I would like to believe that the genesis of this game stemmed from Street Fighter producer Katsuhiro Harada and Tekken’s Yoshinori Ono ‘s personal grudge. Maybe they ran into a bar and were both trying to romance the same lady. Maybe they then had a few adult beverages and began to taunt each other with the sales figures and accolades of their mutual games, much in the same way that college basketball fans find themselves doing at bars during March as they wind up talking trash on their rivals and opponents. But in that case, the answer is settled on the court. With games, it is usually academic.
The reality of it is probably far less interesting. Capcom and Namco Bandai have released a cross game before—back in 2005 when the developers/publishers teamed up to release the Japanese-only Namco x Capcom—so there is precedent. Still, it is more fun to believe that Street Fighter x Tekken was born from a genuine rivalry between the wacky producers.
The game, however, doesn’t support that theory at all–but that isn’t a criticism. If there is any developer in the world that can seamlessly integrate two disparate franchises, it is Capcom. It has made a career of creating fighting games around other licenses and bringing in characters to face off against others you never dreamed would go head to head. The Marvel vs Capcom games are the obvious example, but Capcom has used this mash-up style many, many times, and not just in fighting games. Capcom vs. SNK was released in 2000, but going back even further, Capcom released Alien vs. Predator in 1994, long before the two franchises hit the big screen (although this game was supposed to be a loose movie tie-in to an early cinematic pairing that never happened).
The point is that despite the inclusion of another fighting series, the end result was never really at risk. Street Fighter x Tekken doesn’t really push the genre, and Tekken fans will be a bit out of their element here, but Capcom has again released a smooth and polished fighting game with a whole new roster of characters to choose from. It may not be enough to woo fans that prefer the Tekken style over Street Fighter or those burned out on the Capcom mechanics, but it will appeal to the dedicated fans offer a lot to those on the fence looking for a new fighter.
There’s something about a mysterious cube that reacts to conflicts, and possibly the end of the world is mentioned. None of that matters any more in this game than it does in any fighting game. It is an excuse to throw two established continuities together without offending either fan base. It also serves as a loose reason to introduce gems, collectible items that augment the fighting stats.
The story makes no difference, it just allows you to buy into the inclusion of Tekken’s fighters into the Street Fighter universe—and make no mistake, this is very much Street Fighter’s world.
Street Fighter x Tekken features 19 Street Fighter characters, 19 Tekken fighters, and two guest characters (Pac-Man and Mega Man), as well as three characters exclusive to the PS3 and Vita (although the Vita version isn’t due out until Fall). There are also 12 additional characters that will be released as part of the Vita version, and all12 will be available as DLC for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
There has been some controversy over the remaining characters, but 40+ characters is a fairly robust selection, and we can’t hold that against Capcom. You are welcome to if you wish, but we won’t for this review.
The fighting style will be familiar to anyone that has played the recent Street Fighter IV or the newest Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (regular or Ultimate edition). The 2D side-scrolling action has remained fundamentally unchanged since back when Street Fighter II was released in 1991. It is much more sophisticated now, but the theory of it remains the same. The moves are based on the same combination of fluid movements mixed with a punch or kick, and the power of the attack is determined by one of six buttons. There have been huge improvements in the number of attacks, the fluidity, the counters, etc., etc., but the core mechanics of the game are the same as ever.
The Street Fighter characters should also feel familiar to you, as they all come from existing games. The same is true of the Tekken fighters, but they have been totally re-imagined from their look to the way they move.
If you know the Tekken games, then you know that the way the games move is fundamentally different from the Street Fighter titles. Street Fighter uses fluid motions to create special attacks usually involving fantastical attacks. In real life if someone screams “hadouken” and launches a fireball out of their hands, your best bet is to run for your life while screaming at the mutant chasing you.
Tekken takes a more realistic approach in that sense (at least relatively so), and relies more heavily on combos and linked attacks. Street Fighter is also big on combos, but you’ll have trouble winning in Tekken if you aren’t able to link your various attacks into a continual assault. The Street Fighter-ification of the Tekken characters takes this into account as much as it can, but also takes great license with the fighters. It manages to create new characters that honor their origins, but play in a totally original way that is more akin with Street Fighter. If you are hoping to sidestep a fireball and counter with akido, you are out of luck.
Both franchises approach the genre differently, but it really just comes down to a matter of taste. There is no better fighting franchise. There is a reason the game is not called Street Fighter VS. Tekken. It is simply another Street Fighter game with characters loosely inspired by other fighting styles.
The game features all the off and online play options you might hope for, but nothing you haven’t seen before, and maybe even a little less than you would hope for. All the standard battle options are there, but nothing really fresh. The primary offline battles against the AI feature a ladder-match setting with a tag team pairing of any of the 40+ characters. As you battle you fill up a cross bar, which leads to single and team special attacks. It is a familiar scenario, and the tag nature of the game plays a major part, which is more akin to Tekken than Street Fighter. There is even a new addition where one of the characters will sacrifice themselves to give the other a limited damage bonus that will kill that character when the bonus runs out. It is a risky maneuver, but you do not need to defeat both opponents, just one to win.
Gems have also been introduced, and they provide stat boosts and modifications when you achieve certain objectives. You can equip up to three gems that you earn throughout the game, and each gem can give you a bonus for things like a damage bonus, a defensive upgrade, an automatic counter of certain moves like throws, and a few others abilities. It isn’t a necessary feature and you can win without gems, but it is an important addition and selecting the ideal loadout at the start will be key.
Street Fighter x Tekken is actually a deeper game than it first appears, but if you have only played a bit of the other recent Capcom games the changes may be lost on you. The tag feature is more useful than ever, and pulling off linked attacks between teammates changes the dynamic. At its core though, this game is similar to all the previous games of its ilk. It does look incredible though. The animations are crisp and precise, and the graphics highlight the solid art design.
If you are a passionate fan of the format, then you will like the minor tweaks and improvements. For everyone else, there is a solid fighting game here featuring new characters that come complete with their own, original move set, plus the game looks great. It is, however, a very similar game to others that have just recently been released (Ultimate Capcom vs. Marvel was just released in November). The minor changes may not be enough differentiate this game from the other, similar fighters from the same publisher.
If you are a hardcore Tekken fan, this game probably won’t win you over to the Street Fighter cause. There is nothing at all wrong with it, but the style coopts more than integrates the rival franchise. There’s nothing wrong with that though, and Tekken fans will get their chance when Tekken x Street Fighter is released. Until then, perhaps you can treat this as a gateway drug to the other Capcom fighters. For existing fans, if you want more variety without major changes, then look no further.
Score: 8 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 on a copy provided by Capcom)