Review by discoinferno84

Reviewed: 03/20/12

My will is stronger through honest eyes...

A large box fell from sky. Soon after crashing into the icy reaches of Antarctica, rumors began spreading about its abilities. Some seek its apparently supernatural powers. Others want to claim it for profit. The reasons don’t really matter; the entire plot is a half-assed concept even for fighting game standards. The box merely provides a reason for two franchises to cross paths. Rather than attempting to do anything remotely deep, Capcom simply thrusts everyone into the same frantic, pointless race. The supposedly large-scale conflict between Shadaloo and the Mishima Zaibatsu, the series’ most prominent factions, is shown almost entirely off-screen. The obvious parallels between certain fighters – Ryu and Jin especially – aren’t explored nearly enough. While there are humorous character interactions, the story comes off as bland and uninspired.

Given the lineup, however, you probably won’t care. Street Fighter X Tekken features the best of what both series have to offer. Old standbys like Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, and Guile find themselves taking down the Mishima family, Nina Williams, Xiaoyu, and Paul Phoenix. M. Bison and Heihachi, two of the most iconic villains in the fighting genre, finally trade blows. For the first time in the franchise, Zangief and Hugo compare wrestling moves along with King’s extensive grapples. Rolento and Poison make their triumphant returns from the Alpha and Final Fight series respectively. That’s aside from the console-exclusive characters, like the old-school Mega Man and the mechanical Pac-Man. Cole of infamous fame also makes an appearance, though he seems almost as out of place as two Sony mascot cats. Only Marvel VS Capcom 2 can rival the sheer number of fighters. Despite the variety, however, the roster relies far too much on downloadable content. An additional twelve characters have yet to be made available; given Capcom’s track record, gamers should consider if it’s worth waiting for more developments.

Regardless of who you choose, you’ll have plenty to learn. Street Fighter X Tekken borrows heavily from its Street Fighter IV predecessor, in both visual style and combat mechanics. While the Street Fighter characters are practically identical to their previous incarnations, the Tekken cast retain their iconic combos as well. Heihachi’s Rising Uppercut, Yoshimitsu’s Jumping Flea, and Xiaoyu’s alternate stances translate well despite lacking three-dimensional movement. Depending on how you press the buttons and utilize the on-screen energy gauges, you can launch faster, stronger EX versions of your moves. If you string together certain combos, your opponent will be stunned long enough for you to switch to another character a la Tekken Tag Tournament. There’s even a way to summon both fighters on the screen at once, allowing you to briefly overwhelm the opposition. The Pandora Mode serves as a final line of defense when you’re on the brink of death, but it’s relatively useless compared to conventional strategies. The ability to cancel attack animations, strategically alternate fighters, launch and juggle foes midair, charge and combine super-moves create a surprisingly deep and satisfying experience. It’s not difficult to learn; thanks to the extensive Training Mode, newcomers shouldn’t have trouble mastering the basics.

The game is made further accessible by its Gem system. You can affect a fighter’s performance by equipping a handful of trinkets. Most of them are straightforward, like boosting attack power with successive hits, upgrading defenses after taking too much damage, and overall movement speed. Others require a bit more strategy; some Gems make it easier to perform special moves, but cut their firepower. Others allow you escape throws and automatically block attacks, but sacrifice the energy gauge in the process. While this may be a turnoff for more traditional gamers, the Gems are essentially a form of game balancing. Rather than slightly tweaking the game and re-releasing it, Capcom lets you alter the characters by your own accord. Not only do the Gems add a whole new level of strategy, but they make character customization useful for once. Unfortunately, the Quick Combo feature – an option that lets newcomers dish out preset onslaughts with a push of a button – can prove too glitchy and potentially game-breaking in combat. Given the amount of strategies at your disposal, however, there’s little incentive to use it anyway.

If the Arcade isn’t tough enough for you, the Challenge Mode ought to give you a run for your money. It features character-specific Trials, focusing on advanced tactics, combos, and the nuances of each move set. It’s a great way to learn the capabilities and limitations of each fighter. If you want something a bit more daunting, there are several missions to complete. Most of them are fairly straightforward, like beating the Mishima family and the Four Kings. Others focus on the more technical aspects, like beating opponents using only counters or special moves. While the Challenge Mode is fine, Street Fighter X Tekken has little else in terms of extras. There is no unlockable bonus art or ways to watch the promotional movies and arcade endings. Character profiles would have been great addition, given how fans of one franchise may not be familiar with the other. Compared to the stuff seen in Marvel VS Capcom 3 and BlazBlue, this game comes up short.

Instead, it focuses on what really counts: the multiplayer. Street Fighter X Tekken has one of the most simultaneously enjoyable and frustrating online multiplayer in recent memory. It copies Street Fighter IV’s point rankings and random searches, but it adds a few new twists. Not only can you fight against opponents one at a time, but you can team up with other gamers and have epic four-player battles. While the AI functions well enough, there’s nothing more fun than partnering up with a friend devising strategies on the fly. The ability to view and upload matches to the replay channels makes it that much better; you can share and relive the insanity with everyone. Despite its immense entertainment value, the online multiplayer is riddled with glitches. It takes far too long to load screens, connections will suddenly drop regardless of signal strength, and the occasional lag makes some matches unplayable. The audio cuts off randomly, forcing you to duke it out with no music or voices to accentuate your struggles. It’s an annoying, jumbled mess that should have been perfected long before the game’s release.

That’s the problem with Street Fighter X Tekken; despite its amazing premise, its flaws prevent it from reaching its true potential. The character roster is staggering in scope, but the heavy reliance on DLC doesn’t do it many favors. The combat mechanics, despite their blatant Street Fighter IV repackaging, offer tons of unique and intricate strategies. Mastering its complexities can be rewarding, and it’s easy for newcomers to pick up. The Gem customization system is an interesting approach to game balancing; it allows you to augment characters based on your playing style. Other ideas, such as the Pandora Mode and the Quick Combo mechanic are too ineffectual and unreliable in combat. The trials and missions give seasoned fans a great challenge, but there’s little else in terms of unlockables or incentives. The online multiplayer’s four-way battles are refreshing and undeniably fun, but its lag and glitches drag it down. Such shortcomings demonstrate Street Fighter X Tekken's current state; it’s a brilliant idea, but it’s got a long way to go.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Street Fighter X Tekken (Special Edition) (US, 03/06/12)

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