gameplay, Street Fighter X Tekken is undoubtedly the most complete release of this title to date. I wouldn’t recommend the game based on any of those features, but since its core gameplay is functionally identical to that seen in the earlier Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 iterations of Street Fighter X Tekken, I’m more than willing to promote the game to Vita owners as an excellent portable fighter. Honestly, given the lack of quality software available for Sony’s handheld this game almost earns “must buy” status by default.

If you do buy Street Fighter X Tekken though, I implore you to pore over that blog post detailing the game’s DLC costume offerings. You’ll be kicking yourself if you attempt to buy something you should already have access to, and unfortunately that’s a very real possibility.

Score: 7/10

(This game was reviewed using a PS Vita copy provided by Capcom.)