Contention seems to be growing at an alarming rate over Street Fighter X Tekken. Many have had a difficult time warming up to Capcom's latest crossover project, packed with a robust suite of exciting features and content. Street Fighter IV was a noble effort, but compared to the likes of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, it's pretty clear which title holds the crown for more hype and wow factor. Street Fighter X Tekken aspires to breathe new life into the series by introducing a greater focus on offensive action, shenanigans, and a dash of RPG augmentation for added seasoning. Salt isn't preferred, but rest assured, if you jump into this game unprepared, the only meals you'll enjoy will be delivered in the canned variety of dominance.
Gems. Truly outrageous? Game-breaking? You be the judge.
Even if you truly carry a rep of godlike skills around your local neighborhood (or perhaps the entire state for those power players who often travel the country), make sure you spend some time in the lab to hone your skills. Trust me: it's time well spent that will certainly pay off in the long run, since this title has a very distinct vibe from Street Fighter IV. Yes, fundamentals are back in effect, and if you are accustomed to being reckless and playing on autopilot, don't expect to get a great deal of mileage as you advance through the ranks. You will eventually get shut down, and shut down hard.
Street Fighter X Tekken is crammed with tons of features that have been around since two-in-one combos were first discovered. We've got links, chains, juggles, wall bounce, overheads, tag-cancels, option selects, and a variety of fancy techniques that will take a certain degree of creativity to properly execute in a competitive environment. Boost Combos are the bread-and-butter tools you'll want to master. These are executed by starting with a weaker attack that ascends in power to the strongest attack of your choice. They can lead to a launcher, loosely similar to what you Vs. fanatics spend the entire game doing, only now the sequence gets a modest cinematic before you continue the smackdown. At this point, your partner dashes in, giving you the opportunity to tack on a few more hits of your choice. There are certain rules to prevent game-breaking exploits . . . unless you pick a character like Xiayou, capable of wearing down your health bar (and pride) with a devastating infinite. Dat broken technology at its finest!
These combos are simple in execution, but you wouldn't think that based on all the liberal button mashing I've come across. I periodically review footage in the Replay Channel and come to find these random players' inputs look like a Skittles explosion on my screen. Profound sadness. Dialing for damage without effectively getting a hit confirm deals a heavy frame disadvantage penalty that will leave you vulnerable to be punished severely. It's also practical to learn how (and when) to switch out your opponent (using MP/MK simultaneously).
Connecting with the launcher is a surefire technique, but you can also safely bring in your partner by tapping these buttons during a blocked attack or a specific moment when your intended attack connects. Learning this tactic can prove advantageous against your opponent, as it leaves your opponent in a defensive block-stun state, or should the attack connect, can even serve as an additional tool to carry out a more extensive combo.
I am really impressed with how well the Tekken characters have translated into the Street FIghter universe. Each character is equipped with an extensive selection of moves that carried over from their native universe, including overheads, counters, command grabs and wall-bounce attacks. To an unsuspecting player who isn't sure where (or how to block), going against someone like Kazuya can level your health flat in a matter of seconds, unless you end up the victim of time-outs (which, sadly, are quite frequent due to how fast the timer runs in this installment). A strong aptitude in footsies and match-up knowledge on the entire cast is required if you hope to avoid getting put on blast in someone's combo exhibition reel. You may want to consider picking up the strategy guide at your local retailer or downloading the digital copy; otherwise, you'll be joining the ranks of the destroyed, and no one wants to carry that type of rep.
With over thirty-eight characters to choose from, there's bound to be a set of characters you'll enjoy. By now, you know the entire Shoto crew has returned in full force, joined by others including Chun, Dhalsim, Rolento, Hugo, and - making her first official Street Fighter appearance - the vivacious, Poison. (Wait, it's a trap!) Other popular SF favorites include Juri, Abel, and Rufus, making their return from SF IV. On the Tekken front, we have Kazuya, Nina, Julia, Xiayou, Marduk, Yoshimitsu, Heihachi, and the grizzly Kuma. PlayStation 3 owners were treated to several exclusive characters, featuring Pac-Man (riding a mechanized version of Mokujin), Sony of Japan mascots Kuro and Turo, as well as NES-box-art-style Mega Man. And by now you've heard that, yes, even more characters are on the way, according to reports revealed by hackers earlier this month that they're already on the disc (along with a swath of other DLC goodness, including alternate costumes, color edits, and whatever else has yet to be revealed).
Since this is a tag-based fighter, once you've become more acquainted with a set of characters that match your fighting style, make sure to select a set that offers the best team synergy. Since meter management is a factor that can decide the fate of a match, it's best to select a character that can serve as a "battery" to build meter, zone, and pick apart your opponents with ease. The "point" character is who you'll keep in reserve to deal with your potentially bad match-ups.
Now let's talk about one of the most controversial topics of all: gems. Truly outrageous? Game-breaking? You be the judge. When these are equipped, players can opt to bestow abilities which increase a character's speed, damage, and/or defensive percentage. There are even gems that increase the rate at which you build meter. Certain conditions must be satisfied in order for these short-term benefits to emerge, such as getting hit by a special move twice or successfully connecting a launcher.
