Capcom have been flirting with crackpot brand crossovers for decades. We have had Capcom all-stars, popular anime characters, SNK creations and Marvel icons fraternising with each other like it is the most natural thing in the world.
This latest intrepid endeavour from the madhouse of Capcom takes this experimental streak to new heights of ambition – Tekken and Street Fighter could not be any more opposed in their respective frameworks. How could the 3D denizens of the Tekken universe make the transition to 2D with any semblance of dignity; will they still play like Tekken characters? How will they fare against the plasma chucking, messiah kicking buffoonery of the Street Fighter cast? The answer is that, remarkably, they have delivered.
SFXT is a two on two tag-team fighting game based on a modified Street Fighter 4 engine, so a few of the basics should be familiar to anyone who has played SF4 for any length of time, but less so for the dedicated Tekken player. Controlling space with projectiles, and swatting foes out of the air is almost as effective here as it is in Street Fighters of the past. Along with this, there remains the six button setup of light, medium and heavy attacks, and special moves that require simple motions that are universal across the majority of the cast.
So where does the Tekken side have a say? For one thing, Tekken is notable for its showy, gravity-defying ‘juggles’. These flamboyant combos are a big factor in this title, and not only that, mid-combo you can tag your partner in to extend your aerial barrage Tekken Tag Tournament style – incredibly satisfying, and it does not require expert dexterity to input them; for the most part windows to execute your attacks are generous and intuitive.
There are sage nods to Tekken in many other aspects, such as the ability to roll out of danger when knocked down and the inclusion of canned ‘dial-a-combos’ for the Tekken fighters, to the more esoteric techniques such as EWGF (don’t ask.) Capcom have drawn from Namco-Bandai’s premier fighting series with a great deal of care and affection. Witnessing the Tekken cast unleash EX special moves and fireballs isn’t as jarring as it could easily have been; the characters retain the unique qualities and much of the move-sets from their 3D counterparts, but Capcom have managed to make them harmonise with their Street Fighter brethren in a way that is balanced, without sacrificing identity for both parties.
This is not a daunting game for newcomers who are willing to use the resources given to them: there is a comprehensive and assertive tutorial that you will be greeted with as soon as you boot up the game, which is completely optional, but covers everything you will need to know from the outset in a concise manner. There are easy-mode control schemes that activate many of the combos with a single button press, and allow the more intimidated players to focus more on where to apply them – it’s a fighting game that attempts to cater for everyone, and with a great deal of depth behind its friendly face, it mostly triumphs.
There are a plethora of options in this feature-rich game, including the customary ‘story’ mode, that involves fighting a number of CPU opponents and facing a boss character at the end – I use inverted commas when mentioning story, because it is more familiar as a bizarre road-trip of comedy sketches and deus ex machina.
For the more dexterous, there is a trials mode where you can take on combo challenges, that give great insight into the capabilities of your chosen character – they can be irresistible as a challenge but fraught with frustration for players of lower tolerance for failure. The mission mode complements the trials well for those learning the game, where you’re given set conditions and handicaps, such as using a move a certain amount of times or beating a number of opponents in a row. While not ground-breaking and not nearly as imaginative as Mortal Kombat 9’s challenge tower, it provides a welcome distraction for players more solo-inclined.
One element in SFXT has been a contentious subject amongst fight fans: gems. Outfitting your characters with these items bestow various buffs (when you reach a specific requirement in combat) such as an increase in attack strength or movement speed. While adding RPG-lite customisation is a bold decision which only serves to bolster a deep and strategic game, it remains to be seen if this will harm the delicate balance SFXT has clearly strived for to be competitive. More gems are to be added via DLC plans from Capcom and this has worried fighting game aficionados to the extent that gems have been banned from tournaments, for now.
Like any fighting game worth its salt, the multiplayer modes are where it’s at. Here they can accommodate up to four players – something of a departure from the one-on-one standard for Capcom. You’ve got the scramble mode, which pits all four brawlers in the arena at once, which is a bit like Super Smash Bros. without the items, or the interactive stages, or regard to rules for that matter. It’s best to see it as a novelty party mode, as it’s comically easy to abuse with cheap tactics – if a team manages to pincer attack the opposing team, they can simply jab from either side in an inescapable loop if caught on a bad day. It’s a bit of fun and a welcome addition, but hardly a time-sink worthy of dedication.
