Sunday, March 18, 2012

Street Fighter X Tekken Review

From the moment you press start for the first time, Street Fighter X Tekken is ready and willing to help you to become a better fighting game player. That's a bold goal, for sure; and one that the developers at Capcom have struggled to implement for casual players in their past fighting games. Understandably, this is something a lot of developers struggle with: How do you open the flood gates so everyone can enjoy your game and still keep the hardcore happy at the same time? The first entry in the crossover series between Street Fighter and Tekken takes baby steps towards leveling the playing field to favor both casual and hardcore, but fumbles a few interesting ideas along the way. The best parts of SFXT manage to shine through though, even if part of it feels like a starter pack for more content down the road.
SFXT's biggest asset is its art style, and nothing here steals the show quite like it. By borrowing from the exaggerated and inky trappings of Street Fighter 4, SFXT sports a familiar look but manages to improve on it through darker/richer colors and a more diverse cast. Arguably, Street Fighter has seen its share of blond-haired warriors and martial arts dudes who scream while wearing Karate gis, so understandably the new additions to the roster shouldn't feel that fresh. But, somehow, they still do. The Tekken fighters add a layer of visible flair that complements the existing Street Fighter roster quite well, and simultaneously introduce new play styles for players to learn. With 38 combatants to mix and match, there's plenty to discover here.

Part of the reason the Tekken characters transition into SFXT so well is because they're loving captured and crafted by Capcom's designers. Tekken fighters, specifically, have a number of distinct attacks and signature moves at their disposal that go along well with the special moves repertoire typical of Street Fighter's world. These unique properties combined with flexible combos ripped from Tekken's standard 4-button setup retains a lot of familiarity and depth for existing Namco fans. By capturing Tekken 3 variations of all the Namco fighters, Capcom represents this 3D franchise at its peak, and presents a set of characters that players who walked away from fighting games will instantly remember.
The biggest challenge on SFXT's plate is that it needs appeal to two audiences at once, but do so in a Capcom way. As a result, SFXT is filled with EX Special moves and deadly Super Arts that showcase powerful combo moves for each character. Not content to stay within their familiar brand of combat, Capcom has also implemented a number of Tekken-like mechanics. The juggle system is flexible enough to set up opportunities to rebound opponents off the borders of the screen or bounce them off of the ground itself to continue a combo. Toss in some crazier options with the Cross suite of moves and you've got a flashy game that requires understanding small timing gaps to make the most of your two-person team.
Even the new Super Charge moves add something interesting for hardcore players to tinker and experiment with. Super Charge moves work by holding down the attack button and charging up energy for an attack. Through this mechanic, you can squeeze out a free EX Move or a full on Super Art without subtracting energy from your Super meter. It works a lot better than my attempts at using the new Pandora system don't let this happen to you. Pandora appears to be an acquired taste, but I can't ignore its potential. Perhaps the community could prove its worth over time and it's still an optional tactic.

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