The gems that have been creating the biggest degree of backlash are the Assist Gems. Their effects last the entire match and can aid a player with the ability to either auto escape throws, auto block, or input moves with a mere tap of back to forward. There are, of course, certain penalties associated with these, but the concern centers around players who actually possess a strong understanding of the engine abusing these for personal gain online. The reality has quickly become viral in ranked matches, spurring many would-be patrons to seek challenges elsewhere.
I cringe at the thought of what direction gems are taking, especially with the DLC coming down the pipe. While I agree this is a sweet feature to explore casually offline, it truly has no place in an online or tournament setting, especially since there's no easy way to customize gems or quickly disable them should players desire those options. For the moment, the only way to enjoy gem-free matches would be to notify all players ahead of time to run through select characters and remove them from the load-out. Having to manually delete gems is a time-consuming process, so I am looking forward to seeing how the forthcoming tournament mode, said to offer a gem-free experience turns out.
Since the arcade presence is sparse throughout the majority of the country, online play remains one of the premier destinations for players wishing to level up their skills. Many argue that it's horrible and unplayable. Despite the inclusion of rollbacks akin to GGPO, the netcode definitely is in need of some refinement. Sessions constantly suffer from audio cuts, making it difficult for most who rely on such effects from their virtual counterparts to effectively hit-confirm. There are also random situations where characters "teleport" or frame skip, creating awkward situations to lock down opponents, especially if they're jump happy. Furthermore, there's also concern with random drop disconnects that can take place at anytime, giving the impression to the opponent that you've ripped out your Ethernet cable or exited to the dashboard.
All of these oddities are frequent on both platforms, though the PS3 has been reported to run somewhat more smoothly since it doesn't utilize anti-aliasing and has "better hardware" to support the graphic architecture. That doesn't sit well with the Xbox 360 community, I am sure, and no estimate has been issued for when we should expect a patch to rectify these problems.
Until these matters are addressed, I've been very reluctant about embracing the Scramble Mode, which can be compared to the Dynamic Battle first featured in Street Fighter Alpha 2, should only be addressed for casual purposes only. The standard 2x2 matches can be fun when online is acting on its best behavior. I've even teamed up with a few friends to pick on random opponents online. Of course, this isn't always a laughing matter when the role is reversed and they end up making you look bad.
Click through to our Street Fighter X Tekken media page to see the full-size character art.
If you're tenacious, much of the current nonsense might not even be an issue, but it's definitely cause for concern among those who've been accustomed to the antics of Street Fighter IV and its predecessors. Many are convinced that the engine rewards mashing, and when you factor in the inconsistent quality of online play, it leads many die-hard players to question the validity of this being a definitive competitive title worth playing. I have to admit, a few days ago, playing this online left me in a negative funk. I was outraged by the randomness and total disregard for fundamentals. Random attacks on wake-up and subsequent mashing made it difficult to maintain serenity and focus. I became mentally beaten, and for a brief moment . . . I wanted to give up. I hated the game. Peter "Flash Metroid" Susini put it best when he made the following Facebook statement recently - and it was unquestionably the best insight I've heard in a long time:
"Winning or losing should not determine how much you like this game."
Think about that for a second. Despite this game's imperfections, there's a lot of potential here. A lot of heart was put into the game, it simply needs to evolve. That's why I am still in the game, why I won't be giving up, and why we all need to look past its shortcomings and just deal with the nonsense as it comes. It's the only way to level up. It's the only way you'll be able to hang.
What choice will you make?
I do need to give props to the development team taking the opportunity to really step things up with the backgrounds. There are eleven stages in total, featuring a variety of character cameos from such games as Final Fight, Street Fighter, Lost Planet, and other popular Capcom properties. One stage takes place at the Mad Gear hideout, featuring Hugo and several henchmen hopping around, having a good time. My personal favorites happen to be the Jurassic stage, which features a giant T-Rex, and the space station where a disappointed Mecha Gief struggles to hop aboard the space station where your battle is taking place before eventually taking off with his jet-powered boots to protect the Russian skies from orbit. It's great to see that the art team spared no expense bringing these areas to life, enriched by a vast array of color and detail.
I wish that same attention was put into the arcade mode where it seems the production values definitely fell short. Aside from satisfying the achievement quota, I can't imagine most dedicating a great amount of time to the single-player affairs. The narration comes across very flat and lacks the energy that unfolds from the title's introductory sequence. This is a huge letdown for something that could have been more climatic. There's so much potential that could have been explored with this, but the endings are clearly void of any entertainment value and uninspiring. Very disappointing.
Shoutouts to Capcom for offering the first online training mode. This is very helpful for anyone who wants to practice specific tactics while leveling up with a friend. Players can simply create a room and opt to give control to the opposing team or remain on the same team, depending on what techniques they’re endeavoring to achieve. All the conventional options featured in previous Street Fighter training modes remain intact, with the exception of one: the ability to train with a single character. It's a personal gripe, but there are situations when I just want to focus exclusively on one character without the need to constantly send my tag partner off.
Overall, Street Fighter X Tekken is an entertaining title, one that is certainly accessible to gamers of all skill levels. However, one can't ignore the fact there are some glaring flaws in dire need of attention. This production sends a bad message to avid fans who've supported Capcom over the years, only to be rewarded with an incomplete product that will eventually be patched at a later date. We deserve better (at least this crossover is a step in the right direction) and look forward to the day when we see this title evolve into a more balanced, memorable experience we'll enjoy for years to come.