Street Fighter X Tekken
It'd be cliched to name numerous unlikely partnerships that worked even despite how alien they seemed to each other. That's pretty much the case when it comes to Street Fighter X Tekken however. The Street Fighter series is most famous for its 2D fighting style with its glorious anime style appearance, while Tekken was all about pushing 3D technology and looking a teensy bit more realistic than Street Fighter. Somehow, Capcom has combined the wonders of the two series to create a fantastic fighting experience that's set to keep fans from both camps happy. It's an extremely solid and competent fighting game, but it also offers plenty of depth for the hardcore player.
Right from the outset, players are thrust into a tutorial to ensure they know what to do. It's not quite as comprehensive in its explanations as something from the BlazBlue series, but what is there is pretty extensive. Everything from the basic moves to more advanced special combos are covered along with introductions to the new Pandora and Gems systems. All of this is conducted in a friendly and entertaining manner by a cameo from Dan of Street Fighter Alpha fame. At times, the tutorial is a little overwhelming with a plethora of new terms thrown the player's way, but it is worth knuckling down to.
Once into the full game, over 40 playable characters are available, including the free and exclusive PS3 DLC that includes inFamous's Cole MacGrath, Sony mascots Toro and Kuro, Mega Man and Namco favourite Pac-Man. The usual crowd of Street Fighter and Tekken favourites are here, such as Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, Zangief, Guile, Heihachi, Kuma and Yoshimitsu. The only favourite of mine missing is that of Blanka, set to be included in a later DLC pack.
Combat will be immediately familiar to those used to Street Fighter IV and its spin-offs. A similar engine powers the action but it's all noticeable faster and more arcade like in nature. It suits the tag team style perfectly. This tag team attitude requires more concentration and strategical thinking than with the Marvel vs. Capcom series. If just one player loses all their HP, it's game over. No auto tag-in functionality exists to save the player at the last second.
While on lower difficulty levels, button bashing will still help the player immensely. Online and on higher difficulties, it's essential to master the combos, Pandora and Gems system to truly succeed. As with so many beat em ups, practice is key to figuring out how to defeat different opponents. It is all quite familiar though and not just to Street Fighter IV players. Tekken fans will be able to pick this up and master the basics quite easily, gradually building upon these skills to adopt new techniques.
Pandora is a new addition, regardless of the player's history. It can only be used when one player has less than a quarter of their health and is considered a last gasp chance. Through it, the other character is buffed with extra strength and unlimited cross gauge for extra combo potential. It can turn a match around but it's also a last resort. Once that player falls, it's game over.
Another strategical layer comes in the form of Gems. These can be equipped to boost the player's skills. They could have been overpowered and the community was quite divided when they were first announced. Despite being a little overwhelming at first, they offer just enough to keep things interesting without being over the top. Two forms of gems exist: Boost and Assist. Boost lives up to its name by increasing (or boosting) attack, defence and speed, while Assist adds bonuses such as Auto-Block, Auto-Throw and Auto-Cancel. Much like the perks system seen in many online multiplayer games, it's worth taking the time to figure out the best combination for your playing style.
This is a particularly good idea before delving into the online side of things. It's not quite finished on that front with some problems with audio synching but I suspect an update is on its way. To counteract lag problems, Capcom has implemented a system that rolls players back to their last synced position if there's a communication problem. It's not quite as smooth as it could be but it's certainly going in the right direction.
Ranked and Endless modes are there, as well as the new Scramble mode which pits four players against each other. There's even a multiplayer based training room and finally a Lobby system that actually works. It's all fundamentally sound and the kind of experience that the hardcore and determined will be playing for many hundreds of hours to come.
Combined, it makes for a great fighting experience. A few tweaks are needed to make it truly sublime but what is there ensures that Street Fighter X Tekken will be a hit with Tekken and Street Fighter fans alike.