The regular tag-in-tag-out offline and online play is where the endless longevity will lie for many. You can play cooperatively and competitively offline or online (only being enabled for online co-op from the same console on the PS3, disappointingly.) The online netcode is by no means flawless, and sound effects can drop entirely when lag comes into play, which can be off-putting. Fortunately, other than this foible the online experience is adequately smooth, providing that hypothetically, someone from the U.K. doesn’t take on a Japanese player.
Something of an issue is the 99 second timer, as it can be not nearly enough when fights get more drawn-out, and too many closely-contested fights that deviate from rushing down the opponent end with a time-out – watch out for players running away with a life lead to take the round. This is something Capcom needs to consider, as it can limit the flow of a match.
The presentation is one major slip-up. You’re introduced to Street Fighter X Tekken with an eye-sore of gaudy and kitschy colours and lifeless menu screens, and a user interface that is more laborious navigation than is necessary. The 3D engine marks the return of the pseudo-deformed direction seen in Street Fighter 4; character models are hit and miss in their accommodation to this caricature style, but the Tekken and the Capcom fighters at least have an artistic consistency. The backdrops veer wildly from vibrant and characterful, to maddeningly obnoxious, where everything but the kitchen sink is flying around in a way that is anything but understated – stampeding woolly mammoth Tron reject and swerving hovercraft rushing at you while you’re facing off in a fleeing battle cruiser, in Antarctica? Stop getting sidetracked and focus!
Every bit as much of a sugar-binge as the visuals is the audio. There are a few highlights, if 16-bit Final Fight remixes and dubstep are your bag – but in most cases the OST comprises of screeching chip-tunes interjected with insufferable 80s guitar-work that only induces nausea after extended play. The voice-acting fares better with some suitably overacted gusto.
If you can look past the attention-seeking hysteria of the audio-visuals, there is a rich and considered fighter to be discovered with a sizeable 38-plus roster that offers combatants for every style of play, with yet more additions announced as DLC (though the DLC is already on disc, befitting Capcom’s audacity on the matter.)
The combat is more floaty and combo-heavy than the more measured, weighty approach of Street Fighter 4, but at the same time it’s not utterly berserk like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 – SFXT finds a beneficial middle-ground that goes to greater lengths to find mass-appeal, and a solid agreement between two much-adored franchises. Here we have a game that is its own beast; one that shares a deep affection for the fighting game genre, and revels in the madness of its conventions.
Review Round Up
Graphics: 3/5: – This is a brash and sometimes messy looking game, that can be akin to dumping five bags of Skittles onto a large puddle of oil. The animation is choppy at the worst of times and beautifully fluid at the best. The handsome intro and ending cut-scenes, and the solid 60 frame response during gameplay are more appreciated. Inconsistent.
Sound: 2.5/5 – Much of the OST is the chip-tune, dubstep branded soundtrack to my worst nightmares, barring a few tracks that do a passable job of remixing Tekken’s far less offensive sounds. The voice-acting is heartily entertaining in both English and Japanese, and the sound effects are teeth-rattlingly effective – it’s just a disappointment that sounds can cut out entirely during online play. Again, inconsistent.
Gameplay: 4.5/5 – An incredibly rewarding and flexible fighting engine that finds the sweet-spot of accessibility without lacking in nuance and enthusiast appeal. The short-fuse of a timer (mandatory when online) can be frustrating in light of the tag-team mechanics and relatively slow pace.
Longevity: 5/5 – With a huge cast out of the box and customisation options that will only expand with DLC, serviceable online play and a fighting meta-game that will only get more evolved and enjoyable with time, SFXT could last for years.
Overall: 4.5 Spinning Bird Kicks out of 5
The fusing of two mismatched franchises has managed to generate success, as rather than butchering Tekken’s framework into the Street Fighter engine, bits and pieces that add value have been adapted meaningfully, and not used simply out of an obligation to vindicate this mash-up. Capcom have done an impressive job in producing a robust and fun-loving brawler, that is as absurd as it is assured.