Sunday, May 20, 2012

Street Fighter X Tekken Review

Street Fighter X Tekken, developed and published by Capcom.
The Good: Event-based customizable gems offer temporary stat bonuses, four-person tag team matches add some strategy, helpful tutorials and practice modes
The Not So Good: Lacks truly significant innovations, Games for Windows LIVE yet again
What say you? This tag team 2-D fighting game adds a couple of inventive features for fans of the genre: 6/8

I’m not the most experienced fighting game aficionado, since I do most of my gaming on the PC, a wondrous platform that’s been largely ignored by the genre…until recently. “Recently” would be Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, a suckerpunch of fighting goodness that rocketed to the PC last year. Seeing that PC gamers like to get their fight on too, developer Capcom has ported their latest title, Street Fighter X Tekken, to the computer two months after appearing on those soulless consoles. This time around, we get tag-team events featuring combatants from two major franchises. Will Street Fighter X Tekken provide enough content and innovation for newcomers and veterans alike?

If you played Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, the visuals of Street Fighter X Tekken will be familiar, which is not a bad thing. This version features detailed character models with quick animations and varied effects for special moves. Along with the colorful, lively backgrounds, the result is an explosion in sensory overload, which works quite well given the fast pace and constant action Street Fighter X Tekken has to offer. Some of the models are a bit blocky (especially feet), but overall the hulking and petite (those are your two choices in any fighting game) fighters are pleasing to the eye. The game also runs fast: I was able to get close to 200 frames per seconds with all of the options cranked up. I guess that’s what happens when you play a game designed for antiquated seven-year-old hardware. The sound design is also very solid, with Japanese or English voice acting and a pounding soundtrack that fits the hyper-violent mood of the game. It’s hard to find fault with the presentation of Street Fighter X Tekken.

Street Fighter X Tekken takes place over eleven stages, where the world’s greatest fighters are beating the living daylights out of each other to stop a meteor or something. Learning the mechanics is made easier by the descriptive (if overwritten) guided tutorials that explain each aspect of the game. In addition, you can learn prompted moves of each character or train against dummies to hone your mad skillz. Specific fight stipulations are present in the mission mode, so inject a little variety into your beatdowns. The arcade mode returns with the same features (including fighting online opponents), as does the versus mode (although you can enable the option to have all four fighters go at once, instead of tagging back and forth). Games for Windows LIVE is back and pointless as ever, allowing you to create and join ranked, endless (where the loser of the match goes to the bottom of the opponent list and the winner takes on the next challenger), and four-player matches online with or without a partner. Online play is a constant reminder of how truly terrible I am at fighting games. While I didn’t have any overwhelming technical problems while playing Street Fighter X Tekken, I will not that in a very odd bug, some of the sound effects stop working when I fight online. While the features list of Street Fighter X Tekken is impressive, it’s also basically the same as before.

Street Fighter X Tekken includes a roster of nineteen characters from each series (for a total of…hold on…carry the one…ah yes: thirty eight). Being developed by Capcom means Street Fighter X Tekken has more similarities to the Street Fighter series, and that starts with moves input, which uses a six-button system. That said, the commands have been simplified a bit, eliminating double motions while introducing more combos (specific attacks chained one after another) in a nod to Tekken. Overall, commanding your team involves more buttons and less joystick movement overall. More powerful attacks in Street Fighter X Tekken follow the same pattern as Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition: basic attacks, unique combos, special moves, EX special moves, and super arts are the same as specials, supers, and ultras before. Street Fighter X Tekken also allows you to charge special moves by holding the attack button down and perform boost combos by selecting progressively more powerful attacks of the same type (a light punch, medium punch, and heavy punch, for example). A quick combo can also be executed by choosing a light attack and then a heavy attack of the other type. Street Fighter X Tekken adds in throws to complete a selection of attacks and combos that feel more developed but produce in the same result: unbridled violence.

The tagging mechanic has introduced a couple of new wrinkles to the formula: beyond simply switching characters, you can perform launchers (an attack then tag), cross rush (a combo that ends with a launcher), a cross cancel (a block that transitions to a launcher), a switch cancel (a tag in the middle of a combo), a cross assault (when both characters attack simultaneously), and a cross art (a tag-team super art). Finally, you can sacrifice low health for a partner boost in a pandora. Switching between characters isn’t simply a matter of resting the person with the lowest amount of health (although that’s part of it), as you can integrate a number of attacks while shifting to your partner.

I feel the most significant addition Street Fighter X Tekken makes is gems. Taking a nod from online first person shooters, players can now customize their characters somewhat by adding various boosts that activate under certain conditions. For example, Fortitude can reduce damage for twenty seconds if your opponent attacks you with an EX special move. There are a lot of combinations of prerequisites and effects available, divided into bonuses to attack, defense, speed, health, or the cross gauge. Novices can also choose some assist gems that make performing moves easier (like blocking and special moves) in exchange for a slight penalty (like lower attack damage). If the options are too overwhelming, the game can pick some semi-randomly based on a general strategy (well rounded, attacking, speed). Choosing gems can be somewhat tedious, though, as you have to set them for every character, instead of having one universal setting that can be used by everyone. Still, the gem system is a very nice and strategically interesting addition to the game (clearly not worth $45 on its worth, though).

The AI opponents in Street Fighter X Tekken fight well, as you would expect in a game that can read your input and instantly counter everything you throw at it. Just sayin’.

Beyond the gems and the tagging, Street Fighter X Tekken is (not surprisingly) very, very similar to Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition. So the question becomes: are those two features worth $45? I would say not for casual fighting fans (and maybe some hardcore players as well). That’s not to say that Street Fighter X Tekken is a bad game, just that it features more of the same polished fighting we enjoyed last year. Gems are the biggest addition and are handled quite well: choosing triggered, minor bonuses tailored to your play style can be fun and tactically interesting, if a bit tedious since you have to adjust loadouts for every character. Tagging is also a notable feature, and there are a couple of tactical uses for it (double attacks, recovering health). Of course, it means you have to remember two sets of controls each game (unless you partner up). The remainder of the game is familiar: special moves (with more button presses and less complex joystick movement), super moves, blocking, and combinations with nineteen characters from each series. The tutorials and training modes are done well (again), and the game options, including online play, are robust. Still, you can’t help but feel that Street Fighter X Tekken should have added something else significant to truly advance the genre. As it stands, Street Fighter X Tekken is a very solid fighter that feels too similar to its ancestors.